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If you’ve experienced the perks of elite status (i.e., free upgrades, extra baggage allowance, lounge access), you’ll understand why it's so valuable. United Airlines’ elite status program is called MileagePlus Premier, and it can be very rewarding not just for United flyers but also for those who travel on Star Alliance partner airlines.
We'll discuss the perks that come with each of the four elite tiers, show you how to attain elite status and help you decide if it's right for you — whether you’re a United Airlines loyalist or just a travel credit card novice. Plus, find out if you can take advantage of the changes United made to help passengers earn status through 2023.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020, United initiated many positive changes to help its loyalists retain and earn elite status. To read about those changes, head over to this article: United Airlines touts positive changes to elite status and other perks.
How to achieve elite status with United Airlines
Elite status with United Airlines can be earned by flying and credit card spending. Regardless of which option you go with, you need to complete four flights on United or United Express and earn:
Premier Qualifying Flights (PQF) and Premier Qualifying Points (PQP), or
Only PQP — but a higher amount.
One PQF is equal to one flight. So, if you fly on a paid one-way ticket from New York to Paris but have a connection in London, that trip will earn 2 PQF because there are two flights.
PQP generally correlate to the money spent on plane tickets and certain other categories, but taxes are excluded. You earn 1 PQP for every $1 spent on the following purchases:
Base fare and surcharge.
Economy Plus seats or subscriptions.
Preferred seat purchases.
MileagePlus upgrade award copays.
Upgrades on United and United Express flights.
Star Alliance partner flights based on a specific earn rate.
» Learn more: How you'll earn United PQPs on flights
PQF and PQP requirements for 2023 United elite status
2023 Premier status
PQF and PQP
8 PQF and 3,000 PQP.
16 PQF and 6,000 PQP.
24 PQF and 9,000 PQP.
36 PQF and 13,500 PQP.
Or higher PQP goal
Remember: Four flights are always required for any level, regardless of other qualifications.
How can I see how many PQP and PQF a flight will earn?
When you’re looking at the search results for a specific route, you will see the number of PQP and PQF that will be earned on each flight. For example, here is a one-way nonstop flight from Newark to San Francisco:
The Basic Economy ticket, which is the most restrictive, earns no PQF and 128 PQP. Although the ticket costs $139, you earn only 128 PQP due to about $11 in taxes (which earn no PQP). In contrast, a Business/First ticket earns 698 PQP and 1 PQF.
How can I achieve elite status with United Airlines quicker?
The fastest way to earn elite status is to buy more expensive tickets. As seen in the example above, the business/first class flight earns 698 PQP compared to only 128 PQP for the basic economy fare.
Another way to expedite your path to status is to meet spending thresholds on some United credit cards.
Existing PQP benefit based on net card spend 1/1/22 – 12/31/22
500 PQP for every $12,000 in net card spend; up to 1,000 PQP.
United MileagePlus® Select Card, United Club Card and the United Quest℠ Card.
500 PQP for every $12,000 in net card spend; up to 3,000 PQP.
500 PQP for every $12,000 in net card spend; up to 4,000 PQP.
United℠ Presidential Plus℠ Card and the United℠ Presidential Plus℠ Business Card.
500 PQP for every $12,000 in net card spend; up to 10,000 PQP.
If you have multiple United credit cards, you can earn a maximum of 5,000 PQP in a calendar year. However, the United℠ Presidential Plus℠ Card and the United℠ Presidential Plus℠ Business Card are excluded from the cap.
For example, if you have the United℠ Explorer Card, United℠ Explorer Business Card or the new United℠ Business Card, you can earn up to 2,000 PQP by spending $48,000. The spend requirement isn’t right for everyone, but if you have a lot of chargeable expenses, this promotion could be valuable.
After earning the 2,000 PQP from both credit cards to achieve Silver status, you’d still need to complete four United/United Express flights and earn:
An additional 1,500 PQP, or
An additional 1,000 PQP and 8 PQFs.
Holding United’s credit cards certainly eases the PQP requirements, but because of the requirement to complete four United/United Express flights, you cannot get status with United without stepping foot on a plane.
» Learn more: Benefits of United airlines credit cards
United status levels
United offers four elite status levels, from lowest to highest: Silver, Gold, Platinum and 1K.
What is United elite status worth?
