The New Ways of Earning United Miles

Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 1.32.37 AMMarch 1st is around the corner and people are planning out their next status move, so it’s about time I wrote something on United’s new status system and the huge devaluation of earnings.

The bad news is that United moved to a (mostly) revenue based system. Which means that all earnings of miles and status’ are determined by the dollars you spend and not the miles you fly. To show how bad this is for people like us, my last paid international flight would have earned me 1,000 miles. That’s nothing. And equally bad, earning top tier elite status will be impossible without spending $12,000 or more.

Let me first explain how these systems work, and then how to get around them. And make sure you see the chart below on earning United Miles on Star Alliance partners.

More info on status

Earning status in the year of 2015, towards the status you’ll keep all of 2016, you’ll have to meet the following mileage/segment requirements and the cash requirements below them.


You’ll notice that there are two columns. One option is for qualifying miles and cash, and the other is segments and cash.

And again, for top tier status (Premier 1K), you would have to fly 100,000 miles and spend $12,000 on United airlines.

Frankly, this is absurd. If United Airlines itself didn’t suck, this would be the exact same thing as Delta’s program. From my perspective, the only thing that United has going for it is size. Muscle, so to speak. It’s got great hubs and is the US airline of the biggest alliance – Star Alliance.


Earning miles

However, the thing that United has going for it is the miles, routing rules and award chart. It’s pretty awesome simply because there are a ton of Chase cards that can earn United miles (United personal, United Business, Chase Sapphire Preferred, Ink Plus, and the old Ink Bold).

In terms of flying the only way for an American to earn miles on United is with the following earning rates.

Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 12.21.17 AM

That’s right, you’ll be earning 5 miles per dollar. Let’s run a few examples on recent sales:

  • New York to Bali for $700
    • Old program = 22,000 miles earned
    • New program = 3,500 miles earned
  • Chicago to Beijing for $560
    • Old program = 13,000 miles earned
    • New program = 2,800 miles earned
  • New York to Milan for $400
    • Old program = 8,000 miles earned
    • New program = 2,000 miles earned

These are regular fares found on FlyerTalk. Of course, these deals are doubled if you have status on both ends.

But the point that I’m trying to make is that justifying a paid fare by “I’ll be earning miles” is long gone with United. And mileage running with United is a complete joke.

The argument could be that business class could, in their best circumstances, earn more miles. Of course, the best circumstances on a revenue ticket is that the ticket is really expensive. Which makes it painfully obvious that United intends (wishfully thinks) on getting a large slice of the business travelers’ pie that Delta is dominating. Business travelers don’t care about fare classes and the price of the ticket is buried in bureaucracy.


Ways around revenue based anything

Non-US Based

On the page talking about earning status, it basically says two things. 1) You have to meet the mileage/segment requirements. And 2) IF you live in the US, you have to meet the revenue requirements as well.

I only see this on the status page and not the earning page, so my assumption (correct me if I’m wrong) is that non-US people can more easily earn status, but they’ll still be earning miles at a crappy rate.

If you live in the United States, you also have to meet a minimum annual spending level.

Seems to me that as long as the address on your account is not in the US, you’ll be fine to earn status again without these requirement. This on its own seems useless as who wants to mileage run for a status that doesn’t earn miles? Tons of other airlines can give Star Alliance status and upgrades.

So changing your address isn’t really something I would care to do because I’m not going for status, and even if I was going for Star Alliance status, it wouldn’t be via United anymore.


Fly Star Alliance Partners

The good news of this entire thing is that Star Alliance partners will still earn miles.

Tickets for flights operated by a Star Alliance™ or MileagePlus partner airline that aren’t issued by United (ticket numbers that don’t start with “016”) will still earn award miles based on distance flown and the purchased fare class.

To me this is the best option for crediting miles to United. Look, no one wants to actually fly United anyways, so this seems like the best of both worlds. Fly someone else and still earn miles.

However, they have devalued some of their partners in the process of making sure they screw over their customers… so I made a chart so you can find which Star Alliance airlines still earn 100% miles. Mind you that most cheap tickets are discount economy.


