What Strategy for United Elites that Don’t Spend Enough on Tickets to Retain Status Under New MileagePlus Revenue Rules?

Reader C.B. has had United status for a decade or more, but he really does fly on the cheapest tickets and won’t meet the minimum spending threshold for 2015 status based on his spending on United tickets in 2014.

So he wrote looking for thoughts on what to do — what airline to credit his United flying to, for instance, with the goal that he would at least have some recognition on United. The goal, then, is Star Alliance Gold which gets lounge access, priority boarding and security and free checked bags.

You may be ahead of me, but with United’s unfortunate but not unexpected revenue-qualifier announcement, I know that I won’t be the only one in 2014 moving United flight credits to another [Star Alliance] carrier in order to achieve Gold there — and not just for lounge access but for priority bag/boarding/security and then just gut it up in 2015 to pay for E+

I’ll make at least Gold on [United] this year for 2014 but am wondering what my best options are in 2014 for 2015 status to retain Star Alliance Gold?

For I suspect that suddenly changing my address to, say, Spain, in October of 2014, might be a bit of a red flag…. I also don’t expect to meet the spend requirement for Gold on [United] for flights in 2014.

Would love for you to post your thoughts..

My thoughts back to C.B. were as follows.

  1. The easiest Star Gold is Aegean — once you hit 20k EQMs in a year (note the cheapest United fares only earn 50% flown miles, but all US Airways fares earn 100% though of course there’s an undetermined number of months left where US Airways will still be in Star Alliance) – and you get some qualifying miles just or joining — then you are LIFETIME star gold … you just have to keep your account active every 3 years.

  2. But it’s also pretty easy to hit $25,000 in spending on a United Visa. People spend more than they think on their credit cards, add it up, elite status just means dedicating yourself to their co-brand card. And if you don’t actually spend that much and need to top off, there are myriad ways to generate extra spending to get yourself over that last hump like Amazon Payments which still lets you send someone $1000 a month by credit card fee-free.

  3. It will be interesting to see if they track all the people that move out of the country this year, at least electronically by changing their MileagePlus accounts to reflect an address outside the United States.

These are very different times, for sure, but then the industry is doing well and fares are up. I wonder how these status rules will play out if the industry loses capacity discipline and the economy sours such that there’s less travel. Fares drop, the same travel that pushes elites over the required revenue threshold now all of a sudden no longer does.

I have to expect when events like that occur we’ll see “double premier qualifying dollars” promotions just as we’ve seen double elite qualifying mile promotions in the past.

But for now at least there are certainly workarounds for folks that don’t make the revenue requirements. And while these spending thresholds seem to be sweeping the U.>. now that both Delta and United have both announced this as their new direction, as I’ve advised in the past over fear of revenue-based redemption programs it’s always possible to look abroad to the hundreds of programs that haven’t made such a switch.

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. Note that Aegean comes with a disclaimer, the two Greek airlines are trying to combine if they are not allowed to there isn’t a plan B, one or both may cease to exist.

  2. I’m a bit new, and not familiar with Amazon payments. Can you point me in the right direction for more information? Thanks!

  3. could you go over non-us airlines elite benefits if one tries to switch to a different FFP? I like United because you earn 100% for most discounted flights for most Star Alliance flight and you get 25-100% bonus as an elite for a good number of airlines. It seems to me that there is no alternative to these benefits if you switch to other FFPs within star alliance. Am I correct on this?

  4. Aegan can get a person *G on the cheap and that will get the bag fees waivered.But no E+, no reduced or no Fees for alot of changes you may want to make or have to ,to your paid or award tkts. No way not to deal with the Overseas CSRs.

    AE was the 1st thing that I thought of till I thought it all thru and realized all Id get is Lounge access and free bags, but that isnt enough for me. I need to maintain Plat at the very least

    So I suggest anyone to do as I did think it thru what it is you need the status for and see if AE will take care of it for you, if Yes then go for it,if Not then go the CC route

  5. @Nick, I would anticipate that Aegean will be the successor in the event of a the merger. Ever since the EU denied the proposed merger several years ago, Aegean has been eating Olympic’s lunch to the point that they may not need to merge, rather Aegean could just push Olympic into the Mediterranean.

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