Is Now the Best Time to do a United Status Challenge?

For those of us who care about status, the middle of the year is a great time to figure out what our status will look like for the upcoming year.  I have already hit Platinum Medallion on Delta thanks to 24,000+ rollover Medallion Qualification Miles and Amex bonuses (and yes, also flying ;)).  I’ve already begun using my Platinum Medallion benefits, mainly making free changes and cancellations to award tickets, saving $150 each time. I’ve booked a few speculative awards for trips I may take.  Already, I’ve saved about $500 because of this status.

One of the reasons I hit Platinum so early in the year was because I wanted to leverage that status to match to United Premier Platinum.  I know a lot of people have denounced the United elite program since the merger, but Platinum members (as well as 1K and Global Services) get the same fee waivers for award changes and cancellations, which I think is HUGE.  If I want to redeem for Lufthansa First Class, I have to do so within 15 days of departure.  Having Platinum status would make that easy with no close-in ticketing fees or change fees.  I already have several awards booked for myself and family under my MileagePlus account, so getting Platinum would allow me to make changes closer to departure for free.

Here is the link to United’s Status Challenge program.  They officially have challenges for Premier Silver (the 25K elite level), Premier Gold (50K), and Premier Platinum (75K).  I’ve heard of unofficial challenges for United 1K from people who are American Executive Platinum or Delta Diamond Medallion.

ua-challenge-2013

As you can see from the chart above, Premier Silver requires 7,000 PQMs or 8 segments on United, United Express, or COPA flights.  Premier Gold requires 12,500 PQMs or 15 PQS.  Premier Platinum requires 18,000 PQM or 22 PQS.  This seems pretty reasonable — Platinum would require a bit more than a transcontinental trip every month.

Underneath the chart, you’ll see United state, “Customers whose offer enables them to meet the flight requirement on or after July 1, 2013, will retain their matched Premier status through January 31, 2015, unless a higher Premier level is earned.”

Since the challenges are 90-day affairs, starting a challenge now would allow one to meet the flight requirement on/after July 1, 2013, meaning you would have Premier status until the end of January 2015.  If you had done it earlier than April 1, it would have been good only until this upcoming January 2014.

However, I noticed on the top of the page that “this offer is valid for requests received between January 1 and June 30, and may change from month to month.”

My thought process is that on July 1, United will require more miles flown in order to qualify for a status challenge.  If you take a look at The Points Guy’s challenge from last August, he was required to fly 10,000 flight miles/15 segments for Silver, 17,500 miles/22 segments for Gold, or 25,000 flight miles/30 segments for Platinum.  Keep in mind that signing up for Platinum challenge and only fulfilling enough for Silver or Gold means your forfeit the challenge, ie, you have to fulfill the challenge you signed up for.

If United changes the requirements to last year’s number on July 1, this would be about a 40% increase in the number of miles required to fulfill a challenge. For hardcore mileage runners, it’s not an issue, but it’s worth considering.  It’s also worth noting that last year’s challenge required actual flight miles, while this year’s challenge allows for bonus PQM for higher fare classes to count toward the challenge.  This won’t affect you if you don’t purchase higher fares, though.

I’ll have some required flights coming up in August and September, so I’m biding my time until late June to ask for the status match so that I can book those flights on United and have them count toward the status match.  My idea is that in doing so shortly before July 1, I’ll get the best of both worlds — a reduced number of miles required to fulfill the status plus status for 18 months.

The funny thing about getting a Premier Platinum challenge is that once I fulfill the challenge, I actually will probably return to Delta for the remainder of the year to increase my rollover miles, since I likely won’t be able to hit 100,000 PQM for United 1K in just over 6 months.  After all, I’ll have United Platinum already in the bag.

Amol (@PointsToPointB) joined HMT in 2012. An ardent manufactured spender, he's an American Executive Platinum, Delta Platinum, and United Platinum.
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  • jammanxc

    i thought you were going for AA EXP match!

    • AKold

      I’m still thinking about it, but this status match would be fairly easy out of pocket with all the UA mileage runs happening.

  • Mike

    I just status challenged from Delta Diamond to 1K, It took less than 12 hours to recieve a response from United. I put myself in for a mileage upgrade coming back on the 747, number 2 with 7 seats left.

    “Your status will be effective for 90 days. Your 90 day timeframe will be May 14, 2013 through August 12, 2013. To remain a Premier 1K member through 2013, you will need to fly 35,000 Premier qualifying miles (PQM) or 40 Premier qualifying segments (PQS) on flights operated by United®, United Express® or Copa within that 90-day timeframe.”
    I have to fly united to Uzbekistan and dont want to not have lounges to stop in on the way there and back. DEN-FRA-IST-TAS_IST-FR-SFO.

