Frequent-Buyer Miles
By Barney Gimbel

(FORTUNE Magazine) – How do you enjoy frequent-flier perks without putting in the miles? United Airlines offers an answer with the Elite Prepaid Travel Card, a debit account in which you buy your air travel for the year at $5,000, $10,000, or $20,000 levels: $5,000 gets you Premier status, which includes priority check-in and access to United's Economy Plus seats with extra legroom; $10,000, the Premier Executive level; and $20,000 buys a 1K membership, which includes six free upgrades to business or first class. (Buying a coach ticket for New York to Sydney, for example, and upgrading to business class could save you some $7,000.) Of course, the program is worth it only if you're in a city where United is a player and you work for a company that doesn't require using a corporate travel agency, as the cards can be redeemed only through United directly. But make sure to spend it all, because after one year you get only half back.