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Getting United Airlines Elite Status: Is It Worth it?

The United elite status has 4 tiers: Premier silver, gold, platinum and 1K. What benefits you can get and how to earn United PQF and PQP?
Author: Lorraine Smithills
Lorraine Smithills

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Lorraine is a freelance finance writer with years of experience in the banking sector and after a successful career in one of the largest retail and commercial financial services providers. She has a passion for helping people with less financial confidence to get control of their money through budgeting, saving, and responsible credit practices.
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Author: Lorraine Smithills
Lorraine Smithills

Writer, Contributor

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Lorraine is a freelance finance writer with years of experience in the banking sector and after a successful career in one of the largest retail and commercial financial services providers. She has a passion for helping people with less financial confidence to get control of their money through budgeting, saving, and responsible credit practices.
Interest Rates Last Update: June 3, 2024

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Table Of Content

United Airlines is one of the largest airlines in the U.S. So, if you regularly fly United, you may have considered the United Airlines elite status program. The Mileage Plus Premier program can be highly rewarding and benefit United flyers and those who travel on Star Alliance airline partners.

There are four elite program tiers, which offer a variety of perks such as upgrades, point bonuses, preferred seating, extra baggage allowances and even lounge access.

Anyone who regularly flies United can qualify for elite status and you can enjoy elite status for at least one year. 

United Premier Status 2024
PQFs & PQPs Combination
Only PQPs
Silver
12 PQFs and 4,000 PQPs
5,000 PQPs
Gold
24 PQFs and 8,000 PQPs
10,000 PQPs
Platinum
36 or more PQFs and 12,000 PQPs
15,000 PQPs
1K
54 or more PQFs and 18,000 PQPs
24,000 PQPs

Unlike other airlines' elite status such as Alaska or American Airlines AAdvantage where the qualifications structure is easy to understand, the United elite status qualifications are a bit complex and require a combination of some parameters. 

What is United Premier Silver Status?

All Premier status levels can be achieved by PQFs (Premier Qualifying Flights) or flight segments flown on United or United Express fares, which does not include Basic Economy tickets or travel award tickets and PQPs (Premier Qualifying Points). 

These are calculated based on the flight fare, which includes carrier imposed surcharges, paid upgrades and seating purchases, but taxes and other fees do not count towards your PQPs.

Silver status is the lowest tier in the United elite status program. As of 2024, to qualify you need:

  • A minimum of 12 PQFs and 4,000 PQPs
  • 5,000 PQPs.

Although this is the base level, Silver status offers some nice perks that can enhance your flying experience.

MileagePlus elite status progress
MileagePlus elite status progress (screenshot taken by our team from United app)

What is United Premier Gold Status?

Gold Status is the next tier of the program, which increases the membership benefits. As of 2024, to qualify you need:

  • A minimum of 24 PQFs and 8,000 PQPs
  • 10,000 PQPs

While the benefits package is only slightly enhanced over Silver status, you can enjoy sooner upgrades, pay smaller fees and enjoy an extra free checked bag on your economy tickets.

The key perk of Gold Status is you’ll get Star Alliance Gold status, which provides Star Alliance lounge access when you fly with a Star Alliance partner.

What is United Premier Platinum Status?

The third tier of the program is Platinum Status and this is where the perks start to get really good. To qualify for this level, you’ll need:

  • 36 or more PQFs and 12,000 PQPs
  • 15,000 PQPs.

The main attractive feature for this level is that you’ll have access to more award seats, get points you can use for complimentary upgrades, and you’ll pay no redeposit or change fees on your award tickets. Platinum status also provides Marriott Bonvoy Gold Status.

What is United Premier 1K Status?

Premier 1K Status if the top tier in the United Mileage Plus program. As of 2024, to qualify you need:

  • 54 or more PQFs and 18,000 PQPs
  • 24,000 PQPs

Since this is the top tier, you’ll get the full program benefits package. Stand out features include additional PlusPoints, which you can use for complimentary upgrades and you’ll also match your Marriott Bonvoy status.

United Airlines Polaris Lounge
United Airlines Polaris Lounge at the San Francisco International Airport (SFO) (Photo by JJava Designs/Shutterstock)

What Are Premier Qualifying Flights (PQFs)?

Premier Qualifying Flights or PQFs refer to the flight segments you’ve flown. A flight segment refers to a take off and landing.

So, if you take a round trip, you’ll earn two PQFs. However, you don’t earn PQFs if you fly on Basic Economy tickets or use an award travel ticket.

You can earn PQFs when you fly United, United Express or with a number of partner airlines including:

  • Star Alliance Partners
  • Olympic Air
  • Edelweiss Airlines
  • Eurowings
  • Air Dolomiti
  • Azul Brazilian Airlines

What Are Premier Qualifying Points (PQPs)?

