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Will ‘minimum spend’ requirements soon apply for British Airways status?

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There has been much knashing of teeth in the US in the last couple of weeks following the announcement that United Airlines is introducing ‘minimum spend’ requirements to achieve elite status.

In summary, from 2014, you will have to spend the following to earn elite status with United, in addition to reaching the threshold number of tier miles or flights:

  • Silver: $2,500 minimum qualifying revenue
  • Gold: $5,000 minimum qualifying revenue
  • Platinum: $7,500 minimum qualifying revenue
  • 1K: $10,000 minimum qualifying revenue

These figures exclude taxes, although fuel surcharges are included.

United is also introducing a ‘four flights’ rules similar to the one that British Airways uses. You will need to fly at least four segments with United to earn status, as well as reaching the spending threshold.

What is key is that spending with United’s Star Alliance partners does not count, unless United issues the ticket.

(This another kick in the teeth for the principle of ‘alliance equality’. You may remember recently that Delta Airlines decided, for no revealed reason, that miles earned on its Skyteam partner Korean Airlines would no longer count for status.)

The good news for United frequent flyers in the UK is that these new rules do not apply to them. They only impact United MileagePlus members with a mailing address in the USA.

Should we worry about a similar requirement in the UK?

United is the second US airline, after Delta, to impose a ‘minimum spending’ rule.  Singapore Airlines has had a similar rule for its highest tiers for some time.

You need to remember who the big losers are, though. In the US, it is very easy to accumulate lots of flights very cheaply by taking multi-stop flights instead of a direct routing. The concept of a ‘mileage run’ – taking a flight that is cheap enough, or contains enough segments, to be worth taking purely to help keep status – is well established.

It is not the same in the UK. Yes, you can – if you want – nip over to the USA and earn 1,000+ tier points for £1,500 in 72 hours or so of crazy flying on American Airlines. However, if you don’t have the time for that, there is no crazily cheap way of achieving British Airways status. And you still need to accumulate 4 flights on BA to earn BA status anyway.

Even flying Jersey – Gatwick – Amsterdam and back each weekend would still cost you close to £2 per tier point, so anywhere up to £3,000 to retain Gold. This is nowhere near ‘mileage run’ territory.

More worrying is the concept of revenue-based redemptions. There are constant rumours that one of the American carriers may be thinking of trying this, but to date no-one has dared to go first. It would be a real disaster for the industry, of course – suddenly a business class redemption would cost 10 times the miles of an economy redemption, because it would be based on the actual cash value of the ticket you wanted.

At the end of the day, the existence of the alliances limits what one airline can realistically do. If British Airways did bring in a crazily high revenue requirement to achieve status, you could simply credit enough flights to airberlin, Qantas or whoever and earn status that way. You would still receive almost all of the benefits of BA status, as holders of the free Cathay Pacific Gold card supplied with Amex Platinum have found!


How to earn Avios points from UK credit cards

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (October 2022)

As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Avios points from UK credit cards.  Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses!

In February 2022, Barclaycard launched two exciting new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards with a bonus of up to 25,000 Avios. You can apply here.

You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:

Barclaycard Avios Plus card

Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard

25,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher for spending £10,000 Read our full review

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

5,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher for spending £20,000 Read our full review

There are two official British Airways American Express cards with attractive sign-up bonuses:

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

25,000 Avios and the UK’s most valuable card perk – the 2-4-1 voucher Read our full review

British Airways American Express

5,000 Avios for signing up and an Economy 2-4-1 voucher for spending £12,000 Read our full review

You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points.

EDIT: Until 25th October 2022, there is an exceptionally generous sign-up bonus on The Platinum Card. You will receive 60,000 Membership Rewards points – double the usual amount – and £200 to spend at Amex Travel. You need to spend £6,000 within six months to earn the bonus.

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & two airport lounge passes Read our full review

The Platinum Card from American Express

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Run your own business?

We recommend Capital On Tap for limited companies. You earn 1 Avios per £1 which is impressive for a Visa card, along with a sign-up bonus worth 10,000 Avios.

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

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You should also consider the British Airways Accelerating Business credit card. This is open to sole traders as well as limited companies and has a 30,000 Avios sign-up bonus.

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express

30,000 Avios sign-up bonus – plus annual bonuses of up to 30,000 Avios Read our full review

There are also generous bonuses on the two American Express Business cards, with the points converting at 1:1 into Avios. These cards are open to sole traders as well as limited companies.

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points sign-up bonus and a long list of travel benefits Read our full review

American Express Business Gold

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Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.

Comments (9)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Jamie says:

    If BA were to introduce this I would not be adverse to it.

    Not too much impact for me, 90% of all my flights are business related and paid for directly by my employer. Additionally they rarely book more than 8 weeks in advance of travel so the reality is the revenue levels of the flights I book are relatively high.

    If anything this may be an advantage to frequent flyers as the lounges may be less crowded

    • Sit Stamford says:

      “If anything this may be an advantage to frequent flyers as the lounges may be less crowded”

      You would simply credit your miles to another Oneworld programme to gain status and still gain access to BA lounges. It is doubtful that BA lounges would be less crowded.

      Sir Stamford

    • Alan says:

      There are also plenty of frequent fliers who travel on discounted deals paid for by themselves rather than companies – it’s not only those that have travel paid for by someone else that are frequent fliers…

  • Wandering Aramean says:

    The 4 flights rule for United already exists; it was introduced in 2012 for the 2013 program year. And it applies to all customers, even those in the UK, unless you carry certain Chase CCs.

    As for DL and UA being the first 2 carriers in the US to tie status to spend, there are at least three others which also do: WN, B6 and VX.

  • John says:

    hey, a spam comment actually got through!

  • Hugh says:

    “nip over to the USA and earn 1,000+ tier points for £1,500 in 72 hours or so of crazy flying on American Airlines”

    this sounds like a bit of fun – how do i try to figure out a routing?

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

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