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|
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:
- 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
- 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).