With two of the largest FF programs (UA and DL) now requiring you to spend a certain amount, as well as earn miles, to obtain a given status level, things are not working out as I had hoped. I did a study last year when this was first announced that found that it would be relatively easy to earn miles and dollars at a rate high enough that you didn’t need to worry about spend, just get your miles and the $$ would be fine. The basic formula that both airlines have is that your qualifying dollars must equal $0.10/mile for the level you are trying to achieve. So for Gold on both programs, you need 50,000 qualifying miles and have spent $5,000. Spend enough on your airline’s credit card and they will waive this spending requirement for all but the highest level on UA, 1K. The waiver requires a $25,000 CC spend so is tough to make for most people.
I did a random selection of GSA city pairs both short and long domestic and international and it looked like getting the spend for Government tickets would be no problem. Admittedly, I simply took the cost of the ticket at the face value of the GSA Fare, while in fact the airline only counts their actual fee and not taxes. This means that you are credited about 10% less than what you (or the Government) pays for your ticket.
Therefore, not only are the qualifying dollars less, but they do not get extra credit when you sometimes get bonus EQM. So on the flight I was just on, I was lucky enough to fly UA IAD-LAS on a Y fare. This earns me a 50% bonus on my EQM, but the same amount for PQD (Premier Qualifying Dollars). Thus, where I was supposed to earn 4130 miles and $780, I instead earned 6390 miles and $780. You might be asking, OK Glenn, so what’s the problem? You are still earning at over the magical $0.10/mile. The problem is that I need more cushion to make up for the mileage run fare that I took in Jan.
Here are my flights for the year showing EQM earned, Dollars spent and Qualifying Dollar earned.
Flight #1 5,384 $293 $228 Mileage Run
Flight #2 3,552 $592 $521 Personal Flight
Flight #3 4,130 $860 $780 Military Flight
Flight #4 5,513 $546 $392 Military Flight
Totals 18,579 $1,921
So far it looks OK, I am getting credit for more than $0.10/ mile with the higher military fare and the last-minute flight I had to buy to attend my uncle’s funeral offsetting the lower fare flight. HOWEVER, anyone who is savvy in this little game always tries to figure out ways to earn more miles. I also earned the following so far this year:
EQM bonus for flying a Y fare = 2065
EQM for CC spending on UA flights = 1482
Frankly, if it wasn’t for all the bonus miles I accumulate throughout the year, I don’t think I would have ever qualified for 1k except for a single year. I always think that I am being clever by adding on a short segment to get the 500 mile minimum or getting the right credit card to help me earn a few more, but it looks like that philosophy is dead at least on these airlines.
So I am actually at 22, 126 and $1,921 spend. Extrapolating this out, if I make 100,000 miles to requalify for 1K, I would have only spent $8,682 so United will give me the big finger wag and say “not yet”! I would need to keep flying to about 115,180 EQM to earn enough to requalify for 1K. I usually try to get one or two international flights to help me get there, but that just makes the ratio of miles to dollars worse. My flight to Singapore last Nov. netted me 19,500 EQM, but I only paid $990 meaning about $0.05/mile. Short trips are actually the best way to earn qualifying dollars, but of course that is like hitting all singles to win a ball game. It can be done, but requires an enormous effort. I am starting to resign myself that 1K may be out of reach after getting for the last 8 years straight. Looks like UA and DL’s plan to narrow down the highest elites to those that spend big money on paid business and first class is working. Too bad I don’t work for a big corporation that pays for that!
So how are you looking on your qualifying dollars spend for the year? Anyone having better success than myself? How is the Delta spend going for anyone?