What Is United’s PerksPlus? Is It Better Than MileagePlus?

As with its competitors, United Airlines runs a parallel frequent flyer program — we’ll call it a shadow program — for businesses and corporations. PerksPlus is United’s rendition of the corporate loyalty program. Like its rivals, PerksPlus can easily return rewards at a faster rate than employees individual MileagePlus accounts would.

I previously reviewed business rewards programs for Delta Air Lines (SkyBonus) and American Airlines (Business Extra).

As with SkyBonus and Business Extra, PerksPlus points tend to accumulate slower than MileagePlus miles on a per-dollar-spent basis. But with just a few employees enrolled, flight awards, elite status and United Club access can be attained more quickly than through MileagePlus, and are easily transferable.

Who Can Enroll In PerksPlus?

PerksPlus is open to businesses in the US, Canada, Latin America, and the Caribbean with at least 5 employees and a valid Tax ID. PerksPlus members must spend $25,000 in annual qualifying revenue, excluding additional fare taxes and fees, on United and participating carriers to remain eligible.

Online enrollees are prompted to input business name, Tax ID and address as well as an authorized representative to manage the account. There can be more than one authorized representative.

United Business Loyalty Program

Subsequent steps require registrants to enter travel preferences and employee profiles.

Earning PerksPlus Points

United calculates PerksPlus points based on a multiplier system applied to each dollar spent on qualifying revenue airfare purchases. Multiplier levels depend upon whether flights travel to or from a United hub and fare class/fare bucket.

PerksPlus members can also earn points on partner airlines Lufthansa, Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines, SWISS International and All Nippon Airways (ANA).

United PerksPlus Rewards

United presumably has structured earning in this manner to attract business travelers in regions where United isn’t the dominant player. Those doing business into our out of Chicago O’Hare (ORD), Denver International (DEN), George Bush Intercontinental  (IAH), Los Angeles (LAX), Newark Liberty  (EWR), San Francisco (SFO), Washington Dulles  (IAD), Tokyo-Narita (NRT) and Antonio B. Won Pat International Airport in Guam (GUM) will only earn half the amount of PerksPlus points compared with those flying out of non-hub airports.

The three levels of earning are based on fare class and fare bucket:

Tier 1 – Full fare first class, business class, premium economy class (Lufthansa and ANA), and economy class (Y fare)

Tier 2 –  Discounted first class, business class, premium economy class (Lufthansa and ANA), and economy class

Tier 3 – Deeply discounted business class and economy class

PerksPlus members should reference this page to verify which fare buckets fall into what tier. This can differ depending on which partner airline you’re flying.

Identifying The Fare Bucket

United flyers can view the fare bucket for a particular flight by clicking “Details” on a particular search result. The fare bucket appears below the class of service. The reservation screen below is advertising L basic economy fares, T discount economy fares, Q flexible fares, and P discount business class fares. In this example, all four fares, even the flexible option, actually earn PerksPlus points in Tier 3.

United Business Rewards

                                                                            All fare buckets fall into Tier 3 for this search result

“PerksPlus Navigator,” the elite status tier within the program, allows members to accrue an additional 15% of points in excess of normal earning. Businesses must spend $400,000 on eligible fares to qualify for Navigator.

Redeeming PerksPlus Points

In addition to flights, PerksPlus points can be redeemed for MileagePlus Premier status, United Club benefits and in-flight beverages. Points can also uniquely be converted into MileagePlus miles.

United requires a minimum of $5,000 in airfare purchases for three consecutive months within the first membership year before PerksPlus members are allowed to redeem points for any and all awards.

Flight Awards

United offers a zone-based PerksPlus award chart with three redemption levels each for “Economy Class” and “Business Class” awards. Economy class redemptions are available for more points in fare buckets “K” (deeply discounted economy class), “H” (discounted economy class) and “Y” (full fare economy class).

Business class redemptions are available for more points when moving from fare buckets “R” (upgrade inventory), “ZN” (non-elite standard award inventory for business class and two-cabin first class) and “JN” (elite and credit card holder standard award inventory for business class and two-cabin first class).

