United MileagePlus Makes It Easier To Earn Premier Status In 2021

Filed Under: United

We’ve seen most airlines extend status this year due to the circumstances, and we’re now starting to see airlines announce plans to make status easier to earn in 2021. Well, United has just announced something along those lines.

United MileagePlus Premier status shortcuts

United Airlines has just revealed several initiatives that will make it easier to earn MileagePlus status in 2021, for the 2022 program year. Go figure it was just this year that United completely redesigned how MileagePlus status is earned.

To recap, United’s new system for earning status is based on the following (as you’ll see, number of miles flown isn’t a metric at all):

  • Premier Qualifying Points (PQPs), and members earn one PQP for every dollar of eligible airfare
  • Premier Qualifying Flights (PQFs), and members earn one PQF for every eligible flight taken

For the upcoming year, United is lowering the PQP and PQF requirements for status, depositing 25% of the PQP-only requirements in Premier members’ accounts, launching a promotion for flights in early 2021, and making it easier to earn Premier 1K with credit card spending. Let’s take a closer look at the details.

MileagePlus Premier thresholds will be reduced

In 2021, the requirements for earning status will be reduced, whether qualifying based on a combination of PQPs and PQFs, or qualifying exclusively based on PQPs. Requirements are being lowered by somewhere around 33-43%, depending on the metric you’re looking at.

Here’s what’s changing:

  • Premier Silver will require 3,000 PQPs + 8 PQFs OR 3,500 PQPs (previously it required 4,000 PQPs + 12 PQFs OR 5,000 PQPs)
  • Premier Gold will require 6,000 PQPs + 16 PQFs OR 7,000 PQPs (previously it required 8,000 PQPs + 24 PQFs OR 10,000 PQPs)
  • Premier Platinum will require 9,000 PQPs + 24 PQFs OR 10,000 PQPs (previously it required 12,000 PQPs + 36 PQFs OR 15,000 PQPs)
  • Premier 1K will require 13,500 PQPs + 36 PQFs OR 15,000 PQPs (previously it required 18,000 PQPs + 54 PQFs OR 24,000 PQPs)

MileagePlus Premier members will get a head start

Not only is United lowering elite thresholds, but existing Premier members will also get a boost based on their current status. On February 1, 2021, MileagePlus Premier members will receive 25% of the PQPs based on their Premier status from this year.

To be clear, you don’t receive bonus PQPs based on how much you actually flew, but rather based on your status level, as follows:

  • Premier Silver members will get 875 bonus PQPs
  • Premier Gold members will get 1,750 bonus PQPs
  • Premier Platinum members will get 2,500 bonus PQPs
  • Premier 1K members will get 3,750 bonus PQPs

In other words, you could ordinarily earn Premier 1K status with 24,000 PQPs. That’s being lowered to 15,000 PQPs for next year, and then existing Premier 1K members would get 3,750 PQPs to start next year, meaning they’d only need 11,250 PQPs to requalify.

It will be significantly easier to earn United status in 2021

MileagePlus offering 1.5-2x PQPs in early 2021

To start off 2021, United will also offer what it calls its most rewarding Premier qualification bonus offer ever:

  • This applies to the first three trips taken by MileagePlus members between January 1 and March 31, 2021
  • Members without Premier status will earn 50% bonus PQPs, and members with Premier status will earn 100% bonus PQPs

United will reward the first three trips taken in 2021

Credit card spending will count towards Premier 1K

Historically PQPs earned from eligible MileagePlus credit cards have only counted towards status up to the Premier Platinum member. That will be changing, as PQPs earned through credit card spending will also be able to count towards Premier 1K status if the PQF requirement is met.

Personally I still don’t consider spending money on MileagePlus cards to be a great deal, but for some this might be worthwhile.

