As the year nears its end, I am finally asking myself a serious question: What on earth am I going to do in terms of having United status next year? I’m not going to lie – I’m pretty
spoiled comfortable as a 1K, though this is definitely looking like my first and only year as a 1K (thanks to United’s sly move towards becoming revenue-based). It was a fun ride to say the least.
My favorite “perk” of having top-tier status is the ability to redeposit award tickets without paying a fee, and in theory, I can redeposit an award within minutes of departure time (theory tested and proved). That alone allows me to be spontaneous in my travels.
Let’s take this weekend for example. A work commitment in Chicago came up with days notice. As much as I hate redeeming United miles for short-haul domestic awards, it sure as hell beats paying astronomical last-minute prices.
I booked multiple United award possibilities as “placeholders”. In the end, Avios saved the day (a much better redemption – 7,500 Avios vs 12,500 UA miles for EWR-ORD), and I was able to cancel my United bookings for a full mileage refund.
Starting next year, United will require you to fly a certain number of miles and pay a certain amount for United tickets to achieve status:
Folks who buy cheap ticket will find that they meet the miles (PQM) requirement but not the spending (PQD) requirement. For these people, a United card is essential because spending $25,000 on the United MileagePlus® Explorer Card will waive the spending (PQD) requirement for the year for Silver, Gold, and Platinum status.
As much as I hate the new PQD spend requirement for 2015 (effective now for 2015 earning), as well as the terrible new-RDM earning structure that’s about to kick in March 1, 2015, I am kind of in a pickle. I’m thinking of Platinum as my status goal for next year.
I’m EWR based so it’s really hard to just cold-turkey “break up” with my beloved United.
Platinum status is a good end goal because I still get the no-fee redeposit awards perks as well as the complimentary upgrades that I love. There’s nothing that makes my day brighter than seeing the “you’ve-been-upgraded” email in my inbox before my flight.
Going back to my example from this week, I received a lot of those emails. Even on award bookings (I ended up not taking any of those flights though). And that’s thanks to my United MileagePlus® Explorer Card. One not-so-talked-about perk of that card is that you can receive complimentary upgrades on some award tickets.
I got the card last year and I decided I’m keeping it. Since I won’t be spending $7,500 on United flights to qualify for Platinum, I figure I will rack-up $25,000 spend on my Explorer card so that PQD requirement is waived. I’ll also get 10,000 additional miles by reaching the $25,000-spend threshold.
Other major benefits of having a United card include:
- extra award space normally set aside for United elites
- never having your United miles expire
- a free checked bag for you and a companion
- priority boarding on United flights
- 2 United Club passes each year. The clubs are a nice place to relax with plenty of space, free wifi, and free snack and drinks United sells identical passes for $50, so this benefit has a $100 retail value.
- waiver of a big impediment to getting United status
- no foreign transaction fees – use it abroad.
- earn 2 miles per dollar on United purchases and 1 mile per dollar on all other purchases.
- Each calendar year that you spend $25,000 on the card, you get a 10,000 mile bonus. That’s like getting 1.4 United miles per dollar on all purchases. (35,000 miles / $25,000 spent)
- and… those complimentary upgrades on award tickets I’ve mentioned above. (only if you’re an existing elite though).
Not only does the United MileagePlus® Explorer Card come with a nice increased sign-up bonus, but its benefits pretty much mimic United Silver elite status for only a $95 annual fee, which is waived for the first year anyway (which is also good if you don’t have 25,000 miles of flying planned for this year + spending $2,500 on those United tickets).
Who Can Get The Card
If you’ve never had the United MileagePlus® Explorer Card before or you last got the bonus at least two years ago, you can get this card. From the offer details:
“This new cardmember bonus offer is not available to either (i) current cardmembers of this consumer credit card, or (ii) previous cardmembers of this consumer credit card who received a new cardmember bonus for this consumer credit card within the last 24 months.”
Being the authorized user on someone else’s United card account does not stop you from opening the card for yourself and getting the bonus for yourself.
Using the Miles
United miles are the easiest miles to redeem of any major airline. You can redeem the miles for United flights or flights on any of the other 26 Star Alliance airlines, which fly all over the world.
Economy awards on United and its partners barely went up in price. BusinessFirst and Global First awards on United are still at manageable prices. However, partner business and first class awards went up in price sharply.
Stick to redeeming miles for economy awards or United’s own premium cabins, and you’ll get excellent value from your United miles.
The card also with a ton of benefits when flying United that mimic elite status.
United is a member of the largest airline alliance, and United miles can be used on over 30 airlines that serve every inhabited continent.
Application Link: United MileagePlus® Explorer Card
So there is is. I’m keeping the card for at least another year with United so I can achieve Platinum status to allow me to have the freedom of booking “risk-free” award tickets. That’s the fuel to my ever-burning desire to travel spontaneously.
Do you have a similar strategy with this card?