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United's missing a big opportunity to drum up more business in 2020

April 24, 2020
3 min read
United's missing a big opportunity to drum up more business in 2020
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When United extended elite status for another year, I called it great news for the carrier's Premier members. UA's announcement was quite generous across the board, both by extending current status and making it easier to earn new or requalifying status in 2020.

As part of the news, United also extended the validity of PlusPoints — the carrier's new currency for upgrades — to Jul. 31, 2021 for PlusPoints issued based on flying in 2019, and Oct. 31, 2020 for PlusPoints previously extended to Apr. 30, 2020.

Well, this week the carrier updated the Premier status tracker based on the reduced thresholds, extended existing PlusPoints and issued new ones to those who've already qualified for status.

Related: United rolls out new elite status based on lower 2020 requirements

Personally, I've already requalified for top-tier Premier 1K status this year by earning 12,630 Premier Qualifying Points (PQPs) in just three months of flying. As such, my fresh set of PlusPoints posted today, but I didn't get as many as I had expected. Here's why.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B_SSZZihx2p/

Premier 1Ks who earn more PQPs after qualifying for top-tier status have traditionally received additional upgrades at regular intervals. As United explained when introducing the PlusPoints program late last year:

After meeting the 18,000 PQP and 54 PQF required to reach 1K status, 1K members will receive an additional 20 PlusPoints for every 3,000 PQP they earn. Members meeting the higher 24,000 PQP goal for 1K will receive 40 additional PlusPoints after reaching 1K for having earned 6,000 PQP beyond the lower 18,000 PQP requirement.

So, when United halved the Premier qualification requirements, I expected it to do the same with earning incremental PlusPoints. Well, as confirmed by a United spokesperson, that's not the case.

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Specifically, after qualifying for 1K in 2020, you need to hit 21,000 PQP before earning 20 additional PlusPoints. For every additional 3,000 PQP earned above 21,000 PQP, you'll receive another 20 PlusPoints.

Considering that 1K requires either 9,000 or 12,000 PQP depending on the track you choose, that's a massive lift for most top-tier elites, and certainly doesn't incentivize flying with the airline after crossing the 1K threshold.

To be clear, I'm quite perplexed by this move. The airline is bleeding cash and will need to do whatever it can to convince passengers to take to the skies in the latter half of the year. Plus, with last year's extended, there’s a good chance fliers won’t be able to use all their new PlusPoints anyway.

American Airlines offers a similar program to its top-tier Executive Platinum elites who over-qualify for status. Fortunately, AA made sure to reduce the thresholds to earn those rewards as part of its elite status extension announcement.

As a 1K who's already requalified for status this year, there's little reason for me to continue flying with the airline on paid tickets (once it's safe to do so). Sure, I'd probably score a few complimentary upgrades and earn some extra redeemable miles, but with the unprecedented amounts of award space we've seen, the rest of my United flying in 2020 will now be on award tickets.

All photos by the author.

Featured image by (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

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Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
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    Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.

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  • Annual Fee

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    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
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Why We Chose It

Sometimes it's worth a large investment to reap the benefits of a great credit card. That's exactly the case with the Amex Platinum card. In exchange for the annual fee, you'll unlock access to the Amex Membership Rewards program that let you access airline and hotel transfer partners, along with new lifestyle and travel credits. This card is also incredibly rewarding for travel purchases, helping you rack up a ton of Membership Rewards points for your next award trip.

Pros

  • The current welcome offer on this card is quite lucrative. TPG values it at $1,600.
  • This card comes with a long list of benefits, including access to Centurion Lounges, complimentary elite status with Hilton and Marriott, at least $500 in assorted annual statement credits and so much more. (Enrollment required for select benefits.)
  • The Amex Platinum comes with access to a premium concierge service that can help you with everything from booking hard-to-get reservations to finding destination guides to help you plan out your next getaway.

Cons

  • The high annual fee is only worth it if you’re taking full advantage of the card’s benefits. Seldom travelers may not get enough value to warrant the cost.
  • Outside of the current welcome bonus, you’re only earning higher rewards on specific airfare and hotel purchases, so it’s not a great card for other spending categories.
  • The annual airline fee statement credit can be complicated to take advantage of compared to the broader travel credits offered by competing premium cards.
  • Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Apply and select your preferred metal Card design: classic Platinum Card®, Platinum x Kehinde Wiley, or Platinum x Julie Mehretu.
  • Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year and earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
  • Get $200 back in statement credits each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection bookings, which requires a minimum two-night stay, through American Express Travel when you pay with your Platinum Card®.
  • $240 Digital Entertainment Credit: Get up to $20 back each month on eligible purchases made with your Platinum Card® on one or more of the following: Audible, Disney+, The Disney Bundle, ESPN+, Hulu, Peacock, SiriusXM, and The New York Times. Enrollment required.
  • $155 Walmart+ Credit: Cover the cost of a $12.95 monthly Walmart+ membership with a statement credit after you pay for Walmart+ each month with your Platinum Card. Cost includes $12.95 plus applicable local sales tax. Plus Ups are excluded.
  • American Express has expanded The Centurion® Network to include 40+ Centurion Lounge and Studio locations worldwide. There are even more places your Platinum Card® can get you complimentary entry and exclusive perks.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one select qualifying airline.
  • $200 Uber Cash: Enjoy Uber VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on rides or eats orders in the US annually. Uber Cash and Uber VIP status is available to Basic Card Member only.
  • Get up to $300 back per calendar year on the Equinox+ digital fitness app, or eligible Equinox club memberships when you pay with your Platinum Card. Enrollment required. Learn more.
  • Breeze through security with CLEAR® lanes available at 100+ airports, stadiums, and entertainment venues and get up to $189 back per calendar year on your membership when you use your Card. Learn more.
  • $695 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees