i’ve been slowly but surely making my way up the United elite ladder. earlier this month i flew my 100,000th Star Alliance mile of the year and received my credentials sometime in the past two weeks while i was away in Philadelphia for work.
the question now is, what about next year? after the introduction of minimum spend requirements (Premier Qualifying Dollars, or PQD), there is no way i will make 1K ever again unless i somehow magically discover a money tree. the deal is you have to spend on average 10 cents per mile not including taxes and some other charges (so, your $500 ticket won’t give you $500 in qualifying dollars). i made 1K on mostly (i estimate 85-90%) personal spend, and i try not to spend more than 6 cents per mile including those taxes. without going into the ins and outs of the requirements, it will likely be pretty hard for me to keep up the amount of travel i do and spend the amount i’m willing to spend to qualify for anything other than Gold next year.
that doesn’t mean i have no options, though. i can:
- just be happy with Gold on United (lounge access and free same-day flight changes) — assuming i can make it. so far i’m not sure i can, but there’s a chance. i currently have roughly $2100 (if i’m doing the calculation correctly) in PQD booked so far.
- try and make Platinum (which would be great since i do a lot of award travel and with Platinum you get free changes/cancels on award reservations)
- the only way i could do this is by manufactured spend on the United credit card (if you’re not in the points game, it means you basically find ways to charge a lot and immediately pay it off) since if you put $25,000 on the card in a year you get the spend requirement waived. it’s not out of the question, and last night i had dinner with Frugal Travel Lawyer who gave me some tips on getting started. i just need to learn about it and do it — up until this point i’ve frankly been too lazy (even though i hear it’s pretty easy).
- follow the “Be Your Own Elite Program” as set forth by Milenomics.
- this might be the best choice since i am mostly closing myself off to Oneworld and SkyTeam (unless the deals are too good to pass up) as it stands, and my ultimate goal is not elite status, but more travel.
- give up on United and switch to another airline/alliance (namely American) and pledge allegiance to that.
i’ve been thinking about it for a while now, and i think this is what i’mma do, unless someone gifts me a money tree:
- for 2014: continue trying for United Gold and Platinum, only because i can’t pass up the 100% bonus i get as a 1K on redeemable miles, and i really like redeeming awards on United since the availability is good and there are no fuel surcharges.
- once 2015 hits, go Be Your Own Elite and just fly cheap, elite status be damned. the main things i enjoy as an elite are:
- priority boarding (i can live without, especially since i mostly fly international and i don’t have to worry that much about overhead space in those cases)
- priority check-in (again, i can live without)
- lounge access (for showers; this is important — i have Priority Pass Select via Amex Platinum, and i may just take one big Star Alliance trip to get Aegean Gold, though if i’m not primarily Star Alliance anymore, it may or may not be worth it)
- bonus redeemable miles (this is the main rub and will require some calculations — it may be that i’m traveling more/better on cheaper tickets on non-Star Alliance so this isn’t worth it anymore)
anyone have any other suggestions?
and, as a bonus for getting this far down in the post, i’m having a little giveaway. tweet at me or send me an email at jonk at jonk . org. the first two (by either method) will each receive five United beverage vouchers good for one alcoholic beverage each (i’ll send them by snail mail) — i don’t drink so they’re lost on me. 🙂 [update: they expire 1/31/2015, are good only for in-flight beverages, and one set is already taken!] all gone 🙁