United Airlines MileagePlus Loyalty Program Review

United Airlines MileagePlus Loyalty Program Review

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United Airlines Summary Table

Branded and Partnered Credit Cards

You have a few credit card options to help you earn United miles that can be redeemed for some amazing flights.

United Airlines MileagePlus Credit Cards

Check out Chase’s co-branded United credit cards if you want to earn United miles directly.

Chase Ultimate Rewards Credit Cards

Probably the best way to collect United miles is to earn Chase Ultimate Rewards. With plenty of bonus categories across these cards, you can earn tons of points.

Recommended Chase Cards (Personal)

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card - This is our favorite beginners travel card that earns valuable points and it comes with a big 60,000 sign up bonus (highest ever & valued at $750), after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. The annual fee is $95.
Chase Freedom Unlimited® - A simple, no annual fee card that earns you 1.5% cash back on all purchases. A good card to get after the Sapphire Preferred because then you can transfer your cash-back into points (which is how you maximize value).
Chase Sapphire Reserve® - This is a premium travel rewards card with a higher annual fee, but it'll get you into a lot of airport lounges (Priority Pass). The current sign up bonus is 50,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. You'll also get a $300 travel credit per year which wipes away a big chunk of the $450 annual fee.

Recommended Chase Cards (Business)

Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card - This is our #1 recommended business card and comes with a whopping 80,000 sign up bonus after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months after account opening. This bonus is worth $1,000. You can earn lots of points by leveraging the cards bonus categories.
Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card - earn $500 bonus cash back after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months after account opening. In addition, get up to 5% cash back on a range of business expenses. A simple, $0 annual fee card.

United Airlines Overview

United MileagePlus is the second-oldest frequent flyer program in the world (only a week younger than American’s AAdvantage program!).

It is consistently voted the world’s Best Frequent Flyer Program by Global Traveler Magazine’s U.S. readers. A key to the popularity of MileagePlus is the ability to redeem miles for awards on Star Alliance partner airlines.

Joining MileagePlus

To join the MileagePlus program, you simply need to sign up on their website. Membership is free and you can start earning and redeeming miles immediately.

MileagePlus Enrollment

How to Sign in to Your MileagePlus Account

Sign in on the homepage with your account number and password. United has removed the username and e-mail address sign-in method.

You’ll have to set additional security questions and remember the answers, such as your favorite pizza topping or winter sport.

MileagePlus Sign-in

Viewing Your Account Activity

Use the MileagePlus My Account page to review your activity.

Account activity is displayed in 4 sections:

  • Airline activity
  • Non-airline activity
  • Award activity
  • Upgrade activity (for upgrade certificates issued to MileagePlus members with 1K or Platinum status)

Points Expiration

MileagePlus miles expire after 18 months of inactivity. You don’t necessarily need to fly, though. Any activity earning or redeeming miles counts, such as using the MileagePlus Shopping portal or dining at a restaurant participating in MileagePlus Dining.

United MileagePlus Program

MileagePlus Elite Status

MileagePlus has 4 elite status levels, plus the invitation-only Global Services level:

  • Premier Silver
  • Premier Gold
  • Premier Platinum
  • Premier 1K

Elite status requirements are now a near copy of Delta SkyMiles:

  • Premier Silver – 25,000 Premier Qualifying Miles (PQM) or 30 Premier Qualifying Segments (PQS) and $3,000 in Medallion Qualifying Dollars (MQD)
  • Premier Gold – 50,000 PQM or 60 PQS and $6,000 PQD
  • Premier Platinum – 75,000 PQM or 90 PQS and $9,000 PQD
  • Premier 1K – 100,000 PQM so 120 segments and $15,000 PQD

MQD requirements are waived if spending $25,000 per year on a United-branded credit card (except for Premier 1K).

MileagePlus Elite Benefits

MileagePlus Premier Benefits

Premier Silver:

  • Complimentary Economy Plus seats at check-in
  • Complimentary upgrades at day of departure (subject to availability)
  • Priority check-in, security, and boarding
  • 1 free checked bag of 70 lbs on domestic flights, 2 free checked bags of 70 lbs for international flights (3 on any flight if traveling in business, first, or Polaris)
  • Increased Saver Award availability in economy on United
  • Reduced award ticket fees
  • Hertz Five Star status (register here)

Premier Gold:

