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Does United Premier Silver status get you any decent benefits?

by on Tue July 5, 2016 • 55 Comments


It’s easy to get your mind set on reaching top tier airline status, because who doesn’t want to have the highest elite status level? But before you get there, you need to start at the bottom, which can still land you some decent perks. Here are the details you need to know about United Silver status, the entry level in United’s MileagePlus Premier program.

If you fly United a lot, you’ll also be interested in these articles about MileagePlus:

How to Qualify for United Premier Silver Status

You can qualify for United Premier Silver status in one of two ways:

  • Fly 25,000 miles (PQM) and spend $3,000 (PQD) (if you are a US resident) on United or United partners within one calendar year (i.e. January 1, 2017 – December 31, 2017)

  • Fly 30 segments (PQS) and spend $3,000 (PQD) (if you are a US resident) on United or United partners within one calendar year (i.e. January 1, 2017 – December 31, 2017)

Of that flying, at least four segments must be on United or United Express versus partner flights.

The Premier Qualifying Dollar (PQD) requirement can be waived in 2016 if you are a cardholder of one of the United co-branded credit cards issued by Chase and you spend at least $25,000 on your credit card within a calendar year. Note that the PQD waiver does not apply for United 1K (top-tier) status. It is not yet known if the PQD waiver will be available in 2017 and beyond.

What Does United Premier Silver Status Get You?

If you qualify for United Premier Silver status you will have the following benefits:

  • Complimentary access to Economy Plus seating at check-in. This is probably the best benefit of having United Premier status. Economy Plus seating can sell for as little as $20 on short flights and as much as $200 on longer flights. With Premier Silver Status you will have access for free upon check-in for your flight, which you can do 24 hours before your previous flight. The benefits of Economy Plus are having extra legroom and being more near to the front of the plane.

  • One Economy Plus Companion (on the same reservation). If you are traveling with a companion on the same reservation, your companion will also have access to Economy Plus seating for free at check-in time for the flight.

  • Complimentary Premier upgrades on day of departure. Don’t count on a lot of upgrades with United Premier Silver status, but it could happen. Those with higher status level come before United Silvers on the upgrade priority list, so if there are upgrades available at all it is likely that they will go to someone with higher status. United has made a point of selling many empty first class seats at a discount during check-in, so less first class seats are available for upgrades on the average flight compared with a few years back.

  • Complimentary Premier companion upgrades on day of departure. If there are seats available for an upgrade, your companion will also be eligible to receive an upgrade to first class.

  • Instant upgrades on Y- or B-class full-fare economy tickets. For flights that are eligible for complimentary upgrades (flights within North America without a ‘BusinessFirst’ / Polaris cabin), if you’re buying ‘Y’ or ‘B’ coach fares, which are the two highest fares, you can get upgraded instantly if upgrade space is available. Upgrade space comes out of the ‘PN’ fare class, which you can read about here. Many discount fares cost much less than ‘Y’ and ‘B’ fares, and this is not eligible on those. A lot of the time though buying a first class fare will be cheaper than buying a ‘Y’ or ‘B’ fare and upgrading so this benefit has limited value.

  • 500 PQM minimum accrual. Whenever you fly, you will earn at least 500 miles toward your Premier Qualifying Miles. This means that even if you are taking a very short flight that is only 201 miles, you will earn 500 miles. If you were a base level member, you would only earn 201.

  • 7x fare redeemable mile accrual. United now gives redeemable miles based on the cost of the ticket rather than the distance that you fly. Base-level members only receive 5 redeemable United miles per dollar spent, but as a Premier Silver member you will receive 2 additional redeemable miles per dollar spent.

  • One free 50 lb checked bag allowance for economy flights. If you frequently check bags, this can save you a lot of money if you don’t already have another way to get a free checked bag. You can also get free checked bags by holding one of the United MileagePlus credit cards. And note this is only available for flights operated by United, and not guaranteed for partner airline flights.

  • No fee to make changes to award travel 21 or more days from departure (non-status fee: $75), $50 to make award change within 21 days of departure (non-status fee: $100). This is really helpful because it lets you make simple date changes to awards in case your plans change. But you can’t change the type of your award, or you’ll incur a cancellation fee.
  • $50 reduced close-in award booking fee (non-status fee: $75).
  • $125 reduced award cancellation fee (non-status fee: $200).
  • Priority check-in, security screening, boarding, and baggage handling. You’ll board in Group 2, which includes Chase United Explorer credit card holders and Premier Gold level fliers.

  • Premier priority desk phone line.

  • Access to most sold out flights. If you want to buy the most expensive full fare ticket, you can buy a ticket on flights that are already sold out in coach.

  • Priority award waitlisting. You’ll be ahead of non-Premiers when you waitlist for Saver level award seats.

