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How to earn United Premier Qualifying miles without flying

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This article was last updated Dec 20, 2016, but some terms and conditions may have changed or are no longer available. For the most accurate and up to date information please consult the terms and conditions found on the issuer website.

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It’s the end of the year and that means that those of you that care about airline status could be feeling the pressure if you’re a bit short of what is required to requalify for a given status level. Luckily, if you’re a United flyer, there is a way that lets you purchase Premier Qualifying Miles (PQMs) to help reach the level needed to earn your MileagePlus® Premier status for the coming year.

The general process

  • Search for a flight on United.com.
  • During the booking process, when you get to the Payment page, you will have the option to purchase Award Accelerators. If you choose to purchase the Award Accelerator, and click ‘Add’, the option will appear to purchase Premier Accelerators as well. To have access to the Premier Accelerator, you will first need to add the Award Accelerator to your booking and then check the Premier Accelerator box.

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  • Finish booking your ticket.
  • Wait and hour and then cancel the ticket for a refund. (Note that you can wait longer than an hour but you must cancel within 24 hours to get the flight refunded for no cost.)
  • The miles and PQMs you purchased will still post to your MileagePlus® account

Note: Make sure that you will still meet the Premier Qualifying Dollar (PQD) requirement for your desired status level or that you have a PQD waiver before following the outlined method above. PQM purchases do not count toward the PQD requirement.

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 do not count toward the Premier qualifying dollar (PQD) requirement for Premier status qualification.
  • The miles you purchase with Award Accelerator are redeemable miles and do not count toward the Premier qualifying miles (PQM) requirement for Premier status qualification. To receive PQM, add Premier Accelerator to your purchase.
  • These miles credit to your MileagePlus account within 24 hours of purchase.
  • Purchased miles are subject to the MileagePlus program rules.

How much does it cost to buy PQMs?

Cost generalizations for the PQM Accelerator are difficult, but the following should give you a baseline to work off of.

The cost you will pay per PQM varies more by the time of year you make the PQM purchase and status level rather than the specific flights that you use the above trick for.

As a general rule, PQM rates are lower earlier in the year – so if you know well ahead of time that you are going to be short of your desired status level there is potential to save money.

In 2016, there were reports of PQMs being offered for as low as $0.07 per PQM plus the cost of redeemable miles, which typically vary between $0.019 and $0.021 cents each. You can’t purchase PQMs without purchasing redeemable miles, so this means that the total cost you will find will be $0.069 to $0.071 at the lowest.

If you already have status, you will likely be offered the opportunity to purchase more redeemable and premier miles at a time in comparison with a general member. For example, a 1K might be offered 5,000 and 10,000 miles while a general member would only be offered 2,000 and 3,000.

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 prices for your Accelerator options will generally be higher.

There have been some reports that pricing for PQM+RDM is lower on new bookings vs existing bookings.

Overall, early in the year you should be able to find PQM+RDM as low as 9 CPM, though 10-12 cents per mile will be more typical. Late in the year, it is not unheard of for PQM+RDM Accelerator to top 15 cents per mile.

Is buying PQMs worth it?

Whether or not paying for premier accelerator miles is worth it is going to depend on two factors.

Firstly, how far away you are from the next status level, which is going to tie into how much it costs, and secondly, how much you value your status.

  • Silver. If you are only 5,000 PQMs away from Silver, it may be worth it to spend $500-$600 to earn that status level as you would then have access to premier seating, additional mileage earning, reduced fees for award ticket changes and cancellations, the possibility of upgrades, and more. If you’re 10,000 miles away it would be a harder sell at $1,000 to $1,200, but still possibly worth it.
  • Gold. If you are only 5,000 PQMs away from Gold, it may be worth it to spend $500-$600 to earn that status level to have even more additional mileage earning, earlier upgrade priority, and further reduced fees. It probably would not be worth purchasing 10,000 PQMs, though you should make that valuation on your own.
  • Platinum. If you’re 5,000 PQMs away from Platinum status, it could be worth spending $500-$600 on PQMs especially if you travel with more than one companion on a regular basis. This is because Golds only get one EconomyPlus companion while Platinums get eight. You also earn Regional Premier Upgrades which can be confirmed upon booking, a higher bonus redeemable mile percentage, and earlier upgrade priority. It would be worth considering purchasing 10,000 PQMs to have access to these benefits.
  • 1K. If you’re 50,000 PQMs away from 1K status, it is likely worth spending $500-$600 on PQMs. You’ll be at the top of the upgrade list, earn the most bonus miles, have access to the 1K phone line, earn Regional Premier Upgrades and Global Premier Upgrades, and more. Again, if these are benefits you will use, especially the Global Upgrades, it would be worth spending even more to earn 10,000 PQMs.

Other methods of earning PQMs without flying

There are other ways to earn PQMs without flying, but unfortunately neither are available to new applicants.

Hopefully United will choose to match Delta and American, who each have options to earn a substantial number of PQMs via credit card spending on their premium co-brand credit cards like the Delta Reserve card* and the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®.

*The information related to the Delta Reserve card has been collected by CompareCards and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.


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