The change comes in the way reward miles are given as part of the frequent flyer program. When frequent flyer programs began, those who participated were rewarded by the number of miles flown. For each mile flown, a member would earn a mile. This setup could be quite profitable for those who knew how to find bargains on the airlines. For example, those who purchased ultra-cheap tickets for long-distance flights could rack up frequent flyer miles much faster and at less cost than business people who were paying full-price fares, but flying shorter distances.
The recent trend has been to move away from the number of miles flown, and base the rewards on the number of dollars spent. In other words, to focus on those who are spending the most money on the airline. These people tend to be business travelers who buy the more expensive, fully refundable tickets, which bring in the most profit to the airlines. Other airlines which have made the switch from miles flown to dollars-spent based programs include Delta, JetBlue, Southwest and Virgin America.
Beginning in March 2015, United Airlines will change its loyalty program to benefit those who fly a minimum of 25,000 miles a year on the airline. These fliers will earn silver, gold, platinum or 1K status as part of the program, and earn more miles than the basic member. They’ll earn between 7 miles and 11 miles for each dollar they spend on an airline ticket, excluding taxes and other fees. On the other hand, those who fly less than 25,000 miles and spent less than $2,500 a year on United tickets will only receive 5 miles per dollar.
The new MileagePlus rewards program will reward miles in the following tiers:
- Basic: 5 miles per $1 spent (those flying less than 25,000 and spending less than $2,500 the previous year)
- Silver: 7 miles per $1 spent (those flying 25,000 and spending $2,500)
- Gold: 8 miles per $1 spent (those flying 50,000 and spending $5,000)
- Platinum: 9 miles per $1 spent (those flying 75,000 and spending $7,500)
- 1K: 11 miles per $1 spent (those flying 100,000 and spending $10,000)
While the structure for earning reward miles will change, United is not planning to change the amount of miles needed to earn free tickets at this time.
While this will make it more difficult for the average consumer to earn the free perks that come with the United Airlines MileagePlus program, there are still ways to earn miles for the program that don’t require you to actually buy the ticket. Below are a few of them:
United has a few Visa Signature credit cards that earn miles issued through Chase bank: the United MileagePlus Explorer Card, the United MileagePlus Club card and United MileagePlus Presidential Plus card. The more you spend, the more points you accrue, which can often be used toward airline miles. The amount of miles you earn depends on the card and what you’re purchasing. For example, the Explorer card offers 2 miles for every $1 spent on United airline tickets purchased, plus 1 mile for every $1 spent on all other purchases. For those who make a lot of purchases on their credit card while always paying off the credit card in full each month, these cards can help to greatly increase the number of miles in their MileagePlus account.
There are a lot of smartphone apps which reward you with benefits for checking into certain locations or making purchases at a certain store. CheckPoints is one of those apps. With CheckPoints, you earn points for checking into a store, buying an item, scan product barcodes, or qualify for certain offers. These points can then be converted into airline miles. If you’re someone who is always on their smartphone, this app could be a great way to earn some extra airline miles.
A lot of programs are offering airline points for the money spent at specific stores. These can range from clothing to home goods to discount stores. For instance, United offers convertible points for money spent at specific online retailers. If you were already planning to make a purchase at any of these stores, it’s a great way to rack up extra points without doing anything different from your normal routine.
In the same way, you can earn extra miles in the MileagePlus program for using certain hotels, rental car agencies, financial services, and dining at particular restaurants. The key to all of these is if you were going to pay for the services anyway, you can earn extra miles toward a free flight. It’s important, however, to make sure you don’t purchase any of them for the miles when you wouldn’t have otherwise made it.
(Photo courtesy of Aero Icarus)