United Kills Mileage Based Elite Status, Credit Card And International Flight Spend Waiver, And More

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How we got here:

The airline industry is proof of what happens when an oligopoly is allowed to dominate the market through buying up their competition. The loss of airlines like America West, Airtran, Continental, Northwest, and USAirways have meant that the remaining carriers have carte blanche to devalue their mileage programs, knowing that the Big 3 carriers are in lockstep so that they won’t lose customers to the competition.

Delta was first to eliminate earning miles based on flight distance and the first to eliminate award charts. American and United then copied Delta’s earning changes.

United already announced that they will eliminate award charts and close-in fees. Now the shoe is dropping on the elite status side of the equation.

Abbreviation definitions:

2019 abbreviations that are being phased out:

  • PQM (Premier qualifying miles) is the current terminology used when you earn miles that qualify for elite status based on miles flown on flights. This way of earning elite status is being eliminated.
  • PQS (Premier qualifying segments) is the current terminology used for earning elite status based on how many flight segments (1 PQS earned for each takeoff you fly, plus bonuses for premium cabin segments), which is an alternate way or earning status instead of with PQMs based on miles flown.
  • PQD (Premier qualifying dollars) is the current terminology used for earning elite status based on how much you spend, on United flights which is required on top of earning status based on miles flown.

2020 abbreviations:

  • PQP (Premier qualifying points) replaces PQDs in the elite status earning equation. This will continue to be earned based on how much money you spend on United flights, but will also include spending on upgrades and partner flights, as described below. You can now earn status solely with PQPs plus 4 flight segments on United.
  • PQF (Premier qualifying flights) replaces PQS. United will no longer look at how many miles you fly, but if you fly a minimum number of flight segments (1 PQF earned for each takeoff you fly), it will reduce how many PQPs you need to earn.

Goodbye to PQMs:

Starting on 1/1/20 United will eliminate the PQM (Premier qualifying miles) requirement needed for elite status. Currently you need to fly 25K, 50K, 75K, or 100K miles in order to earn status, but United will eliminate this PQM requirement.

Delta was the first to eliminate mileage based flight earnings before American and United copied and now United leads the pack in removing this from the elite side of the equation.

Hello PQF and PQP:

In its place are PQF (premier qualifying flights) and PQP (premier qualifying points). United claims this will simplify things, but things seem just as confusing as they have ever been.

Each flight segment on United or a partner airline will earn 1 PQF. Basic economy, light fares, and award tickets won’t earn PQF. You will also need a minimum of 4 PQFs on United flights in order to earn status.

Each dollar (except taxes) you spend on United flights will earn 1 PQP. You will earn PQPs includes basic economy and light fares. Additionally economy plus seat and subscriptions, preferred seat purchases, upgrades, and upgrade award co-pays will earn 1 PQP per dollar spent.

Earning PQPs on partner airlines:

Previously, United account holders with an international address were exempt from PQD (Premier qualifying dollars, the precursor to PQPs) requirements as they couldn’t earn PQDs on partner award flights. They will not be exempt from PQP requirements as they can earn PQPs on partner award flights. The equation for earning PQPs on partner flights will be the award miles earned divided by 5 on preferred partners and award miles divided by 6 on non-preferred partners. You can see which of United’s partners are considered preferred on this page. 

Bulk United tickets will also earn PQPs equal to the award miles divided by 5.

Calculating PQPs on partner airlines:

For example, a flight from Toronto to Tel Aviv from December 2-10 is C$949 (US$718). ITA Matrix shows that this is a K class fare:

 

If you go to the Air Canada earning page on United.com you can see how many miles you’ll earn based on your fare class:

 

As you can see, K Class earns 50% of the flown miles on international flights. A round-trip flight from Toronto to Tel Aviv is 11,577 miles in distance, so you would earn 5,789 miles when you credit that flight to United after the 50% cutback.

Air Canada is a preferred partner for PQP calculation. That means you can calculate the PQPs earned by dividing the 5,789 miles earned by 5. You’ll earn 1,158 PQPs for this flight. (Had Air Canada been a non-preferred partner you would divide 5,789 by 6, or 965 PQPs). That’s much better than the 650 PQPs you would earn if this were a United flight ($650 flight plus $68 in taxes).

That’s right, flying on inexpensive preferred partner fares is much more rewarding then flying on United flights. Go figure.

Partner award flight, such as discounted business class flights, will also earn a good number of PQPs.

For example, a business class flight from Toronto to Tel Aviv for Pesach from April 7-20 is an incredible bargain at just C$3,616 (US$2,739). ITA Matrix shows that this is a P class fare:

 

As you can see above, P Class earns 200% of the flown miles. A round-trip flight from Toronto to Tel Aviv is 11,577 miles in distance, so you would earn 23,154 miles when you credit that flight to United after the bonus.