  • bonefishjoe

    Can you explain what you mean “but Platinum members (as well as 1K and Global Services) get the same fee waivers for award changes and cancellations, which I think is HUGE. If I want to redeem for Lufthansa First Class, I have to do so within 15 days of departure. Having Platinum status would make that easy with no close-in ticketing fees or change fees.” I don’t get what you are saying re no close-in ticketing/change fees. What fees are you talking about if you book within 15 days? Can you provide an example?

    • AKold

      This page – http://www.united.com/web/en-us/content/mileageplus/awards/travel/ticketing.aspx – explains the fees involved with United awards, including change fees and close-in ticketing fees for departures within 21 days. Since Lufthansa only opens First space within 14-15 days of departure, a normal member would have to pay one of those fees.

      Note how Premier members have reduced fees for award ticketing (and no fee for Platinums and higher).

  • Steve

    I keep considering this but it is so hard to pull the trigger, even though I fly out of SFO (a UA hub). Currently DM on Delta and fly mostly domestically. I like their planes and their customer service has been amazing for me. Miles totally suck, but I get upgraded on nearly 100% of my flights. Also having free SkyClub access is a big plus and I’m able to gift my wife status. UA seems like I’d see a drop in upgrades but have much better mileage awards. No club access, worse hub cities (ORD, no thanks), and more regional jets. Not sold on their customer service either. Their upgrade certificates are a big selling point though, and I’d be matching to 1K giving me global upgrades.

    • AKold

      I am exactly in the same boat as you. I started flying Delta since I was in ATL but since came to LAX. Most of my paid trips are domestically and Delta is great for that. Miles definitely suck. I have Sky Club thanks to Amex, and United Club thanks to Turkish/Aegean Star Gold membership.

      I don’t think you get the GPUs/RPUs if you match. You would still need to fly the 75k/100k PQMs to get those.

  • http://twitter.com/WanderngAramean Wandering Aramean

    Maybe the easiest numbers (though none of us can predict the future) but summer is also the season of the highest fares. If your plan is to mileage run for status doing it now may be counter-productive on a cost basis.

    • AKold

      That’s true, though there have been some favorable mileage runs particularly from the west coast. If one were to sign up in the latter half of June, they’d have until at least mid-September to complete the challenge.

      For me, I have actual trips that I’m planning for late August and September that can work with United, so an MR would really be just to top off for me.

  • cotoneloc

    I have AA Platinum status that I would like to leverage to achieve MilleagePlus or StarAlliance status when I fly SAS to and from Europe in a few weeks. Any suggestions?

    • Scottrick

      Amol may want to chime in here, but it seems that as long as you meet the requirement AFTER July 1, you can work toward it earlier (in June). Just make sure the number of miles they require is less than your flight, or try to credit only half of your segments to United to keep it under and clear the hurdle after July 1.

    • AKold

      If all you want is Star Gold status (which will give you ground benefits like lounge access and priority check-in), I’d match to Turkish Star Gold.

      http://loyaltylobby.com/2013/03/18/turkish-airlines-milessmiles-elite-card-star-alliance-gold-status-match/

    • AKold

      If you match to United, you’ll get temporary status, but you need to fly actual United metal to keep the status.

  • JustSaying

    I am curious if I can use my lifetime AA Gold to match United Premier then get the instant to call the 800 number to get 2 FC tickets to Europe released so I can use my miles at 135k each?

    • Scottrick

      There is no 800 number that allows you to call and request that the airline open extra award space. All you get is faster access to a phone agent, but they don’t determine inventory.

      • JustSaying

        Interesting. I called this week and complained there were 8 empty …….seats on the flight in FC and the agent told me I needed to be Premier to book those seats. So I did the status match and then there was no change in the inventory…….I’ve had it with United’s ghost game and will burn these 330k as fast as possible as I wave goodbye……status or not…………..posting to your site is a royal pain………..

        • Scottrick

          What the agent meant was that only Premier members (and those with certain credit cards) may redeem miles for anytime awards. If you wanted one of those 8 empty seats, you would need to buy an anytime award because saver awards weren’t available. And you couldn’t buy an anytime award without status. Inventory hasn’t changed, but access to inventory has.

          Saver awards are available to all members, regardless of status, but are in limited supply. A first class saver award (on any Star Alliance carrier) would cost 135,000 miles round trip between the US and Europe.

          Anytime awards allow you to book any unsold seat on the plane. They can only be booked on United-operated flights. A first class anytime award would cost 295,000 miles round trip between the US and Europe.