Credit card spending will count towards Premier 1K status

United MileagePlus extending upgrades

Unrelated to the status shortcuts, United is giving MileagePlus Premier members more flexibility to use their upgrades, nowadays known as PlusPoints:

  • United is extending all PlusPoints set to expire on or after January 1, 2021, by an additional six months (this includes PlusPoints earned from 2019 and 2020 activity)
  • As a promotion, in 2021 United is giving Premier 1K members who meet the new requirements more opportunities to receive additional upgrades by reducing the milestones for earning extra PlusPoints; after earning Premier 1K status and 15,000 PQMs, members will earn 20 PlusPoints for every additional 2,000 PQPs (compared to 20 PlusPoints for every additional 3,000 PQPs previously)

United MileagePlus is extending PlusPoints

Bottom line

United MileagePlus has announced a series of initiatives that will make it easier to earn Premier status in 2021. Ultimately we’re going to see things like this from most major loyalty programs, though admittedly this is more of a guessing game than anything else.

No one knows how demand will recover next year, so further adjustments will be needed.

In the meantime, I think United’s approach here is pretty good — the airline is lowering elite thresholds, rewarding existing elite members, incentivizing travel early next year, and making it easier to earn status with credit card spending.

What do you make of United’s adjustments to 2021 elite status requirements?

  1. Ben have you thought of making “folders” for each of the major airlines somewhere in the site. Right now you can search for “United”, for example, but other stuff will turn up as well. Or you can go into the “Airline Reviews” and search “United”, but that will only turn up actual reviews of United flights. If you had a folder/section for “United”, everything you’ve written about United would be there, it would be much easier and it would be nice to see positive and negative pieces next to each other. You could have one for all of the major airlines. Hopefully this makes sense…

  2. Let’s hope they offer a good status match challenge next! the current requires you to complete the requirements by EOY, rather than offering their usual 120 days.

  3. Does the ‘first 3 trips’ PQP bonus apply for the first 3 flights or ‘trips’ in total? Is it done per flight or the trip in total? I could have 3 trips in Feb-Mar but each one has 2 flights so does the bonus stop after the 3rd flight or the 3rd trip? If they’re using the word ‘trip’ it sounds like it’s the total PQPs on a particular trip, regardless of the amount of flights…

  4. “To start off 2021, United will also offer what it calls its most rewarding Premier qualification bonus offer ever”
    “This (only) applies to the first three trips”

    Eck, Kirby. Smart thinking of boosting LFs in Q1.

  5. My eyes literally roll into the back of my head trying to understand their new system. I shouldn’t need a math degree to follow.

    I’ll stick with Alaska. 20, 40 and 75K miles. No games no gimmicks

  6. @Mark couldn’t agree with you more. United had a simple to understand system using miles. They could have incentivized people to book higher fares by booking higher fare classes and getting more miles but they ruined it all with greed and introduced EQMs, and now PQPs. Who has time for these shenanigans. Just book the best fare on the airline that gives you the best service for the money. All I learned from United after having being a 1K for decades is that the next devaluation is around the corner. So these “improvements” just make me laugh. United pushed me to become a #freeagent and I’m enjoying that much more.

  7. Ben – to clarify w/PP expiration…is it an ADDITIONAL 6 month extension beyond the 6 months they already gave us? So basically, nothing expires mid-year at all next year (as a lot of us likely have a chunk of points showing a 7/31 expiry)?

  8. I guess this gives us a little insight into their projections for travel next year. If the new administration follows through with talk of locking things down, look out. The airlines think it’s bad now, just wait.

  9. Lost in this PR blitz from United is that the 2021 requirements are actually higher than those for 2020 (2,000/6 for silver, 4,000/12 for gold, 6,000/18 for platinum, and 9,000/26 for 1k). They are comparing them to their “standard” requirements, but those shouldn’t be the measuring stick in today’s world.

  10. Does spending with the United Club card count towards earning silver and gold status or just if you get to Premier 1k?

