United Airlines Offers 4 Ways Elite Status Will Be Easier To Earn In 2021

Following American AAdvantage announcing reduced qualification levels for elite status earned in 2021 last month, United MileagePlus is out with its 2021 elite qualification rules and they’re layering on four different boosts towards status along with making it easier to earn confirmed upgrades for those continuing to fly beyond the 1K level.

Taken together lower status requirements, a hard start for current elites towards status, along with bonus qualifying spend for status in the first quarter, and a relaxed restriction on using credit card-earned elite qualifying spend towards top status United has laid out ways that status will be easier to earn than ever this year.

Here’s the reduced qualification levels for 2021:

Status Normal Qualifying Spend/Flights 2021 Qualifying Spend/Flights
Silver $4000 + 12 Segments or $5,000 $3,000 + 8 Flights or $3,500
Gold $8,000 + 24 Flights or $10,000 $6,000 + 16 Flights or $7,000
Platinum $12,000 + 36 Flights or $15,000 $9,000 + 24 Flights or $10,000
1K $18,000 + 54 Flights or $24,000 $13,500 + 36 Flights or $15,000

Existing elite members will get an automatic head start towards earning status next year, based on the current status they hold.  By February 1, United will deposit elite qualifying dollars (‘premier quaifying points’) into accounts as follows:

2021 Status Qualifying Spend Deposit
Premier Silver 875
Premier Gold 1,750
Premier Platinum 2,500
Premier 1K 3,750

A current 1K, then, will need to spend $9750 and take 36 flights in 2021, or spend $11,250, to be 1K again in 2022.  (A current 1K, with this 3750 qualifying dollar deposit, is automatically at least Silver in 2022 as long as they fly United 4 times and would need to spend $2250 and take 16 flights, or spend $3250 as long as they fly United the minimum 4 times for status.)

In addition, United is offering bonus qualifying spend on the first three trips taken in the first quarter (between January 1 – March 31, 2021).

  • Elite status members earn double qualifying spend (PQPs) on up to 3 trips
  • Non-elites earn 50% bonus qualifying spend (PQPs) up to 3 trips

Finally, spend on United’s co-brand credit card that earns qualifying points will allow those points to count towards 1K status. Cardmembers can earn 500 premier qualifying points after $12,000 in spend each year, and another 500 premier qualifying points after $24,000 in spend, for a maximum total of 1000 PQPs. Up until now spend on credit cards towards elite status didn’t count for those trying to hit 1K.

United has thus laid out four ways that status will be easier to earn than ever this year – while building in elements that:

  1. Encourage travel in the first quarter of the year, when it’s traditionally weakest and before there’s an expectation of recovering thanks to the hope of a Covid-19 vaccine

  2. Encourage spend on their co-brand credit card, though the contribution of credit card spend towards status still remains a weak spot in their relationship with Chase.

There’s also going to be a lot of opportunities for upgrades, with premium cabins relatively empty as business travel takes longer to recover than leisure travel, and with United extending confirmed upgrade credits (“PlusPoints”) that were going to expire in 2021 by six months (“which includes all PlusPoints earned from 2019 and 2020 activity”) and because ‘overachieving’ 1Ks will earn additional PlusPoints at lower thresholds: Starting at 17,000 qualifying dollars (PQP)s, earn 20 more PlusPoints and then 20 for each additional $2000 in qualifying points (versus earning 20 upgrade points for each additional $3000 in spend above requalification).

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Math and I are total and complete enemies. Could someone break it down in understandable numbers for me, pleeeeez? I am current Gold this year, and, apparently next year. So what exactly do I need to do in 2021 to at least keep Gold for 2022? Thanx ever so much.

  2. 36 “flights” for 1K status is realy 36 “segments” i.e. take-offs and landings, correct? If I fly international I can hit the $9750, but 36 flights is going to be tough unless I can purposefully book some connecting flights so each roundtrip = 4 flighs.

  3. @Steve – That is correct. Each flight is one segment. I really dig the first quarter bonus. I booked a flight to Ukraine in February that would ordinarily earn about 1300 PQP, but now it looks like I will earn 2600! Not Bad!

  4. Gary – clarification that those of us w/the old Platinum Class Visa (and I believe the CO Prez Plus card too) did have our PQPs count towards 1K, 500 PQP every $12K spend. 3K / 10K max respectively, IIRC.

  5. I am a 1K with UA. I was on the fence whether to switch to AA next year but this concession from United may keep me loyal.

  6. “do you think DL will follow suit? If not, why?”

    No they will not. If you ask the DL fan boys & girls, Delta is a leader in everything. UA and the others only follow in their footsteps.

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