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When the end of the calendar year gets closer, those with airline loyalty program elite status may start to feel the pressure if they’re a bit short of what is required to keep it.
Having a United Airlines-branded credit card won’t help, since none come with an option to earn Premier Qualifying Miles (PQMs), which are based on the number of paid flight miles traveled and the fare purchased. It’s the only legacy carrier that doesn’t offer this benefit, even with its luxury United Club℠ Card.
Luckily, as a United Airlines MileagePlus® Premier loyalty program member, there’s a way to purchase PQMs to help reach the level needed to keep your status for the coming year.
How to Purchase Premier Qualifying Miles
In order to protect your status level, you’ll have to search and book a flight on United.com. As an example, we checked a Newark-San Francisco flight in economy class. On the payment page, you’ll have the option to purchase Award Accelerators.
Choose how many miles you want and click on “Add” for the miles you want to buy. In the example above, we chose the 15,000 miles Award Accelerator option for $375. Once you do that, the Premier AcceleratorSM option pops up, below.
If you want to buy Premier Accelerator miles that help with PQMs, it will cost another $1,500.
Taking these steps allows you to buy PQMs that help you earn or maintain your elite Premier status. After making your selection, finish booking your ticket. The miles and PQMs you purchased will post to your MileagePlus account. You’re required to buy the Award Accelerator first in order to see the Premier Accelerator option.
This chart outlines what it takes to earn United MileagePlus Premier status:
Tip: Make sure that you will still meet the Premier Qualifying Dollar (PQD) requirement — determined by the base fare and carrier-imposed surcharges you pay — for your desired status level or that you have a PQD waiver before following the outlined method above.
Also, keep in mind these terms and conditions of the Award Accelerator:
- All miles purchased are nonrefundable. A federal excise tax is included in the displayed price for Award Accelerator.
- Award Accelerator and Premier Accelerator purchases don’t count toward the PQD requirement for Premier status qualification.
- The miles you purchase with Award Accelerator are redeemable miles and do not count toward the PQM requirement for Premier status qualification. To receive PQM, add Premier Accelerator to your purchase.
- The miles credit to your MileagePlus account within 24 hours of purchase.
How much does it cost to buy PQMs?
Cost generalizations for the PQM Accelerator are tricky. The specific number of miles offered and the purchase price may vary by member based on the length of flight, itinerary and other criteria. If you have a Basic Economy ticket, you can buy Award Accelerator, but not Premier Accelerator.
If you already have status, you’ll be given the chance to purchase both more redeemable and premier miles. For example, a 1K member might be offered the chance to buy between 5,000 and 10,000 miles, while a general member would only be offered between 2,000 and 3,000 miles.
In the example above, the Award Accelerator for this Premier Gold member was $375 for 15,000 miles, along with another $1,500 for Premier Accelerator. As a general rule, those with higher levels of status will also need to pay more for their Premier Accelerator miles than a general member or someone with a lower level of status. The closer you are to reaching a higher status level, the higher the prices for your accelerator options.
Is buying PQMs worth it?
Whether paying for premier accelerator miles is worth it to you depends on two factors. One, how far away you are from the next status level and two, how much you value your status. Because it’s not possible to know the exact cost of Award and Premier Accelerator miles, below are examples based on the Premier Gold rate, above, at $500 per 5,000 miles.
- Silver. If you are only 5,000 PQMs away from keeping your status, it may be worth it to spend $500 to buy the miles to get you there, since you’ll receive perks including Economy Plus seating, earning 7X bonus miles for booked flights, reduced fees for award ticket changes and cancellations, the chance for premium cabin upgrades and more. If you’re 10,000 miles away, it would be a harder sell at around $1,000, but still possibly worth it.
- Gold. If you are only 5,000 PQMs away from Gold, again, it may be worth it to spend $500 to earn that status level to have all the Silver perks, along with earning 8X bonus miles for booked flights, earlier upgrade priority and reduced airline fees. It probably would not be worth purchasing 10,000 or more PQMs, although you should do that valuation on your own.
- Platinum. If you’re 5,000 PQMs away from Platinum status, it could be worth spending $500, especially if you travel with more than one companion regularly. This is because Gold members only receive one Economy Plus companion upgrade while Platinum members receive eight. You also earn Regional Premier Upgrades that can be confirmed upon booking, earning 9X bonus miles for booked flights and earlier upgrade priority. It would be worth considering purchasing 10,000 PQMs, at around $1,000, to have access to these benefits.
- 1K. If you’re 5,000 PQMs away from 1K status, it’s definitely worth spending $500-$600 on PQMs. You’ll be at the top of the upgrade list, earn the most bonus miles, at 11X for booked flights, have access to a dedicated phone line, earn Regional Premier Upgrades and Global Premier Upgrades and more. Again, if these are benefits you will use, especially the Global Premier Upgrades, it would be worth spending even more to earn 10,000 PQMs at $1,000 or even 15,000 PQMs for $1,500.
The bottom line
It’s too bad that United’s credit cards don’t come with an option to earn PQMs via credit card spending as competitors Delta Air Lines and American Airlines do with their premium branded credit cards — the Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express and the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®.
Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $5,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases & 1 AAdvantage® mile for every $1 spent on other purchases
No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases
- Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $5,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
- Admirals Club® membership for you and access for guests traveling with you
- Complimentary Admirals Club® lounge access for authorized users
- Earn 10,000 AAdvantage® Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) after you spend $40,000 in purchases within the year
- No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases
- Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases and 1 AAdvantage® mile for every $1 spent on other purchases
- First checked bag is free on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and up to 8 companions traveling with you on the same reservation
- The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 17.24% - 25.24%, based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.
See additional details for Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®
However, with some research and a willingness to spend, you can get the PQMs you need to earn or keep your MileagePlus Premier elite status.