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How to earn United Premier Qualifying miles without flying

by on Tue December 20, 2016 • 34 Comments
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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 United.com.
  • 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.

pqmbuyshot

  • 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 United.com. You’ll earn 1 bonus PQM per dollar spent on United.com 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.

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Partner Offer

50,000 bonus points

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

Annual Fee

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

  1. PV

    Currently i’m at silver status Is it worth purchasing Gold status @ $1600 for the rest of 2018? if I do one round-trip a month in 2018

    Reply
    1. MileCards.com

      @PV – You’re basically paying an extra $100 per roundtrip for the benefits (instant Economy Plus seats mostly).

      Reply
  2. Rob Williams

    Hi — Thanks for the post on United qualifying miles. I have a Presidential Plus card, and anticipate receiving enough Flex EQMs in the next month to go over 50K Flex EQMs.

    I have not flown United at all in 2017 but do plan to fly United a fair amount in 2018. I wonder if I am able to apply all 50,000 of my Flex EQMs this month, and thereby attain Premier Gold status on United for the 2018 calendar year and also the 2019 calendar year (the Gold status would expire February 28, 2020, right)? I am considering transferring these Flex EQMs this month, but I am hesitant because I worry that United has some “gotchas” in doing the above. As a Presidential Plus cardholder, I should be waived from all PQD and PQS requirements, right?

    Many thanks!

    Reply
  3. Steve

    Greetings – if I purchase a flight today and choose the Premier Accelerator will the miles post today 12/31/17 as to count towards my 2018 status?

    Reply
  4. Mark Larsen

    If I read correctlyUnited’s 24 hour cancellation applies only to flights made more than a week out, right?
    Since it’s less than a week until the end of the year, I’d have to book a flight at least for at least 1/4/18 or later?
    If I book a flight today but make it for 1/5/18 for example, then choose the Premier Accelerator, wait an hour and then cancel the flight, will the Accelerator PQM still count for 2017 or does it roll to 2018 since that was when the flight was supposed to be?

    Reply
  5. chris m

    If I put 18,000 flex miles into my account in January 2018 then I would only need 72,000 more to reach platinum but would need the full 100,000 to reach 1K status for 2019? BTW I am already a 1K for 2018.

    Reply
    1. MileCards.com

      @chris – If you put 18k flex miles in January, you’d need 57k more (75k – 18k) to qualify for Platinum. For 1k yes you’d need the full 100k and need to meet the spending requirement (PQDs).

      Reply
  6. Tom

    I have purchased a flight to get 2000 PQMs with the premier accelerator option on, with the intent of refunding it later in the day, but I’ve now looked at my account and it says it has added 0 PQMs today. What’s gone wrong?

    Date Description Activity
    12/18/2017 MileagePlus Award Accelerator 2,000
    12/18/2017 MileagePlus Premier Accelerator 0

    Reply
    1. MileCards.com

      @Tom – Not clear from what you’ve reported – that looks like 2,000 were added. Usually a subtraction would have a parenthesis like (2,000).

      Reply
    2. ECee

      I just had the same experience. It showed 2,000 award miles credited about 30 minutes after purchase, but 0 premier miles credited for now.

      Tom, how long did your premier miles take to post? Were you still able to cancel the flight and retain the premier miles within 24 hours?

      Reply
    1. MileCards.com

      @Dallas: No; transferred miles will not count towards PQM requirements. The only way to earn those is through flying.

      Reply
  7. Norman

    Do miles transferred from another mileage account count towards PQM award status of the mileage account receiving the miles?

    Reply
    1. MileCards.com

      @Norman: No; transferred miles will not count towards PQM requirements. The only way to earn those is through flying.

      Reply
  8. Adam

    I am about 2,750 miles PQM miles away from Silver but the only flight I will be taking the rest of the year is with Etihad for work purposes. What is the best way to obtain these miles without physically flying? (Believe me I’ve tried to get the work flight changed but has been impossible!)

    Reply
    1. MileCards.com

      @Adam: Unfortunately, United does not offer any ways to purchase Premier Qualifying Miles outside of using the Premier Accelerator when flying on a United flight.

      Reply
  9. Mike

    Hi
    I am from Europe and after my vacation to Hawaii I have 17.665 Miles and I am thinking about buying more Miles to reach the 25.000 PQM.

    What can I do now, how much would it cost? Is it really worth?

    thank you for you help
    Mike

    Reply
  10. 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?

    Reply
    1. MileCards.com

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

      Reply
  11. 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?

    Reply
    1. MileCards.com

      @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.

      Reply
  12. 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!

    Reply
  13. Vic

    Hi,
    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

    Reply
  14. 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!

    Reply
    1. MileCards.com

      @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.

      Reply
  15. Shawn

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

    Reply

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