Did you know it’s possible to earn United elite status without ever stepping foot inside of a United airplane? It’s possible to do this by taking advantage of elite perks offered by certain credit cards and then completing a status challenge. Here’s how it could be done.
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Obtain Marriott or SPG Gold status
This can be done in a number of ways:
- An easy way that I’ve done this is by getting the Platinum Card from American Express. It comes with automatic SPG Gold status (along with Hilton Gold and a number of other benefits). You can then link your SPG account to your Marriott account and voilà, you’ve got Marriott Gold!
- You can also sign-up for the Ritz-Carlton Rewards credit card which offers you complimentary Gold status for the first year and then after that you’ll have to spend $10,000 on the card within a calendar year to maintain Gold status.
- Another way is to earn SPG Gold status be spending $30,000 or more on your Amex SPG card within one year.
Out of all of these my preferred method is go with the Platinum Card but that’s because I value its other benefits like Centurion Lounge access, Hilton Gold, Priority Pass, etc. You’ll have to make your own judgment call on what works best for you.
Status challenge to Marriott or SPG Platinum
Once you hit Gold status you can then set your self up for a Platinum Challenge from Marriott. For the challenge you’ll need to hit 9 stays within a specific time period (usually given to the end of the summer). Note: these challenges may not be offered to everyone and there are other forms of challenges that are offered as well.
As soon as that last stay posts for your challenge, you should be given Marriott Platinum status.
You could also do it the other way and do a SPG Platinum Challenge but that typically requires 18 nights within a 3 month period, so it’s harder to obtain in my opinion but also seems to be more available to the general public.
Ideally, you would already have a number of stays or nights lined up to stay at so that you don’t have to go out of your way and do a “mattress run” to hit the minimum required number of stays but that’s not always the case.
Luckily, as least for Marriott, you can find hotels for $65 a night or less to help meet the threshold. If you stayed at hotels earning 10X on stays and earned extra points here and there with special promotions, it’s feasible that a 9 stay mattress run could cost you nearly $500 or maybe even less after you factor in your earnings from Marriott points and credit card spend.
That’s not bad at all, depending on how much you value Marriott/SPG Platinum status and United Silver.
Get your United MileagePlus Premier Silver status
To get your United MileagePlus Premier Silver status you’ll then need to sign up for RewardsPlus. It should only take about a week for your Silver status to show up on your United account but if you need to get it expedited you can call and request that it be done.
United MileagePlus Premier Silver status will offer you:
- Complimentary economy plus upgrades (which is nearly guaranteed)
- Business class upgrades (more rare)
- Priority check-in, security, and boarding
- 7X on mileage earnings per base dollar spent
- One free checked bag
- Waived or lower change fess
It’s not very difficult to obtain United Silver status without ever stepping foot inside of a United plane. However, if you do plan on eventually flying United a hand full of times and would otherwise pay for economy plus upgrades and to check a bag, then “buying” your way to Silver status through hotel elite programs like Marriott could make sense and be worth it in the end.
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned travel expert covering destinations along with TSA, airline, and hotel policies. Since 2014, his content has been featured in publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, and CNBC. Read my bio.