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Is United Platinum status worth it vs Gold?

by on Tue November 1, 2016 • 8 Comments
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United MileagePlus has four Premier levels in its frequent flier program: Silver, Gold, Platinum, and 1K.

Platinum status for 2016 requires you fly 75,000 Premier Qualifying Miles in a year and earn $9,000 Premier Qualifying Dollars on United flights, or partner flights ticketed directly with United.

You can get around that requirement by spending $25,000 or more in a calendar year on a Chase United MileagePlus credit card, or by simply holding the Presidential Plus credit card, but that card is no longer open to new applicants.

Reaching Premier 1k status though requires you meet the full $12,000 annual Premier Qualifying Dollar requirement with no waiver.

So Premier Platinum is the highest tier you can earn while taking advantage of the waiver of the Premier Qualifying Dollar requirement, and that can make ‘mileage running’ or taking an extra cheap flight during the year useful to help you reach the Platinum threshold beyond Gold status.

What does Premier Platinum status get you?

With Premier Platinum you get all of the benefits of Premier Gold status (which requires 50,000 miles a year of flying) plus these:

  • 9x miles per dollar spent on United airfare instead of 8x
  • Group 1 boarding instead of Group 2
  • Free award ticket changes and cancellations 61 days before departure, $25 after that instead of a $25 – $75 fee for Gold.
  • 8 free Economy Plus companions when they’re on the same reservation as you instead of just 1 free companion
  • Complimentary upgrades as soon as 72 hours before departure instead of 48 hours
  • 2 Regional Premier Upgrade certificates
  • 10% discount on Duty Free purchases
  • No phone ticketing fee
  • Access to better Saver Award availability in Business or First Class (in theory, but rarely in practice)

Are the benefits worth it?

There are three really valuable benefits if you fly a lot in our view:

Free  / $25 award ticket changes and cancellations are big if you use award travel more than a few times a year.

When you can’t find award space on the exact flights you want, having free changes lets you keep an eye on space and switch the moment you see something open up, and $25 is pretty reasonable to save on miles.

It also lets you grab space that you see available, but aren’t yet completely sure will work for your schedule. So instead of seeing space, then putting in for time off work, then hoping it’s still available, you can get the space up front and deal with it once you’ve firmed up your other plans.

8 free Economy Plus companions is also a big money saver for families.

United-Economy-Plus2-medium

Instead of paying fees up to $299 a person, you can confirm Economy Plus seating for your whole family at the time of booking on any United flight. This really stands out right now, as Delta has recently changed its policy to hold back on giving a companion free Comfort+ seating until 24 hours before departure for flights beyond May. And that only includes one free companion, not 8.

American’s Platinum level allows up to 8 free companions in its Main Cabin Extra section at the time of booking, but the extra legroom section is pretty much non existent on most old US Airways planes, so it’s not nearly as useful as United’s benefit.

Group 1 boarding instead of Group 2 puts you ahead of the scrum.

unitedboardinggroup

Right now, Premier Gold members are stuck boarding in Group 2, which includes all of the Chase United MileagePlus Explorer credit card holders, so boarding in that group doesn’t always give you a guarantee you’ll find space for your carryon bag in the overhead bins.

As a Platinum you get to board in Group 1 with First/Business Class passengers and Premier 1Ks, butting only Global Services members ahead in the boarding order.

That pretty much guarantees you a spot for your bags if you show up when your boarding group is called.

But beware that United is in the process of evaluating a different boarding method.

It’s possible Platinum will no longer be in Group 1, and could be assigned to a group separate, and after First Class and Premier 1k members. It might be its own group, or it might get lumped in with Premier Gold members.

We’re not concerned United will put Platinum members in the same group as United Explorer credit card holders, but don’t gun for Platinum with the expectation being the first real group to board will remain a benefit.

What about upgrades?

United-BusinessFirst3

We wouldn’t advise you to gun for Platinum status just for the higher upgrade priority either. Unless you find yourself regularly sitting in coach after being #1 or #2 on the upgrade list the higher priority probably won’t help much.