To determine what United elite status is worth, we ran a comprehensive analysis of the program’s perks. To hear more about our methodology, see The Best Airline Elite Status for 2022.
Cost to earn
Value of tier
Elite earning rate
Elite status offers a ton of useful benefits, and United awards its most loyal members with the best perks. Naturally, the higher up you go in status, the most value you can extract from it. However, higher status does come with increased spending and loyalty to United.
The differences between the lowest (Silver) and highest (1K) elite levels are meaningful (upgrade access, earning rates and seat selection), and you can review United’s full list of every single elite benefit. Below, we've outlined some of the most important perks of each tier so you can decide if pursuing status is right for you.
Global Services (invitation only)
United also has an invitation-only elite level called Global Services, which is offered to customers who spend a significant amount of money with the airline. Qualification requirements are not published but those who have this coveted status level receive perks that go above and beyond those offered to Premier 1Ks.
United status match
If you have elite status with another airline and are thinking of switching to United, you could apply for a status match challenge and get matched to United Silver, Gold or Platinum.
Currently, United does not offer a status match to 1K.
The offer is not valid for those who have received a status match or status exception within the last five years.
What do you need to qualify for status matching with United Airlines?
The status that you are matched to depends on what status you have with another airline.
Level matched to in United MileagePlus
Delta Air Lines Medallion® level
American Airlines AAdvantage elite status
JetBlue Airways True Blue
Alaska Airlines MVP elite status
MVP Gold 75k.
Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
Level matched to in MileagePlus
Once you are approved for a status match, you will need to earn a certain number of PQP and PQF (on flights operated by United or United Express) within a specified timeframe to keep your status.
MileagePlus Premier status
PQF and PQP requirements
Fly 4 PQF and earn 1,000 PQP.
Fly 6 PQF and earn 2,000 PQP.
Fly 10 PQF and earn 3,000 PQP.
What do you get when status matching with United Airlines?
As soon as your status match has been approved, you will receive most of the perks that are designated to elites at that status level. For example, if you’re a Delta Platinum, you will be matched to United Platinum. Although you will receive most of the perks that come with Platinum, you will only receive 20 PlusPoints once you meet the PQP and PQF thresholds.
To receive the total 40 PlusPoints that are usually awarded to Platinum elites, you will need to satisfy the normal PQF/PQP requirement for Platinum status (18 PQF and 6,000 PQP, or 7,500 PQP).
» Learn more: Delta versus United Airlines
What is the process for applying for status matching with United Airlines?
An updated mileage summary or the most recent membership card from the airline frequent flyer program you are matching. The expiration date will need to be visible along with your current elite status. You will need to attach this documentation when you submit your claim.
Your preferred start date, which must be within 30 days before or after the current date (you can begin your match retroactively).
How to maintain elite status with United Airlines
The expiration date for elite status is Jan. 31 each year. To ensure that you maintain your status from year to year, you will need to complete the PQF and PQP requirements for your status level.
» Learn more: Plan your next redemption with our airline points tool
United elite status, recapped
No matter which United status you aim for, the perks provided can significantly upgrade your flying experience. Although elite status can seem out of reach, the positive changes United initiated to help loyalists impacted by coronavirus-related travel bans should make it easier to achieve status. With these reduced requirements for elite status, if United services your home airport, aiming for elite status (or applying for a United status match) could make a lot of sense.
The information related to the United℠ Explorer Business Card, United Club Card and United Club℠ Business Card (annual fee: $450) has been collected by NerdWallet and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.
How to maximize your rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2022, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
on Chase's website
- Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- Enjoy benefits such as a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5X on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3X on dining and 2X on all other travel purchases, plus more
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
on Chase's website
Wells Fargo Autograph℠ Card
on Wells Fargo's website
- Earn 30,000 bonus points when you spend $1,500 in purchases in the first 3 months - that's a $300 cash redemption value
- Earn unlimited 3X points on the things that really add up - like restaurants, travel, gas stations, transit, popular streaming services, and phone plans. Plus, earn 1X points on other purchases
- $0 annual fee
Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
on Bank of America's website
- Earn unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases, with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees and your points don't expire
- 25,000 online bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases
- Use your card to book your trip how and where you want - you're not limited to specific websites with blackout dates or restrictions
on Bank of America's website