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United is one of the largest airlines in the world, so it should come as no surprise that its frequent flyer program, MileagePlus, has over 100 million members. If you’re one of them, there are myriad ways both to earn and redeem MileagePlus miles for the best value, including some phenomenal United credit card offers.
Here’s what you need to know to maximize your United MileagePlus miles, all the ways you can rack them up quickly, and how you can redeem them for the rewards you want.
From flying United and its partner carriers, booking certain hotels, signing up for promotions, and simply carrying the right credit card, there are plenty of ways to accumulate United miles in a flash. Because United miles never expire, you can focus on earning miles now without worrying about when you’ll be able to travel again.
Earn miles with Chase United and Ultimate Rewards credit cards
As is the case with many frequent flyer programs these days, the quickest, cheapest, and easiest way to accrue United MileagePlus miles is to open and use a co-branded credit card. United partners with Chase as its issuer, so in addition to the airline’s co-branded cards, you can transfer points from some of Chase’s other products to your MileagePlus account.
There are five United credit cards to consider if you just want to earn United miles and enjoy some day-of-travel perks to boot.
$95, waived first year
16.49% to 23.49% Variable
Good to Excellent
60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open (plus, an additional 10k bonus miles after you spend $6,000 in the first 6 months)
This popular option is currently offering a fantastic welcome bonus: 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open (plus, an additional 10k bonus miles after you spend $6,000 in the first 6 months).
$0 for the first year, then $525
16.49% – 23.49% Variable
United Club℠ Infinite Card
16.49% – 23.49% Variable
Good to Excellent
10,000 miles after you spend $1,000 in the first three months of account opening
This is the newest United credit card, and it’s relatively basic, but still a strong earner. It has no annual fee, but accumulates 3x miles on grocery purchases up to $1,500 per month through September 30, 2021; 2x miles on United purchases and at gas stations as well as on local transit and commuting; and 1x on everything else.
$99, waived the first year
16.49%–23.49% variable APR
Good to Excellent
60,000 bonus miles after $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
If you already have one of the other United credit cards, you could consider this small-business card instead. It’s currently offering 60,000 bonus miles after $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.
United℠ Club Business Card
This premium credit card offers a welcome bonus of 50,000 United miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. You’ll earn 2x miles on United purchases and 1.5x miles on everything else, and, like the personal version, the card comes with United Club membership.
If you prefer a card that earns transferable points, you can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to United MileagePlus (as well as a dozen other Chase airline and hotel partners) if you carry one of the following cards. Given that versatility, you might want to apply for one of them instead.
This customer-favorite travel rewards credit card offers 60,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within three months of account opening. The card earns 2x points on travel and dining.
You’ll earn 50,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening. Further, you can earn 3x points on travel (after you earn the $300 travel credit) and dining.
15.99%–20.99% variable APR
100,000 points after spending $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
Don’t forget about this business credit card, which packs a points punch of its own. New cardholders can earn a whopping 100,000 points after spending $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. They also earn 3x points on the first $150,000 spent on travel and select business categories each account anniversary year, and 1x on everything else.
Travelers have some fantastic choices when it comes to credit cards they can use to accumulate United MileagePlus miles. But there are more ways to earn, too.
Earn United miles by flying United and its partners
Of course, the other main way to stock up on a lot of United MileagePlus miles is to fly United and its other airline partners. Regular MileagePlus members (i.e. those without elite status) earn 5x miles per dollar spent on airfare with United or United Express. Those with Premier Silver status earn 7x, Premier Golds earn 8x, Premier Platinums get 9x and finally, Premier 1Ks earn 11x miles per dollar.
United also has 24 Star Alliance airline partners and 12 non-alliance airline partners with whom MileagePlus members can accrue miles when traveling. They include major carriers like ANA, Air Canada, EVA Air, Lufthansa, SAS and Singapore Airlines, among others.
The earning rates vary from partner to partner, but are usually based on the fare class purchased and the distance flown. For instance, tickets on Singapore Airlines earn between 0-150% of the distance flown, while those on SWISS earn 0-200%. So it pays to check the mileage rates on each individual partner page before committing to a ticket.