The two Regional Premier Upgrades can be useful for letting you upgrade on flights that don’t allow free upgrades, like the Newark to San Francisco / Los Angeles P.S. service and the Newark / Houston / Washington, D.C. to Honolulu flights with lie flat seats.

But upgrade space in advance is tough on the P.S. routes unless you’re flying at off peak times and are flexible with dates. Upgrades to Hawaii are still possible to find if you plan far advance, even on the long Newark to Honolulu flight during off peak months like the fall.

And if an upgrade isn’t available in advance, you can always waitlist to see if it clears. Read our guide to everything you need to know about upgrade options and waitlisting here.

Also remember that you can apply your Regional Premier Upgrades to anyone you’d like, but don’t try to sell or barter them unless you want your MileagePlus account shut down.

We’d probably value the Regional upgrades at $200 – $500 a piece if you are able to use them on high value routes like the P.S. or Hawaii ones. But if you’re just using them to lock in space on garden variety short flights we wouldn’t give them much value at all, and they aren’t worth booking an extra trip to earn.

Should you book an extra flight?

All in all, Premier Platinum is probably worth booking an extra $400 flight if you can really use the award booking fee wavier, plan to take a family of 4 or more on a trip and can save on Economy Plus, and want the peace of mind of earlier boarding.

You can also consider using United’s Premier Accelerator to buy extra Premier Qualifying Miles on your next ticket, though you often have to pay 10 cents or more per mile (so for example 10,000 would cost you over $1,000), so it’s probably best if you’re just shy of the 75,000 qualifying hurdle, not 10,000 miles or more.

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8 thoughts on Is United Platinum status worth it vs Gold?

  1. marina

    Hi – I live in NY and fly for work a bunch (economy in US and business for transatlantic or to west cost). I am gold now and based on current trips booked will be 3,490 PQM short of Platinum by end of 2016. I also fly to Europe with my husband and daughter at least once a year, plus a vacation or two in US/South America. Would you say it’s worth it to hustle for Platinum and, if so, what’s the most economical way? Any thoughts would be appreciated.

    Reply
    1. MileCards.com

      @marina – Most economical way would be to get a cheap flight (NYC – Denver or Salt Lake should do the trick). But given your company pays for biz class not much difference for you as Plat on long business trips. And you get the free Economy Plus for you and your family with Gold.

      Reply
  2. Ariel

    I’m about 2k short of platinum, single business traveler. I mostly take coast to coast flights with the occasional sfo-hnl. Would it be worth it for me to purchase pqm to make platinum next year? It seems like the only real benefit is group 1. I rarely check luggage so the overhead space with preboarding does appeal to me. I appreciate your feedback!

    Reply
    1. MileCards.com

      @Ariel – You’d also get 2 regional upgrades, which you can use for PS flights LAX/SFO-EWR, and changes to award tickets are $0 61 days before departure, $50 after that, vs $25/$75 for Gold. Other than that though you have it nailed.

      Reply
      1. Ariel

        So you’re in agreement that I shouldn’t waste $$$ purchasing 2k worth of miles to get platinum? Thanks for all the information!!!

        Reply
  3. Germa

    Hi, I’m planning on fly from Argentina (eze) to SFO several times next year, starting on Jan, at least 7 times and probably once per month, I’m not sure what’s the best and fastest way to get to the status level in order to get free upgrades, my company refuses to buy business tickets, but I can spend some money to use something like the accelerator.. can you recommend me a way?

    Reply
    1. MileCards.com

      @Germa – Unfortunately you’re probably going to have to tough it out in economy. 1K status would get you 6 one way upgrades you can try to use on international flights like that (but they don’t always make upgrade space available, so it can be hit or miss). But that requires 100k miles flown and $12k in spending. You have a good shot at earning it by the end of next year with all your travel, so for 2018 you’d get some upgrades to use if you keep flying. But not much help for that first year. Basic Gold status would get you free Economy Plus extra legroom seats – 50k miles flown.

      Reply

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