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How to earn United Premier Qualifying miles without flying

by on Tue December 20, 2016 • 13 Comments


It’s the end of the year and that means that those of you that care about airline status could be feeling the pressure if you’re a bit short of what is required to requalify for a given status level. Luckily, if you’re a United flyer, there is a way that lets you purchase Premier Qualifying Miles (PQMs) to help reach the level needed to earn your MileagePlus Premier status for the coming year.

The general process

  • Search for a flight on
  • During the booking process, when you get to the Payment page, you will have the option to purchase Award Accelerators. If you choose to purchase the Award Accelerator, and click ‘Add’, the option will appear to purchase Premier Accelerators as well. To have access to the Premier Accelerator, you will first need to add the Award Accelerator to your booking and then check the Premier Accelerator box.


  • Finish booking your ticket.
  • Wait and hour and then cancel the ticket for a refund. (Note that you can wait longer than an hour but you must cancel within 24 hours to get the flight refunded for no cost.)
  • The miles and PQMs you purchased will still post to your MileagePlus account

Note: Make sure that you will still meet the Premier Qualifying Dollar (PQD) requirement for your desired status level or that you have a PQD waiver before following the outlined method above. PQM purchases do not count toward the PQD requirement.

Also keep in mind these terms and conditions of the Award Accelerator:

  • All miles purchased are nonrefundable. A federal excise tax is included in the displayed price for Award Accelerator.
  • Award Accelerator and Premier Accelerator purchases do not count toward the Premier qualifying dollar (PQD) requirement for Premier status qualification.
  • The miles you purchase with Award Accelerator are redeemable miles and do not count toward the Premier qualifying miles (PQM) requirement for Premier status qualification. To receive PQM, add Premier Accelerator to your purchase.
  • These miles credit to your MileagePlus account within 24 hours of purchase.
  • Purchased miles are subject to the MileagePlus program rules.

How much does it cost to buy PQMs?

Cost generalizations for the PQM Accelerator are difficult, but the following should give you a baseline to work off of.

The cost you will pay per PQM varies more by the time of year you make the PQM purchase and status level rather than the specific flights that you use the above trick for.

As a general rule, PQM rates are lower earlier in the year – so if you know well ahead of time that you are going to be short of your desired status level there is potential to save money.

In 2016, there were reports of PQMs being offered for as low as $0.07 per PQM plus the cost of redeemable miles, which typically vary between $0.019 and $0.021 cents each. You can’t purchase PQMs without purchasing redeemable miles, so this means that the total cost you will find will be $0.069 to $0.071 at the lowest.

If you already have status, you will likely be offered the opportunity to purchase more redeemable and premier miles at a time in comparison with a general member. For example, a 1K might be offered 5,000 and 10,000 miles while a general member would only be offered 2,000 and 3,000.

As a general rule, those with higher levels of status will also need to pay more for their Premier Accelerator miles than a general member or someone with a lower level of status. The closer you are to reaching a higher status level, the prices for your Accelerator options will generally be higher.

There have been some reports that pricing for PQM+RDM is lower on new bookings vs existing bookings.

Overall, early in the year you should be able to find PQM+RDM as low as 9 CPM, though 10-12 cents per mile will be more typical. Late in the year, it is not unheard of for PQM+RDM Accelerator to top 15 cents per mile.

Is buying PQMs worth it?

Whether or not paying for premier accelerator miles is worth it is going to depend on two factors.

Firstly, how far away you are from the next status level, which is going to tie into how much it costs, and secondly, how much you value your status.

  • Silver. If you are only 5,000 PQMs away from Silver, it may be worth it to spend $500-$600 to earn that status level as you would then have access to premier seating, additional mileage earning, reduced fees for award ticket changes and cancellations, the possibility of upgrades, and more. If you’re 10,000 miles away it would be a harder sell at $1,000 to $1,200, but still possibly worth it.
  • Gold. If you are only 5,000 PQMs away from Gold, it may be worth it to spend $500-$600 to earn that status level to have even more additional mileage earning, earlier upgrade priority, and further reduced fees. It probably would not be worth purchasing 10,000 PQMs, though you should make that valuation on your own.
  • Platinum. If you’re 5,000 PQMs away from Platinum status, it could be worth spending $500-$600 on PQMs especially if you travel with more than one companion on a regular basis. This is because Golds only get one EconomyPlus companion while Platinums get eight. You also earn Regional Premier Upgrades which can be confirmed upon booking, a higher bonus redeemable mile percentage, and earlier upgrade priority. It would be worth considering purchasing 10,000 PQMs to have access to these benefits.
  • 1K. If you’re 50,000 PQMs away from 1K status, it is likely worth spending $500-$600 on PQMs. You’ll be at the top of the upgrade list, earn the most bonus miles, have access to the 1K phone line, earn Regional Premier Upgrades and Global Premier Upgrades, and more. Again, if these are benefits you will use, especially the Global Upgrades, it would be worth spending even more to earn 10,000 PQMs.

