What Are the Benefits of United MileagePlus Premier Silver Status?

United MileagePlus Premier Silver status is the first true tier of United’s loyalty program. Above Silver is Gold, Platinum, 1K, and then there’s “Global Services” by invitation only. Premier Silver status offers a number of different benefits to those that qualify and some of those benefits can be quite valuable. Here’s a rundown of some of the benefits that you can expect to receive if you make United Premier Silver status.

How to get Premier Silver status

There are two different ways to achieve silver status: flying or via hotel status.

By flying

In order to receive Premier Silver status you’ll need to meet the following requirements:

  • 25,000 PQM (Premier Qualifying Miles) and $3,000 PQD (Premier Qualifying Dollars)

OR

  • 30 PQS (Premier Qualifying Segments) and $3,000 PQD

United now operates on a revenue based system for accumulating miles, so the miles flown does not determine how many PQMs you earn. Instead, the cost of your airfare will determine that. As a basic Premier member, you’ll earn 5 miles for every dollar spent on the base airfare, so $5,000 worth of standard economy base fares (M, E, U, H, Q, V, W, S, T, L, K, G) on United could net you 25,000 PQM.

It’s important to note that if you hold a Chase United credit card and put $25,000 worth of spend on the credit card within a year,  the PQD requirement is waived for all status requirements, except for 1K.

Once you meet these requirements, you are given the elite status for the rest of that calendar plus all of the following calendar year.

Via hotel status

A lot of people new to this hobby don’t realize that you can earn Premier Silver status by obtaining Marriott Platinum status.

Platinum status can be obtained relatively easy in the following way. Earn Marriott Gold through a credit card, such as the Platinum Card from American Express that offers SPG Gold Status and therefore Marriott Gold. You could then complete a 9 stay Platinum “status challenge” to receive Marriott Platinum status (more on this later). This can be a relatively cheap way to get United Silver status, especially if you’ve already got some planned stays when you start your status challenge.

So what are the benefits of United Premier Silver status? 

Complimentary access to Economy Plus

This is probably the most valuable benefit to United premier Silver members. On a 737-700, economy pitch will typically be 31″ while economy plus will give you 36″ (on other aircrafts the pitch may be 35″ or 34″). Those extra few inches make a huge difference to me who stands roughly 6’1″ and so I consider this a worthwhile benefit.

What’s great about this benefit is that you get to add a companion who is on the same itinerary for free. So couples only need one person with status to benefit (which means 2X the savings). Another great feature of this is that it’s very common to receive these complimentary economy plus upgrades. It’s always possible that economy plus could be sold out or that you don’t have an ideal seat selection (e.g., the middle seat),  but many Silver members frequently receive these upgrades.

The price that you would normally have had to pay for economy plus will differ depending on your route. It could be close to just $20 or $30 for a short haul flight or upwards of $170 or more for a longer flight. The price also depends on which economy plus seats you’re selecting. For example, aisle seats in the emergency exit row will likely cost more than a middle seat in the middle of the economy plus section.

You’ll be notified about the upgrade at check-in at the earliest, unlike higher status members who receive their notifications at booking.

Complimentary Premier Upgrades

As a Silver member you’re eligible for complimentary upgrades to business/first class and the earliest you’ll be notified is the day of departure. Like the economy plus upgrades, if you are upgraded then a companion on your itinerary will also receive the upgrade.

These upgrades are limited to specific routes. 

Complimentary Premier Upgrades are available on most United and United Express operated flights in the following regions:

  • Continental U.S.
  • Hawaii (from the west coast)
  • Alaska
  • Canada
  • Mexico
  • Central America
  • Caribbean
  • Oceania (not Australia, New Zealand)
United business class on a Boeing 767.

The problem here is that Silver members are on the bottom of the totem pole. You’ve got 1K, Premier Platinum, and Premier Gold (not to mention Global Services) all ahead of you when it comes to being eligible for the upgrades. Also, United often sells business class seats at a discount on the day of departure further lowering your odds of getting upgraded.

However, some have had luck on leisure routes where elite/business travelers are less likely to be on board. But if you’re flying on a route known for heavy business traffic, you could probably consider your odds close to zero for this kind of upgrade.

