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United MileagePlus guide

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United’s MileagePlus program is a free loyalty program that rewards passengers for traveling with United, United airline partners in the Star Alliance and in several other ways. Joining MileagePlus is easy, and you can redeem miles for free or reduced travel, merchandise or gift cards.

Your earning potential increases when you use a United Airlines credit card, as you can earn miles on purchases which can, in turn, be redeemed for flights. With a United-branded card, you can spend your accumulated miles in a variety of ways.

For a frequent United flyer, holding one of the airline’s co-branded credit cards can help you earn miles more quickly. And flying more with the airline can help you achieve elite status, allowing you to earn rewards faster, gain access to upgrades and enjoy United Club membership at a lower price point.

How to earn United MileagePlus miles

With every flight you book with United or a Star Alliance partner, you earn miles based on the fare amount and your level of status. Members without elite status earn 5X miles on the base fare, which doesn’t include taxes and fees.

United Premier members earn additional Premier bonus miles, on top of the 5X earned already, at the following rates:

  • Premier Silver: 2X fare (7X total)
  • Premier Gold: 3X fare (8X total)
  • Premier Platinum: 4X fare (9X total)
  • Premier 1K: 6X fare (11X total)

Best credit cards for earning United MileagePlus miles

In partnership with Chase Bank, United offers its own United MileagePlus credit cards with unique perks that will make future travel plans easier, cheaper and more enjoyable.

United Explorer Card: Best for your first travel rewards card

The United℠ Explorer Card currently offers a bonus of up to 65,000 miles: 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open and an additional 25,000 bonus miles after you spend $10,000 total on purchases in the first six months your account is open.

For purchases put on your United Explorer Card, you’ll receive:

  • 2X miles per $1 on United purchases
  • 2X miles per $1 on restaurant and eligible food delivery service purchases
  • 2X miles per $1 on hotel stays when you reserve directly with the hotel
  • 1X miles per $1 on all other purchases

Additional benefits include 25 percent back as a statement credit when you use your Explorer card to purchase food, beverages or Wi-Fi on United-operated flights, up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA Precheck every four years and a complimentary first checked bag. You also won’t pay any foreign transaction fees or face any blackout dates with this card.

The annual fee of $95 is waived the first year, and the variable APR is 16.49 percent to 23.49 percent.

United Club℠ Infinite Card: Best for frequent flyers who pay their own travel costs

Are you an entrepreneur who travels often? Then the United Club℠ Infinite Card will give you the most bang for your buck. You’ll receive 75,000 bonus miles if you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months of opening your account. These miles do come with a price, though, as this card charges an annual fee of $525.

For purchases put on your United Club Infinite Card, you’ll receive:

  • 4X miles per $1 on United purchases
  • 2X miles per $1 on all other travel purchases
  • 2X miles per $1 on restaurant and eligible food delivery service purchases
  • 1X mile per $1 on all other purchases

Other notable benefits include 25 percent back on United in-flight purchases, up to $100 in credits for Global Entry or TSA Precheck every four years, complimentary United Club membership and complimentary first two checked bags (plus no blackout dates or foreign transaction fees). The variable APR is 16.49 percent to 23.49 percent.

Chase Sapphire Preferred: Best for daily spending

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card will net you a sweet 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. You can also earn up to $50 in statement credits toward grocery store purchases (one-time statement credit; available for 12 months from account opening). And if you have other travel rewards credit cards issued through Chase, the points can be pooled together in your Chase Ultimate Rewards account.

You’ll also get 25 percent more value when you redeem your points for travel. And with Pay Yourself Back, points are worth 25 percent more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select rotating categories.

Chase Sapphire Preferred cardholders currently earn:

  • 2X points per $1 on travel and dining purchases
  • 1X points per $1 on all other purchases
  • 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022 (3X points in addition to the 2X points you already earn on travel)
  • 10X points on up to $500 in takeout orders and prepaid reservations via Chase Dining in the Ultimate Rewards portal (through June 30, 2021)

There is a $95 annual fee and a variable APR of 15.99 percent to 22.99 percent.

Buying United MileagePlus miles

For those times when you really want to book a ticket with your miles but fall just a bit short, you can buy miles directly from United. Miles can be purchased in increments of 1,000 for $35, plus taxes and fees, with a minimum 2,000-mile purchase. This makes each mile cost more than 3.5 cents each—more after you figure in the fees and taxes. Occasionally, United has promotions where it will offer an extra percentage of miles purchased for free. Depending on your plan to earn and use miles, this might be a great deal to get extra miles that you can redeem for free travel.

Transferring United miles

Rather than buying United miles, you can transfer 500 to 100,000 miles between people for a minimal fee. This may be appropriate in a situation where your family takes a vacation and accumulates tens of thousands of miles, and you’d like to use the miles that were “earned” by your children’s airfare to offset your business travel expenses. While it’s not the best value, it’s an option if the miles would expire otherwise.