Other methods of earning PQMs without flying

There are other ways to earn PQMs without flying, but unfortunately neither are available to new applicants.

Just in case you have the options available and just didn’t realize, here they are:

Presidential Plus Card – With this card, you earn 1,000 PQMs for each $5,000 spent on the card. The PQMs can be used anytime within the calendar year that they are earned as well as for up to three additional years. These PQMs can only be used to obtain up to Platinum status. This card is not open to new applicants (it is a legacy card from Continental Airlines).

United MileagePlus Select Card – Earn up to 5,000 PQMs through spending on You’ll earn 1 bonus PQM per dollar spent on purchases. This card is not open to new applicants (it is a legacy card from United before its merger with Continental).

Hopefully United will choose to match Delta and American, who each have options to earn a substantial number of PQMs via credit card spending on their premium co-brand credit cards like the Delta Reserve card and the Citi Executive AAdvantage.

The following two tabs change content below.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Miles dont expireas long as card is open
Learn more

Partner Offer

50,000 bonus points

Intro Offer

$0 introductory annual fee the first year, then $95

Annual Fee


Foreign Transaction Fee Waived

Yes - transfer to United MileagePlus, Southwest Rapid Rewards, Marriott Rewards, and more

Points Can Transfer to Airline Miles ?

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13 thoughts on How to earn United Premier Qualifying miles without flying

  1. Tandroy Foty

    I’m curious if you have an idea on what the lowest cents per PQM could be. I’ve found 7.2 cents/PQM on domestic business, but nothing lower so far. Admittedly I’m searching for a narrow route (WAS-SEA) but it seems decent.

    Also, what do you think the furthest you can be from 1k status to get bumped up by United? I’ve reached 99,900 and been given 1k status previously, but if I hit 97k, or 98k, any chance of getting 1k?


      @Tandroy – There are some transcons like WAS-LAX for $134 one way in coach that get you closer to 5.7 cents.

  2. Deena

    i have 40,000 miles of flying and 50,000 of PQM. I will most likely travel another 10k miles. If I transfer my PQM now, will United honor that transfer plus the additional real miles of traveling to get to 1k?


      @Deena – Unfortunately these ‘flex PQMs’ from the credit card will only help you get up to Platinum. They don’t count them toward 1K status. So if you transfer 25k of your PQM you would get Platinum.

  3. Wadis

    Ok.. this is going to be a simple dumb question but I gotta ask. In your example, you paid $125 to get 5000 redeemable miles. Now, if you choose to pay the Premier Accelerators for $400, how many PQM do you get from that? 5000 PQMs? Thanks!

  4. Vic

    Do I get more PQM by booking a flight with my United Mileage Explorer Plus Credit card or do only the miles travelled count towards Premier Status?
    Thank you

  5. Ron

    My job changed a few years ago and requires more travel. I didn’t even know what Flexible PQM’s were but because I have a Presidential plus card I had enough to transfer and become gold. Wife and I enjoyed the upgrades. It has since expired. I have 6665 PQM’s and 28118 Flexible Premier qualifying miles. Should I transfer the FPQM’s and upgrade to silver or just save up for the Gold I want. Unfortunately this years travel has been to Iceland where United doest fly. 2018 includes Portugal, Germany, and South Africa so I should be good for the following year. Thanks!


      @Ron – Tough call. If you do the transfer now, the Silver you get would be good for all of 2018. You’d then need to earn another 15k PQMs by December 31 to bump up to Gold for 2018.

      Alternatively, you could do the transfer after January 31st next year, and your Silver status will be good for all of 2018 and 2019. Then if you manage to rack up enough for Gold with your 2018 travels, you’ll get that for the rest of 2018 and into 2019.

  6. Shawn

    If I get a united mileage plus explorer credit card, do those 70,000 miles count as premier qualifying miles on my account?


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