United Premier Gold Elite Status Wins Over Platinum, Unless…

Last month I wrote a post questioning if I should aim for United MileagePlus Premier Platinum elite status over simply holding Gold for 2014. And I’ve come to a decision.

As I mentioned:

Whether or not to strive for a higher (or any) elite status really comes down to two considerations:

  1. Your planned flying in the following calendar year; and
  2. Would the value of benefits earned with higher status exceed the cost to get them.

And that second part is enormously relative to the individual considering this question, so a hard answer of yes or no ends up being a very personal decision.

I’ll be about 11,000 Premier Qualifying Miles (PQMs) away from Platinum after my booked flying for the remainder of this year, and I’ve crunched a few numbers that resulted in the following.

If I can’t obtain Premier Platinum for less than $500 by the end of this year, Premier Gold will be more economical and the most valuable status for my travel needs in 2014.

And let me reiterate – my travel needs in 2014 are key in this decision. Many of you told me to go for Platinum without hesitation. But I’ve calculated that I won’t spend more than $500 in Gold-related fees next year that would make gunning for Platinum worth it. And the 25% loss in bonus redeemable miles (and other perks) by being Gold over Platinum also doesn’t calculate to my benefit given my planned flying.

Next year, my United and Star Alliance travel will (likely) consist mainly of mileage redemption awards. And since I’m about to hit lifetime Gold status, I’ll be content with the benefits its status provides on those reservations. My planned trips will be in premium cabins, so comfort and priority services will be included with the ticket, not to mention Star Gold benefits to begin with.

My availability to travel is often extremely flexible, so the main costs I’m factoring into my $500 figure as a Gold are the close in booking fees for awards. The $25 price isn’t so bad to book them, but if I were to change my mind and cancel, it would cost $100 to redeposit the miles.

Also, since I’m flexible, I could see myself needing to pay the $25 change fee on an award as a Gold at the last minute to get a better flight/airline/cabin. But I still don’t think that my total fees in 2014 would exceed $500.

If I were still living in the Los Angeles area, $500 in total spend for the rest of the year in mileage runs (airfare, hotels, parking, etc.) would be feasible for attaining Platinum, but as I’m now living in a less competitive airfare market (Reno), I’m not likely to find the same deals. My latest mileage run is a case in point.

And quite honestly, I don’t think I’ll even spend $500 next year as Premier Gold in fees. But that’s the dollar value I’m placing on my current perceived value of Platinum over Gold.

I’m continually monitoring fares out of Reno, but as of now, I’ll be happy as Premier Gold in 2014. I’m no longer an elite status junkie, nor do I suffer from upgrade phobia, so I think I’m making the right decision.

Would you do the same in my position?

– Follow Darren Booth on Twitter, @FrequentlyFlyin, for more airline, hotel and travel industry news, reviews and opinions.

Related:

Pondering United Premier Platinum Over Gold for 2014

Confessions of an Elite Status Junkie: Part One

Buh-Bye Upgrade Phobia: Rediscovering the Joy of Coach Travel

Jumping the Upgrade Queue on United Airlines

United Adds Spend Requirement for Elite Status in 2014

List and Description of All United Airlines Fare Classes

My United Airlines Mileage Tracking Spreadsheet, Round Two

Comments

  1. If you were planning a modest level of economy travel I would agree that Gold is great. However, I think its worth noting that Platinum gives you greater access to Premium Cabin Saver Award inventory. Also if you’re going to spend any money on Premium cabins, the 2 RPUs that come with Platinum can be worth much more than $500.

  2. My husband and I both are Lifetime Gold Premier with United. We don’t even attempt to get Platinum anymore, settling with the small fees for Golds but not having to worry about which airline we use–just using the one with the best price and/or routing. We still get upgraded often, we still collect tons of miles from United and Chase Sapphire Preferred credit cards, and we still get award tickets often on United/Star Alliance. Life is so much easier.

  3. I am 1K and would never try and close a 11K gap for Platinum. If it was 4K, perhaps but not 11K. Gold/Plat, it’s all the same and regional upgrades….not worth it.

  4. I’m in a similiar (but in a more commoner way) situation…I’m 12k from United Silver…It’s September now. I could get there with an Asian trip which I was planning to anyways but United’s prices are nearly double of the cheapest ticket. I will be traveling a whole lot next year but my question is, Silver doesn’t get you too much nowadays does it? You’re always on the upgrade LIST but never get the upgrade. The difference between economy and economy plus isn’t that huge for me as I have short legs. Any thoughts? Thanks!

    • @theSHARK: Silver certainly doesn’t get you much, no, so if I were in your position, I’d probably let it go and consider purchasing E+ or priority services next year if/when you really want them on a specific itinerary.

  5. Don’t forget the 11,000 additional PQMs this year will give you at least 16,500 more redeemable miles (assuming you’re Gold now) which are in themselves worth about $250-$300 by most people’s valuation standards. So if you add that along with the value of the RPUs and the value of no change/redeposit fees, the additional 25% miles, and everything else, you’re probably looking at a lot more than $500.

  6. @8MiHi: The better award availability for premium cabins is definitely something for me to consider, though I generally burn my miles on non-United Star carriers.
    @Tommy, @Bill, @UAL 1K Brooklyn, @ffi, @KevininRI: Thanks for your feedback! Definitely food for thought.

  7. I hit 1K at the very end of last year (for the first time), and I could re-qualify for next year as a 1K or Plat, but I will probably burn through miles for United award tickets and buy American tickets and enter next year as UA Gold an AA Plat. I fly almost exclusively overseas (mostly to Asia), and thus regional upgrades aren’t worth much to me, and my first experience with GPU’s this year wasn’t great. I will probably use only 2 out of 6 of them, as I am not going to book a coach ticket overseas unless I am sure the GPU will clear at booking. . . not worth the risk of actually having to fly coach. I’ll wait and see if United makes a positive change to GPU’s, 1K status, etc. to see if I’ll try to qualify for 1K next year(which presumably they could do given the PQD requirement and fewer 1K’s qualifying next year), although I’m not holding my breath.

  8. Rob and Darren,

    If you are interested, I can make very good use of those GPUs. My family and I fly routes with competitive W and V fares where GPUs almost always clear even at the gate and we are flexible with the travel. Unfortunately, last year I didn’t go for 1K preferring instead to go AA EXP and UA Plat. Needless to say my EVIPs have been well used on AA, but some destinations I need to fly UA or LH.

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