  • All Silver benefits plus:
  • Complimentary Economy Plus seats at booking
  • Complimentary upgrades 48 hours prior to departure (subject to availability)
  • Free same-day flight change (subject to availability)
  • 2 free checked bag of 70 lbs on domestic flights, 3 free checked bags of 70 lbs for international flights (3 on any flight if traveling in business, first, or Polaris)
  • United Club access when traveling internationally
  • Star Alliance Gold status for access to partner lounges, even on domestic travel (excludes United Club)
  • Marriott Gold Status with the RewardsPlus program (register here)

Premier Platinum:

  • All Gold benefits plus:
  • Complimentary upgrades 72 hours prior to departure (subject to availability)
  • 2 Regional Premier Upgrade (RPU) certificates per year, applicable to domestic  and limited short-distance international flights
  • 3 free checked bags of 70 lbs on any flight
  • Increased Saver Award availability in premium cabins on United
  • Award fee waivers up to 60 days prior to travel
  • Hertz President’s Circle status (register here)

Premier 1K:

  • All Platinum benefits plus:
  • Complimentary upgrades 96 hours prior to departure (subject to availability)
  • 4 Regional Premier Upgrade (RPU) certificates per year
  • 6 Global Premier Upgrade (GPU) certificates per year (subject to fare class restrictions on international routes – cheapest economy fares not eligible)
  • 1 GPU for every 25,000 PQM or 30 PQS after reaching Premier 1K status (no additional RPU)
  • Complimentary award change and redeposit
  • Free drinks and snacks when in economy on United

See the full line-up of benefits for all the details and benefit terms.

Value of MileagePlus Elite Status

MileagePlus has not made significant changes to its elite status benefits in several years.

Premier Silver is of limited value.

Premier Gold’s fee waiver for same-day changes (even on international flights) is a road warrior favorite. Delta excludes international flights entirely from its same-day change program, and American only waives fees for Executive Platinum.

Premier Gold also comes with Star Alliance Gold status. Many travelers do not realize that if your airport has a Star Alliance member lounge, you can use that lounge when flying any Star Alliance airline (even United domestically).

For example, when flying Los Angeles to New York, you will not get United Club access. However, with Premier Gold you can visit the superb Star Alliance Lounge in the Tom Bradley International Terminal (you can enter with a boarding pass for any terminal).

Premier Platinum recently saw the introduction of fees for changes to award tickets within 60 days of travel. Anecdotally, upgrade rates are low even when using RPU certificates. Premier Platinum has fallen behind Delta Platinum, but it is roughly on a par with American’s new Platinum Pro.

Premier 1K members enjoy a higher level of service and still have award fee waivers. The headline benefit of GPU certificates is not all it seems: upgrade availability on international routes is severely limited, and travelers must gamble in advance by buying more expensive upgrade-eligible flights than the cheapest economy flights. Delta and American have much more customer-friendly upgrade systems for their top tier elites.

How to Earn United Miles

You’ll have plenty of ways to earn United miles between flights and credit card partnerships.

Earn Miles Through Flying

Mileage earning on United Airlines and select partner flights is now based on ticket price (base fare plus carrier-imposed fees, excluding government-imposed taxes and fees):

  • General Member – 5 miles/dollar
  • Premier Silver – 7 miles/dollar
  • Premier Gold – 8 miles/dollar
  • Premier Platinum – 9 miles/dollar
  • Premier 1K – 11 miles/dollar

Other partners still earn based on distance, but depending on fare class you may earn more or less than 100% of the distance flown. Consult the MileagePlus airline partner page to see how many miles your ticket will earn.

For chasing elite status, Premier Qualifying Dollars can only be earned on United flights and United flight-numbered codeshares.

AegeanEva Air
Air CanadaPolish Airlines
Air ChinaLufthansa
Air IndiaScandinavian Airlines
Air New ZealandShenzhen Airlines
ANASingapore Airlines
Asiana AirlinesSouth African Airways
AviancaTAP Air Portugal
Brussels AirlinesThai Airways
Copa AirlinesTurkish Airlines
Croatia AirlinesUnited Airlines
Egypt Air

United also has several other partners outside of Star Alliance that could fit your needs.

Other Partners
Aer LingusGermanwings
AeromarGreat Lakes Airlines
Air DolomitiHawaiian Airlines
AzulIsland Air
Cape AirJet Airways
EdelweissSilver Airways

Earning Miles With Credit Cards

Extra miles can be earned through MileagePlus credit card spending and activity with MileagePlus partners. Chase offers several co-branded credit cards with United that can help you earn United miles.

You can also transfer points from Chase Ultimate Rewards, which transfer to United at a 1:1 ratio. Because cards that earn Ultimate Rewards often have very lucrative bonus categories, you can often earn the most United miles using these cards.

