What would you pay for 2 GPUs & 2 RPUs?

Thanks to an interesting set of circumstances I find myself on the cusp of buying PQMs from United Airlines this weekend. And I’m not particularly happy about it. I could say that it is bad math or poor planning on my part but the reality is that I should’ve flown well past the 150k PQM line much earlier this year. I actually canceled a few trips in October and November and that left me resting comfortably at ~141K for the year, sufficiently far from the next threshold that I was willing to walk away. And then the Wideroe deal happened. I wanted to see the Christmas Markets in Germany so I bought the ticket. It wasn’t for the miles, really, though it did also happen to be the flight which put me over 1mm lifetime. But it also brought me precariously close to the 150k mark. I’m now only 631 miles away.

I tried to get those miles on the Germany trip but failed thanks to a unpublished rule from United (yes, another one) which says SDC must not only be on UA metal but also on UA ticket stock. My ticket wasn’t so no possibility of making that change, despite the website and check-in kiosks repeatedly offering such an option to me. So I’m short. I don’t really have time to fly in the next 3 weeks and I was not seeing many good deals anyways so my main option for acquiring those last few points is to buy the PQMs. I’m looking at it as a straight cash transaction for the upgrade instruments (Yeah, I know I get a few RDMs, too) so the question is what’s a fair price?


The smallest number United will sell me right now is 1,500 PQMs at a price of $260. That’s up over 17cpm (15cpm for the PQMs & 2.3 for the RDMs, if you want to look at it that way) and the rational me say that there’s no way I should pay that. At the same time, however, I’m looking at four upgrade instruments for “only” $260. Then again, I am still sitting on a few GPUs from this year I’ve been mostly giving away and I have a bunch for next year, too with no plans so it is entirely likely that I’ll end up giving some of these away, too. That’s mostly good for you as readers and potential recipients but not as easy to justify to me the expense (sorry).

So, back to the original question at hand: Would you pay the $260 to United for the instruments? I honestly don’t know if I should or not. Partly because I’m bitter about getting screwed by the SDC “rules” and partly because I don’t know that I’ll get value from them. But it is also a small price to pay, I think, for some upgrade instruments.

What would you do??

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. YES, yes, yes. The value is there for sure. I’m a bit behind you in the quest for MM status. I should hit it on a flt home from NRT in May.

    Congrats and safe travels.

  2. I’m not so sure. At face value, I would say “yes of course” – but it really depends on your travel plans for next year and whether you think you’ll actually use 4 more upgrade instruments on top of what you already have. Since you have a couple expiring this year that you haven’t yet used, is it safe to assume that you still all of what you earned this year (expiring next year)? That’d be 12, right? (2 RPU at 75, 2 RPU + 6 GPU at 100, 2 RPU at 125)

    The question I’d be asking is whether you’re going to use more than 12 next year. With MM already taken care of, and PQDs in the mix, will you really be flying United that much next year?

    1. I think that this is really where I’m struggling. Yes, the raw value seems like a no-brainer. But without plans to fly UA all that much next year (I’m sure I still will, I just don’t know where/when and on what fares) it does seem a bit more of a gamble than not.

      I have 5 RPUs and 4 GPUs remaining for the 2015 year (I’ve assigned a few already) and I really should have 5 GPUs but UA’s systems are so FUBAR’d that they charged me an extra one without my permission and won’t give it back. Sadly that is on a reservation which I don’t want them touching because they’ve already screwed it up so I have to wait until after that’s done to try to fix it. And I don’t actually feel all that broken up over it either way.

      Maybe I’ve become numbed to the whole thing. I flew TATL in Y again last week and it really wasn’t all that bad; E+ makes for a decent ride, though the F&B really needs a lot of help.

  3. When you wrote about this sdc issue last week I thought I remembered a similar instance where I had issues but ultimately got it done. And finally, I remember. It was a us issued ticket for a ua code share. Had to call and it took a long time but the agent made it happen. Nobody mentioned the rule to me, they just kept saying it was going to take some time. I guess ignorance is bliss! I’ll be trying to sdc my own widerow ticket in about a month.

