Big changes for United MileagePlus members

United's new spending thresholds for Premier status

United’s new spending thresholds for Premier status

United MileagePlus members will soon have to show their loyalty to United not only by how much they fly, but by how much they pay. Beginning with flights in 2014, Premier status for 2015 will be based miles flown and dollars spent each calendar year.

The same segment and Premier Qualifying Mile (PQM) requirements will remain in place. But starting next year, you will have meet a new PQD (Premier Qualifying Dollar) threshold.

To achieve Premier Silver, you must fly 25,000 miles and spend at least $2,500 on United. If both are not met, you will not earn status. For Premier Gold, the minimum spend is $5,000; for Platinum, it’s $7,500; and for 1K, you must spend at least $10,000.

PQDs are based on money spent on United-marketed flights only (taxes and fees excluded)—this does NOT include money spent on ancillary fees for bags, upgrades, in-flight food/bev, etc. However, it does include spending on fuel surcharges, which can be significant on international flights. Spending on United-marketed flights will include Star Alliance partner and code-share flights– but only those with ticket numbers beginning with United’s code 016. So, for example, dollars spent on a Lufthansa-operated flight will count– but only if your ticket is purchased from United.

United has not revealed how members will be able to track their PQDs yet.

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One way around the new rules: Spending at least $25,000 in a calendar year on any MileagePlus Chase co-branded credit card exempts you from the spending thresholds (but not the mileage/segment requirements). However, there is no PQD waiver for Premier 1K qualification- you must spend a minimum of $10,000 to earn 1K status.

Meeting or beating these new spending thresholds may be easy for some, but for others, not so much. For example, to attain or maintain Gold status (50K miles + $5K spend), you would have to buy an average of ten $500 United tickets over the course of a year. How easy or hard do you think this will be? Please vote in our poll!

[poll id="6"]

Like Delta, which announced a similar policy last winter, United is betting that this will weed out the flyers that “game the system” for status or simply buy the lowest fares. In the end, the new spending thresholds are going to hurt leisure travelers (who bring United the least revenue) most. Big spending business travelers might find that with fewer Premiers to compete with, it’s easier to board early and upgrade.

What do you think about United’s moves? Will this affect your loyalty to United? Please leave your comments below. 

Chris McGinnis


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  • conor_ob

    United is free to do what it wants, of course, but I’m done with them after this change. I’m not a 1K member, usually just silver or gold. The only reason I would pay a little extra to stick with United was to get the loyalty benefits. It’s just not worth it anymore, if the spending requirements aren’t that high. I know the “elite” (ha) flyers want to push the rest of us moderates out, and I hope United raises prices on them to compensate when the middle tier moves elsewhere.

  • Ms_Sunshine9898

    I fly a great deal each month both domestically and internationally and it’s damn near impossible to meet the standard above unless you are frequent business or first class flyer on an international round trip route on a regular basis. For the record, I LOATH flying on an American based airline international and will gladly fly on Luthansa, KLM, Asiana, Qatar, or hell, even Turkish before I fly on an American based airline internationally! Your comment is truly asinine and you are in need a few stadium of seats. . .

  • Aaron

    My only problem with this is around the spending allocation directly for UNITED tickets or code-shares. I fly a lot of Lufthansa, Swiss, Singapore, and South African owing to schedules and equipment options, as well as prices. I’ve found that sometimes code-share prices are more expensive than non code-share on the same plane. If United wants to be part of an airline alliance that they founded (Star), they should change this rule to spending on Star Alliance flights. They already instituted a rule that you must fly 4 PQS on United to gain status. Perhaps they should just increase this to 6 for gold, 8 for platinum, etc. and drop the $ requirements. I am gold status, but might lose it if the thousands my company spends on my non-United star alliance flights per year are not part of the equation. If that happens, I’ll probably no longer prefer booking Star Alliance flights when they are close in price to Delta/KLM/Air France flights.

  • Aaron

    The fallacy of this comment is the bit about”people who are truly important to the business”. For the most part, it’s NOT the people…it’s their position. I travel for business and am gold status on United (because I always have to buy lowest fare, which means I split between One World, Sky Miles and Star Alliance pretty evenly throughout the year). But I’m never fooled into believing that I deserve a status because I, personally, have brought so much business to United. If it wasn’t me in this position in my job, it’d be someone else, and they would be going to those same meetings and earning that same airline status. Case in point: if I switched positions and stopped traveling, United wouldn’t remember who I was. The service staff wouldn’t greet me by name, I’d be stopped from accessing the lounges, and I’d have to wait in the same old security lines are everybody else. I’m not special because I’m “elite” status, and neither are you. Neither of us are “keeping them in business”…rather, our companies are the ones keeping them in business (or, in many cases, our company’s clients). People who think they they are more important because their company flies them around the planet, at no direct expense to themselves, are just fooling themselves. If it wasn’t you, it’d be someone else in your stead, so perhaps practice a little humility.

