United offering chance to buy higher level of elite status — Is it worth it?

Feb 5, 2021

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Like most other frequent flyer programs, United MileagePlus extended elite status levels for an extra year in 2020. Instead of requiring that its members hit certain spending or flying thresholds in all the weirdness that was last year, they didn’t penalize anyone who didn’t hit the thresholds in 2020 and bumped status expiration out a full year into 2022.

But, now that 2021 has arrived, United is sending out some targeted emails to provide select members the opportunity to buy-up to the next level of status in exchange for cold hard cash.

I have earned United Gold elite status the last few years, and in 2020 and managed to earn 4,229 Premier Qualifying Points (PQPs) and 17 flight segments. That was 1,771 PQPs (which are essentially dollars spent with the airline) and one flight segment away from earning a higher Platinum status at the reduced 2020 qualification levels.

But if I’m interested in upping my status level for the next year, United will now sell that missed Platinum status level to me for $2,278 via an offer valid until Feb. 28.

For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Screenshot courtesy of United

That offer would confer the increased status level until early 2022. In this case, Platinum status would come with an earlier upgrade priority, starting 72 hours before departure, the ability to secure up to eight extra-legroom Economy Plus seats at the time of booking, earn an increased 9x redeemable miles on flights and 40 PlusPoints that can be used toward confirmable upgrades.

Related: Complete guide to airline elite status during the coronavirus outbreak

Other United status buy-up offers going out

These status buy-up opportunities have been going out via email. Mine had the subject line “Secure Premier Platinum status for 2021.” While not every MileagePlus member received one, I am aware of offers going out from the entry-level Silver status opportunities, up to the top-tier 1K status level. (I have yet to hear of any buy-ups to the highest invite-only Global Services level.)

In the TPG Facebook Lounge and among TPG staffers, reports range from $700 for Silver status to $900 to buy-up to Platinum status and up to $4,000 to secure 1K status. While not confirmed, it’s likely that how close you were to securing that next status level may impact the price to buy it and close that gap.

Related: How to earn airline status with credit cards 

Is it worth it to buy status?

Loyalty program elite status is only worth what you get out of it. Triple-platinum-titanium-diamond-minted status is worth exactly $0 if you don’t use the perks. On the other hand, in a normal year, United elite status is valued at thousands of dollars by TPG.

If you aren’t yet sure whether or not you will fly with United in 2021, I wouldn’t recommend spending hard-earned cash to secure a higher status level.

But, if you have a high degree of certainty that you will be back in the friendly skies with United in 2021, it can be worth at least running the math if you received an offer.

If your offer is to spend around $2,000 to go from Platinum to 1K status, a tangible perk would be the additional 280 PlusPoints you’d earn by making that status jump. It costs 20 PlusPoints to secure a space-available upgrade from economy to domestic first/regional business class, 40 PlusPoints to go from economy to Polaris in certain fare classes, and so on. Theoretically, those 280 PlusPoints that come from unlocking 1K could secure up to 14 regional or domestic upgrades or up to six upgrades to Polaris on long-haul flights.

Ignoring all the other United 1K status benefits for the moment, that comes to about $143 per domestic/regional first-class upgrade or around $333 for each Polaris upgrade — all subject to space availability. Add on top of that the additional 1K perks (above what Platinums would already receive), including being almost at the top of the pecking order for ‘free’ upgrades starting 96 hours before departure, a free beverage/snack when flying economy and earning 11x redeemable miles per dollar spent on airfare, etc.

Related: Guide to United PlusPoints

United Polaris (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

If you were certain you would max out those PlusPoints, as well as the other perks, there are fringe cases when a relatively sizeable investment could be recouped by jumping from Platinum to 1K. However, that will rely largely on how much you fly in 2021.

Related: Why United’s recent changes have me reconsidering going for top-tier status

What I’m doing

I’d very much love to be a United Platinum elite again, as it’s been many years since I had that pretty valuable status level.

However, it’s not worth $2,278 to me this year to make that leap up from Gold. The 40 PlusPoints would be nice, but that’s only enough for two domestic first-class upgrades or one international Polaris upgrade. All in, those perks aren’t worth anywhere near $2,000+ for me at the moment.

I’d consider the offer if it was in the $500-ish range, but at the asking price, it’s well beyond what I’m certain will be worth in my current situation.

Related: Reconsidering top-tier elite status with United 

Bottom line

If you have a fair amount of United flying planned for 2021, scan your inbox to see if you have an offer to upgrade your elite status. Based on the reports we have seen, it certainly won’t always be worth it to spend the cash to secure that next status level, but there may be some niche cases that are worth plunking down your credit card and locking in more perks.

Featured image by Philip Pilosian/Shutterstock

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases within the first three months of card membership. Plus, earn a $200 statement credit after your first Delta purchase within the first three months. Offer ends 7/28/21.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles after spending $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months and a $200 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months. Offer expires 7/28/2021.
  • Limited Time Offer: Plus, get a 0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months from the date of account opening, then a variable 15.74%-24.74%. Offer expires 7/28/2021.
  • Accelerate your path to Medallion Status, with Status Boost®. Plus, in 2021 you can earn even more bonus Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) to help you reach Medallion Status.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Intro APR on Purchases
0% on purchases for 12 months
Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
$250
Balance Transfer Fee
N/A
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.