Air Canada is a preferred partner for PQP calculation. That means you can calculate the PQPs earned by dividing the 23,154 miles earned by 5. You’ll earn 4,631 PQPs for this flight. That’s much better than the 2,670 PQPs you would earn if this were a United flight ($2,670 flight plus $69 in taxes).

Earning PQPs on partner flights is a nice improvement, but United is also using this as an excuse for high PQP requirements and the elimination of waivers.

Earning status:

You can earn status based on PQPs only or a combination of PQFs and PQPs. The PQP requirements are eye-wateringly high and are a significant jump from current requirements. Prepare to spend a lot more to earn United status:

Here is a comparison for how you can earn elite status in 2019 versus 2020:

These changes do benefit those who spend a lot on a few United flights, as they will be able to earn higher status levels than they were able to when elite status required more flying.

It will also benefit people who spend a lot on short flights.

United Card Waivers:

  • Currently, if you spent $25K annually on a United card you are able to waive the requirement to spend minimum amounts (PQDs) in order to earn elite status. This will be eliminated on 1/1/20.
  • Currently, some United cards offer the ability to earn United status without having 4 PQFs on United. This will be eliminated on 1/1/20.
  • The United Explorer, Club, and Awards cards will earn 500 PQPs for spending $12K annually or 1,000 PQPs for spending $24K annually. These PQPs are now a fraction of what you’ll need to spend in order to earn United status. They also can only be applied for earning Silver, Gold, or Platinum status.
  • See this post for information on combining PQPs from multiple cards.
  • The grandfathered United Select and Platinum cards will earn 500 PQPs annually for every $12K spend, but these cards can earn up to 3,000 PQPs annually and they can be applied to any status, including 1K.
  • The grandfathered United Presidential Plus card will earn 500 PQPs annually for every $12K spend, but these cards can earn up to 10,000 PQPs annually and they can be applied to any status, including 1K. That’s an improvement over the current cap of Platinum.
    • Flex PQMs can be earned until 12/31/19 and will be converted into Flex PQPs on 4/1/20 at a ratio of 5:1, so 10K flex PQMs will become 2K flex PQPs. Flex PQPs can only be applied to earn Silver, Gold, or Platinum status.
    • Currently cardholders can have expiring and non-expiring flex PQMs and they will continue to have the same expiration date. You may want to increase your spending through 12/31/19 in order to earn more flex PQPs for future use.
    • Note that as of 1/1/20, the card will no longer earn flex PQPs that can applied in the year of your choice. All earnings will be applied in the calendar year in which they are earned. This is a massive devaluation of this card.

Plus Points Earnings:

We broke the news about United’s new upgrade program before United did last month.

Currently 1K members can earn additional upgrades through flight miles. Now they will have to earn increments of 3,000 PQPs to earn each additional 20 PlusPoints.

Million Miler Status:

United will continue to track lifetime flown miles (PQMs) for the purposes of earning million miler status only. You and a companion will continue to earn lifetime Gold at 1MM, lifetime Platinum at 2MM, lifetime 1K at 3MM, and lifetime Global Services at 4MM.

This status has effectively become more valuable as it becomes harder to qualify for annual status.

Summary:

It’s going to be a lot more expensive to earn elite status going forward, especially if you have relied on credit card or international waivers to earn status. You’ll have to calculate to see if dwindling status benefits are really worth the cost to obtain it, or if you would be better off just being a free agent.

If you fly a lot and don’t spend a ton, then jumping to another airline may make sense in the short-term, but the odds are strong that American and Delta will emulate United in the future and eliminate earning status from flown miles as well.

United has whined to Chase about how people weren’t spending on their cards. These changes will likely mean that people will spend even less, as the PQD waivers are being eliminated. This is likely to drive more spending to the Chase Ultimate Rewards Quinfecta. There are far more rewarding cards to use that earn hybrid points which aren’t locked into United miles. The United cards remain valuable for their benefits, but they’re less valuable than ever for spending.

How will these changes affect which cards you use and which status you earn?

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88 Comments On "United Kills Mileage Based Elite Status, Credit Card And International Flight Spend Waiver, And More"

All opinions expressed below are user generated and the opinions aren’t provided, reviewed or endorsed by any advertiser or DansDeals.

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Mendel

Delta?

Aaron

I don’t have the time to go over what it says over here. My question is I have over 150k United miles I might want sell . Should I sell it ? Will worth go up or down or none ?

Steve

Someone needs to file an Antitrust case against these guys

Eve

If you spend 25k by end of December 2019 how long will you have elite status? (PQD)

Eve

Also if I already spent 25k do I call for elite status or it’s automatic?

Helen

Got the email this morning and I just knew a clear detailed explanation was coming from you :). Thanks! Good Shabbos and Good Yom Tov.

