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The United MileagePlus program is the latest airline loyalty program to raise elite status qualification requirements. The reduced qualification requirements seen over the past few years during the COVID-19 pandemic are going away. You’ll now need to fly and spend a lot more than you did before with United just to maintain elite status.
But, there is some good news. United is now allowing flights booked with miles to earn Premier ualifying points, which count toward elite status. Additionally, United has axed all redeposit fees associated with canceling award travel. And the United credit cards now have more elite status earning power.
» Learn more: The best travel credit card welcome bonuses right now
Here’s what you need to know about all the changes to the United MileagePlus program.
New qualification requirements for United Premier status
First, to understand the process to earn United Premier status, you’ll need to learn a bit of alphabet soup.
United requires that all Premier status holders must fly a minimum of four flight segments on United or United Express. From there, you either need to hit a threshold of earning Premier Qualifying Points (PQP) or you can earn slightly fewer PQPs combined with Premier Qualifying Flights (PQF).
Here are the new qualification requirements that you’ll have to hit between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2023, in order to hold each Premier status level through Jan. 31, 2025:
PQF + PQP
12 PQF + 4,000 PQP.
24 PQF + 8,000 PQP.
36 PQF + 12,000 PQP.
54 PQF + 18,000 PQP.
New ways to rack up PQPs
While the requirements to earn elite status are higher, United has also added new ways to earn PQPs.
A PQP jumpstart for current Premier members
The airline is giving everyone who currently holds United elite status a little PQP jumpstart. If you hold United Premier status as of the end of 2022, you’ll receive some bonus PQPs in your account. Here’s how many points you’ll get based on your current level of elite status:
Premier Silver: 500 PQPs.
Premier Gold: 1,000 PQPs.
Premier Platinum: 1,500 PQPs.
Premier 1K: 2,500 PQPs.
» Learn more: The guide to United Premier elite status
Award tickets count toward elite status
If you’re always redeeming miles, those award flights now count toward elite status. When you use MileagePlus miles for award flights operated by United or United Express, every 100 miles redeemed will count as 1 PQP. So, if you redeemed 10,000 United miles for a free flight, you’d receive 100 PQPs.
Additionally, you’ll earn 1 PQF per flight.
» Learn more: The complete guide to redeeming United miles
Credit card spending caps have been increased
United allows you to use spending on its credit cards to count toward status — but only up to a certain amount. Previously, each individual United credit card had a cap on how many PQPs you could accrue through spending, with a maximum of 5,000 per person across combined credit cards for folks who held multiple United credit cards.
Now, the combined cap is 15,000 PQPs.
Here are the new PQP caps on individual cards:
Eligible United MileagePlus cardmembers will continue to earn 500 PQP per $12,000 spent on eligible cards in a calendar year.
» Learn more: The best airline credit cards right now
How United’s news compares to other airlines
United is just the latest in a string of airlines to announce changes to their loyalty programs. Last month, Delta also announced higher elite status requirements. Flyers will have to spend about 33% more to earn Delta Gold Medallion status or higher.
A few weeks later, Southwest increased the number of Rapid Rewards points needed to earn its coveted Southwest Companion Pass, which is basically a buy-one-get-one deal on your Southwest flights for a year. Instead of the previous 125,000 points needed to earn one, you’ll need 135,000 points, beginning on Jan. 1, 2023.
United’s news also comes amidst massive inflation, so you might not necessarily need to fly more to earn the level of elite status that you’re used to. The average U.S. airfares in September 2022 were 43% higher than they were in September 2021. Because you’re probably spending more than you did in the past to fly the same amount, you’re also likely spending enough to meet those new elite status requirements anyway.
Photo courtesy of United Airlines.
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 2023, 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