17 Best Ways to Redeem United MileagePlus Miles [For Max Value]

Lufthansa B747-8 First Class Cabin - Cherag Dubash

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The United’s MileagePlus program has a couple good things going for it. They don’t pass on fuel surcharges to award tickets, and you can use United miles to book award flights with their Star Alliance partners (the largest airline alliance in the world!).

To capitalize on what United offers for award tickets, you will need to know a few strategies for booking flights, including their stopover and open jaw rules.

Remember to consider their Star Alliance members, as some have fantastic business and first class products!

Some of the worst ways to use your United MileagePlus miles are for products through the United shopping portal or other forms of travel. Instead, stick to redeeming for award travel on airlines; these are the best ways to use United MileagePlus miles!

In this post, we’ll discuss methods to use your miles for maximum value on MileagePlus award flights.

Using United MileagePlus Miles With Airline Partners

While miles can be earned by signing up for credit cards like the United Explorer℠ Card, you can also transfer miles to your United MileagePlus account from the Chase Ultimate Rewards program at a 1:1 rate.

Once you have earned enough United miles, you can use your miles for finding award tickets on United.com. United recently updated their search engine for finding tickets, and it’s great!

You’ll have the chance to redeem miles on United Airlines and with partner carriers through a normal search on their front page. Simply check the box next to “Search for Award Travel.”

United is a part of the Star Alliance, and they also partner with a few other airlines outside of any alliances. This means you have lots of options for turning your United miles into award tickets on a variety of carriers and flights all around the world.

Earn Points with Chase Credit Cards (Recommended Strategy)

Collecting Chase Ultimate Rewards points is an excellent strategy because these points are flexible (i.e. ultra valuable!) and can be transferred to many different airline and hotel partners, including United. Chase points transfer at a 1:1 ratio to United.

This is far better than just collected United miles which heavily restricts your options. Chase points are also very easy to earn.

Recommended Chase Cards (Personal)

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card - This is our favorite beginners travel rewards card which has a 60,000 point bonus (highest ever) after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

This sign up bonus is worth $750 in travel purchases (flights, hotels, car rentals etc) when you redeem your points through Chase's travel portal, which works like Expedia. The bonus alone could get you multiple round-trip flights or hotel stays.
Chase Sapphire Reserve® - Consider this premium card if you want to get into a lot of airport lounges. 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.
Chase Freedom Unlimited® - A simple, no annual fee card that earns you a $150 bonus after you spend $500 in your first 3 months. Easy earning at 1.5% on all purchases. Just know that you won't get any travel benefits or the ability to earn bonus points with this card.

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 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards for travel purchases (flights, hotels etc). Also, if you pay for your cell phone bill with this card, you can get up to $600 in cell phone insurance coverage per year.
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 such as office supply stores, internet, cable, and phone services. This is one of the best no annual fee business cards.

To transfer your Chase Ultimate Rewards to United, go into your Ultimate Rewards account, then click “Use Points” > “Transfer to Travel Partners”. That’s how you get the miles into your United MileagePlus account!

united points
Transfer Chase points to United points at a 1:1 ratio through Ultimate Rewards.

Bottom Line: Collect Chase points and then transfer them to United. Chase points offer you many transfer partner options (instead of just collecting United miles which are highly restrictive). Plus, Chase points are very easy to earn.

United MileagePlus Credit Cards

There are several MileagePlus credit cards, which help you to directly earn United miles. Each of them has slightly different benefits, click the links below to find out more about them.

These cards have other benefits besides earning points. For example, United Explorer℠ Card benefits include one free check bag, priority boarding and 2 United Club passes!

The Best Ways to Use Your United MileagePlus Miles

Grab your passport and travel the world! United has a bunch of great ways to redeem miles. You’ll want to stick with the Saver Award level to get the most value when redeeming your United miles.

Saver Award flights are available on flights operated by both United and their partner airlines, and these are the MileagePlus award types we’ll address in this post.