Stefan Krasowski (@rapidtravelchai)

I had already downgraded my personal Explorer card to the fee-free when they dropped the 10k bonus for spending $25k, so my spend two years ago of $25k already went to zero, and now will stay there.

Please be more clear

Can you please updated the United fare hacker post?

Sam

I wonder if this could backfire as they might lose the loyalty of some international flyers?

I might be biased because of the way I fly, I’m gold with only 12 segments and just passing the PQD threshold.

Harry

It will not backfire because like Dan said Delta and American will for sure follow suit

Mendy from lakewood

I fly a lot of short haul flights so this actually better for me as long as I don’t fly basic economy

jim

United miles now are so horribly devalued. International one way coach awards to Asia that used to cost less then 45K miles now cost 95K miles and business class that used to cost 70K now cost 185K miles.

1% cashback cards are far better then united cards cos 5 united mile is equal to 1 cent.

Hardly ( NONE) any so called saver awards exist

berg22

That’s why we need someone like Bernie Sanders to be elected President. He wouldn’t allow these corporations to buy up all their competitors.

Memere

And you wouldn’t be allowed to take home your full paycheck – win:win?

Berg22

You’re not taking it all home anyway. This way you get something in return.

Donor

At the risk of having to annul another oath next year

F***!

Good buy United / Hello MSing Delta AMEX for PQM

Ben

So if I’m reading this properly, I should fly 120,000 miles on particular Star carriers OTHER than United (=24,000 PQP), then take 4 United flights for whatever the cheapest amount I can, and then I get 1K status? Why is United so eager to have us not fly them? Or use their credit cards? This is so dumb.

DR

So either you fly 54 segments and spend $18K (though with partners it will be less it seems) or you spend $24K to be 1K. That is crazy. 54 segments are not trivial, I fly a lot and I have only 46 so far this year, and that is with Biz Class bump. Such is life, wow! Makes we wish I had the old United Presidential Plus card as that would have shaved the 24K PQP down nicely.

Harry

Yes but spend $12,000 only gives you 500 PQP’s horrible valuation, not worth the spend

Bulk

Any word on BULK tickets?

TC610

How are earnings handled for tickets issued by a preferred partner but have 1 or more segments on UA metal?

i.e.
Ticket issued by ANA, miles credited to UA. Business class + Domestic First:
CLE-ORD(UA – D Class) 315 mi
ORD-NRT (ANA – P Class) 6,274 mi
NRT-CAN (ANA – P Class) 1,831 mi
—————————————–
8,420 mi

Earning chart for ANA:
Business D 250%
Discount Business Z, P 150%

(315 * 2.5) + (6274 * 1.5) + (1831 * 1.5) = 12945 / 5 = 2,589 PQP?

ilherman

So in order to qualify for 1K i will now have to spend at least 24k????? (if i dont have more than 20 segments)

!

What are the common benefits used from the elite status ?
Is worthwhile ?

Brian

Can I earn status from credit card spending?

Artem

United is gutting any reason to fly with them

avi

I don’t see any discussion on United.com capping the presidential plus spend to points? Where are you getting your info from?

matis

This is great for some of us. I fly domestic on refundable tickets all the time. Wasn’t worth anything in PQM and segments are hard to get when flying direct. Next year I’ll reach Gold without breaking a sweat after earning nothing this year.

Maureen Ash

How will this impact status already earned on United for 2020?

#Fineschmecker

The game is coming to an end.

Harry

No truer words have been said

sam

I used the spend waiver on the Presidential card well, a few flights to ey and other travel brought me to 50k miles and gold.
Does the card still give premier access?

Harry

Yes but all it gives now is Premier access, the United club and the ability to spend a whopping $12,000 and get just 500 PQP’s in return. I think they finally got me to cancel this card

Michael

Actually Flex PQM that are converted can be applied to 1k as well.

Yyo

Does this mean soon airlines will be competing with price?

Gregg

Do you think there is a reason to keep the grandfathered United Presidential Plus card after 1/1/2020? If not what you switch to?

Abe

Bulk United tickets what do they earn

Mootkim

Is it just me but I feel that every time there is a crazy limited time card sign up bonus for whatever program, the program gets devalued a day after the limited time offer ends

Rob

Yeah, I think what United is missing here is that if they make the goalposts too far away, like it seems they have, they make it very easy for the vast majority of people to just tune out the loyalty program entirely. I’ve got to imagine that there is an army of people who spend their travel year choosing United in the hopes that their travel will get them close to status by the end of the year, only to fall short. If the goalposts are so far away that you already know on January 1 that you have no chance of attaining status whatsoever, every flight decision you make for the whole year automatically puts the United flight in the “only if there is no other choice” category.

D weissman

Will they keep the Silver status that come w being Bonvoy Titanium Elite?

