16 Aug Is United Premier Gold Worth a Mileage Run?

I have United Premier Gold status, but only through August 25th! I have the ability to retain this Premier Gold status through January 2019, but I need to complete just one more roundtrip flight!

Unfortunately for me, I do not have any planned travel in this next week.

I have two choices – 1) Drop out of the United status ranks and miss out on this United Premier Gold opportunity… OR 2) Mileage Run!

Before we start running though, let me back up and start from the beginning…

How did I get here?

First came the Status Challenge – This past May, I decided to participate in a United MileagePlus Premier Status Match Challenge. I offered up my Alaska MileagePlan MVP Gold status as the mark and now needed to earn a certain number of Premier Qualifying Miles (PQM) or Premier Qualifying Segments (PQS) on flights operated by United or United Express within a 90-day Offer Period

The number of PQM or PQS you must earn depends on the Premier status level you are matched to in MileagePlus, and since I matched to Gold, I would need to fly at least 12,500 PQM to meet the Challenge! 

My favorite part? Well considering the timing of the Challenge (after July 1, 2017), this Gold status would be valid through January 2019!

AND I got to enjoy my matched status during the 90 day trial period!

Then came the Work Travel – My status match was confirmed on May 26th, just in time for a business trip flying United on the 29th!

TPA-DEN-SJC-ORD-TPA earning a total of 5,295 PQMs!

Thanks to United Gold, I sat in Economy Plus, while my boss was stuck way back in 32B (or some other crunched up middle seat near the rear lavatory)!

And then some Personal Travel – In addition to the work trip across the country, I had a personal vacation planned with my wife and some friends to visit California wine country… flying United TPA-SFO-TPA! Meaning another 4,784 PQM towards my goal of 12,500!

While the direct flight to San Francisco is nice, it came at a price. Luckily for me, I was able to redeem Merrill points earned on my sign-up for the no-annual-fee Merrill+ Visa Signature for $0 out of pocket!

Current Status: 10,079 PQMs

My 90- trial period ends in just 8 days. Time is running out to earn that final 2,421 PQMs!

I am going to need a last minute trip on United if I plan to meet the Challenge…

Or perhaps, just a mileage run!?

What is a Mileage Run?

Simply put, it is the strategic booking and completion of air travel for the sole purpose to accrue frequent flyer miles or achieve elite status. It can be done in a day, without ever having to leave the airport, or it can take place over the course of a couple days, a week, or even longer.

My contemplated mileage run is simple – TPA-IAH-TPA in Business Class, for $491 and a total of 3,148 PQMs – just enough to put me over the 12,500 PQM threshold!

Is United Gold worth it?

You tell me! Are these perks worth fighting for?

  • Complimentary access to Economy Plus 
  • Complimentary Premier Upgrades 
  • Mileage bonuses 
  • Priority check-in, security, boarding and baggage handling 
  • Priority phone line
  • Waived baggage fee 
  • Same-day flight changes 
  • Award travel benefits
  • Fee discounts/waivers on award tickets
  • Star Alliance Gold status 
  • Marriott Gold Status 

It all depends on the mileage run cost, right? And that is cost both in dollars/points and in time spent flying just for the sake of flying… and earning PQMs!

What is the cost?

Price – $491 OR “Free” Courtesy of Amex Membership Rewards

And by “free” I of course just mean $0 out of pocket. I would aim to use American Express Membership Rewards to fly Business Class TPA-IAH-TPA, thereby earning the nearly deceased 50% points rebate benefit offered on my American Express Business Platinum!

The $491 ticket price equates to 49,079 Membership Rewards points, but then factoring in a 24,539 point rebate… we come to a grand total of just 24,540 Membership Rewards points!

Reasons for:

Value of United Premier Gold – While all the perks listed above sound great, it’s not realistic to think that I will be able to use them all with any sort of frequency. I mean, I can barely hit 12,500 PQMs, so that tells you how much I fly United…

What I am really after here would be the free Economy Plus, Waived Baggage Fees and the possibility to leverage this status into another match/challenge to another airline in the future!

I’m thinking I will be able to take advantage of the Premier Gold perks 6-8 times a year, but will that provide me enough value to overcome this mileage run cost?

Price – United Premier Gold for just 24,540 Membership Rewards. I do really value Membership Rewards points, but with all the recent Amex spending promos, it seems that they are easier to come by than ever and it would hurt much redeeming less than 25k for this little trip!

Fun – Flying is fun. Flying first class is really fun! And I would be able to experience the IAH Centurion Lounge for the very first time!

Reasons Against:

Money/Points – These 24,540 could go towards other travel… perhaps travel in which I actually plan to leave the airport?

Time – It’s of the essence. This mileage run would cost me a Saturday morning. As a lover of all things weekend, a Saturday morning is not something to be given up easy!

Value of United Premier Gold – It all comes down to value. How much is United Gold worth? If I value it at $200, then it’s not worth the effort. Now if I put a value of $500+, then the equation tips the other way… I estimate 6-8 flights… is that enough to tip the scale!?

Final Thought/Your Thoughts!?

I’m not sure what to do and I want your feedback.

Is United Premier Gold worth a mileage run? Or are my Membership Rewards and Saturday morning better spent mowing the yard or watching Netflix?

You tell me…

Happy Travels!

DW

5 Comments
  • henry LAX
    Posted at 11:55h, 16 August Reply

    only question worth asking is : do u intend to make UA your primary carrier next year ? no amount of “benefits” is worth chasing if you won’t be even utilizing their services at all … and that applies to any other carrier/status as well.

    i’ve done a match to AA EXP once only to have flown them twice within the post-match duration. now that was a true waste of a match.

    • DW
      Posted at 12:01h, 16 August Reply

      When it comes to airlines, I’m typically unloyal and it all depends on which cities I want to/need to visit. With TPA as my primary airport there really is no primary carrier. UA direct options are limited to the major hubs IAH, EWR, ORD, DEN & SFO.

      Thanks for you comment and I agree it depends on how many United flight I really plan to take with this Gold status.

      DW

  • a
    Posted at 12:50h, 16 August Reply

    Assuming you’ll be flying UA/Star Alliance next year, you’d be crazy if you didn’t make a mileage run when you’re only 2,421 PQMs away from Gold status. If nothing else, access to Star Alliance lounges when traveling in economy (exception: United Clubs when flying domestically) is worth it alone. Access to Economy Plus is invaluable on international flights and even mid-con or trans-con domestic (especially since you’re based on the east coast). Unless you’re not going to be flying United or Star Alliance very much next year, I’d go for the mileage run.

    The only caveat (in my mind): basic economy. Lately I’ve seen buy-up to regular economy as high as $40 one-way for travel booked far into the future. I myself (as a non-status person) have been booking AA because of this. However, your status would entitle you to a carry-on bag and priority boarding, which would soften the blow a little.

    • DW
      Posted at 12:51h, 16 August Reply

      Appreciate the input! Now just have to convince my wife that I should fly to Houston for no reason other than Gold status… wish me luck!

      DW

  • Justin Powell
    Posted at 14:47h, 16 August Reply

    Yes, if you plan to keep flying UA it may be useful. Like all the US airlines it isn’t great, but Gold has some benefits. Also note that if there is a Star Alliance Gold lounge domestically (eg Star at LAX Bradley, Turkish at IAD) you can use those on domestic trips – not UA lounges however which are only good for international departures. Once you are overseas the lounges are a big perk IMHO.

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