Complete Chart of Earning United Miles on Star Alliance Partners

Discount Economy Economy Business First
Adria 50% 100% 100% 125%
Aegean 100% 100% 125%
Air Canada 25%* – 100% 100% – 125% 150% – 175%
Air China 0% – 50% 100% 125% 150%
Air India 50% 100% 125% 150%
Air New Zealand 100% 100% 100% 125%
ANA 100% 125% 150% – 175% 250%
Asiana 70% 100% 100% – 135% 150% – 200%
Austrian 100% 100% – 125% 100% – 150% 175%
Avianca 50% 100% 100% – 125%
Brussels 100% 100% – 125% 150% – 175%
Copa 100% 100% – 125% 150% – 175%
Croatia 50% 100% 125%
EgpytAir 25% – 50% 100% 125% 150%
Ethiopian 100% 100% 125%
EVA 50% – 100% 100% 125%
LOT 25% – 70% 100% 125%
Lufthansa 0%** – 100% 100% – 150% 100% – 175% 250%
Scandanavian 100% 100% – 175% 175%
Schenzen 0% – 50% 100% 125% 150%
Singapore 100% 100% 100% – 125% 150%
South African 50% 100% 125%
Swiss 100% 125% 150% – 175% 250%
TAP 50% 100% 125%
Thai 100% 125% 150%
Turkish 100% 100% 100% – 125%

* Flights within Canada and between Canada and the U.S., Central America, Mexico or the Caribbean.

** Discount economy (T, L) flights within Europe on Lufthansa do not earn miles.



United will never be the same agreed. But if you aren’t going for status, that doesn’t mean that crediting miles towards United to top off, won’t be a great idea. And even if you really do want to keep status and earn miles for another… you basically just have to be a Canadian and never actually fly on United.

As I said, not flying United is hardly a punishment. Heck, since your now Canadian, Air Canada seems to earn 100% miles.

I hope this helps some United flyers out in planning the next year. For the rest of you, I’ll see you in the AA lounge.

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  1. Is there any way that flights with United can earn miles based on distance if credited to a Star Alliance partner? The reason I ask is that I see so many deals from LAX to international destinations that, unfortunately, are on United (rather than one of their partners).

    • Yes! Each mileage program has their own rules and guidelines. United defines earning by $, and most airlines define it by miles flown. So just make sure the partner you are crediting to earns 100% for United flights.

  2. Sitting in Dubai and looking at my 1K statement for this flight. Total miles for the trip with bonus now is 28,000 round trip (14K flown plus bonus 14K). Beginning in March and based on the fare paid it drops to 11,000 round trip.

    Also do you know if they still have the waver for credit card spending? I think last year if you spent $25,000 on credit card you had the spending limit waved.

    Of course, my favorite thing are “flex miles” which I can use to upgrade to a flyer level but NOT from Premier to 1K. So I have 53,000 flex miles sitting in my account. Might actually get to use them if I decide to REALLY give American Airlines a try later this year (should I?!?)

    One can’t help but think what is next: changing frequent flyer programs into clubs where miles aren’t even part of the equation: “Pay us $12,000 to join our 1K club…complete with lounge access, four domestic upgrades, six international upgrades and up to 100,000 flight miles. Please note no refund for unused miles.”

    • I site searched “” for “credit card” and found nothing about waiving that requirement. Unfortunately.

      As to whether or not you should join AA, I might that depends so much on personal priorities, routes need, and what not.

      In terms of people who care about earning miles… if you’re not going to meet the spend via business travel, then AA is a better choices. There are interesting options like Alaska, but I can’t use the upgrades cuz I don’t fly alaska.

  3. Hi, I have a question about doing the reverse of what you detail in this post. Can you take a flight with United Airlines and credit it to a Star Alliance partner earning miles based on distance flown? The reason I ask is that there are many decently priced international United flights from LAX. I’d like to still be able to earn distance-based miles for these flights, even if it’s with another airline.

    • Wondering the same. Have been doing some research into which *A will earn miles based on distance flown on UA AND have a relatively easy hurdle when it comes to rolling miles over past expiration dates. If you have any ideas, please do share.

    • Yes, you can credit to other programs. So many good Star Alliance programs. Just make sure you go ahead and look at the details for earning with that partner. Need to find the chart that shows how much you would earn when flying United. And read if there are any route restrictions.

      But if it’s 100% for discount economy, and it’s a good program… definitely credit the partner.

  4. TP,
    Got a targeted offer today from UA saying that I could buy Silver status for 2015 for $2749, or 2015 Silver plus 5000PQM/5 PQS toward 2016 status for $3449. Not sure if that is worth while for someone that uses UA a couple times a year and typically get tickets using miles. I would value your thoughts.

    • Got something similar yesterday, although it was $949 for 2015 Silver.

  5. Question about this:

    In the example you used,
    New York to Bali for $700
    Old program = 22,000 miles earned
    New program = 3,500 miles earned

    Under the new program, do you get 22,000 towards status, and 3,500 redeemable, or 3,500 for both redeemable and for status?

    • Status is still based on miles flown.

    • Right, you Premier Qualifying Miles. Basically the only thing the traditional “mileage flown” is good for is also meeting the status requirements. I assume 99.9% of people will hit the flown requirements long before the spend requirement.

  6. Hi Drew,

    You you think it would make sense to start assigning all flown United flight miles to another Star Alliance program instead? Say Aeroplan or ANAs program?

