United Mileage Plus was applauded for adding an option to earn status via spending-only this week and not raising qualification rates, but taking a closer look, it might be impossible to do.
United Airlines Mileage Plus Adds Earning Premier Status Via Credit Card Spending
This week, United announced that it would make some changes to its loyalty program, Mileage Plus. While travelers and bloggers braced for ramped-up requirements like Delta recently announced, United surprised the world by only adding a new way to earn Premier status. Like American Airlines’ transition to Loyalty Points and incentivize those who put a lot of money on United co-brand credit cards.
I agree that it’s great to not see an announcement for increased requirements. And it’s always great to have another way to earn status outright or supplement less flying with more spending as American and Spirit have done.
But the math on this is crazy, maybe impossible.
How Much Spending to Reach Premier Status?
Matthew covered the changes, so I am going to include what those are from his post here:
|PREMIER STATUS||PQF + PQP||OR PQP ONLY|
|Premier Silver||12 PQF and 4,000 PQP||5,000 PQP|
|Premier Gold||24 PQF and 8,000 PQP||10,000 PQP|
|Premier Platinum||36 PQF and 12,000 PQP||15,000 PQP|
|Premier 1K||54 PQF and 18,000 PQP||24,000 PQP|
In another post, Matthew explains how PQPs will be earned on credit card spend in the new system:
- Cardmembers will now earn 25 PQP for every $500 in qualifying card spend on eligible MileagePlus credit cards. At this new rate, Cardmembers can earn PQP faster and more frequently through qualifying purchases on their card
- This amounts to 600 PQPs for every $12,000 in spending versus the current 500, an increase of 20%
- All card-earned PQP will now count toward each status level, including the PQP-only requirement for Premier 1K status
- Increasing the total PQP amount you can earn annually with the United Club Infinite Card. In 2024, you can earn up to 10,000 PQP from qualifying purchases on your United Club Infinite Card (versus 8,000 PQP in 2023)
- Other caps include:
- United Explorer Card – 1,000 PQPs
- United Business Card -1,000 PQPs
- United Quest Card – 6,000 PQPs
- Removing the annual cap of 15,000 PQP that you can earn from qualifying spend across multiple eligible United MileagePlus credit cards issued by Chase
- Each card will still have PQP caps (for now…)
Let’s work that math backward. If one were to only spend through PQP via credit card spending this is what the tiers would require:
- Premier Silver – $100,000
- Premier Gold – $200,000
- Premier Platinum – $300,000
- Premier 1K – $480,000
United is most likely assuming that those earning on PQPs only will still earn via flying on partners or on United reducing this spend requirement, but on its face… that’s an awful lot of spending for 1K.
Is It Even Possible?
A question remains as to whether this is even possible. According to the above, United removes the 15,000 PQP annual cap from earning via multiple cards, that gets us to Premier Platinum and above. However, if the per-card limit remains in place as it’s been stated, then each of the four products could be maxed out at a total of 18,000 PQPs, well short of Premier 1K status.
It’s possible that one could hold two versions of the same card though that would serve limited utility if it’s even allowed. If one held two United Club Infinite Cards ($525 each) they could potentially reach 20,000 PQPs on those two cards and a United Quest card to hit the remaining 4,000 PQPs required (6,000 allowed.)
The question isn’t whether or not United would allow a consumer to hold two versions of the same card. The question is whether it will award PQPs in excess of the product max on each of those cards. For many cards, this too wouldn’t be a problem. However, given the rigid requirements with PQPs, first on all products, and now remaining on per product, it’s possible that earnings would be recognized on a per-product limit basis making it impossible to actually qualify for 1K solely on PQPs through credit card spend.
How Does United Mileage Plus Compare?
I already mentioned that American Airlines and Spirit Airlines allow earning solely from credit card spending for its elite tiers. Here’s how others stack up at the top tiers:
- American Airlines Advantage Executive Platinum Status – $200,000
- Spirit Airlines Free Spirit Gold (comparable to United Premier Gold) – $50,000
- Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards A-List Preferred – $233,334
- JetBlue TrueBlue Mosaic 4 – $250,000
- Delta Air Lines Diamond Medallion – $255,000
Spending $255,000/year on a credit card will earn top-tier status on every other carrier but on United, sorry, that doesn’t even achieve Premier Platinum status.
It’s good news that United flyers can augment their PQP requirements with regular credit spending and that they did not raise the requirements this year. But American Airlines now looks like the best value for money for those putting a lot of spend on credit cards (especially when using its shopping portal.) United would require dramatically more spend ($480,000), across several cards, using some creativity and moving spending around, if it’s even possible. I can appreciate that it adds an option, but it’s not a competitive option and adds a lot of hoops. For business owners or super spenders, it seems odd that they would want to make United this disadvantaged for those clients.
What do you think?