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One of the great benefits of travel credit cards is that you can boost the balance of your airline loyalty program.
United has one of the most popular loyalty plans, but while you may be comfortable with accumulating miles, you may still be a little confused about how you do about redeeming your United miles.
United offers co-branded airline credit cards such as the
So, here we’ll delve into this topic in greater detail to help you.
How Do United Miles Work?
United Airlines operates approximately 4,500 flights across 300-plus cities around the world. It is one of the largest U.S airlines with domestic hubs in 6 major cities.
Once you accumulate sufficient miles, you can redeem them for flights across different classes with United and its partner airlines, along with flight upgrades.
You can also use your miles for flight and airport benefits and newspaper or magazine subscriptions, hotels, gift cards, experiences, cruises, donations, and statement credits to offset United. Com purchases.
The United miles program called Mileage Plus allows you to accumulate miles with United purchases and via your United branded credit card. You can also transfer your Chase Ultimate Rewards into United Miles.
Here's an overview of the best United cards and the number of miles you can get with each:
United Club℠ Infinite Card
Up to 4x miles 4x miles on United Airlines purchases, 2x miles on all other travel purchases, dining and eligible delivery services and 1x miles on all other purchases
80,000 miles 80,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
United Quest℠ Card
Up to 3x miles 3 miles per $1 spent on United purchases immediately after earning your $125 annual United purchase credit, 2 miles on all other travel and select streaming services, 1 mile on all other purchases
60,000 miles + 500 PQPs 60,000 bonus miles + 500 PQPs after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open
United Gateway℠ Card
1X – 2X 2X per $1 spent on United® purchases, at gas stations and on local transit and commuting and 1X on all other purchases
20,000 miles 20,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open
1X – 2X 2X per $1 spent on United® purchases, dining (including eligible delivery services), at gas stations, office supply stores, and on local transit and commuting and 1X on all other purchases
75,000 miles 75,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first three months
United Explorer Card
1X – 2X 2x per $1 spent on United purchases, hotel accommodations, restaurants & eligible delivery services and 1x per $1 spent on all other purchases
50,000 miles 50,000 miles after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open
$95 ($0 first year)
The United Club℠ Infinite Card is the most expensive United card but offers the highest ratio of United Points. The classic card is the United Explorer Card which offers a nice sign up bonus of 50,000 miles .
Lastly, the United Quest℠ Card which is quite new that offers 3 miles per $1 spent on United purchases immediately after earning your $125 annual United purchase credit, 2 miles on all other travel and select streaming services, 1 mile on all other purchases.
How Much Are United Miles Worth?
The redemption value of United miles varies according to how you use them. They have an average value of 1.2 cents each, but some redemption methods offer far better value compared to others.
Generally speaking, you’ll get a better redemption value for international flights, with an average of 1.4 cents per mile. For example , depending on the denomination and brand, you may struggle to get 0.5 cents per mile if you use your miles for gift cards.
For example, if you’re looking at using your miles for flights, you can calculate the value of each mile for a specific flight by dividing the ticket cash value by the number of miles that are required for the flight. So, if a ticket costs $100 or 10,000 miles, you would get a value of 1 cents per mile.
So, it is important to check all your redemption options and shop around to ensure that you get the best value for your accumulated miles when you decide you want to redeem.
How Many Miles to Redeem a Flight?
It can be anything from about 10,000 miles to 150,000 miles and more, depending on your destination and time.
Since United no longer publishes its region-based awards chart, you can benefit from dynamic pricing – how many miles are based on flight price. Although this may mean that some awards are more expensive, you can find some cheaper bargains.
For example, if you want to redeem miles for American Airlines flights, you need to spend 8,000 – 55,000 miles.
How to Redeem Miles for United Flights
As we’ve discussed, one of the best ways to redeem your United miles is for United award tickets.
United has over 4,500 daily departures across hundreds of cities, so you can choose whether you want to travel domestically or internationally. United has a user-friendly site that makes it easy to search for award flights.
Saver and Everyday Award Categories
All you need to do is input your travel dates, origin, and destination before selecting “Book With Miles” to find flights. There are awards in each fare class, with Saver and Everyday Award categories.
- Saver: A Saver Award is a discounted ticket found in economy, first class, and business class cabins. These awards are capacity controlled, so it can be tricky to find if you’re planning to travel on popular days or periods.
- Everyday: An Everyday award offers increased availability but is not as low priced as a Saver Award. However, there is more chance that you’ll find an Everyday award even if a Saver Award is not available. Generally, Everyday Awards are more expensive, so check your redemption values before you book.