Earn United miles with other travel
In addition to just flights, you can earn United miles by booking stays with United’s hotel partners, sailings through United Cruises, and entire trips through United Vacations, as well as partner car rentals.
Earn United miles through shopping and dining rewards
Aside from travel, you can rack up miles by keeping a few other opportunities in mind. United offers an online shopping portal – kind of like an online mall – with hundreds of retail partners where MileagePlus members can earn bonus points on purchases. New members with a United co-branded card can currently earn up to 1,000 bonus miles by signing up and spending $150 within two weeks.
Members can also register for MileagePlus Dining and earn between 3x and 5x miles on tabs at thousands of participating restaurants around the country.
And don’t forget that Chase Ultimate Rewards points transfer to United MileagePlus instantly at a 1:1 ratio, so if you’re just a few thousand miles short of an award, this is one of the best ways to top up your account.
Speaking of awards, there are plenty of ways to redeem your United miles when the time comes.
Use miles for United award flights
It’s to be presumed that one of the primary reasons to focus on United miles is to use them for award flights on the airline itself. First, the bad news: United has removed award charts with fixed rates between various regions from its website and gravitated to a dynamic pricing model for award tickets.
This means that the number of miles you’ll need for a flight now depends more on how much paid airfares are running. That usually makes it cheaper to fly less expensive routes. On the flip side, however, if you’re looking for seats in business or first class, the mileage prices have risen recently and can be downright astronomical for Polaris business class on busy international routes.
These days, one-way domestic economy award tickets start at a mere 5,000 miles, but can range up to over 30,000 miles. You can find saver business or first-class awards within the US for as few as 25,000 miles, but also as high as over 60,000 miles.
Internationally, it’s hard to pinpoint exact values for routes these days given how few the airline is actually operating due to the COVID pandemic. But in general, expect one-ways from the US to other regions to start at around 32,500 miles in economy and 63,000 miles in business class and to skyrocket from there.
Redeem United miles for partner flights
Just as you can earn United miles on flights with partner airlines, you can also redeem them for award tickets on the carrier’s Star Alliance and non-alliance partners. United stealthily raised award prices across the board by around 10% earlier this year, and then bumped them up again for close-in bookings in October — all of which has driven these prices higher still.
While the number of miles you need for a specific flight will also depend on the route, airline, and dates, expect to pay about 33,000 miles each way from the US to Europe in economy and 77,000 miles in business class. Flights from the US to Asia start at around 44,000 miles each way in economy and 88,000 miles in business class.
How to search for awards using United miles
On the bright side, United has one of the most robust award-search engines – both for its own flights and those of its partners – of any airline out there. To search for tickets, just go to United.com, enter in your origin, destination, and flight dates, and make sure the box that says, “Book with miles” is checked. You can even check “Flexible dates” to see a month’s worth of award availability and filter your search by cabin class, which makes it easier to find the flights you need.
In terms of value, you should try to get at least 1 cent per redeemed mile in value for any award flights that you book, and aim higher for tickets in business or first class.
Other ways to redeem United miles
Beyond award tickets, United lets you redeem MileagePlus miles for other travel-related purposes, such as seat upgrades and United Club memberships. The latter costs $650 or 85,000 miles, meaning you’re only getting 0.76 cents per mile in value, which is definitely not worth it. You can also purchase inflight Wi-Fi passes or subscriptions using miles – but this is an even worse value.
Among the other options are redeeming miles for TSA PreCheck applications, merchandise, gift cards (many of these only net you a measly 0.3 cents per mile), various experiences like concerts and Broadway shows (once they resume), charitable donations, and even for hotels and cruises. Unfortunately, these redemptions are less than ideal if you’re looking to maximize value.
Given what a large presence United and its partners have around the world, the airline’s MileagePlus frequent flyer program is an excellent choice when it comes to travel loyalty. Not only does United boast several great co-branded credit cards that make it easy to earn miles quickly, but the fact that you can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards to MileagePlus make the program even more useful.
When it comes time to use your miles, save them for flights on United and its partner carriers rather than for things that don’t get you nearly the same value, such as merchandise and gift cards. With a little spending and travel strategy, you can boost your United MileagePlus earning astronomically and then redeem your miles for some great options when you’re ready to travel again.