Travel partners will max out the value you can obtain when redeeming for flights, particularly in business and first class. However, economy tickets will also get you where you want to go for very few miles across the board.

Hot Tip: New to travel? Make sure you grab your passport if this is your first international trip, or get it renewed before traveling! You won’t be able to visit another country without it. If you want to save time and you think you’ll be traveling a lot, check out the Global Entry program as well.

1. Lufthansa First Class From the U.S. (110K United Miles)

Lufthansa B747-8 First Class Seat 1A and 1K - Cherag Dubash
Seats 1A and 1K. Image Credit: Cherag Dubash

Lufthansa’s first class product has long been one of the most sought after seats in the sky. But, let’s be honest, a one-way ticket for over $4,000 isn’t in everyone’s budget.

Fortunately, United miles provide an opportunity to take part in this amazing experience. For 110,000 miles you can book a one-way first class award flight on Lufthansa.

This is not the cheapest mileage cost to get to Europe, or even to fly Lufthansa first class, but United does not pass on fuel surcharges to you. If you booked this flight with Lufthansa’s frequent flyer program, Miles and More, you can expect to pay over $400 in fuel surcharges.

One important point to remember when using United miles to book this flight is that Lufthansa only releases first class award space to its Star Alliance partners 14 days before departure.

While this leaves booking until later than most of us are accustomed, there is often open award space.

If you want to take your Lufthansa experience to the next level, make sure you have a connection in their hub, Frankfurt. There you will have the opportunity to visit the First Class Terminal (FCT).

Considered one of the best airport lounges in the world, you can enjoy a relaxing bath or shower and take home perhaps the most famous collectible of frequent flyers, a Lufthansa rubber duck.

You can even take a nap in one of their relaxation rooms complete with a bed for your comfort.

Finally, when it is time to head to the gate for your connecting flight, you won’t have to worry about arriving in time for boarding. Since the First Class Terminal is not connected to gates, you will be given a ride in a Porsche to ensure a timely arrival.

Need help booking? See our step by step guide to booking Lufthansa First Class with points.

Hot Tip: Enjoy other elite status and lounge perks when traveling if you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, Citi Prestige Card, or The Platinum Card® from American Express.

2. The Excursionist Perk

United’s frequent flyer program has long been known for allowing 1 stopover and 2 open-jaws. On October 6, 2016, United made some significant changes to its routing rules (particularly regarding stopovers) that you should know before booking international travel.

Let’s look at an example of how the old rules work as a comparison.

Previously, you could book a flight from the U.S. to Japan with a stopover in Europe on a round-trip ticket. (This was a great way to enjoy Lufthansa first class!)

Now, United’s rules require stopovers to be in the same region as a destination. They also can’t take place in the region where you started your travel. Finally, you must have a round-trip itinerary, which only means you must end your journey in your region of origin.

For example, an easy way to utilize this new rule would be to fly from the U.S. to Moscow with a stopover in Frankfurt, since both the stopover and destination are in Europe.

This seems like a pretty straightforward change, but there’s a twist that could provide you with some other interesting options!

In practice, United’s new stopover rules allow a free one-way segment to be taken within a single region, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to take that free segment in the region of your final destination.

It only has to be your first intra-region flight on the itinerary. The rules also require you to end your trip in the region of origin, but that doesn’t necessarily require a simple round-trip booking!

Travel Is Free found a particularly interesting example of how to use these new rules in combination with other miles and points. Let’s look into the example they found.

To start, you’ll put together a multi-city booking with United. Fly from the U.S. to Barcelona, then book a flight from Dakar, Senegal to Cape Town, South Africa (this is your free one-way segment in a single region). Finally, book a one-way flight from Washington, D.C. to Chicago to end your trip in the region of origin.

You would need to use other miles and points to get from Barcelona to Dakar, as well as back to the U.S, in order to make this work. If you’re short on United miles, this could be a great way to maximize them and create a bigger trip.

It’s also a clever way to book a future domestic one-way you’ll be taking at a later date. In a sense, you’re booking part of 2 separate trips at the same time.