If you have a flexible travel schedule, you can look at a 30-day calendar to see if there are days when the flights are more affordable. You can filter the calendar by nonstop flights or opt for connecting flights.
Redeeming for Business or First Class
Generally, you’ll get a better value for your miles if you redeem them for a business class or first-class international ticket.
For example, you could fly business class from Washington to London for 120,000 miles with $400 in taxes, mostly applied in the UK for flight departures. With a cash value for this ticket of $7,000, you would get a miles value of 5.8 cents per mile, far higher than the average of 1.2 cents.
3 Steps to Redeem Miles for United Flights
When you’ve decided that you’d like to redeem your miles for a flight, you can complete the redemption process in a few simple steps.
1. Search For Flights
Enter your destination, origin, travel dates, and the number of travelers. You can also use advanced search criteria if you want a more complicated itinerary. Click “Find Flights.”
2. View the Deals
From the results page, you can narrow your search by looking at the 30-day calendar or sort using the column headers. You can find more information about specific flights by clicking “Seats” or “Details”.
3. Click And Confirm
When you find an award flight of interest, click on select and you’ll proceed through the booking process. This is fairly standard and you’ll need to provide traveler details and go through the payment confirmation pages for any fees or taxes.
Bear in mind that at checkout, you can select “Money & Miles” to use a specified number of miles and pay the remainder with cash. So, if you haven’t accumulated sufficient miles, you don’t need to wait to book your preferred trip.
How to Redeem United Miles on Partner Flights
United is one of the founding Star Alliance members, which is a network of 26 airlines. Due to this participation and its partnership with a further 14 airlines, United offers a fantastic selection of partner flight opportunities. For example, when you want to redeem Delta miles on partner programs, you can choose from +20 airline partners.
United even makes it easy to access this partnership network as you can book partner flights on the United.com website.
Here's a list of some of United partners:
- Aer Lingus
- Air Canada
- Turkish Airlines
- Air China
- Air India
- Hawaiian Airlines
- Singapore Airlines
However, since United removed its partner award chart, you cannot immediately see the baseline cost of the award flights between certain regions.
This makes it trickier to decide what you consider a fair price. If you’re looking at flying domestically, you’re likely to find a United operated flight, but when flying internationally, you will have a wider choice.
You May Not Need to Transfer Miles to United Partners
Bear in mind that you won’t typically need to transfer your United miles to one of its partners to book your flights. You can search for all award flights for United and its partners from one screen. Once you find an award flight, the booking process is identical to booking a United reward flight.
If you’re undecided whether you want to fly United or use a partner airline, United has an interactive award chart to help you determine the price differences.
You can enter the region you are flying from and the region you want to fly to, scroll down and you can view the award flight prices. You can then search for the same United route to compare prices.
How to Redeem Miles to Get Upgrades
There are four types of United upgrade awards. The PlusPoint and Complimentary Premier upgrades are free of charge and don’t require you to use your United miles.
1. MileagePlus Upgrades
MileagePlus upgrades are available on paid United and United Express flights. Your upgrade can be a combination of United Miles and cash depending on the fare class and cabin.
For example, if you purchase a class O fare for a mainland U.S flight to Europe, you would need to spend 12,500 miles to upgrade from Premium Plus to Polaris Business. The United site allows you to play around with destination and origin regions to check the upgrade costs on specific flights.
So, if you’re planning on using your miles to upgrade your ticket, it is a good idea to check a few options. Generally, the more expensive your fare class, the cheaper the upgrade and vice versa.
2. Star Alliance Upgrades
This works in a similar way to MileagePlus upgrades as you can use your miles to upgrade your paid tickets on Star Alliance partner airlines.
However, there are some limitations and restrictions on which fare classes you can upgrade. United has a full list of partner airlines and the upgrade potential on its website.
Redemption Rate on Upgrades Is Quite Low
Bear in mind that while you can use your United miles for upgrades, it will not provide the best redemption rate, particularly if you’re paying for coach and want to upgrade your cabin.
Additionally, the booking rates tend to be quite high and there is little value consistency. Of course, the upgrade price will depend on the route, fare class, booked seat and your United elite status.
This means that you’ll need to watch out for mileage upgrade offers when you book, but these often provide poor value. But, if a specific upgrade appeals to you, it is a redemption option.