How to Redeem United Miles

Time to spend those hard earned miles! On United, all award travel is booked one-way for flexibility, so you can book a different award type or even class of service on your outbound and return flights.

You can even purchase only a one-way ticket if there are one-way sale fares. This is especially true for international travel, since international origin one-way tickets are usually cheaper than U.S. origin tickets.

United provides an award chart for their destinations that is helpful for planning out your travel.

New in 2019, United is testing new dymanic pricing, with awards as low as 5,000 miles one-way. Award prices are still capped to the maximums in the award chart.

Types of Award Redemptions

Saver Awards give you the best bang for your buck, but are capacity-controlled and may be restricted, especially during peak travel periods. Check out United’s Saver Award homepage for up-to-date promotions on Saver Award destinations and times.

Standard Awards give you more availability while requiring more miles, but are still capacity-restricted unless you’re a MileagePlus Premier member or United ExplorerSM Card holder.

Travelers in these categories also have the benefit of booking up to the last seat. Premier members can also waitlist for international premier cabin award seats, which will be awarded as seats become available up to 24 hours before departure.

MileagePlus Upgrade Awards can be purchased on most ticket types. Depending on your premier status, these can be complimentary on domestic flights, or cleared immediately on international segments.

While award bookings may be made using another person’s miles and account, benefits such as Economy Plus seating and other Premier member privileges will only apply if the traveler themselves is a Premier member.


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United MileagePlus Loyalty Program Review


What is United Airlines MileagePlus? What are the benefits?

MileagePlus is the name of the United loyalty or frequent flyer program. By joining the program, you get access to a number of additional benefits through elite status, reward tickets, and more.

Elite status tiers in the program are called Silver, Gold, Platinum, and Premier 1K.

Benefits include priority check in and boarding, free checked bags, priority security lines, lounge access and discounts, complimentary upgrades, seat upgrades, and more.

You’ll earn a higher status by achieving a certain number of qualifying miles or segments combined with total spending.

Miles can be redeemed for cheap flights, or for other awards through United’s rewards portal.

What is my MileagePlus number?

To find this, you can either log in to your account, use the “forgot my password” tool to get another login email sent to you, find your membership card, or call customer service.

How do I join United Airlines MileagePlus?

You can sign up for a MileagePlus account here.

Can I transfer miles with United Airlines?

Yes, miles can be transferred to other MileagePlus members. Rather than “transferring” them to other airline partners, you can simply use them to book award flights with any Star Alliance partner.

What is the United Airlines MileagePlus login?

You can sign in to United MileagePlus here.

What are the United Airlines MileagePlus airline partners?

United Airlines is part of the Star Alliance. This means you can travel on airlines such as Air Canada, Air China, Brussels Airlines, and Singapore Airlines.

What is the United Airlines MileagePlus phone number?

You can reach MileagePlus via phone at 1-800-421-4655.

When do points expire on United MileagePlus?

You must have qualifying activity every 18 months or your points will expire. This can include earning or redeeming points.

When do points post in my United MileagePlus account?

In some cases, points can take up to 6-8 weeks to post.

What are United Airlines MileagePlus points worth?

MileagePlus points can be redeemed for different values depending on the flight. Values can be anywhere from $0.015 to $0.025 per point or more.

Is there a United MileagePlus credit card?

Yes, United has 4 different MileagePlus credit cards at this time.

Currently, we have reviews posted for the United ExplorerSM Card and the Chase United MileagePlus® Explorer Business Card.

Soon we will add the Chase United MileagePlus® Club Card and the Chase United MileagePlus® Club Business Card.

You can also use all Ultimate Rewards cards to earn and transfer points to United Airlines.

Brian Graham

About Brian Graham

Brian's first ever airplane ride was in a private turbo-prop jet. He was merely an intern boy trying to make a good impression, but it turns out the plane made an impression on him. It wasn't until Brian relocated to Dallas, TX, and moved in with an American Airlines employee that he truly discovered how incredible travel could be.

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  1. Lonestar · April 21, 2018 · Reply

    GPUs and RPUs are now just about useless. They used to be great and you could just upgrade almost anything. Now it usually gets full of paid folks who can pay as little as 40 buck sometimes last minute. Only Platinum and higher can get these, so usually your status already has you at that level. The biggest issue is that it no longer works on award tickets which was the only time I really wanted to use them. United wants you to think you are getting something when you are not. Their system really went downhill since Continental.

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