The Guide to United Premier Silver

United Premier Silver is a great starter status that can be easily earned with the right credit card.

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Premier Silver is the first tier in the United Airlines MileagePlus program. There are several paths to get there, including matching hotel elite status or leveraging certain credit card perks.

For those who fly frequently with United and Star Alliance partners, the benefits of Silver status can improve your flight experience. Let’s take a look at United Premier Silver elite status, its benefits and how to earn this level of status.

United Premier Silver benefits

As an entry-level tier, achieving this level of status is like dipping your toes into the magical world of elite status perks. Upgrades, bonus miles, savings and travel conveniences start to appear on the horizon.

So, what do you get with Premier Silver status on United?

  • 7x MileagePlus miles: For every eligible dollar spent on airfare, Premier Silver members earn 7 miles. This offers a boost over general MileagePlus members who only earn 5 miles per eligible dollar spent.

  • Free checked bag: This tier includes one free checked bag weighing up to 70 pounds.

  • Unlimited complimentary upgrades: Space-available upgrades to first class are a notable perk on non-basic economy domestic and select international flights. This includes award tickets for those who have a United co-branded credit card. These upgrades are free and processed only on the day of departure.

  • Premier Access: United Premier Silver members get access to premium check-in, preferred screening airport security lanes where available and an earlier boarding group (Group 2) than general, nonelite MileagePlus members.

  • Preferred seats, including Economy Plus: When checking in, Premier Silver members may get complimentary Economy Plus and preferred seating access for you and one companion on award flights (for Premier Gold tier and higher, these freebies are available earlier, at the time of booking). This perk is applicable for up to eight others traveling with you at check-in but not available if you've purchased a basic economy ticket.

  • Discounted Clear membership: Premier Silver members receive preferred pricing for an annual Clear membership.

  • Star Alliance Silver status: Silver is the entry-level status for Star Alliance and includes priority perks when flying other member carriers. However, it is not as robust as Star Alliance Gold, and it lacks popular perks like access to member lounges when flying internationally. Its only real benefits are priority waitlisting for reservations and airport standby. It does not even include priority check-in or boarding, which is disappointing.

  • Higher priority for customer service: When calling United, Premier Silver members have a dedicated phone line for higher priority than general members.

  • Reduced fee for canceling award tickets: United charges a fee for canceling or changing an award ticket within 30 days of travel. Premier Silver members pay $100, which is $25 less than general members have to pay.

  • Same-day flight change benefit: All Premier members can change to a different flight within 24 hours of departure, provided the same fare class is available. Otherwise, a difference in fare may apply or the member can stand by for the new flight for free.

How to earn Premier Silver

Earning Premier Silver status with United for all members requires clearing certain goal posts within a calendar year.

These qualifying benchmarks are:

  • Flying eight Premier Qualifying Flights (PQFs) and earning 3,000 Premier Qualifying Points (PQPs) — OR earning 3,500 PQPs.

  • Flying four flights during the calendar year on United or United Express in addition to the above.

Elite status qualification is solely based on the number of flights you take and the amount of money that you spend.

🤓Nerdy Tip

United does not factor in the mileage distance flown into its status earning.

Note that United basic economy tickets will earn PQPs, but not PQF credits.

How much is Premier Silver elite status worth?

According to a recent NerdWallet analysis on airline elite status, Premier Silver has a raw estimated value of $1,129.70, which puts United’s entry-level status squarely in the middle of airline elite status value. If you travel with United more than other airlines, it would be worth earning.

Airline

Entry Tier

Mid-Tier

High Tier

Ultra-Tier

Alaska

$810.

$2,160.

$5,638.

$5,638.

American

$2,158.

$7,500.

$15,153.

$29,008.

Delta

$876.

$2,442.

$4,696.

$11,209.

Frontier

$400.

$1,113.

$2,750.

-

Hawaiian

$620.

$2,040.

-

-

JetBlue

-

$1,987.

-

-

Southwest

-

$138

$1,108

-

Spirit

$32

$910

-

-

United

$1,251

$3,494

$6,235.

$13,053

However, compared to its competitors, United's entry-level elite status tier falls toward the back of the pack. This is largely due to the fact that it costs about $4,819 to earn this level of status, which is higher than most of its competitors' for their entry-level status levels. The average cost to earn this status level is about $3,035, according to NerdWallet analysis.

Despite its ranking, there are a number of perks that might still provide a lot of tangible value to the budding United loyalist.

The ability to earn 7 miles (instead of 5 for general members) per eligible dollar spent means that you’re earning almost 40% more miles. NerdWallet values MileagePlus at 1.2 cents each. Premier flyers earn 8.4 cents in potential value per eligible dollar spent rather than 6 cents.

Unlimited complimentary upgrades are a valuable perk, especially if you travel on flights that are not super-frequented by lots of elite status members. After all, what good is this perk if you don’t ever get upgraded? But, if you do, then this is highly valuable.

Getting access to preferred seats for yourself and others in your reservation can be valuable, too. If you travel with many people, it’s a great way to assure you can sit together. Plus, Economy Plus seats can make the journey more comfortable with extra stretching room. And of course, those who travel with bags will find not having to pay $35 for their first checked bag (a $70 savings for a round-trip ticket) can quickly add up.

Changing to a different flight within 24 hours without paying a fee (based on availability) and getting priority boarding are nice perks for flexibility. For Clear membership, Premier Silver members only pay $109; a typical membership is $189, representing an $80 value savings.

What else you need to know

There are a few other paths to Premier Silver that can prove fruitful, even though there is no longer a PQP waiver for United Chase credit card holders or international members.

Other ways to earn PQPs

It’s not just the actual United flight cost that earns PQPs. You can also earn PQPs when flying Star Alliance member carriers or paying for seat selection (including Economy Plus) and upgrade fees.

However, checked bag fees; United Club membership; flight taxes; and in-flight food, drink or Wi-Fi purchases are not eligible for PQP earnings.

Credit card PQP spending bonus

By spending $12,000 during the calendar year on a co-branded United credit card, you can earn between 500 and 10,000 PQPs, depending on the credit card you have.

For example, if you hold the United℠ Explorer Card, you would earn 500 PQPs for every $12,000 you spend (up to two times per year). This could get you over a quarter of the way to Premier Silver status without even flying.

If you have The United Presidential Plus Card and United Presidential Plus Business Card, you earn 500 PQPs for every $12,000 in spend (up to a total of 10,000 PQPs per year). That means you could surpass the PQP requirement easily, although you would still have to take four eligible United or United Express flights per calendar year. There is no waiver for that requirement.

Using this spending bonus opportunity, you could climb all the way to Premier Platinum — two levels above Premier Silver — with only four United flights per year.

Marriott Bonvoy partnership

If you hold high levels of elite status with Marriott, at either the Marriott Bonvoy Titanium Elite or Marriott Bonvoy Ambassador Elite tier, you can link your United and Marriott accounts to instantly receive United Premier Silver.

Is United Premier Silver worth it?

While not the best entry-level elite status tier, it can still provide value for the frequent United flyer. It's worth having for the upgrades, free checked bag, bonus miles and Star Alliance Silver status.

If you have the right credit card or top-level elite status with Marriott, there are multiple paths toward status in the United Premier program.

Once you see the benefits of United elite status, you may find yourself striving for the next status tier — or higher — to get access to even more perks.

The information related to the United Presidential Plus Card and United Presidential Plus Business Card credit cards has been collected by NerdWallet and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.


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