How to Redeem Miles on Cars, Hotels & Vacations
If you can’t find a flight deal to suit your travel plans, you could consider redeeming your miles on cars, hotels or vacations. While these options may not offer the best redemption rates, depending on your requirements, you could bag a great deal.
- Car Rentals: You can use your United miles to book a car rental through the United portal. You can expect a typical redemption value of 0.6 cents per mile, so it does not offer the best value for your points. However, if you are planning a full vacation, you may want to use points. Just be sure to compare the points cost with booking a direct rental with the popular agencies to ensure that you’re getting the best deal.
- Hotels: United also offers the potential to redeem your miles for hotel stays. Again it is important to check the miles vs cash price for your hotel deal, but you can expect just less than 0.6 cents per mile.
- Vacations: The United portal also allows you to search for vacation packages, but there is also a dedicated cruise website offering discounted options.
How to Redeem Miles on United Reservation Services?
If you don’t feel comfortable booking your award flights or redeeming your miles on the United website, you can call the United Reservation Services phone line.
It is a good idea to have the details of the flight you’d like to book and other travel details on hand, rather than just having a vague “I want to travel to… or I want to travel on this date.”
If you can provide details of the flight and the travel dates, it will make it quicker and easier for the United representative to make your booking. Just be aware that if you use this method you may incur booking fees.
So, if you want to avoid fees and expedite redeeming your miles for an award flight, it is far better to use the United portal.
Other United Redemption Options to Consider
While flights offer the best redemption values, if you are looking for other redemption methods, United does have numerous options. These include:
- United Club: There are over 45 locations in the United Club global network, so if you don’t already have a lounge membership, you may find this is a good redemption option for you. An annual United Club subscription currently costs $650 or $85,000 miles, which works out at approximately 0.8 cents per mile.
- In Flight WiFi: If you fly regularly, you could use your miles to purchase an in flight WiFi subscription for 7,500 miles. With a cash value of $49, this works out at 0.7 cents per mile.
- Airport Dining: In select restaurants, you can use your United miles to pay your dining bill. You will need to scan your boarding pass and at check out, select miles to pay your bill.
- TSA PreCheck: If you don’t have a reimbursement for your TSA PreCheck as a perk of your credit card, you could use your United miles to pay for your subscription. You’ll need 11,000 miles to cover the $85 application fee, which works out at approximately 0.8 cents per mile.
- Magazine and Newspaper Subscriptions: There is a selection of magazine and newspaper subscription options on the United miles redemption webpage. While this may seem like a waste of your miles, depending on the specific subscription, you could get a redemption value of 2.5 cents per mile.
- Gift Cards: If you prefer to have a cash alternative for your United miles, you can purchase gift cards, but these offer a poor redemption rate of just 0.3 cents per mile.
- Charitable Donations: You can browse the United donation page to search for the list of current charity campaigns that you can support with your miles.
- Statement Credit: Finally, if you hold a United credit card, you can use your miles to get statement credit to offset the cost of United tickets, but these offer one of the lowest redemption values.
There are a couple of cash alternatives including statement credit and gift cards, but these offer some of the lowest redemption rates, so they are not the best options.
This depends entirely on the specific flight and travel dates. If you’re unsure about whether you have sufficient miles for a United flight, it is well worth browsing the award flights.
Bear in mind that you can also pay with miles and cash, if you don’t have enough miles for your Award flight.
You’ll need to browse the gift card page on the United website to search for your favorite brands and the number of miles needed for particular gift card denominations.
Yes, if you search the MileagePlus website, you can shop for merchandise and other popular products.
There is a comprehensive list of United airline partners on the United website including:
- Air New Zealand
- Austrian Airlines
- Croatia Airlines
- Ethiopian Airlines
- Scandinavian Airlines (SAS)
- Shenzhen Airlines
- Singapore Airlines
- South African Airways
- Swiss International Airlines
- TAP Air Portugal
You can use your United miles to book flights for your spouse, but if you want to transfer your miles to your spouse, there are hefty processing fees, making it uneconomical.
For example, if you transfer 10,000 miles to your spouse, you could pay a fee of $180. So, it is far better to redeem your miles for bookings for you or your spouse from your account.
The answer is no, you can book trips through Capital One Travel or transfer your Capital One points to Air Canada, Turkish, or Singapore Airlines to purchase flights on United. These airlines are part of the Star Alliance and offer flights on United.
No, Amex points cannot be transferred to United. However, three of the program's airline transfer partners are also United Airlines partners. You can transfer your American Express Membership Rewards points to these airlines and then book a United flight.