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There is less than a month left to hit your elite status goals in the various airline and hotel loyalty programs in order to secure your desired status for next year. I used to push for elite status with multiple hotels and airlines much more than I do now since I’m just not hopping around the world that much with two kids, one of who is only a one year old. However, I know that some of you are deep in the elite status chase, and I still have my toe in that world as well.
Specifically today I want to talk about some ways to make a push towards hitting your desired United elite status level with just a few weeks remaining in 2016. While I am going to primarily focus on earning some additional elite qualifying miles, otherwise known as Premier Qualifying Miles, remember that you also have to hit the Premier Qualifying Dollars total for your desired elite status level unless you have spent a combined $25,000 annually on your United co-branded credit cards (valid through the Platinum level) or are otherwise exempt from that requirement. You can check your United elite status progress here.
Make Sure Elite Status is Really Worth It
Before you go any further, please do the math to make sure you really come out ahead by spending more time and money to earn the next elite status level. I highly recommend you separate elite ego from wallet with this decision. You need to not only calculate how much additional time and money you have to invest to unlock your desired elite status level, but also do some math to truly put a realistic value on the perks you will unlock as a result of having that status. There certainly is value in things like regional upgrades, global upgrades, Economy Plus seats, extra bonus miles, fee waivers, etc. but many of those things can be purchased as needed or secured in other ways, such as an Economy Plus Subscription, so look at all applicable pathways and numbers.
Buy Premier Qualifying Miles
The quickest and easiest way to get some more United Premier Qualifying Miles is to simply buy them. You can go into any existing United reservation you have and selecting the “Buy Extra Miles” option.
You will then generally see two different mileage purchase amounts. In this case I see 5,000 or 10,000 miles for sale. The price initially displayed is just for the redeemable miles to help you book your next United award.
However, if you opt to also pay for the Premier Accelerator option, then for significantly more money you not only get that number of redeemable miles, but those miles will also count for your elite status totals.
The cost per elite qualifying mile varies, and I have seen it from just below 10 cents per mile to north of 20 cents per mile. In fact, depending on which reservation I go into now, my price my vary. Unfortunately, the amount of money you spend on this offer does not count towards the required Premier Qualifying Dollars totals needed for elite status, just the Premier Qualifying Miles total. Only base fare purchases and Economy Plus seats or Economy Plus Subscriptions count towards that PQD total.
Take a Mileage Run for Elite Status
Since buying Premier Qualifying Miles can be so expensive, it may be cheaper to take one more flights where your cost per mile is lower than the 10 – 20 cents per mile available via outright buying elite qualifying miles from the Premier Accelerator as mentioned above. Remember that some fare classes now earn as high as 3x elite qualifying miles, so take that into consideration when weighing flight purchase options.
I am taking one more round trip flight on United in order to hit elite status this year, but I’m doing it to go have lunch one afternoon with a friend I haven’t seen in waaaaay too long instead of just flying to a random airport and turning right back around to head home. I did spend a little extra over the cheapest ticket to purchase an A fare to earn 2x the elite qualifying miles and hit the exact number of EQMs I was after with as little flying as possible. For me it was the right balance of price, time, and actual value from the travel. While taking a flight may be the cheapest option for some to earn the needed miles, make sure you factor in the value of your time away from home, especially around the holidays.
Change Your Existing Flights to Ones that Earn More Miles
If you still have some eligible United flights left before the end of the year, and you just need a few more miles, you should consider taking advantage of a same day change to re-route yourself for a routing that will earn more miles. For example, instead of flying nonstop from Chicago – Houston, you could potentially re-route yourself through say LaGuardia and go from earning 925 elite qualifying miles on most economy tickets to earning 2,149 elite qualifying miles without any additional costs other than the Same Day Change fee, if you are subject to one based on your current elite status level
Use Your Flexible Premier Qualifying Miles via the Presidential Plus Card
The Presidential Plus card is not available to new cardholders, but it is a holdover from the Continental side of things. I really wish I had gotten the card while I still could, and thumbs up to those who hung onto it. Not only does it provide a Premier Qualifying Dollars spending waiver through the Platinum level without $25k in spending each year, but it also earns 1,000 flexible PQMs for every $5,000 you put on the card that can be used to help bump up your elite qualifying mileage total through the Platinum level.
The PQMs you earn with this card can be used at any time during the calendar year in which they were earned, plus three additional calendar years. After that they will expire if not redeemed. So, if you find yourself needing some more EQMs and you have this card, it might be time to use some of those flexible PQMs you have stored up.
Skip Elite Status
If all of those options sound bad, then it is okay to just skip worrying about elite status. If you are really close to the next elite status level, or have a compelling and temporary reason that you didn’t hit the target you were after (like this), you can always ask United for a one-time exception. No guarantees they will help bump you up to the next elite status level, but consider that your Hail Mary pass to the endzone.
You can outright buy almost every perk that United elite status affords as you need them instead of investing time and money into earning a particular status level. Only you know which way makes more sense in your particular case, but if you have to spend too much time or money to earn elite status beyond your natural travel patterns, I will bet that you are not the one that comes out ahead in that equation 9 times out of 10.
Are you having to do any elite status pushes in these last few weeks of the year?
Editorial Note: The opinions expressed here are mine and not provided, reviewed, by any bank, card issuer, or other company unless otherwise stated.