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New United elite status qualification requirements now in effect

The new process no longer gives you credit for the distance you fly


United just made substantial changes to how members earn Premier elite status. Here’s what you need to know.

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Last year, United announced a major change coming to its MileagePlus program in 2020. Those changes went into effect Jan. 1, 2020, and now the airline will completely reimagine how frequent flyers earn elite status. Here’s everything you should know about the new program and how it differs from the old system.

See related: United Airlines elite status benefits

Elite status qualification basics

In 2019, United MileagePlus members advanced through elite status tiers by earning Premier qualifying dollars (PQDs) plus either Premier qualifying segments (PQSs) or Premier qualifying miles (PQMs).

PQDs, which were always required to advance through elite status tiers, were determined by the fare and carrier-imposed surcharges on your ticket. PQMs were based on how many miles you had flown. And PQSs were based on the number of flight segments you had flown. Though, the exact number of both PQMs and PQSs depends on what type of fare you purchased – with less expensive fares bringing in less of either option. With this system, you could earn a higher elite status level by either flying a significant number of miles or by taking a significant number of shorter flights.

Now, miles flown will no longer factor into the equation. The old qualification requirements have been replaced with two new factors – Premier qualifying points (PQPs) and Premier qualifying flights (PQFs). PQPs will be based on the base fare of your ticket, carrier-imposed surcharges and any seat purchases or paid upgrades. PQFs will operate similar to PQSs and be determined by the flight segments you take. In this case, a flight is defined as a takeoff and landing, so if you have more than one flight to get to your final destination – they will both count toward your status.

A screenshot from the United website

A screenshot from the United website

Fortunately, PQFs do not change based on the fare class you take – a big plus for those who prefer to fly economy. The only exclusion to this is a basic economy fare, which is not eligible for PQFs.

As for PQPs, they will be calculated at a rate of 1 point for each dollar you spend. While PQDs only accrued on your fare and surcharges, PQPs will be earned from your fare, surcharges, seat purchases, upgrade payments and partner flights.

The ability to rack up PQPs on partner flights is particularly notable here, as it greatly expands the number of qualifying flights. Previously, you could only earn PQDs on tickets issued by United. With the new program, you can earn PQPs on partner-ticketed flights.

Just note that instead of earning 1 point per dollar, partner flight PQPs are calculated at the following rate:

Star alliance partnerPQP total
Preferred partner PQPAward miles divided by 5
MileagePlus partner PQPAward miles divided by 6

See related: 12 ways to earn more United Airlines miles

So rather than earn PQPs on the fare you pay for a partner-ticketed flight, you’ll earn based on the number of United miles you earn for that flight.

What does this mean for United cardholders?

The United℠ Explorer Card and United MileagePlus Club Card both offer great incentives for frequent United flyers, including some shortcuts to elite status. Note, these benefits also changed a bit with the launch of the new system.

Effective Jan. 1, 2020, United cardholders are eligible to earn a PQD waiver or PQMs from their spending. Instead, spend on eligible United cards will count toward your PQPs. United Explorer and United Club cardholders will earn 500 PQPs for every $12,000 they spend – with a maximum of 1,000 PQPs per calendar year.

Here’s a closer look at what you’ll need to qualify for each elite status tier in 2020, to help understand just how far 1,000 PQPs can take you:

Premier statusPQP + PQPPQP only
Premier Silver12 PQF and 4,000 PQP5,000 PQP
Premier Gold24 PQF and 8,000 PQP10,000 PQP
Premier Platinum36 PQF and 12,000 PQP15,000 PQP
Premier 1K54 PQF and 18,000 PQP24,000 PQP

These changes definitely require revaluating your card strategy, but you’ll still be able to earn plenty of miles from your card purchases – as well as fast-track your way through Premier status tiers.

Bottom line

If you are a frequent United flyer, take a close look at new Premier status requirements to ensure you can achieve the status you want. While new Premier qualifying points add the flexibility to earn on partner flights, you’ll no longer be able to advance quicker by taking long-distance trips.

See related: United MileagePlus guide: The best ways to earn and use United miles

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