While we recognize this is a less common way to use the Excursionist Perk, it could provide you with some great value! If that’s not your style, there are plenty of simple stopover and open-jaw bookings that can still maximize your United miles.

3. Business Class on a Star Alliance Partner to Africa (80K United Miles)

Swiss Air business class flight
Fly Star Alliance partner Swiss Air in business class to several countries in Africa. Image courtesy of www.swiss.com

For 80,000 United miles, you can fly from the U.S. to any African country in business class on a Star Alliance partner.

Your initial thought might be to check out partners Ethiopian Airlines or South African Airways. While these might be solid choices for your needs, I’d suggest routing through Europe for an even better experience.

Swiss Air has a great business class product that you can utilize by routing through Switzerland. Additionally, Austrian Airlines have a solid business class and really shine with their fantastic catering service. If you’re a coffee drinker, you’ll definitely want to try that too.

While they might not be your first instinct, give Swiss Air and Austrian Airlines a try if you’re looking for a fun experience in the sky on your way to Africa.

4. Turkish Airlines in Business From the U.S. (Starting at 70K United Miles)

Turkish Airlines Business Class Lounge
Enjoy the amazing Turkish Airlines lounge in Istanbul if you’re flying through. Image Credit: www.turkishairlines.com.

Turkish Airlines flies to more destinations than any other airline in the world. This gives you ample opportunity to use MileagePlus award miles for a great business class product.

You really have your choice of where you want to fly to try their great business class product. Getting to Europe will cost 70,000 miles, or you could use 80,000 to see Africa. For 80,000 miles, you could visit Japan.

Alternatively, you could just fly to Istanbul and enjoy an amazing city! However, if you have a connection, you can experience Turkish Airlines’ amazing business class lounge.

If your connection time is long enough, you could even get out of the airport to visit Istanbul for a few hours before visiting the lounge to relax, have a drink, and get a bite to eat before your flight.

5. Experience First Class With Thai Airways (145K United Miles)

thai airways royal first class
The Royal First Class of THAI Airways is a fantastic experience! Image courtesy of www.thaiairways.com.

This is an award travel experience you won’t want to miss. While not the most well-known airline in the U.S., THAI Airways should be on your list if you’re looking for a fun travel adventure to or from Asia.

For 145,000 United miles, you will not only be able to enjoy a nice first class product between Europe and Bangkok, but you can also access the Thai Airways First Class lounge if departing from or connecting in Bangkok. This is really where Thai Airways sets itself apart.

If you’re flying out of Bangkok, you’ll even have access to a “first class only” check-in area. From there you can head to the lounge and visit the Royal Orchid Spa to enjoy an hour-long massage. Now, that’s a great way to prepare for a flight!

Keep in mind that at the moment, Thai Airways does not fly to the U.S. However, you can connect through Europe on a Star Alliance partner and catch a ride on a Thai Airways A380 to Bangkok.

6. New United Polaris Business Class (Starting at 60K United Miles)

United Polaris 787-10 rear cabin view 1
United Polaris 787-10 rear cabin view 1. Image Credit: Stephen Au

In 2017 United began launching a revamped business class product called Polaris. While many United’s international business class flights are now branded as Polaris, only a few planes have the new Polaris seat. Older planes, which some prefer, have the Polaris meal service and bedding.

Every Polaris seat has aisle access, which is particularly nice for solo travelers who don’t want people climbing over them while they sleep.

If you are looking for an excuse to redeem United miles, you can try the new Polaris business class on a trip to Europe for just 60,000 miles one-way. If Asia is more your style, you have lots of options for 70,000 United miles. Lastly, flying to the South Pacific costs 80,000 United miles one-way.

