As the sun begins to set on 2023, your time is running out to qualify or requalify for airline elite status for 2024. This is the moment to check your mileage balances, calculate your travel for the rest of the year and see where you will end up by Dec. 31.
If you think you will finish short of your United Airlines MileagePlus Premier status goal, here are some ideas for earning the Premier qualifying points and Premier qualifying flights you need to earn before the end of the year.
In 2019, United shifted away from Premier Qualifying Miles, Premier Qualifying Segments and Premier Qualifying Dollars. Now, there are two elite status metrics: Premier qualifying flights (PQFs) and Premier qualifying points (PQPs).
Premier qualifying flights
To qualify for any status with United, you must fly at least four paid segments on United or United Express in a calendar year. Those four paid flights will also count as PQFs, assuming you don’t book in basic economy.
Here’s how accruals on basic economy fares compare with standard fares.
|Type of fare||Accrue PQF||Count toward the four flight minimum for Premier status||Accrue PQP|
|Standard fares (economy, premium economy, business and first)||✓||✓||✓|
Your remaining PQFs can be on United flights or on eligible partner fares, but we’ll discuss partner fares later. On a paid United flight with one stop, you’ll earn two PQFs.
Think of it this way: For every takeoff, you earn one PQF. But again, basic economy fares do not earn PQFs.
Premier qualifying points
If you’re traveling on a United-issued standard or basic economy ticket, all customers (including those with Premier status) earn 1 PQP per dollar spent on base airfare and carrier-imposed surcharges. You can also earn PQPs on Preferred and Economy Plus seating and paid cabin upgrades.
|Status tier||Status requirements|
|Premier Silver||4,000 PQPs + 12 PQFs or 5,000 PQPs|
|Premier Gold||8,000 PQPs + 24 PQFs or 10,000 PQPs|
|Premier Platinum||12,000 PQPs + 36 PQFs or 15,000 PQPs|
|Premier 1K||18,000 PQPs + 54 PQFs or 24,000 PQPs|
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Ways to earn more PQPs
Let’s start with the obvious: You earn PQPs on paid United tickets.
Again, on United-issued tickets (indicated with a 016 ticket number), you earn 1 PQP per $1 spent on base airfare and carrier-imposed surcharges.
That means whenever possible, you want your flights on fares that are predominantly base airfare and carrier-imposed surcharges (as opposed to taxes). Unfortunately, international itineraries often have high government-imposed taxes and fees which don’t earn PQPs.
As you search for flights on united.com, you can see the PQP and PQF accruals by selecting the “Details” button for the flight you’d like to book.
Remember that you can also earn PQPs on Preferred and Economy Plus seating, as well as paid cabin upgrades. However, note that certain private bulk fares and travel industry fares don’t earn PQPs.
Partner itineraries are where the beauty of earning lots of PQPs for a fraction of the normal price kicks in.
Tickets with United’s partners have allowed me to requalify for Premier 1K status for a fraction of the $18,000-plus required for Premier 1K by flying exclusively on United flights.
With United’s Star Alliance partners, you earn PQPs based on three factors: the length of your flight, the fare class and the airline that operates your flight.
For a full breakdown of how this works, check out my full guide to earning PQPs with partners. But here are three European partner itineraries that earn significantly more than 1 PQP per dollar spent.
This round-trip Lufthansa economy-class ticket costs $508 and is ticketed in the S fare class (50% accrual basis), so it would earn the following:
- Los Angeles to Munich: 2,995 base miles, 599 PQPs
- Munich to Krakow: 191 base miles, 38 PQPs
- Krakow to Munich: 191 base miles, 38 PQPs
- Munich to Los Angeles: 2,995 base miles, 599 PQPs
- Total: 6,372 base miles and 1,274 PQPs
This round-trip Air Canada premium economy-class ticket costs $1,216 and is ticketed in the B and A fare classes (125% and 100% accrual basis), so it would earn the following:
- San Francisco to Montreal: 3,174 base miles, 635 PQPs
- Montreal to Milan: 3,809 base miles, 750 PQPs (preferred partner maximum for one segment)
- Milan to Montreal: 3,809 base miles, 750 PQPs (preferred partner maximum for one segment)
- Montreal to San Francisco: 3,174 base miles, 635 PQPs
- Total: 13,966 base miles and 2,770 PQPs
This round-trip TAP business-class ticket costs $1,859 and is ticketed in the J fare (125% accrual basis), so it would earn the following:
- New York to Lisbon: 4,208 base miles, 702 PQPs
- Lisbon to Oslo: 2,153 base miles, 359 PQPs
- Oslo to Lisbon: 2,153 base miles, 359 PQPs
- Lisbon to New York: 4,208 base miles, 702 PQPs
- Total: 12,722 base miles and 2,122 PQPs
MileagePlus credit card spending
You can earn PQPs by spending on most United credit cards for everyday purchases. This guide has the full scoop on how to earn PQPs by charging on your United credit card.
Unfortunately, United cobranded cards earn just 500 PQPs for every $12,000 charged. Additionally, United credit cards have limits to the number of PQPs that can come from credit card spending in a calendar year. Again, you can refer to this page for all the details.
Here are three of our favorite United cobranded cards that earn PQPs:
- The United Explorer Card: Earn 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open.
- United Quest Card: Earn 60,000 bonus miles and 500 Premier qualifying points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open.
- United Club Infinite Card: Earn 80,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
If you have an upcoming reservation with United, you may be prompted to purchase additional miles for your trip. To view your offers, go to “My Trips” and open your reservation. Then, look for the “Award Accelerator” option.
Click “Learn more” and you’ll be taken to a page where you can purchase MileagePlus miles and PQPs.
On this one-way flight from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to Honolulu’s Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL), I could purchase 7,000 award miles and 500 PQPs for $727 or 10,000 award miles and 800 PQPs for $1,074.
Unless you’re trying to buy up to fill a small gap, it’s not hard to tell that’s a pretty terrible deal considering that you could earn more PQPs and award miles on a paid United ticket. However, if you have no flexibility to take a flight in the final couple months of 2023, this could be a solid option — especially if it’ll boost you to one of United’s highest tier of status (like Premier 1K).
Speaking of buying status, it’s common for United to offer targeted buy-ups to the next status tier sometime in January or February, but historically, these have been exorbitantly expensive.
While 2023 is drawing to a close, there’s still plenty of time left to requalify for your current United Premier elite status or level up to the next tier for next year. The first step is sitting down and calculating where you stand and what you’ll earn from any scheduled end-of-year travel, so you can decide if a mileage run is right for you.
To assist elite members in maintaining their status, United made one-time premier qualifying flights (PQP) deposits into their accounts when reverting to the pre-pandemic requirements. When it brought pre-pandemic status requirements back, the airline committed to providing the same PQP deposits on Feb. 1, 2023, and Feb. 1, 2024. So expect another PQP deposit early next year based on the status you earn this year.
- Premier Silver: 500 PQPs
- Premier Gold: 1,000 PQPs
- Premier Platinum: 1,500 PQPs
- Premier 1K: 2,500 PQPs
However, these won’t help you close the gap for this year’s qualification.