Using Premier Accelerator as a Fast Track to United Elite Status

As I mentioned yesterday, I’ll be about 11,000 Premier Qualifying Miles (PQMs) short of Platinum status for 2014 after flying what I have booked for the rest of the year. And I’m currently debating whether to go for Platinum, or settle with lifetime Gold.

At this point, my travel plans on United Airlines and Star Alliance partners for 2014 will likely consist mostly of award redemptions, so I’m not sure if gunning for Plat is worth it. From yesterday’s post:

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.

So, I’m currently determining the value of Plat over Gold for my situation, and the cheapest methods to rack up the 11,000 PQMs I need to answer my question.

Mileage runs have been my traditional method to accrue “extra” PQMs, but recent life events find my time at home a bit more valuable these days. And the fastest way to earn PQMs without leaving home is through United’s Award Accelerator program.

I posted about Award Accelerator previously, but in summary, it allows you to purchase redeemable MileagePlus miles, with a separate Premier Accelerator option to add an equivalent amount of PQMs.

The offer appears about mid-way down the “view current reservation” screen on each of your ticketed trips, and it’s also frequently displayed during the check-in process.

United Award Accelerator

United Award Accelerator

When clicking through an upcoming reservation, I am offered the following:

United Premier Accelerator

United Premier Accelerator

For $312, I can purchase 12,000 redeemable miles, which calculates out to 2.6 cents-per-mile (CPM). Laying out an additional $1,560 for Premier Accelerator would boost my PQM balance by 12k miles, at a rate of 13 cents-per-PQM.

But you can’t purchase PQMs without the redeemable miles, so the overall cost if I went through with this would be $1,872, or 15.6 CPM.

The Award and Premier Accelerator rates fluctuate periodically, and many people receive varying offers for the same amount of miles. A rather active thread discussing this appears on Flyertalk.

Getting back to my “do I or don’t I go for Plat” situation, I know that I could earn the needed 11,000 PQMs for less than 15.6 CPM by flying a mileage run or two, so the Premier Accelerator option isn’t attractive from a cost standpoint. Plus, I doubt any fees that I’d be charged in 2014 as a Gold would come close to its cost of $1,872, so the benefit of being able to stay home without flying doesn’t outweigh the price here, either.

While Premier Accelerator isn’t a viable option for my situation at this point (I’ll monitor my reservations to see if the rates go down), it’s definitely a great program for others as a fast track to elite status given their own unique cost-benefit analysis.

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

Related:

United’s Award/Premier Accelerator Rates Have Dropped, but Still Pricey

Pondering United Premier Platinum Over Gold for 2014

How to Find Mileage Runs: 2013 Edition

Comments

  1. Typically the price only increases throughout the year. Was getting offers around 9 or 10 cents earlier in the year and by the end of last year I think it was over 20 cents. Current offers are similar to what you report for my account. MRs are cheaper from a CPM standpoint, but that equation changes dramatically sometimes if you need a hotel stay and/or you value your time at home highly. 😉

    • @mommypoints: A flyertalker reported 8 cpPQM this morning, which I’m totally jealous of. But yes, I’ve noticed the rates typically climb as the year progresses. And yep, it’s all about the value in time and money to each individual. 🙂

  2. Something looks odd on your second screen capture in the post above. Every time I have looked at the accelerator option for my UA reservations, the offer on the left is to buy miles equal to my planned trip (so, “double miles”), and the one on the right is to buy 2x miles which with the original trip is “triple miles.” Do you get different offers than this?

    For example, if my itinerary is for 5000 miles, the first offer will be to buy another 5000, and the second will be for 10000 – double and triple miles, respectively. Your offers of 12000 and 18000 are inconsistent with this. I am a lowly Silver, so maybe the offers vary by level…?

    BTW, for two planned trips I get accelerator costs (same for 2x or 3x) of 14.4 cents/mile for ORD-DCA later this week, and 9.1 cents/mile for ORD-NUE in November.

  3. @MikeS: When I first was looking into Award/Premier Accelerator a year ago, here’s the scoop from Flyertalk members on how the offers were determined:

    “As an elite, the mileage amounts offered (usually two options) are generally a specific number rounded off to the thousand and based somewhat on the total amount of miles flown on the reservation in question. Non-elites, I’ve read, seem to get offers either doubling or tripling the miles flown on the corresponding reservation.”

    I haven’t otherwise (besides looking last night and today) kept up with Award/Premier Accelerator changes, so I don’t know how the offer determination has changed. I’m sorry I can’t give you a definitive answer!

    Thanks for adding your current offers to your comment… great data point(s) for everyone.

  4. This may not vary the calculus much, but you mentioned that next year you plan more redemption than revenue travel. Platinum flyers have more access to saver awards than golds. But is it worth $1800?

  5. @glasnost7: Better premium cabin award availability is definitely one of my considerations, and I agree that it alone isn’t worth $1,800. I definitely won’t go for Platinum by using Premier Accelerator at the rates I’m getting.

  6. “Non-elites, I’ve read, seem to get offers either doubling or tripling the miles flown on the corresponding reservation.” Yep, that pretty well sums up Silver level with MileagePlus – NON-elite.