Premier Qualifying Points or PQPs are a metric used to measure how much you’ve spent with United Airlines and its partners. You’ll earn PQPs when you fly United or with its Star Alliance partners.

You can also earn PQPs in other ways such as spending with a co-branded credit card. Each method of earning PQPs works a little differently, so we’ll delve into how the points are calculated in more detail below.

How PQFs and PQPs Impact Elite Status Eligibility?

You can be eligible for United Elite Status levels by accumulating PQPs or with a combination of PQFs and PQPs as we detailed above. This makes it easier to achieve your status qualification level.

Premium service when upgrading a United flight to business class

How to Earn PQF and PQP?

Earning PQFs is fairly straightforward. As we discussed earlier, you’ll earn one PQF for each flight segment. However, PQPs are a little more complicated.

You’ll earn PQPs on qualified United flights. The number of PQPs will depend on the cost of:

  • Your base airfare
  • Seat purchases and subscriptions
  • Carrier imposed surcharges
  • Co pays for mileage and paid upgrades.

Bear in mind that you won’t receive PQPs for your entire fare purchase as you don’t earn points on security fees, airport taxes and other mandatory fees.

Earning PQF and PQP - Examples

Here are two (random) examples we put from United website:

1. For example, if you’re flying one way from Chicago to San Francisco, the fees and taxes can vary from $20 to $90. So on different fares, you’ll earn differing amounts of PQPs:

  • Basic Economy: $94 and you’ll receive 74 PQPs
  • Economy: $119 and you’ll get 97 PQPs
  • Refundable Economy: $169 and you’ll earn 144 PQPs
  • Business Class: $1,096 and you’ll accumulate 1,006 PQPs

If you’re traveling on an international route, the fees and taxes may significantly reduce the amount of PQPs you will earn per dollar. 

2. For example, on a San Francisco to London flight, while you may pay $625 for a round trip basic economy ticket, you’ll only earn 391 PQPs, since $234 is for fees and taxes. However, on a premium economy ticket, you’ll earn 1,021 PQPs after the $369 fees and taxes amount is deducted from the $1,390 fare.

Earn PQP When Using MileagePlus Miles For Award Flights

The usage of MileagePlus miles for award flights operated by United or United Express is now eligible to earn Premier qualifying credits, which is an exciting adjustment United announced in 2023.

You can advance your status by using eligible award flights, which provide you 1 PQP and 1 PQF per 100 miles spent on United or United Express flights, respectively.

Earning all status levels, whether through PQF and PQP thresholds or only PQP thresholds, will count PQP and PQF from qualifying award flights.

For example, the following booking on United made with 31,000 miles, earns 310 PQPs and 1 PQFs.

approve your order (31k miles) on United website

How to Earn PQPs on Existing United Credit Cards?

As we touched on earlier, you don't necessarily need to fly to accumulate PQPs. You can earn PQPs by spending on eligible United co-branded credit cards.

You’ll earn 500 PQPs for every $12,000 you spend on your card in a calendar year. However, the various cards do have different PQP maximums per year.

  • Up to 1,000 PQPs per Year: This applies to the United Explorer, United Explorer Business, United Club Business, United Mileage Plus with annual fee and United Mileage Plus Business Cards.
  • Up to 3,000 PQPs per Year: The Mileage Plus Select Card allows you to earn up to 3,000 PQPs in the calendar year.
  • Up to 6,000 PQPs per Year: The United Quest Card allows you to earn up to 3,000 PQPs in the calendar year.
  • Up to 8,000 PQPs per Year: If you have the United Club Infinite Card you can earn up to 4,000 PQPs per calendar year.
  • Up to 10,000 PQPs per Year: United Presidential Plus and Presidential Plus Business cardholders can earn up to 10,000 PQPs in a calendar year.

United Mileage Plus no annual fee cards and United Gateway cards do not earn PQPs for card spending. All eligible cardholders must take a minimum number of flights on United or United Express for elite status eligibility.

As of 2024, the maximum number of PQP earned on eligible card spent in a calendar year across multiple credit cards has increased from 5,000 PQP to 15,000 PQP, making it even easier to reach Premier status goals through card spend.

