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In recent history my family has enjoyed the perks of me having United MileagePlus elite status, alternating between one of the top two elite tiers for the past several years. I know that not everyone that reads this site has or needs airline elite status, but if you travel as much as I have over the past few years it really does make a difference in the ease and quality of air travel. My favorite perks aren’t actually the first class upgrades, but instead I get more value from the various fees I get to avoid such as economy plus seating, award redeposits, and same day flight change fees…but the occasional upgrades are nice, too.
Anyway, a little over a year ago United introduced a new spending requirement for those who lives in the United States in order to obtain and retain elite status. No longer was it enough to fly a certain number of eligible miles each year, but you also had to spend a certain amount of cash with the airline annually. For some, especially business travelers flying on someone else’s dime, this is probably a non-issue, but for those of us who fly mostly on leisure fares for the lowest price possible it is very possible to fly enough miles to earn a particular elite status level without spending enough to earn it.
As a refresher, here are the requirements for the four published elite status levels with United:
United Premier Silver: 25,000 elite qualifying miles flown + $3,000 elite qualifying dollars spent
United Premier Gold: 50,000 elite qualifying miles flown miles + $6,000 elite qualifying dollars spent
United Premier Platinum: 75,000 elite qualifying miles flown miles + $9,000 elite qualifying dollars spent
United Premier 1K: 100,000 elite qualifying miles flown miles + $12,000 elite qualifying dollars spent
However, there are a couple of ways to avoid having to spend the minimum amount of eligible dollars annually to earn elite status on United. First, those who utilize military or diplomatic addresses (ADO, DPO, or FPO) are exempt from the spending requirement at all Premier levels.
If you have the United MileagePlus Presidential Plus Card (no longer available) you are also exempt from the spending requirements at all levels except 1K – man I wish I had gotten that card!
Use Your United Credit Card to Help Earn Elite Status:
For the rest of us, you can be exempt from the Premier Qualifying Dollars spending requirement for all levels except 1K if you spend $25,000 annually on a MileagePlus co-branded card such as the United MileagePlus® Explorer Card issued by Chase Bank. I recently realized that even if I hit the number of miles flown for the various elite levels this year (which is very much in question thanks to my “maternity leave”) that I still would probably come up short of earning the status thanks to the amount of money spent on those tickets, especially since the average ticket price is down for me this year as opposed to last. Yay fuel prices and increased competition out of Houston!
This meant that I needed to get serious about spending $25,000 on my United co-branded credit card by the end of the year in order to get a waiver from the Premier Qualifying Dollars requirement through the Platinum elite level (I have no shot at 1K anyway). I had received an email about a month ago showing how much I had spent on the card from the beginning of the year through mid-September. That puts me within striking distance of spending $25,000 if I just move this card back into regular rotation, especially with some large chargeable expenses coming up.
This is a situation where it can make sense to use your United card for expenses even when there might be an additional processing fee to do so such as for tuition, daycare, utility bills, rent, etc. If spending some extra on processing fees makes the difference between earning one elite status level and the next thanks to earning the Premier Qualifying Dollars waiver it can be worth the added expense (assuming you will get value out of the perks of the next elite status level). With some versions of the co-branded card you also earn 10,000 additional miles if you spend $25,000 on the card annually, so it makes sense to pay attention to your spending even if you don’t care about the Premier Qualifying Dollars waiver.
How to Track Your Progress Towards Earning PQD Waiver:
Thanks to those who pointed out in the comments that there is a very simple way to quickly see your progress towards the PQD waiver based on spending on your co-branded card by going to this site that tracks your progress towards elite status, including annual spending on your co-branded card!
Editorial Note: The opinions expressed here are mine and not provided, reviewed, by any bank, card issuer, or other company unless otherwise stated.