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Ultimate Rewards tickets on United might not earn PQDs or be upgradable

by on Tue September 8, 2015 • 4 Comments


One of the cool things about the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal is the ability to use your points to pay for some or all of plane tickets available on the portal.

Usually, those tickets work just like cash tickets you’d buy directly from the airline.

You can earn miles when you fly and enjoy your elite status benefits.

But there is an important exception with United Airlines.

Tickets you buy via the Ultimate Rewards website might be coded as ‘Bulk’ fares according to reports on Flyertalk. ‘Bulk’ fares are the kind pre-purchased by big travel consolidators like Priceline or Hotwire on the cheap and resold to consumers.

If that’s the case, you won’t be able to earn any Premier Qualifying Dollars toward Premier status, and you might not be able to upgrade your flight with miles or certificates.


You’ll still earn regular flight miles, though instead of earning based on the price of your ticket, you’ll earn based on how far you fly.

That’s because United has a different mileage earning structure for bulk fares, which in some cases could mean you’ll earn more regular flight miles than with a regular, non-bulk ticket.

For example, if you buy a $350 ticket from Los Angeles to New York, you’d earn 5x the fare or 1,750 miles roundtrip if it’s a regular, non bulk fare.

But as a bulk fare you’d earn 50% of the miles flown, or 2,500 miles roundtrip in your MileagePlus account.

The catch is you won’t earn any Premier Qualifying Dollars.

Unfortunately there’s no reliable way to tell if the Chase site is selling you a bulk fare.

Often a bulk fare could be the very same price as the regular fare you might find on United’s own website.

And sometimes tickets purchased via the Ultimate Rewards site are regular fares that earn full Premier Qualifying Dollars and have no upgrade restrictions.

Which makes the whole issue quite maddening if you’re trying to earn United Premier elite status.

So all we can gather is don’t expect a United ticket booked via the Chase portal to act like one purchased directly from United. If you’re not in the hunt for United Premier status or trying to upgrade, it won’t matter, and in some cases you’ll come out ahead in miles earned.

But if you are, be aware you might not earn any Premier qualifying dollars, and might not be able to upgrade your ticket with miles or certificates.


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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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4 thoughts on Ultimate Rewards tickets on United might not earn PQDs or be upgradable

  1. Elizabeth

    I too have been impacted with zero PDQ for ticket booked through United Vacations. They did not disclose the details, and I assumed that United Vacations was a subsidiary of United Airlines.

    Will one get PDQ credit if you use the vouchers issued by United to buy a ticket?

    Thanks for your guidance.


      @Elizabeth – Sorry to hear about that. If you use vouchers to buy a ticket directly from United, yes you will get PQD according to the fare.

  2. horsesforever

    I have experienced the non PDQ flights on United booked through Chase. Once on a United flight to London–no PDQ. On a United Express flight to Norfolk I did earn PDQ. Both were booked via Chase Ultimate rewards. Both had “016” issued tickets. The short Norfolk flight was first so I had no qualms about booking the longer more expensive London flight via Ultimate rewards. I was very surprised and unhappy when no PDQ appeared on my Mileage Plus statement. United said tough luck.

    I also took a trip to Aruba on UAL and booked through United vacations. This UAL flight did not earn PDQ either, though it had a “016” ticket. None of these three experiences was clear to me before booking.

    I now only use the official UAL website for booking air travel. I will never use United vacations again and I now use the United Mileage Plus Club card until I get $25000 charged then I switch to Chase Sapphire except for UAL flights.

    It is sure difficult to stay on top of the ever changing air travel rules of airlines, TSA, CBP etc. But I guess that is how the airlines and governments want it.


      @horsesforever – Thanks for the heads up on that – United vacations (and the other airline vacation arms) sometimes use ‘bulk’ fares that the United PQD system unfortunately doesn’t pick up. It’s really not well disclosed on the vacations site.


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