  • Standby for international awards.

  • Unrestricted access to United Standard Awards on United and United Express operated flights.

  • Better availability for United Saver Awards in Economy. This gets you access to ‘XN’ inventory awards, which are more often available than awards for non-Premier member fliers. Chase United MileagePlus Explorer credit card holders also get access to this inventory.

These benefits will be applicable for the rest of the year that you qualify and the entire following year, and January of the year after that.

For example, if you qualify for United Premier Silver Status in August of 2016, your status will be valid from August 2016 to December 2016, all of 2017, and January of 2018. While your status benefits will still be valid in January of 2018, if you want to requalify for status beyond then all requirements must be met by the end of 2017.

What is United Premier Silver Status Worth?

The most valuable benefits that you get for having Premier Silver Status are, for most, access to EconomyPlus seating, a free checked bag, and reduced award fees. The EconomyPlus benefit alone could get you $1,000 or more a year in value versus paying for EconomyPlus on its own.

Economy Plus Seating Access

Even if you only fly United a couple of times a year, you could easily save a few hundred dollars on Economy Plus seating access alone. Economy Plus seating usually sells for as little as $20 on short flights but fees can reach $200 for long-haul international flights.

Both yourself and a traveling companion booked on the same ticket can have access to Economy Plus seating at check-in time for your flight, which is 24 hour prior to the first flight on the itinerary. At that point in time, you will have access to Economy Plus seating for all flights on your itinerary, even if some flights are further than 24 hours from then.

While not everyone finds EconomyPlus necessary, it is nice to have a couple of extra inches of legroom and be closer to the front of the plane, especially if it doesn’t cost you anything extra.

The one problem you could run into with EconomyPlus seating is that there are no guarantees that there will be EconomyPlus seats available upon check-in for your flight.

Those with higher status levels get access to EconomyPlus seating sooner than Premier Silver members, and people with no status can buy EconomyPlus seating at any time.

Those with status, of course, also have the option to purchase Economy Plus seating earlier than they would have access to it for free, but there are no refunds for EconomyPlus seating even if there are still seats available at the point when you would have access to it for free.

It’s rare you’ll find a seta with no EconomyPlus seats available at all, but you may run into situations where only middle seats are available in Economy Plus. Then, of course, the question is: middle seat with extra legroom or window/aisle seat with less?

If you usually purchase EconomyPlus, United Premier Silver status could easily save you hundreds of dollars per year. If you wouldn’t otherwise purchase EconomyPlus seating, having access to the seating for free because of your status won’t save you money, but it will, at least slightly, increase the comfort of your journey.

Free Checked Bag

Having access to free checked bags through Premier Silver status isn’t going to be helpful to everyone, but it could help some.

If you primarily fly internationally, you likely already have a free checked bag included in your ticket.

If you have the United MileagePlus Explorer or United Club credit cards issued by Chase, you already have a free checked bag benefit that will not be expanded by having status, rather the benefits will overlap. You can find out more about credit cards that offer a free checked bag benefit in our guide.

The free checked bag benefit is mainly going to benefit those that primarily fly domestically and don’t already receive a free checked bag as a credit card benefit. If that sounds like you, being able to check a bag for free through your status will save you at least $25 per one-way domestic flight.

Reduced Award Fees

If you book a lot of award travel, award fees can add up depending on how you do it. While there’s no overall award booking fee that applies to all itineraries, you will run into a lot of fees if you book last minute or if you make changes to or cancel an award fee. As a United Premier Silver member, you generally won’t receive a fee waiver, but you will receive reduced award fees.

Booking an award last minute (21 days or less prior to departure) will only cost you $50 instead of $75.

Making a change to an award within 21 days or departure will cost you $50 instead of $100. If you make that change more than 21 days prior to departure, the change can be made for free instead of $75. If you have to cancel an award, the charge will be $125 instead of $200.

Depending on your award travel habits, these fees may or may not make a difference to you at all, but the change fees alone could save you a good chunk of money or help you get a better routing for no fee.

Say that you are looking to travel with your family over spring break. You find availability for the dates you want, and while it’s not ideal, you book it anyway because you know that spring break is a tough time for award travel.

Two weeks later, better flights become available. If you didn’t have status, it would cost you $300 to make this change for a family of four assuming your flights were still more than 21 days away. With United Premier Silver status, you would be able to make this change for free. If this change was made within 21 days of departure, not having status would cost $400, while having status would only cost $200 for a family of four.

Depending on how you use your miles, this might not save you any money, but it could save you a couple hundred dollars per year and/or help you change your flights to more desirable itineraries after making your initial booking.


What About Upgrades to First Class?

In short: don’t count on them.

