It's hard for me to objectively evaluate the drastic changes to United elite qualification announced today:
Starting in January 2014, Premier qualification for members living in the United States will include a minimum annual spending level. We will track this new requirement with Premier qualifying dollars (PQD) – dollars spent on most United tickets, including partner flights, and Economy Plus purchases. The changes will not affect Premier qualifying miles (PQM) or Premier qualifying segments (PQS). The new criteria will look like this:
- Premier Silver: [25,000 PQM or 30 PQS] and $2,500 PQD
- Premier Gold: [50,000 PQM or 60 PQS] and $5,000 PQD
- Premier Platinum: [75,000 PQM or 90 PQS] and $7,500 PQD
- Premier 1K: [100,000 PQM or 120 PQS] and $10,000 PQD
On the one hand, these changes very closely parallel the recent changes to Medallion elite status qualification on Delta, my preferred airline. On the other hand, I don't mind meeting the Delta Medallion Qualification Dollar requirement by spending $25,000 on my American Express Delta Platinum Business card, since I also earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles for reaching that threshold. That is to say, by reaching the $25,000 threshold I both earn higher Medallion status and am exempted from Medallion Qualification Dollar requirements.
It's true that the Chase United MileagePlus Explorer card gives 10,000 bonus miles after $25,000 in purchases per calendar year, but those miles don't count towards elite status.
The problem is that it's fantastically more lucrative to make United purchases with a flexible Ultimate Rewards point-earning Chase Sapphire Preferred card than with United's own co-branded credit cards. And that's ignoring the possibility of manufacturing Ultimate Rewards points at gas stations.
My sense is that this change will alienate United flyers in a much more profound way than Medallion Qualification Dollars alienated Delta flyers, in no small part because of United's disastrous customer service. Meanwhile, I'll continue earning Star Alliance Gold status by crediting United and US Airways flights to the Greek airline Aegean Air, giving me free checked bags and lounge access on domestic flights.