  • Berkeley999

    I think it’s great. There are way too many people with enough FF status so that early boarding know includes half the passengers. As a 1K I’m boarding with people that pay a small fee or just have a certain credit card. Being a 1K doesn’t mean much anymore, but perhaps this will weed out some people.

  • Ken White

    Ever since United monopolized-up with Continental (thereby diluting the quality of a better stand alone operation) they have been GOUGING the public with reckless, greedy abandon, sort of like big government does every single day to the common folks. This latest loyalty busting, tasteless dictum can be added to the equally loathsome one sided trick of creating four elite levels rather than staying with three, and also manipulating the way elite flyers can get Plus seating (fourth level is almost shut out). So screw ‘em! I fly to Europe twice a year but I’ll shop for bargain fares and abandon United and their lopsided program. Virgin America can get me across the country for mush less and with better service. I’ll feel better about not being blatantly and purposely nickeled and dimed! The last time I crossed the Atlantic in March I flew Turkish Airlines, which has service significantly better than United’s with attractive and energetic young stewardesses at no extra charge. Add these latest executive suite (everything for the brass and the rest can kiss my a–) decisions to baggage fees, change fees, no food, fees for everything and I sense the preeminence of United’s frequent flyer club (some club!) dominance coming to an end, notwithstanding marginal and gruff service already chipping away at the way people feel about United. One more thing: I think UAL’s recent moves are so “marginal” as to make one wish for federal regulation of airlines again, except of course the feds and United are already in cahoots as evidenced by their slam dunk monopolization with Conti. The same management that bankrupted UAL because they couldn’t plan ahead is now going to scare passengers away because they have no sensitivity for those who pay to panel UALs boardroom walls with all that finely polished oak. I am PISSED and have no parent company paying my flying costs. I pay my own way, so I will now begin to look elsewhere.

  • John R. Grout

    At least Southwest doesn’t pretend to care about leisure travelers: their new frequent flyer miles compare EXACTLY to dollars spent on Southwest. The phony script spun by Chase (who must have had thousands… or tens of thousands… of Southwest FF Miles cards cancelled) affected to not understand why anyone would want to change away from Southwest.

  • Peter

    I live in Micronesia so I need to fly just to shake hands. Continental used to be king here and did an outstanding job. Then came United. What a letdown! I’ve never been more pissed of at an American company in my life. This year alone they’ve stolen $1,300. from me on a cancelled flight. I hope they go bankrupt.

  • JFH

    it is all about service and UA is the worst–i fly to Korea x5 a year and now always on Asiana or KAL–domestically i am always on Virgin. I lost 1K two years ago and do not miss it–UA has a lot to learn and making a socio-economic distinction with the pax is the wrong way to go–the whole idea is absurd.

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  • journeyman22

    I don’t fly for business, so I’m the leisure traveler so many business travelers apparently despise. But I travel a lot, always on my own dime and almost always with United. I’m almost always with my wife, as well, so she also has Silver Elite status. I’ve had Continental/UA elite status since 2001 and always made an effort to keep it. That’s kept me away from the competition, as Delta and American haven’t seen me in years. The new limits will make it nearly impossible to keep my status. Leisure travelers typically spend less because it’s their money and they book smarter. They also travel with 2, 3, 4 people. Between my wife and daughter, we’ll spend about $5k/year with United. Under the new rules, it’ll be unlikely even one of us gets premier status. My 12+ years of loyalty means nothing to the new United. On the bright side, the branded credit card gives us most of the benefits of Premier Silver status anyway — free checked bag, priority boarding. That and being well on my way to lifetime elite status could make me grudgingly accept the new rules. But I’ll miss the 1st class upgrades.

  • Ralphie

    This is making even USeless Air look good. Adios United.

  • Colin

    Apparently you and I are in the minority, Jack, but as a Premier Platinum I’ve already spent $9,000 this year with United for about 50K EQMs. I see no reason why someone who flies to Bangkok for the weekend whenever it’s cheapest just to earn 1K status should have more privileges than me. Anyone who wants to leave United over this policy, fine by me, I’ll happily take your seat in First.