Here’s some great routes you can take to Europe:

  • Newark (EWR) – Tel Aviv (TLV)
  • San Francisco (SFO) – Frankfurt (FRA)
  • San Franciso (SFO) – Tel Aviv (TLV)
  • San Francisco (SFO) – London (LHR) on flights 949/901

Here’s some great routes you can take to Asia:

  • Newark (EWR) – Tokyo-Narita (NRT)
  • San Francisco (SFO) – Auckland (AKL)
  • San Francisco (SFO) – Hong Kong (HKG)
  • San Francisco (SFO) – Tokyo-Narita (NRT)
  • San Francisco (SFO) – Taipei (TPE)

Here’s a great route you can take to the South Pacific:

  • San Francisco (SFO) – Auckland (AKL)

Not only is United revamping their business class product to compete with airlines like Delta and American on international routes, but they’re stepping up their lounge game as well.

With new Polaris lounges coming to United’s hub airports, you will soon be able to experience a new level of flying with United. So far, the Chicago, Houston, San Francisco, Newark, and Los Angeles locations have opened.

7. ANA to Japan in First Class (110K United Miles)

ANA First Class, Boeing 777, Legroom, NRT>IAH
Image Credit: Upgraded Points

For some, flying first class is great because of the high-end champagne, the caviar, the spacious seat, and impeccable service. With 110,000 United miles, you can get all of that while flying ANA from the U.S. to Japan.

What really puts ANA on the map, though, is their amazing flight attendants. They have a well-deserved reputation for amazing service that helps set ANA apart.

You can also fly ANA business class to Japan for 80,000 MileagePlus award miles, which is another great experience you won’t want to miss. If the city pairings work, the business class product on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner is a special one.

However you look at it, flying in premium cabins with ANA should be on your must-fly list.

For those interested in traveling to Japan, we’ve also covered the best ways to fly to Japan using points and miles.

8. Flights Within Oceania (starting at 8k United Miles)

Once you’ve flown to the other side of the world, you might want to spend some time visiting several islands. However, many of these intra-region flights are pretty pricey.

Fortunately, a one-way flight in economy class can be booked with just 8,000 United miles for flights under 800 miles. Flights over 800 miles cost 12,500 miles. This is often much more reasonable than the cash price.

The downside: United is reducing its service to destiantions such as Guam (GUM) and Yap (YAP).

9. Cheap Flights to Europe (30K United Miles)

If you’re concerned about the cost of travel to Europe, United miles can be an easy way to keep costs low.

For 30,000 United miles, you can fly one-way in economy class on United or a Star Alliance partner airline, such as Turkish or Lufthansa.

Since award flights booked with United miles do not incur fuel surcharges, this can be a great way to keep your out-of-pocket costs down.

Hot Tip: Make stopovers even better with The Platinum Card® from American Express, and get access to airline lounges around the world, as well as a $200 airline fee credit you can use on United Airlines!

10. Travel Throughout Central and Southern Africa in Business (30K United Miles)

south african airways business class
Enjoy South African Airways’ business class service while exploring the continent of Africa. Image Credit: www.flysaa.com.

Thanks to Star Alliance partners Ethiopian Airlines and South African Airways, United miles are a fantastic way to travel in central and southern Africa.

For 30,000 MileagePlus award miles, you can fly one-way in business class throughout the region. Having 2 major airline partners in the region means you can access almost anywhere you can imagine!

If you are planning an adventure to the continent of Africa, make sure you check out your options with United miles.

11. Check out the Caribbean (35K United Miles Round-trip)

Thanks to United’s Excursionist Perk, you can book a round-trip ticket in economy class from the U.S. to the Caribbean for 35,000 miles.

It’s not the cheapest mileage cost, but the free stopover allows you to see more of a beautiful part of the world.

Hot Tip:  If you have the United Explorer℠ Card, use a United Club pass from your card benefits to enjoy lounge access before heading out on your trip.

12. Fly From China to Fiji in Business Class (75K United Miles)

air new zealand business class
Try Air New Zealand in business class on your flight to Fiji. Image Credit:  Air New Zealand

One of the best parts of using frequent flyer miles to travel is how you can tailor travel to your style.

With regularly available cheap airfare from the United States to China, you can save your miles to book a round-trip from China to a destination in Oceania like Fiji.