Card
Maximum PQPs Per Year
Rewards
Annual Fee

united infinite card

8,000 PQPs
Up to 4x miles 4x miles on United Airlines purchases, 2x miles on all other travel purchases, dining and eligible delivery services and 1x miles on all other purchases
$525

United Quest℠ Card

6,000 PQPs
Up to 3x miles 3 miles per $1 spent on United purchases immediately after earning your $125 annual United purchase credit, 2 miles on all other travel and select streaming services, 1 mile on all other purchases
$250

United Gateway card

United Gateway℠ Card
1,000 PQPs
1X – 2X 2X per $1 spent on United® purchases, at gas stations and on local transit and commuting and 1X on all other purchases
$0

United Business Card

United℠ Business Card
1,000 PQPs
1X – 2X 2X per $1 spent on United® purchases, dining (including eligible delivery services), at gas stations, office supply stores, and on local transit and commuting and 1X on all other purchases
$99
united explorer
1,000 PQPs
1X – 2X 2x per $1 spent on United purchases, hotel accommodations, restaurants & eligible delivery services and 1x per $1 spent on all other purchases
$95 ($0 first year)

Earn PQP When Using Airline Partners

In addition to United, United Express, MileagePlus members can earn Premier qualifying credit by flying the following partner airlines:

Preferred Partners (PQPs = Award miles / 5)

  • Air Canada
  • Air China
  • Air Dolomiti
  • Air New Zealand
  • All Nippon Airways
  • Austrian Airlines
  • Avianca
  • Azul Brazilian Airlines
  • Brussels Airlines
  • Copa Airlines
  • Edelweiss
  • Eurowings
  • Eurowings Discover
  • Lufthansa
  • SWISS International Airlines
  • Virgin Australia

MileagePlus Partners (PQPs = Award miles / 6)

  • Aegean Airlines
  • Air India
  • Asiana Airlines
  • Croatia Airlines
  • EgyptAir
  • Ethiopian Airlines
  • EVA Air
  • Juneyao Air
  • LOT Polish Airlines
  • Olympic Air
  • SAS
  • Shenzhen Airlines
  • Singapore Airlines
  • South African Airways
  • TAP Air Portugal
  • Thai Airways International
  • Turkish Airlines

What Are United PlusPoints?

PlusPoints are a currency for upgrades on United flights. Premier Platinum and Premier 1K elites can upgrade their own flights to a better cabin or flights for other travelers even if you are not flying with them.

Elite members receive PlusPoints immediately whenever they achieve their status. Premier 1K members receive an additional 280 points, while Premier Platinum members receive an additional 40 PlusPoints (320 points total). By flying more, you can also increase your PlusPoint earnings.

Premier 1K members will earn incremental PlusPoints for every 3,000 PQP earned beyond 18,000 PQP (starting at 21,000 PQP) once they have met the Premier 1K requirements in 2024.

PlusPoints expire at the same time that your elite status expires.

How Many PlusPoints Do I Need For An Upgrade?

The number of PlusPoints you’ll need will depend on whether you have a long or short haul flight, the type of cabin that you’ve booked and what cabin you would like for your upgrade. 

For example, it may cost 20 PlusPoints to go from economy to first class on a short haul flight or 30 PlusPoints to upgrade to business class from premium economy on a long haul flight. United publishes two PlusPoint reward charts, so you can check how much an upgrade will cost you.

After you ticket a flight, you can request an upgrade using your PlusPoints on the United website. You can check the upgrade availability when you book if you have PlusPoints in your account. This can be done via an advanced search by scrolling down to the “Upgrades, Certificates and Promotions” section, and selecting the option “PlusPoints upgrade.”

get upgrades wuth the United infinite card with flight tickets
You can get upgrades with United Infinite card, the most premium card by United and Chase (Photo by Artem Oleshko/Shutterstock)

How to Check Your Progress Toward Elite Status?

You can log into your account to check how many PQPs you’ve accumulated, but United has just recently launched a MileagePlus Premier status tracker to make monitoring your progress even easier.

All you need to do is log in and you can access the tracker to check how far you are from the next qualification tier.

 

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United MileagePlus Premier Basic Benefits

While each elite status level offers great perks, there are some basic benefits that you can enjoy at any elite status level. These include:

  • Priority check in and security screenings
  • Three free checked bags in premium cabins
  • No black out award travel dates on United and United Express
  • Priority award waitlist
  • Premier Priority Desk helpline
  • No fees for canceling or changing award tickets for flights
  • Free confirmed flight changes for the same fare class within 24 hours of departure
  • Preferred seating for up to eight companions
  • Better economy award availability
  • originating in the U.S in less than 30 days.
  • TPC Network benefits for golf courses
  • Incentives for Mercedes Benz
  • Extra benefits when you book VIP access United Hotels properties

What Do You Get With United Premier Silver?