  7. Book a long-haul award flight with partner metal. Those tend to have the lowest maximizer rates associated with them. The catch, of course, is that sometimes in those cases they only offer you far more miles than you actually want to buy. But I have an offer right now for 2.1cpRDM and additional 7cpPQM on a partner award.

  8. In regard to premium cabin award seat availability, I have searched through probably hundreds of possible segments and have never found one where platinum award seat availability is greater than gold. It is a published benefit, and they may be out there, but I haven’t seen them

  9. I am being offered 7 c/ mile for elite qualifying points and 2.1 c/ mile on rdm for SFO-SIN on UA (one leg, intraasia is Ana). Minimum buy is 40k.

  10. I was just able to purchase 45,000 miles PQM at 9.3cents/mile – combination of the award miles and the PQM miles. After researching this seemed like a good deal. For personal reasons I did not fly much for the first half of the year, but many plans for the second half of the year and next year, so this will get me to 1K status by the end of the year. I have quite a few long haul travel plans for next year and the access to the 1K fares and upgrades is important.

    Interestingly, every flight I have between now and the end of the year is offering the same 9.3PQM cost.

  11. Yesterday I calculated and discovered I was going to be about 9,000 miles short this year on United for Platinum. Since it’s all been domestic travel I feel like I’m constantly away from home so any mileage running is not an option to me at this point in the year. I looked at 3 upcoming trips I have booked and my options were (these are TOTAL cost including Accelerator and Premier Accelerator costs combined): 8,000 miles for $904 (PQM of 11.3), 12,000 miles for $1548 (PQM of 12.9) and 11,000 miles for $1199 (PQM of 10.9). Although the thought of laying out $1199 stung a little, in the long run it seemed that a PQM of 10.9 at this point in the year (late October) wasn’t bad to lock in Platinum for next year.

    • @BoardingAgain: Before I reached the end of your comment, I had the impression that you weren’t going to pull the trigger on Award/Premier Accelerator. Glad you could get it, though, for a relatively okay rate.

  12. Really don’t want to fly again this year, but need 4,000 to get to Gold (and therefore 29,000 to get to Platinum), so just tried an experiment…

    (1) Booked a domestic roundtrip flight of approx 1800 miles total for $306, was offered (a) 6,000 regular miles for $198 and 6,000 elite miles for $1080, total of $1278, or (b) 8,000 regular miles for $264 and 8,000 elite miles for $1,440, total of $1,704.

    (2) Booked a domestic roundtrip flight of approx 3750 miles total for $485, was offered (a) 12,000 regular miles for $348 and 12,000 elite miles for $1200, total of $1548, or (b) 12,000 regular miles for $435 and 12,000 elite miles for $1,500, total of $1,935.

    (3) Booked an international roundtrip flight of approx 10,000 miles total for $1090, was offered (a) 20,000 regular miles for $460 and 20,000 elite miles for $2400, total of $2860, or (b) 30,000 regular miles for $690 and 30,000 elite miles for $3,600, total of $4,290.

    So I either spend $1,278 to get to Gold (with 6,000 extra miles to use), or $4,290 to get to Platinum (with 30,000 extra miles to use).

    I travel about 45-50,000 miles annually, therefore Gold status will net me an additional 12,000 miles next year in bonuses, so I effectively get 18,000 extra miles with the above bonus. Platinum status will get me 24,000 miles next year, so I effectively get 54,000 extra miles.

    I don’t think Platinum is worth an additional $3,000 to get an extra 36,000 miles and some better upgrade options.

  13. Thanks @Darren. I made a mistake in (2) – the second set of numbers was for 16000 miles, not 12000

    It looks like for the domestic flights (1) and (2) United rounded up the total to the nearest 1000 miles and then multiplied by 3X and 4X, whereas for the international flight it was 2X and 3X.

    I went ahead with the 6000 miles option in (1), then cancelled all three flights. My account shows that I have reached Gold for 2014 and 6000 extra regular miles was posted to my account.

    Those 18,000 extra miles (approx) will be worth about $500-750 or more in flights/upgrades to me, so the total net outlay is quite reasonable to get to gold. Plus I booked using my United Miles Visa card, so should get some points for the transaction as well.

    It would be interesting to see whether you can book a genuine flight for the following year and then use the accelerator option online to get the extra points and miles in the current year. That will have to wait for another time…

  14. @Only X Miles To GO!: I read your post with interest. I’m 5,500 miles away from Gold, and trying to figure out how to cross that threshold. I’m new to the MR world, as I’ve managed to fly enough miles over the past several years to get Gold. But sadly this year I’m short. I was planning on using miles to buy EQMs, but apparently United canceled that program this year. Would you be willing to talk to me offline about how I might get my last few thousand miles to get Gold?

  15. @iKimbot: Thanks.

    You could consider the following: (1) book a flight that totals between 1500-2000 miles – doesn’t really matter where; (2) once the flight has been confirmed, use the mileage accelerator option on the reservations page to purchase additional miles and EQM – the total flight miles will be rounded up to 2000 and then multiplied by 3 (or 4) to give you the 6000 miles you need; (3) cancel the flight within 24 hours of booking – the additional miles and EQM miles you purchased via the accelerator options will remain, even though the flight has been cancelled.

    This is the only way I know that works. Good luck!

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