For 75,000 United miles round-trip, you can fly business class to Fiji from China. If economy class is more your thing, you can fly round-trip for 35,000 United miles.

13. Fly From the U.S. to Northern South America (Starting at 20K United Miles)

United’s award chart splits South America into northern and southern regions. For 20,000 United miles, you can fly in economy on United or one of their Star Alliance partners from the U.S. to the northern part of the continent.

If you’d prefer a more comfortable flight, you can use 35,000 United miles to fly in business class.

Here are some great example routes you can take:

  • Houston (IAH) – Lima (LIM) 
  • Los Angeles (LAX) – Bogota (BOG)
  • Houston (IAH) – Quito (UIO)
  • Houston (IAH) – Panama City (PTY) – Georgetown (GEO)

Hot Tip: If you’re flying economy, you can utilize the United Explorer℠ Card to gain priority boarding for your flight so you might get some overhead bin space! The card also comes with 2 free United Club passes for your trip.

14. Fly From Europe to Central Asia (Starting at 30K United Miles)

Austrian Airlines business class
Enjoy the amazing dining service in business class on Austrian Airlines. Image Credit: Austrian

While not a common routing option for many flying from the U.S., United miles provide a great way to visit Central Asia from Europe.

For only 65,000 MileagePlus award miles, you can fly first class one-way on a Star Alliance partner such as Lufthansa. You can also fly business class one-way for 55,000 miles or economy class one-way for 30,000 miles.

This gives you access to some amazing places, including India, the Maldives, and Nepal. So, if you’re looking for ways to create an exciting adventure around the world, don’t forget to check out how United can help you make it happen.

Here’s some great route ideas to inspire your creativity:

  • Frankfurt (FRA) – Male (MLE)
  • Zurich (ZRH) – Delhi (DEL)

15. Fly to Australia or New Zealand (Starting at 40K United Miles)

If you’re looking for an easy way to get from the U.S. to Australia or New Zealand, you can book a one-way business class flight with 80,000 United miles. Not a bad way to get across the Pacific Ocean!

To try Air New Zealand’s business class, a one-way flight is 80,000 United miles. This definitely is one of the best ways to book an award flight with Air New Zealand.

For those trying to save some points, you can use 40,000 United miles to fly in economy class one-way on United metal.

Here’s a few example routes you can take:

  • Chicago (ORD) – Auckland (AKL)
  • Los Angeles (LAX) – Auckland (AKL)
  • Los Angeles (LAX) – Raratonga, Cook Islands (RAR)

16. Fly to Any of the 48 Continental States, Alaska, or Canada (Starting at 10K United Miles)

Sometimes, domestic flight costs are simply unbearable, so it can be useful to redeem United miles for these flights. For 12,500 miles, you can get anywhere in the continental U.S. in economy class. If your flight is less than 700 miles, you’ll only need to use 10,000 United miles.

For 17,500 MileagePlus award miles, you could fly in economy class to Alaska or Canada for a quick adventure to colder climates.

While these redemptions don’t bring the glamor of Lufthansa first class, they are tremendously useful in times when you have to get somewhere.

17. Flights Under 800 Miles Outside the U.S. (8K United Miles)

Using British Airways Avios is often the most talked about ways to take short flights while abroad, but sometimes Star Alliance carriers are more convenient. United MileagePlus allows you to book flights under 800 miles in economy for 8,000 United miles.

This means you can book one-way awards between cities such as Johannesburg (JNB) to Cape Town (CPT) and a number of European cities. Keep in mind these awards are only good on nonstop routes when traveling within a region.

List of Star Alliance Airline Partners

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

List of Non-Alliance Airline Partners

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

Use the United Award Chart to Plan Award Travel

United’s interactive award chart determines the different variations in award pricing by departure location, destination, class, and carrier.

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.

Here is an image of the United award chart below (they do not post a full award chart on their site):

united award chart for award travel
The United award chart from mainland USA to Europe. United has an interactive award chart versus an all-in-one to help you book award travel.