Redemption levels are published for round-trip flights only, and there is no option to redeem half the required points for a one-way ticket. Unlike MileagePlus where members can book awards directly in one step, PerksPlus members must first redeem a certificate from within their PerksPlus account.

United Airlines Business Loyalty

After clicking “All Search Options” on the United.com homepage, business owners can enter their certificate “Promotion Code” and “Certificate Pin” into the “Promotions and certificates” search box to pull up available award inventory and book their flights online.

A round-trip economy class flight in fare bucket “K” within North America, Central America and the Caribbean costs 40,000 PerksPlus points, which would require around $6,700 of spending in “Tier 1” or $10,000 of spending in “Tier 2”. The same round-trip flight in “Business Class” costs 180,000 PerksPlus points out of the cheapest “R” fare bucket.

United Polaris is United's new take on the International Business Class. Source: United

United’s Polaris International Business Class. Image by United.

A round-trip flight between North America, Central America and the Caribbean and Europe costs 70,000 PerksPlus points in economy class fare bucket “K” and 400,000 points in business class fare bucket “R.” 400,000 points can be earned after around $67,000 in “Tier 1” or $100,00 in “Tier 2” non-restricted hub expenditures.

MileagePlus Premier Status

PerksPlus members may redeem 60,000 points to gift Premier Silver status, United’s entry-level elite status tier. Premier Silver status offers an occasional upgrade, complimentary preferred seat selection, a mileage bonus, priority boarding, expanded economy class “Saver Award” inventory and a free checked bag.

Members may redeem 120,000 points to gift Premier Gold status, United’s mid-level elite status tier. Premier Gold status offers all of the benefits of Premier Silver status in addition to more favorable upgrade chances, mileage earning bonuses and checked baggage allowance as well as lounge access when traveling internationally and discounted or waived same-day flight changes.

Members with Navigator status, the PerksPlus program’s elite status tier, have the option to redeem points for MileagePlus Premier Platinum status. Premier Platinum status offers all of the benefits of Premier Gold status in addition to more favorable upgrade chances, mileage earning bonuses and checked baggage allowance as well as regional premier upgrade certificates, discounted United Club membership rates and expanded premium cabin “Saver Award” inventory.

United Club Benefits

PerksPlus members can acquire United Club passes in packages of 5 for 30,000 points. A one year United Club membership, which includes complimentary admittance for up to two guests, costs $550 or 70,000 MileagePlus miles, but can also be acquired with just 65,000 PerksPlus points — one of the better values in the program.

In Flight Benefits

Beverage vouchers are available in packages of 20 each for 10,000 points.

Points Conversion

Unlike other business loyalty programs, United integrates its consumer and business loyalty programs through allowing PerksPlus members to transfer points into MileagePlus miles (though not the other way around).

Two PerksPlus points convert into one MileagePlus mile, opening up redemption possibilities in both programs to business owners with a stash of PerksPlus points. Members wishing to process a transfer, however, must convert a minimum of 10,000 PerksPlus points into a unique MileagePlus account.

At “Tier 1” non-hub earning rates, then, around $1,700 in flight expenditures could result in 5,000 MileagePlus miles for those opting for a transfer; not great, but a decent option in the event someone needs to top up to score an award flight.

The Upshot

United rewards business owners whose employees avoid flying out of or into United hubs with increased PerksPlus points earning. With MileagePlus elite status redemptions available beyond entry-level Premier Silver as well as the option to convert PerksPlus points into MileagePlus miles, the program offers better perks and flexibility than either American Airlines’ or Delta’s comparable business loyalty programs.

For companies spending thousands of dollars every month on United flights, PerksPlus offers business owners good value above and beyond United’s MileagePlus program, and unlike MileagePlus benefits, all PerksPlus rewards are fully transferable and can easily be handed out to treat employees.

So long as business owners meet the enrollment and redemption eligibility requirements, there is no good reason not to register.

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