  11. I realize it’s an edge case to United but for those of us not based in the US it’s really not helping 🙁

    Since I can’t travel to the US right now I can’t even make the minimum of 4 PQFs to qualify for any status based on my European flights…

  12. So basically the thresholds for each Premier level are lower from their original numbers, but not as generous as this year?
    So where is that great deal?? I mean even with their 25% bonus they still want us to spend more money to achieve the same Premier level, or really fly some pricey trips by March for the numbers to all equal out to this year’s levels.
    Since the pandemic is not over, and it gets worst by each day, all this is not much of a deal, but just more confusing way of counting points for status. And for non business travelers it will be harder to achieve those thresholds. Maybe that was the idea behind it…

  13. Do I need to register for the bonus earnings for my first three flights in Jan-Mar? Does it apply to existing reservations or only reservations booked after this announcement (and/or registering)?

  14. @JAT I highly doubt it’s only for reservations booked after this announcement, they would have put that in there.

  15. It won’t lure me back.
    I’ve got Gold for life as a MM and they made getting to Platinum nearly impossible by ending the Chase CC spend.
    I was going to status match with AS this year but that is pushed to next October.
    Done with UA forever. With my mileage bank I’ll never have to pay for another flight with them again.

  16. @ EndlosLuft couldn’t agree more, they changed to dollar only matrix, that is the dumbest thing to do EVER! there is a reason PQM works, because price and market go up and down, so high market people have to pay more to get those miles, low market people will still fly with them for the mile. They can secure their cash flow!
    but nooooo, the Genesis at United had to switch to Dollar only system, ok not only it is unlike Miles which won’t be effected by price and market changing, but it is basically the most inflexible matrix ever, it can’t flow with the market and it alienate United loyal customers who by the way always bail them out of bad situations by flying for PQM thick or thin.

    Now United got Nothing, this new promo just says volume of their desperation and they won’t be in this situation as bad if they did not change they “genesis new elite qualification system”. I won’t fly them anymore until they revers back to their previous system, firing whoever came up this new system “idea” would be a nice touch ! frankly that person deserve the AXE!

    you would think after 911, they have learn keep their loyal customers close at all cost is key to their survival, then chase high corporate market. but no!!! They have to piss people off.

  17. @John E.L. I agree with you about the flexible of a system of miles vs pure dollar amounts paid. I think the problem is that United really doesn’t understand what creates loyalty (a moot point now their credibility is shot) and what incentivizes people to focus their spending and be willing to accept higher fares in return for earning miles.

    I’ll fly United if the fare and benefits are right. But when I do fly enjoy so much more hunting for the right kind of business class fare and learning all about what programs work for me and which don’t.

    The other big mistake United made was unbundling everything. There are very few perks that a 1K or similar tier in other programs that you can’t buy with the right kind of ticket. Why care about upgrades and how restricted they are if you bought a discount business ticket. Why go out of the way to fly when you can fly a minimal amount but then fly well with another airline and receive as good if not better service?

    But I frankly don’t care what United does and that was my point. That’s why promos like these leave me at best bemused.

  18. Can anyone answer @Joel’s question? Its a great one that I can’t find an answer to…

    “Does the ‘first 3 trips’ PQP bonus apply for the first 3 flights or ‘trips’ in total? Is it done per flight or the trip in total? I could have 3 trips in Feb-Mar but each one has 2 flights so does the bonus stop after the 3rd flight or the 3rd trip? If they’re using the word ‘trip’ it sounds like it’s the total PQPs on a particular trip, regardless of the amount of flights…”

  19. if only United did not start to innovate and reinvent their MileagePlus elite qualification to purely $ based, now they are in very bad position. UA management want thin out 1K and Platinum numbers Mission Accomplished! Now no one even trying to fly to get the status LOL.
    Current fix is just cheap bandaid to their butchered mileage program.

    1 no Traditional 1K travel, because it is too hard to get, 18K and 36 flights is just too too high for non business traveling in US.

    2 no international business traveler won’t fly them even they can like Koran Japan to US because the Qualification is too ridiculously (No PQP exemption and 36flights) for International traveler, this is 3 transoceanic flights every month! Plus most people travel for work are not flying the expensive fare code, company policy usually prohibit expensive tickets.

    3 no corporate business travelers is travling because of Covid, remote working will be a lot more common after covid.

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