The award chart is available here.

Final Thoughts

In the above examples, we discussed many great premium cabin redemption options on both United and its partner airlines to get you around the world. These are some of the best ways to use United miles at this time.

With United revamping its own premium cabin product, we look forward to seeing what they bring to the table.

Additionally, the first class and business class experiences on partner airlines (with low fuel surcharges) make United MileagePlus miles some of the best redemptions out there.

Before you go, you might find it useful to check out the baggage rules on United. Happy redeeming!

 


FAQ

What are United Airlines miles?

United MileagePlus is the United Airlines frequent flyer program. The miles you earn and redeem are MileagePlus miles, commonly referred to as United miles.

What are your United miles worth?

The value of United MileagePlus miles depends on where you are redeeming your points. It lies somewhere between 1-2.5 cents per mile depending on where you would otherwise spend your money.

At 2.5 cents per mile, that’s like getting a $100 ticket for the equivalent of about 4,000 United miles.

Can United miles be transferred to partner airlines?

United miles cannot be transferred to other airlines, but they can be redeemed to book flights on partner airlines.

Can United Miles be transferred to another person?

Sign into your account at united.com and hover over MileagePlus in the navigation at the top. Choose Buy, Transfer, and Give miles and then select the “transfer miles” button.

Enter your account number and password again. Then fill out the information on the loaded page to transfer United miles to anyone who also has a MileagePlus account.

You will be charged $7.50 per 500 United miles (1.5 cents per mile) that you transfer. Generally, it is a better deal to book an award flight for someone than to transfer them the miles.

Are United Miles refundable?

If you redeemed United miles for an award ticket but need to cancel your trip, you can get the miles refunded to your frequent flyer account.

You can do so online by via the “Reservations” tab. Depending on your frequent flyer status with United, you may be charged a redeposit fee of up to $150.

How much are United miles worth?

MileagePlus program miles are commonly valued at around 1.5 cents per mile. However, these can change depending on the redemption, and United airlines award travel value depends on the person.

When do United MileagePlus miles post in your account?

United miles should post to your account within 3-7 days.

If miles are missing after this time period, consider requesting missing miles.

How can I earn more United miles?

You can earn more United miles with co-branded credit cards such as the UUnited Explorer℠ Card or United MileagePlus® Explorer Business Card.

You can also transfer points to United from credit cards that earn Chase Ultimate Rewards, including the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card (you must have one of these cards in order to transfer points to partners).

Earn extra value by also carrying the Chase Freedom Unlimited® and Chase Freedom®.

You can also join the United Dining Program and the United Shopping Portal. Every bonus miles counts!

Who are United Airlines' partners?

As a member of the Star Alliance, United Airlines partners with all other members of the Star Alliance, including:

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

United Airlines’ non-Star Alliance partners are:

Aer Lingus
Aeromar
Air Dolomiti
Azul
Cape Air
Edelweiss
Eurowings
Germanwings
Great Lakes Airlines
Hawaiian Airlines
Island Air
Jet Airways
Silver Airways

United also has several hotel partners, including:

Hyatt
IHG
Marriott Rewards
Ritz-Carlton

When do United miles expire?

United MileagePlus miles no longer expire.

What is my MileagePlus number?

Your MileagePlus number is the frequent flyer account number assigned to you for signing up to the reward program. You should have an email containing your number, or you can call customer service to find it as well.

Spencer Howard

About Spencer Howard

Always a fan of flying, it was only natural that Spencer was drawn to finding a way to improve the travel experience. Like many, he started this journey searching for cheap flights to take him around the world. This was fun for a while, but Spencer was intrigued by the idea of flying in business and first class! Throwing himself into what became an extensive research project, Spencer spent 3-4 hours per night learning everything he could about frequent flyer miles over the course of several months (he thinks this is normal).

Disclaimer: Any comments listed below are not from the bank advertiser, nor have they been reviewed or approved by them. No responsibility will be taken by the bank advertiser for these comments.