United MileagePlus hotel partners

With more than 15,000 partner hotels worldwide, you can find a hotel where you can earn bonus United miles for stays. You can also transfer United miles into hotel points in a number of programs, including some of the world’s biggest hotel loyalty programs. MileagePlus hotel rewards programs partners include:

  • Marriott Bonvoy
  • IHG Rewards Club
  • World of Hyatt
  • Radisson Rewards
  • Wyndham Rewards
  • Choice Privileges Rewards
  • Golden Circle
  • Accor Live Limitless

United MileagePlus airline partners

United is a Star Alliance member, meaning that if your preferred airline is United, you can take flights on partner airlines and then credit the miles you earn to your MileagePlus account. Let’s say you take a United flight to Canada and then use Air Canada—also a Star Alliance member—to do some additional travel while in the country. Since both airlines are Star Alliance members, you can later redeem the miles you earned from those flights for another flight on a Star Alliance carrier.

Star Alliance carriers also include:

  • Aegean
  • Air Canada
  • Air China
  • Air India
  • Air New Zealand
  • ANA All Nippon Airways
  • Asiana Airlines
  • Austrian
  • Avianca
  • Brussels Airlines
  • Copa Airlines
  • Croatia Airlines
  • EgyptAir
  • Ethiopian Airlines
  • EVA Air
  • LOT Polish Airlines
  • Lufthansa
  • SAS
  • Shenzhen Airlines
  • Singapore Airlines
  • South African Airways
  • TAP Air Portugal
  • Thai
  • Turkish Airlines

How to redeem United MileagePlus miles

One way to redeem your miles is through United MileagePlus Shopping. Two of the easiest ways to spend the miles you accumulate with your credit card spending or air travel are with merchandise rewards and the MileagePlus X app.

With merchandise rewards, your miles function as the currency used to shop from a vast range of products. From home décor and kitchen appliances to Apple products and Lego sets, there is no shortage of merchants to spend your miles with. Simply log in with your United MileagePlus account and start browsing the thousands of items.

The MileagePlus X app makes it easy for you to turn your miles and points into eGift cards which you can then use for yourself or gift to others. With a few taps of your screen, you can pay for your dinner or shopping purchase with your miles. Participating merchants include Uber, Starbucks, The Home Depot, Best Buy, Domino’s and Walmart. You can also earn more miles when you use the app and shop with your favorite retailers.

The one-time setup to use the app is easy and requires the basics like entering your United MileagePlus number, your United MileagePlus credit card number and personal info like your address and telephone number.

After purchases, check your United MileagePlus statement online to ensure you received credit. Should you find an error, submitting a request ticket for missing miles or purchase credit is easy to do on the United MileagePlus contact page.

Additional ways to use United MileagePlus miles

You can also use your United MileagePlus miles in the following ways:

  • Dining at select restaurants and bars at New York/Newark Airport and Houston Intercontinental Airport
  • Newspaper and magazine subscriptions
  • Gift certificates from and Lettuce Entertain You
  • Flowers and gourmet gift baskets from FTD
  • Tickets to theater performances, sporting events and concerts
  • United airline flight upgrades

United Airlines MileagePlus values

Redeeming your United MileagePlus miles to book air travel is easy and can be done by logging into your account on the United website. United miles are roughly valued at 1.3 cents each according to The Points Guy, but United recently changed its award-pricing system so that reward costs are no longer fixed, fluctuating depending on the specific flight you’re looking at. This could be a double-edged sword, although you might find certain transfer partner award fares to certain places give you a higher value than if you paid for your fare in cash or if you booked through United.

You can gauge your redemption values by selecting “book rewards travel” and entering your desired locations, dates and preferences for the time of day and fare class. You’ll be given the option to choose between Saver awards or Everyday awards. The Saver awards require fewer miles but are capacity controlled so they aren’t available on every flight. Everyday awards also have capacity controls, unless you are an eligible MileagePlus credit cardholder or have elite status, but may have more capacity available. Both award tiers allow you to use rewards on a variety of flights operated by United and its partners.

Earning United elite status

Gaining elite status with United MileagePlus takes a bit of time, but for those who fly regularly, it should not be hard to achieve at least the lower tiers of elite status. Once you reach these levels, you’ll rack up more miles on every flight. You may also receive perks including seat upgrades, free baggage and priority check-in.

Keep an eye on your MileagePlus account status to see how far you are from the next tier.

United Club membership

United passengers can purchase a day pass granting entry to one of the more than 45 United Club locations around the world. If you’re a frequent passenger, you can purchase an annual membership that grants access to all United Clubs so you can make use of the amenities that will make your travels easier and more enjoyable. United Club members also have access to select Star Alliance-affiliated airport clubs around the world.

United Club locations offer:

  • Wi-Fi
  • Personalized travel assistance
  • Complimentary snacks and beverages
  • Bar service
  • Information on local dining and hotel options
  • Quiet areas to work or rest
  • Private phone booth (in select locations)

Membership rates for United Club are based on tier levels. Not sure of your status? You can check United MileagePlus status when you log in to your MileagePlus dashboard. For reference:

  • General Member: $650 or 85,000 miles
  • Premier Silver: $650 or 85,000 miles
  • Premier Gold: $650 or $85,000 miles
  • Premier Platinum: $600 or 80,000 miles
  • Premier 1K: $550 or 75,000 miles

The bottom line

Whether you fly thousands of miles a year and are looking to gain elite status as soon as possible or just fly a few times a year, United MileagePlus is worth joining for its ease of use and the benefits that are available. You’ll reap numerous travel benefits you can use on your next trip.

All information about the United Explorer Card and the United Club Infinite Card has been collected independently by Bankrate and has not been reviewed or approved by the issuer.