In addition to the Silver Benefits, you’ll get:

  • 1 free checked bag in economy
  • Access to Y-class tickets on most sold-out flights
  • Discounted annual membership fee of $109 for CLEAR
  • $100 fee for canceling an award ticket within 30 days of departure that originates within the U.S
  • $100 fee for canceling or changing an award ticket within 30 days of departure that doesn’t originate within the U.S
  • Complimentary Premier upgrades on the day of departure
    $25 phone booking service fees
  • Complimentary access to preferred seating at booking and Economy Plus at check-in
  • Complimentary Economy Plus for 1 travel companion
  • Group 2 priority boarding
  • Instant upgrades to the premium cabin on Y or B class economy fares
  • 7x extra miles per dollar on United, United Express, and select partner airlines
  • Avis Preferred Plus status

United offers more benefits and perks compared to other airlines with elite status at the same level, such as Southwest A-List Preferred or JetBlue Mosaic 2.

United premier silver elite status

What Do You Get With United Premier Gold?

In addition to the Silver Benefits, you’ll get:

  • Group One priority boarding
  • Two free checked bags in economy
  • Complimentary Premier Upgrades up to 48 hours before departure
  • Complimentary access to preferential seating or Economy Plus at booking
  • Further reduced fees for canceling or changing award tickets
  • Complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold status
United premier elite gold status

What Do You Get With United Premier Platinum?

Platinum status adds further benefits including:

  • Three free checked bags in economy
  • $50 discount on United Club annual membership
  • Access to sold out Y class tickets two hours before departure
  • Complimentary premier upgrades up to 72 hours before departure
  • Complimentary economy plus for up to eight travel companions
  • 40 PlusPoints
  • Better award availability in premium cabins
  • Phone booking service fees are waived
  • Complimentary Avis President’s Club status
  • Further reduced fees for changing or canceling award tickets
United platinum elite status

What Do You Get With The United Premier 1K?

The top tier elite status offers the most comprehensive benefits package including:

  • Pre board priority boarding
  • $100 discount on United Club annual membership
  • CLEAR annual membership fee is waived
  • Complimentary Premier Upgrades up to 96 hours before departure
  • 280 PlusPoints
  • One free snack and one free drink in economy
  • No fee for canceling or changing award flights
  • Free annual subscription to Timeshifter, the JetLag App
United premier 1k elite status

Is United Airlines Elite Status Worth It?

Of course, whether United Elite status is worth it, will depend on your circumstances and preferences. The main benefits include:

  • Free Checked Bags: You can get three free checked bags for premium fares and up to three checked bags in economy. This has the potential to save you a lot of money. If you fly United economy six times per year and check one bag with each flight, you’re potentially saving at least $180 by having elite status.
  • Preferred Seating: Complimentary preferred seating also has the potential to offer massive savings. The average cost per flight for preferred seating is $20 to $40. Again, if you fly six times per year, you could save $480. The potential savings could be even greater if you don’t fly direct, as you would need to pay for preferred seating for each flight segment.
  • Economy Plus Seating: This upgrade can also save you hundreds of dollars if you fly regularly.
  • Bonus Miles: You can earn up to 11 times more miles when you make United, United Express or select partner airline purchases. This has the potential to help you achieve even greater awards.

To determine if elite status is worth it for you, you’ll need to consider:

  • How much you’ll travel: If you earn elite status, it will be valid for the remainder of that year and the entirety of the following year. So, you’ll need to travel sufficiently to make the most of your benefits.
  • The incremental value of different tiers: If you can easily qualify for one tier, you will need to consider whether it is worth pushing for the next tier. There is not much sense in working extra hard to qualify for benefits that don’t really matter to you.
  • Does the United route map match your travel patterns? If you can’t feasibly regularly fly on United, you’re not likely to get much benefit from the elite program. So, double check that United’s route map meshes with your typical travel patterns.
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FAQs

You need good to excellent credit to qualify for United Airlines co-branded credit cards.

The Million Miler program is part of the elite program and it rewards members for long term, extraordinary loyalty to United. Members can enjoy generous benefits and lifetime Premier status.

Premier 1K is the highest status that you can achieve unless you have extra ordinary United loyalty and are awarded Million Miler status.

It depends on your United credit card, but most cards can help you to accumulate extra PQPs to work towards elite status.

Yes, your elite status is shown on your boarding pass.

Yes, you’ll have elite status for the remainder of your qualification year and the full following year. If you fail to qualify the next year, your status will expire. For example, if you qualify in July 2023, your status would expire in December 2024 if you don’t requalify.

United has Premier Accelerator which helps you to achieve faster status by purchasing additional PQPs.

You need to make at least four United flights to start with the MileagePlus program.

You can purchase additional PQPs and use a United co-branded credit card to achieve elite status more quickly.

You can buy PQPs via the Premier Accelerator program.

You can get PQPs by spending on United co-branded credit cards, up to the specific card limit.

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Picture of Lorraine Smithills

Lorraine Smithills

Lorraine is a freelance finance writer with years of experience in the banking sector and after a successful career in one of the largest retail and commercial financial services providers. She has a passion for helping people with less financial confidence to get control of their money through budgeting, saving, and responsible credit practices.
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