    1. Good luck with that, Hobo13. I’ve had US-operated segments switched to UA-operated but they were on UA stock. It seems that the UA systems have been locked down a bit more lately in many regards, including this one, such that getting such changes from them is unlikely to work. Even if their published rules indicate no such requirement. 🙁

      1. My view is that I can ask UA to SDC me. If they say no, as in your case, that’s fine. If they do it, or start to do it, and then all hell breaks loose, I don’t see how that’s my problem. If the Wideroe ticket becomes FUBARed because United tried to make a change that their systems couldn’t handle, isn’t that United’s fault? Don’t they still have to get me to my destination? (or home?)

        Curious as to your thoughts, Seth. I did mention this in the FT thread, and was told that this isn’t really new policy, just something the system can’t handle, and never could handle. (Of course, my experience in October to the contrary.)

        Would you just not mess with it?

        1. I tried to play that line, hobo13, insisting that they honor their published rules and what the website was offering. They declined my (repeated) requests.

  4. How about Flex PQMs? You can’t use them to gain status above Platinum, but this is not a status issue, so they may work here.

  5. I say go for it. If you can’t fly you buy. Really it’s only $260 and 4 more upgrades, it’s a no brainer go go go. I agree on the CC but the other way of looking at it is if it’s $400 you’ll only be paying $140 for a year lol. Is it worth $140?

  6. Go for it
    I would even pay you the 260 if you don’t use them for trips I could use them on:)

  7. I would buy the PQM. My justification is you’re only out 210$ if you end up giving the instruments away or they expire. Its cheap insurance as you never know what the next year will bring. If you end up actually using even one, you likely will save much more than that. Even giving them away is fun – especially to folks who don’t usually get to fly up front.

  8. Do it; spend the 260.
    But I see bitterness in your posts about UA or COdbaUA that was not there before with CO alone.

    “Maybe I’ve become numbed to the whole thing. I flew TATL in Y again last week and it really wasn’t all that bad; E+ makes for a decent ride, though the F&B really needs a lot of help.”

    1. I’m not bitter, though I certainly am disappointed in the decreased product quality in certain areas of the travel experience. I knew the food was going to be bad so I brought some of my own on board for FRA-EWR. And there is more legroom on board today than 5 years ago plus better IFE systems, too. It isn’t all bad.

      It also isn’t all good, but definitely not all bad.

      And it also isn’t isolated to any one airline.

  9. For what it’s worth, I’ve found the RPUs I received from UA this year to be basically useless. Still sitting on both, as each transcontinental I tried to use them on didn’t clear (I was wait listed for all flights, even when booking months in advance). Cynically, I feel like I could only use these on a flight to Milwaukee in the dead of winter or on another flight I’d get upgraded on anyway. What am I missing? There must be some value/appeal to RPUs that I’m not getting.

  10. No way I would pay $260 for a couple of RPUs and GPUs. I have a few that expired last year and a few more this year – they are somewhat worthless when most of your flights are paid C international and completely useless for award tix.

    1. Well, if you are paying for business on 3-cabin flights they could be useful, unless you’re buying P/Z fares. 😉

      But, yes, if you already fly in premium cabins anyways then they aren’t so valuable. That’s part of why I have so many left over this year.

  11. To those of you who have sent me emails offering to buy them outright, thanks, but not gonna happen. I actually do mostly play by the rules in this game.

  12. I am a bit perk pay averse, but each to their own.

    I would not pay for extra as Randy would
    I am aware many FFs are totally addicted as I once was and draining their savings for a minor benefit just to play.

    In this case, it looks equitable

  13. I would go for it. Like you, I find it hard to predict GPU usage and usually end up with a couple unused end of year. However, like medical insurance, or insurance of any sort I suppose, its better than the alternative.

    Assuming UA continues to offer the LH paper GPUs for at least another year, a single Asia /multi leg trip could easily swallow 4 of these. Also, the value of these, in my opinion, is up a little for next year, given the gutting of the award chart (and front cabin awards become progressively more expensive).

  14. You can always sell your advice with a complementary GPU. I think the going rate is around $400 each, so $260 for 4 is excellent!

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