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How to Survive the United-Continental Merger

On March 3, United's new MileagePlus program will consolidate and replace the current Continental OnePass and United MileagePlus programs.

Most of the consolidation of the two programs will happen automatically, behind the scenes. But not all of it. And as with any large-scale computer project that involves the merging and purging and modifying of tens of millions of records, there's the potential for niggling lapses if not outright mayhem.

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Here's what you need to know, and do, to guarantee a smooth transition.

Membership Account Numbers & Passwords

Current 11-digit MileagePlus account numbers will be retired in favor of OnePass eight-character numbers. If you have both United and Continental accounts, your OnePass number automatically replaces your United number in the new program. If you have no OnePass account, you will be issued a new eight-character MileagePlus number to replace your current one.

Passwords linked to your OnePass or MileagePlus accounts will remain the same, unless you have accounts in both programs. In that case, when the accounts are merged, the MileagePlus password will automatically replace your OnePass password.

Miles

"A one-time grant of MileagePlus award miles equivalent to your OnePass reward miles balance will be added to your MileagePlus account. We will do the same with elite qualifying activity and upgrades."

In other words, on March 3, OnePass and MileagePlus miles will be consolidated in a single MileagePlus account.

If you have not manually linked your accounts, the consolidation should take place automatically. The "should" is important here because the two accounts can only be combined if the member information is sufficiently alike in both accounts (this will trigger an autimatic merge). If you use different names (William in one, Bill in the other, for example) or have different mailing addresses in the two accounts, they may not auto-combine.

Credit Cards

If you have either a OnePass or a MileagePlus credit card from Chase, there's no need to do anything.

While your OnePass credit card account statements will henceforth refer to your card as a United MileagePlus Explorer card, you can continue using the current OnePass card until it's actually replaced by a MileagePlus-branded card "no later than September 2012."

If you have both the OnePass Plus MasterCard and the MileagePlus Explorer Visa cards, you will still have two MileagePlus Explorer cards post-merger, a MasterCard and a Visa. You can retain one and cancel the other, or keep both.

Elite Status

Elite members will receive benefits linked to the new 2012 Premier program beginning March 3.

Status will be based on elite-qualifying activity in both your OnePass and MileagePlus accounts.

Checks and Balances

Here's what to do on or after March 3 to ensure you survive the cut-over with all your miles and elite perks intact:

  • Check your account to confirm that miles from your OnePass and MileagePlus accounts have been properly consolidated. And verify that you have been granted proper elite status as well.
  • Check your account details to ensure your contact information is current. (When accounts are merged, the most recent street address will be retained, and the email address on file with MileagePlus will replace the one in your OnePass profile.)
  • Check outstanding reservations to confirm old MileagePlus numbers have been auto-replaced with new ones.
  • Check your earning preferences with any relevant hotel or rental-car programs to be sure that your new MileagePlus number is in place if you wish to earn United miles.

Reader Reality Check

How has the transition been for you? Any problems?

This article originally appeared on FrequentFlier.com.

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