  • Simon

    The people this is likely to hurt are the business traveller like me. I fly around 100,000 miles year on year, however, my company’s corporate policy is that everyone (aside from Directors, who fly biz) must book the lowest possible fare. So, why should I be punished if I don’t reach $10,000 (I probably will I would imagine)? It’s not fair, when you consider that I deliberately look to book with United, no matter where I’m going, that should be rewarded. I agree that United has a problem with the number of elites, but the biggest problem is with those at the silver level, typically it’s that level that fly the least out of elites (obviously) but expect the most in terms of perks. Honestly, just copying what Delta did shows what United has become; an airline so lacking in imagination that it simply succeeds by virtue of it’s route network alone. Jeff Smisek is a fool.

  • Simon

    Why does it matter what reason you fly, mileage runners (I’m not one) pay to be there just like everyone else?! So, how exactly is anyone more important than anyone else…I get rewarding loyalty, but United could earn more by putting value on everyone who chooses to fly them, whether that’s once a year or 50 times a year.

  • Simon

    I don’t think you can say Lufthansa going transatlantic is flying with the competition, it’s a JV agreement with UA over the pond and thus revenues/costs are shared between United/Lufthansa.

  • TV

    Airlines are starting to offer a lot of Frequent Flyer benefits without having to be a frequent flyer. You can purchase priority boarding,priority security, baggage allowances, same-day upgrades and lounge access for a WHOLE LOT LESS than the time and money you might spend trying to get Gold or Platinum. Frankly, it’s a lot more friendly that way for the non-business traveler. I like being able to shop around for a lower fare and enjoy different airline experiences. The $100 for a Global Entry Card is a great deal. You can avoid all the security lines and don’t have to spend thousands on any one airline to get it.

  • Chris McGinnis

    Thanks! Fixed it.

  • Spysea

    United has diluted and whored out their mileage plus program for years, basically you can pay for status …. circumnavigating the loyalty part , VX must be loving the corporate stupidity in Chicago!

    Remember you 1K’s…. like me DELTA and VX would love to take your money and writing them to match status is the next step….. Bye UA , you suck in all surveys and your product is on par with Spirit and Easyjet…and Greyhound…… And for all you folks who are happy ” Rewarding people who are truly important to the business, weeding out the mileage runners” yes reward those who just spend their way to loyalty…… Yes United has been rewarding those who pay to become elites for years …. where have you been ?

  • Unfriendly skies


  • petermjensen

    Right now you can earn status and perks with United by spending your money and/or flying with the competition (eg Lufthansa). Looks like they want to make sure they reward the people who actually fly and/or spend money with United. Makes sense, Why reward a “customer” that never flies with you? I’d be surprised if they hadn’t already done the analysis to ensure that the customers they want to keep, still qualify. I won’t have a problem maintaining my gold status.

  • frequent flyer

    As a 2 million miler with 1K status, I find what United doing as offensive.

    It doesn’t matter to me how easy I can make the spending threshold. What bothers me the most is that I feel as though I’m being penalized for being loyal to United. At every turn, 1Ks are losing benefits.

    I’m 28,000 miles away from hitting 3 million with United. As soon as I get there,
    I’m moving my business to some other airline… and it’s not going to be Delta.

    I would like to see everyone write to United and tell them how stupid this
    program requirement is. If enough people write, I’m sure they will reverse the policy.

    If they want to increase per seat revenue, increase ticket prices! If they can’t because of competition, get out of the industry.

    I started flying coast to coast in the early ‘80s. Ticket prices were around $300 round trip. Until this summer, prices were still around $300 for a round trip flight.
    Something is wrong if airlines can’t figure out how to charge an appropriate amount for tickets over the past 30 years. I seriously doubt $300 is the right
    amount. The system is broken and this is NOT the way to fix it.

    Please write to United and tell them what you think.

  • John

    “One way around the new rules: Spending at least $25,000 miles in a calendar year…” – Should the word “miles” be there?

  • Jack

    This is great news. Rewarding people who are truly important to the business, weeding out the mileage runners. About time the airlines wake up and reward those who are keeping them in business. Hope it dramatically reduces the number of elites.

  • Name

    Hmmmmm, I use my points for upgrades, so it shouldn’t affect my ability to maintain my silver status … I hope! I think it’s about time that the airlines figured out something to reduce the sheer numbers of status people fighting over the perks. I remember flying SFO-JFK a couple of times several years ago in first class on Continental for $206 R/T. That’s a money-loser for sure. I believe that I read somewhere today that the affinity credit card holders will get some kind of a break.

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