Members with 1K, Premier Platinum, and Premier Gold status are all going to be higher than you on the upgrade list. Even those members have been finding upgrades harder and harder to come by over the years as United tries to increase revenues by selling unbooked first class seats at a discount to those who have booked economy tickets during check-in.

Airlines, including United, have also been decreasing the cost of booking first class from the get-go on a whole.

It’s definitely not worth booking extra flights to hit United Premier Silver status with the hope of getting upgrades to first class, but depending on your travel patterns the other benefits of Silver status could make it worth it.

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55 thoughts on Does United Premier Silver status get you any decent benefits?

  1. Sarah

    If you are Premier Silver and you purchase an Economy ticket (with cash not miles).

    If you don’t want to wait to see if you get a complimentary upgrade, can you pay $$ to upgrade the ticket at a lower cost than non-Premier?

  2. Nathan

    I had 27,000 premier qualifying miles but only $1600 premiere qualifying dollars for 2017. I can’t see it as worth it to purchase silver for $1400 when I only fly 4 or so times/year but maybe I’m missing something? Is it worth it to sign up for a qualifying credit card to get the dollars requirement waived? I’m not sure how I didn’t hit this requirement either as I purchased a round trip business class ticket to SE Asia this past year on the United website.

  3. Nicky

    My silver status runs out at the end of January but I don’t fly till Feb 8th. Can I pay to extend my stays until my flight date?

  4. Jeff W

    Question about bags. I’m about to get Silver status for 2018, and understanding the first bag is free (on domestic flights), what is the fee scale for 2nd and 3rd bags? Does it reset at $25 for the second and $35 for the 3rd, or is it just a waived fee for bag #1 and the bag #2 is $35 and bag #3 is $100?


      @Anne – It’s unfortunate, as they’ve been slow renovating clubs, and the renovations create more situations with no room for one time pass holders.

  5. Anne

    I am a united silver elite member. Does the benefit of selecting an economy plus seat apply for international flights to Asia?

      1. Sally

        Yes, you get the benefit as Silver for you and ONE companion. Just flew on United last week as a Silver and got free Economy Plus!

  6. Ty

    Thanks for the great information! Once I hit Silver status, will I still be offered the option for a paid upgrade at the time of booking or when I check in for the flight?


      @Ty – Yes you will. There are some reports the offers are different for people with elite status (unfortunately – some report higher bids) but nothing consistent to confirm.

  7. Alma De Guzman

    I just qualified for Premier Silver today September 21, 2017. Based on what I have read, it was stated that the benefits from being United Premier Silver status will be applicable for the rest of this year, all the following year (2018) and January after that year.
    But when I looked on my account , the expiration on the card is January 2018.
    So I am confused. Will I enjoy these benefits for 3 months only?

  8. Amy

    I have a flight booked in Nov that will earn me Silver status. I am also planning a trip in Feb 2018 and am wondering if I should wait until I earn Silver status in November to book the flights to utilize the 7x redeemable mile accrual or can I buy the flight now and the accruals will adjust once I earn status and/or flight is complete.

  9. sam

    I have 21000 miles and need 4000 to complete my 25k milies and get my united silver card
    Do you think its worth it to buy 4000 miles now and get the card or is it going to expire anyways by the end of the year. because im not thinking of traveling untill next year


      @Sam – Depends on how much it costs to buy 4,000 premier qualifying miles. That’s probably going to be very expensive. How much are you seeing?

    2. Alex

      Miles purchased do not count towards premier status. You will have to earn 4,000 miles either by flying or by using a mileage plus credit card.

  10. Jimmy Castillo

    Hello, I’m currently at silver with united on the match up program and have 90 days to earn 7,000 PQM or 6 flights (4 of them on UA). My question is I have a LAX-EWR-FCO roundtrip and I booked out with a electronic certicate that was given to me for a inconvenience, will that qualified me for the PQM’s?


      @Jimmy – Yes it will as long as the fare you purchased earns PQMs – they treat using an electronic certificate like paying with cash.

  11. Nacho

    I have 24982 miles and I’m booking a 2 stops one way flight.

    If instead of having 1 reservation I go for 2 reservations being the 1st one for the first stop and another one for the remaining part of the flight (all of that on the same day), would that give me the silver status for the second reservation already?
    Or does it take 48/72 hours to post the miles (and status change) in my account? Is it retroactive?



      @Nacho – Unfortunately it can take some time for the miles to post, so probably wouldn’t get instant status after that first flight.

  12. kimey

    Hello. As a premier silver status holder, I understand a companion on your same reservation will also be eligible for complimentary access to Economy Plus at the time of check-in. Is there any way to extend that benefit to a friend who is traveling on a separate reservation? Or is there a way to add a companion to your reservation (if that companion has separately purchased the same flight )?