Eric

This is actually better for me. I fly lots of short flights on last minute on United metal. I should be able to reach gold easily.. Unless I’m misunderstanding the setup

ES928

Using the new PQP, is it based on the airline booked through or the airline that operates the flight?

M

I’m a segment heavy regional traveler. This year I mad DL GM but didn’t event have SM spend . The $25k waiver means a lot. I was going to status match to UA because of the new DL Amex Gold changes but then this hit….

Harry

As crazy as this sounds I think the only mileage run left is to complete a million miles to guarantee Gold for life before they take that away too

Yidel

There’s now a virgin atlantic credit card offer that looks like you could earn elite status from it and you could also get a free companion reward ticket when you redeem. I would like to ask if it’s worth to apply for it? And would like to ask you to please write an article about it.

mbg

Dan, do u know if United is considering nonstop service to Tel Aviv from chicago? I always made my status flying Air Canada from chicago thru Toronto but the new El Al nonstop is too tempting..

Chaim

@Dan. I’m currently a United 1k. Have been a US elite member for several years, based on my few flights a year international economy I usually barely reach Gold. But i enjoyed being a UA elite member i feel it’s time to switch. Should i consider AA or DL? Should i consider other *A airlines? Or maybe ELAL since most of my international flights are to Israel?

Carl M Sherer

The partner airline thing has been true on AA since they started with the spend requirement three years ago. I never pay for anything higher than PE, and the way I have kept my status on AA (requalified again a month ago) is to fly a lot of BA PE. BA’s PE is usually only a couple of hundred dollars more than Y fares (and having the space to work in PE means that I have the potential of earning that during the flight), gets me an extra checked bag, and gets me 200% EQD and 150% EQM.

The only thing the AA group seems to fear is that they will ‘match’ United by raising the EQD requirement for Executive Platinum to 18K or even 24K. We estimated that 20% of the group would not requalify when they went from 12K to 15K this year, but many people are requalifying because I posted Dan Eleff’s Cathay ‘mistake’ fare from Vietnam last December (I was probably the only one in the group who didn’t buy it – didn’t have the time, couldn’t book that far in advance, and what was I going to do in Vietnam anyway 🙂

NJMACMAN

I currently have 17000 flex miles from my President Plus Card. Does it pay for me to use them this year to bump up to Platinum or save them for the future where I don’t really know what it will be worth? Thanks.

Chaim

I have been a United 1K or Global Services for 14 years. I now fly exclusively EWR-TLV 11 or 12 times a year. I will finish 2019 with 131,000 PQM and over $16,000 PQD.
Despite being a MillionMiler with over 1,750,000 Lifetime Miles, i have no chance of reaching 1K without increasing spending on tickets by 50%!! This is insane. I can continue with United a couple more years to reach 2 Million Miles and Platinum for life and then become a fee agent. Or just forget status and buy the cheapest extra legroom tickets on Delta or even El Al and call it a day.

flyernick

I don’t understand the logic behind comments like your, “Platinum for life and then become a fee agent”. If Plat is worth anything, then woudn’t you want to continue flying United forever once you had it? Otherwise, if you’re just going to disregard it and book whoever is cheapest, then it isn’t really worth much at all, so why bother?

Jay Weiss

Well, after years of being Premier Gold, I am really screwed. I fly EWR-TLV about 4 times a year, which gives me 11,692 x 4 in miles, or 46,768 miles. Then I fly whenever I can on United to get the extra 3300 miles (domestically), to reach 50,000. Because my official residence is Israel, the PQD was waived, and I just needed 50,000. I made sure to fly every one of those flights on United. Now, there is no way I can ever get even close to Premier Gold. Many of my tickets were considerably more expensive on United than they would have been with other airlines, so now I’m finally free of United. I’ll still use them next year, as I’ll be gold next year, but I’m all done with them, on all my airline needs. I don’t see a way that I can get any premier status with them with the amount of flights I take. My segments to Israel are 8, as I fly non-stop. A ticket to Florida and a ticket to Texas, which will give me the 3300 miles I need, will give me 4 more segments. That’s 12. Nowhere near 24. I don’t see how anyone who was Prem. Gold over the last years will qualify again. I can finally say goodbye to those horrible seats on United planes that kept getting smaller and smaller. You guys who have the money to fly business probably don’t care about this. But for the mid-range flyers like me, this is their divorce papers for us. I just don’t see any way to stay with them. Any suggestions for anything that might fill the gap????

Yyo

It sucks but The system made no sense till now. It did not reward the travelers they needed the most. Yes, some small percent of retired TLV – EWR guys or others that pick the lowest fares might and get their distance PQM to make status may not fly United when the fare is $100. More then competition but in the end when you need to travel for business you pay what you need to pay and this will profit United in the end.

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