Overall, I wouldn’t expect to receive complimentary business/first class upgrades but might hold out a little bit of hope if I was flying somewhere like the Caribbean. Still, it’s a nice perk to at least hold out hope for.

Instant upgrades on Y- or B-class full-fare economy tickets

When you purchase a Y or B class full-fare economy ticket you can receive instant upgrades to business/first. The issue with these is that these full fare economy tickets can be very expensive, so it’s just like you’re paying for business class. In fact, you might even see a business/first class fee that’s cheaper than a Y or B class fare. So for those reasons, my excitement for this benefit is limited.

7X award miles

As a United Premier Silver member, you’ll earn 7X the miles per dollar spent on the base fare versus 5X earned by standard members. Keep in mind that regardless of status, you will not earn PQD or award miles for the full amount of the displayed price for itineraries because the U.S. Federal Transportation tax is included in the fare and is not eligible to earn PQD or miles.

So for example, that’s why a $337 economy fare will only earn you 1,799 PQM when you’d think it would earn you 2,359 miles as a Silver member since 337 X 7 = 2,359.

Additional benefits 

Silver members are granted a number of additional benefits, too.

  • Priority check-in
  • Priority security screening (where offered)
  • Priority boarding privileges (board as group 2)
  • One free checked bag
  • Priority baggage handling
  • Premier Priority Desk phone line
  • Access to most sold-out flights (by purchasing a full fare ticket)
  • NO Lounge access when traveling internationally (Premier Gold and above are offered this)

Award travel benefits

As a Silver member, you’re also offered special perks when you book award tickets.

  • Priority award waitlisting
  • Standby for international awards
  • Unrestricted access to United Standard Awards on United and United Express-operated flights
  • Better availability for United Saver Awards in economy.
  • Note: these last two benefits are the same or similar benefits offered by the United Explorer Card.
  • Reduced or waived award changing fees

With Silver status, it’s free to make changes to your award booking outside of 21 days versus the $75 fee for non-elites. If you’re within 21 days and subject to the “close-in” fees, you only have to pay $50 versus the $100 charged to non-elites.

To me, this is one of the greatest perks of Silver status, since I’ve found myself in need of changing awards dates from time to time and this could’ve saved me a nice chunk of change.

If you need to re-credit your miles to your account you’re “only” subjected to a $125 fee versus a $200 fee for non-elites. It’s still a hefty price but beats paying $75 more.

To me, both of these benefits could easily present over $100 or more in value to many people and so they shouldn’t go overlooked.

  • Upgrades on award flights

Finally, if you hold the United MileagePlus Explorer card, the primary cardmember who is also a MileagePlus Premier member traveling on a MileagePlus award ticket will be eligible for Complimentary Premier Upgrades on eligible United-operated flights. Note that this only applies to the primary cardholder.

Star Alliance Silver benefits

United Premier Silver status will also grant you Star Alliance Silver status. Unfortunately, those benefits are not very valuable, as most of the worthwhile benefits are only given to Gold status members. For what it’s worth, you’ll get priority waitlist and priority standby but you miss out on the big benefits, such as lounge access and free checked luggage.

United MileagePlus Explorer Card

A lot of people argue that having Silver status is almost identical to the perks offered by the United MileagePlus Explorer Card. I don’t really agree with this, though.

The MileagePlus Explorer doesn’t offer:

  • Economy plus upgrades
  • Complimentary Premier upgrades
  • Priority check-in and security
  • Premier Priority desk phone service
  • Increased mileage earnings (I don’t consider bonus miles earned on the card)
  • Access to most sold-out flights,
  • Reduced fees for award changes, and
  • Priority on waitlisted awards

You do get the free checked bag and priority boarding which are two valuable perks (at least the free checked bag is) and the increased award inventory is a nice perk as well. I’m not doubting the Explorer Card is a valuable card or even perfect for some people, I’m just pointing out that to me there’s a significant difference in the benefits and you may want to look at those differences closely to see which option will return you more value.

Final word 

The benefits for United Silver can be quite valuable but it mostly comes down to your personal travel styles. For some, the upgrades to economy plus and reduced fees may not present much value but to travelers, such as myself, I find these benefits to be nice additions. I don’t know that I’d go chasing after United Silver status, but if I were close to reaching it already or close to Marriott Platinum, I’d probably go for it (which I have).

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