    • Assuming you need to fly United since you live in a hub airport and prefer direct flights for business trips?

    • If it were me, I would credit to a partner, given that partner earns 100%.
      Aegean is a popular credit to get *A Gold status quickly. But the chart isn’t appearing in my browser?
      Anyone see how much United earns?

      Aeroplan gives 50% for “S, T, L, K, G, N”. 30%-50% with ANA.

      So it can be tough. But depends on your fare, but most good fares are the bottom.

  7. 2014 and 2015 PQD Waiver: In 2014 and 2015, the PQD requirement is waived for Premier Silver, Premier Gold and Premier Platinum qualification for members (i) whose address with MileagePlus is within the 50 United States or the District of Columbia; and (ii) who during the applicable calendar year have spent at least $25,000 in Net Purchases, on a MileagePlus co-branded credit card issued by Chase Bank USA, N.A. at the time in 2014 or 2015 when they qualify for Premier status. There is no PQD waiver for Premier 1K qualification. Only the primary Cardmember is eligible for the PQD waiver. “Net Purchases” are purchases of goods and services made by you or any authorized user on your account minus any returns or refunds, and do not include balance transfers, cash advances, cash-like charges such as travelers checks, foreign currency, and money orders, any checks that are used to access your account, overdraft advances, interest, unauthorized or fraudulent charges, or fees of any kind, including an annual fee, if applicable. Purchases made by authorized users will qualify toward the primary Cardmember’s Net Purchases total but authorized users are not eligible for the PQD Waiver. If the primary Cardmember has multiple MileagePlus Chase credit cards, Net Purchases on those cards will be combined to calculate the $25,000 spend for the PQD waiver. For MileagePlus Chase Credit Card members who open an account in 2014 or 2015, the “Calendar Year” includes only the portion of the year from the date when the Cardmember’s credit card account is approved through December 31 of the same year. Therefore, the Cardmember may have less than 12 months in 2014 or 2015 to qualify for the PQD Waiver.

  8. Hi Drew, appologize for being an idiot, but when you mention: “…Fly someone else and still earn miles. ” Does this mean…simply fly another airline e.g. Air Canada but still use my existing United Mileage Plus number …or do you mean get an Air Canada Aeroplan number and use that? Thanks!

  9. Just drop the whole program.
    Why even bother.
    Even if you are top status,how does this help you,cause anyone that has this status doesn’t have a care in the world on how much the ticket cost.

    Take a train,car ,boat, or walk .

  10. In addition to the earning chart United provides for each of their partners, they also include the phrase “All other fare classes do not accrue mileage”, but you don’t address this anywhere. Are you implying that all publicly available paid fare classes should be listed in each partner’s chart? If not, it seems like there is the potential to earn 0% on any of United’s partners due to the inclusion of that short phrase.

  11. Forget United. They just had a great deal to Bali, $695 RT from Washington DC. Three of the four flights were on ANA (thank God), one was on United.

    Unlike what some people have suggested above, the miles flown does actually count toward your PQM earnings – I got 20,162 PQMs toward the 25,000 total I’ll need by the end of the year. HOWEVER, as far as award miles, I only got 1665. HOW ABSURD IS THAT. 465 of those were on United, the rest on ANA. So the chart above that someone shared suggesting 100% of ANA miles flown still get credit to United, that’s 100% untrue. And that’s absolutely absurd to me.

    United used to give you the award miles and skimp on PQMs, now it’s the exact opposite. I would go to American in a heartbeat if it wasn’t for the Star Alliance. I mean as a part of this merger AA has invested in new aircraft, renovated interiors on old aircraft, their own take on economy plus called Main Cabin Extra, and they’re working on getting Wifi on all planes/in-flight entertainment on all planes/power on all planes.

    If only I had been a US Airways dividend miles member – they used to be a part of the Star Alliance too and their routes used to be more convenient for me anyway. They made it incredibly easy to achieve preferred status. I could have become preferred, then once the merger was announced I would have become preferred on American and I wouldn’t have to deal with this mess.

    My only concern now is that to switch to American my “lifetime miles” on United would go to waste. But then again, the same would be true if I moved to another airline’s loyalty program in the Star Alliance. I suppose I’ll have to look them all up and pick one – at this point I’ll still be able to get silver on that new airline by the end of the year – but if only I’d made this decision pre-Bali, I would’ve been able to get gold!

  12. The new rules are actually great in you are in the right situation. If you are a business traveler buying business class tickets then you get rewarded with heaps of mileage plus award miles (dollar spend times 11 for 1K members) and in 2016 you also get 200% of the miles flown for PQM (status miles). This system is United actually appreciating the people that make the revenue for the airlines… not just people trolling for cheap fare and sitting in a seat for mile runs.


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