      @kimey – You can call during the check in window to request that or if they can’t handle over the phone do it at the airport. But the least hassle and most certainty is to just book together in one reservation.

  13. Marco Tulio Vegas

    I just became a premier silver with united. I am aware that complimentary upgrades are difficult to clear for the lowest status. My reservation is currently from SAP-IAH which those flights usually have many empty seats on United Business. I read that my upgrade might be confirmed on the Day of Departure. What does that mean? Is it 24 hours before the departure? will I be added to the standby list 24 hours till departure and just wait till there are empty seats and wait for my upgrade?


      @Marco – It’s both. Sometimes it could clear at 24 hours, other times it may wait until the very end at the gate, or anytime in between.

  14. David

    I have United CC and as a platinum member at Marriott I am a UAL Silver. Just booked wife and I Chicago to Munich 21 days in advance. Looks like lots of economy plus seats left but I spent $169 each to upgrade. Lots of first class seats left too. By upgrading to economy plus did I give myself a better chance to snag first/business seats or did I waste money. I.e. Will I have a better chance over all other Elites that only purchased economy. Should I have just booked economy and probably would have been upgraded to economy plus anyway. Thx.


      @David – Unfortunately no advantage for first class upgrades buying economy plus. Also on the long haul international flights there are no free upgrades for elites except the occasional times coach is completely full and they need to move people up.

  15. Mark C

    I have United Premier Silver via Marriott Platinum. If I’m flying on a codeshare such as Air Canada (booked through MileagePlus awards) would I still get the free checked bag for myself and a companion?


      @Marck C – There is no free bag benefit for Silvers on other airlines so unlikely you will get a free bag on Air Canada, even on a United ticket. If your first flight is on United though you’ll get the free bag.

  16. Irene Bews

    I am a silver premier plus member and have recently booked a codeshare flight from U.K. To Brazil. Do I still get ‘same day’ economy plus upgrades?


      @Irene – If a United flight is involved, then yes on the United flight. But for other airlines it won’t apply, but never hurts to call and ask for an exit row or bulkhead, or check for one at checkin or the airport.

  17. Steven Parkinson

    Just two clarifications:

    If I get silver status, I will only potentially get upgrades on domestic flights, not, say on a flight from San Francisco to Japan?

    And I need to pay full economy fare, which can be twice as much as the cheapest economy, without any guarantee of the upgrade?


      @Steven – That’s right, just on domestic flights and to Central America / Canada / the Caribbean.

      No need to pay the full economy fare to be eligible for upgrades. As long as it’s not the very cheapest ‘basic economy’ fare you’ll be in line for an upgrade.


      @Kevin – If you don’t have it now, once you earn it, it’s good for the rest of the year, and all of the following year. So if you earn it in May, you’ll have it until the end of the year, and all of 2018.


          @Dana – Phone agents we’ve asked say it’s still in place for the $25k spend on the Explorer or Club cards.

  18. Alan

    Hi, I am curious about the actual differences between the United Silver level vs the Chase United Card benefits. From reading flyertalk forums and elsewhere it seems that the only real benefit of silver is that you have access to the Economy Plus option at checkin if it is even available. Otherwise the perks of bag or early boarding or saver award bookings all apply to the credit card option. If that is truly the case, then gaining silver has very little benefit for a card holder. Could you compare?

  19. Mary M

    Regarding access to economy plus seating 24 hours/at check-in – is it free? Whenever I check in on line – there is a fee for economy plus and I am a Premier Silver member.
    Please help me understand if it is free or at a reduced cost?


      @Mary – Strange – it should be free at check-in – that is a published benefit. Are you sure your Premier Silver number is in the reservation?

      1. Charles wheeler

        Similar question. Once I check in on line can I then go to seat selection on line and pick any economy plus seat at no charge?

  20. Pat McGibbon

    Hi all,

    It looks like I qualify for United Silver via Marriott offer because I’ve hit Platinum with them.

    I’m looking to travel to Billings next year from London for cycle trip in Yellowstone.

    As far as I can tell, I qualify for first free checked bag in any case even on an economy fare. So, in terms of the free checked bag “benefit” for Silver, how is it a benefit if it’s on offer with even the cheapest economy ticket, irrespective of Premium level?

    Second part to the question – anyone got experience of bringing outsized/sports bags with United. One of my connections is only 45 minutes and I’m nervous about showing up at the other end without my bike. It would be way worse than the normal inconvenience of losing a bag and having it show up at your hotel a day or so later….


      @Pat – 45 minutes is tight, probably too tight for an international to domestic connection. You would retrieve your bike at the first connection in the US because you need to carry it through customs clearance, then check it in again.

      As for the free bag benefit, it’s primarily of use to domestic flyers, where they charge for the first bag on trips that don’t have an international component.


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