United paid upgrade: when does it earn you the upgraded fare’s PQM’s

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Last week I posted about my 2018 Premier status progress.  It’s important to keep track of this to avoid missing premier status just by a bit, or to avoid having to scramble at the end of the year.  One helpful tool to meet the requirements of the status you’re trying to attain are mileage runs and sometimes paid upgrades. Mileage runs is pretty much flying to nowhere in particular for the sole purpose of earning the most premier qualifying miles (PQM) for the least amount of money.  Tools like the ITA Software Matrix are fundamental to finding fares with a favorable cent per mile (CPM) ratio.  Mileage run pro’s like Rene from Rene’s Points and John from Laptop Travel suggest that a favorable ratio for a mileage run is somewhere along the lines of 4 CPM for an economy class ticket, and somewhere around 8 CPM for a business/first class ticket.  Often times upon purchasing a ticket, United will offer you an upgrade, granted there’s availability.  However, WHEN you choose to purchase an upgrade will determine whether or not you earn PQM’s for the original purchased fare or the upgraded.

There are three types of paid upgrades: a paid upgrade at the time of purchase, a paid upgrade of an existing reservation, and a paid upgrade at check-in.  Let’s look at each of them:

At the time of purchase – At the time of purchase United may offer you an upgrade immediately after you’ve completed your booking.  In this type of upgrade the premier earnings will be that of the UPGRADED fare.

An existing reservation – After a ticket has been purchased and when there’s availability you will have the option to pay for an upgrade.  In this type of upgrade the premier earnings will be that of the UPGRADED fare.

At check-in – If you haven’t selected to pay for an upgrade at either point above, then you might still get a chance at the time of checking in.  In this type of upgrade the premier earnings will be that of the ORIGINAL.

So now that you know when it’s possible to pay for an upgrade to premium class and earn the upgraded fare’s premier points, should you?  As a general rule, most of the time this is a losing proposition.  But, there may be times (especially if it’ your first time shooting for status) when you’re very much pressed for premier points, and it may be warranted to take somewhat of a hit in order to earn the desired status.  One scenario might be that this may be your last planned flight of the year and you won’t make the cut of your status level without upgrading.

Regardless of what the reason is, beware of option #3 as discussed above, as it won’t accrue as desired.  But again, make this decision with caution as spending out of pocket without a need is fundamentally against the points and miles game.

4 thoughts on “United paid upgrade: when does it earn you the upgraded fare’s PQM’s

    1. Yep. Once you upgrade you’ll see the updated totals for all PQM, PQS, and PQD’s in your reservation for the fare type you’ve upgraded to. From time to time one may need to call United to make an adjustment, but it’s been a while since I’ve had to that.

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