58 comments

  1. Sami Shub · January 20, 2018 · Reply

    Have 4000 miles left on an account I would like to close out. Any suggestions on what to spend them on or redeem? Thanks

    • gordon · April 2, 2019 · Reply

      4,000 miles won’t get you on a flight but you may be able to buy something through the gift catalog….

    • Richard · July 17, 2019 · Reply

      Hi,

      I have the United Explorer card.
      I just got a Chase Sapphire Reserve and therefore don’t feel I need the explorer anymore. I don’t want to pay the annual fee.

      I have about 37000 MileagePlus miles and not planning to travel before my year is up.

      A. Can I transfer the miles to my chase reserve card?
      B. If not what is the best thing for me to do with the miles.

      • Stephen Au · July 17, 2019 · Reply

        Richard,

        You will not lose your United miles by cancelling your United Explorer card. Hope this helps.

        • I may have the same situation as above. I plan to get the Chase Sapphire Preferred and I have about 50000 miles with the United Explorer. Where can I transfer these miles if I cancel or are there any suggestions where I can park the miles until I use these. Also, if you cancel, the miles will expire in 18 months.

          • Andrew Kunesh · August 22, 2019

            Hi Sal, you cannot transfer your United Airlines miles to another airline. However, closing your United Explorer card does not affect your United mileage balance. You can keep your miles active by using the United shopping portal, taking a United flight, or utilizing another United earning method at least every 18 months.

  2. Brian Stockman · February 18, 2018 · Reply

    I have several united miles please inform if these can be used on Aer Lingus flights

  3. Sorry for what may sound like a very newbie question, but if you were to purchase United miles, would those be credited automatically (or instantly) to your United account? Thanks

    • Don’t worry about asking questions! And yes, those miles would be automatically added to your account within 24 hours (they usually show within a few hours).

  4. Mich · May 3, 2018 · Reply

    I think United Points are useless. They are only good for booking tickets on United. You cannot even use your points to upgrade your seat or exchange for Premiere Boarding. United needs to improve their Mileage Plus program to compete with other Airlines.

    • Not sure where you’re getting your information from but you absolutely can use United points to upgrade your seat – it’s one of the best benefits of MileagePlus!

  5. I have million united miles what will be the best way to use it to get the most out of the miles?

    • That’s exactly what this post is for 🙂 Hopefully there are some ideas for you!

      • Cheryl · August 5, 2018 · Reply

        We have 320,000 UA miles and a multicity trip to Rome Italy from US in 2 months. According to the United .com site I would need to purchase additional miles of 620,000 for business class- 2 travelers. My spouse is challenged by cancer so I’d like to upgrade from basic economy so he has this experience as well as comfort. One way business class for the trip and economy the other leaves me needing to buy around 42,000 miles. Help!
        Based on this article maybe there is a star alliance airline that could get us to Rome with fewer miles to buy yet an upgrade to economy? A credit card is easy for us to get added miles but all I have called report that the miles will not be reported to my account for 6-8 -too to late. Can you help a couple of senior citizens with advice? Thank you

        • Michael McHugh · August 15, 2018 · Reply

          Hi Cheryl

          For the outbound flight:

          United flies non-stop from Newark (EWR) to Rome (FCO). I’m currently seeing 2 economy seats on the outbound flights on October 23 at 30k miles/ticket so 60k UA miles.
          United flies non-stop from Chicago (ORD) to Rome (FCO). I’m currently seeing 2 economy seats on the outbound flights on Oct 16, 22-26 at 30k/ticket so 60k UA miles.
          United flies non-stop from Washington (IAD) to Rome (FCO). I’m currently seeing 2 economy seats on the outbound flights on Oct 8, 14, 21-22, 24-26 at 30k/ticket so 60k UA miles.

          For the return flight:
          United flies non-stop from Rome to Newark. I’m currently seeing 2 economy seats on the return flights on October 22, 24, 25 at 45k miles/ticket so 90k UA miles.
          United flies non-stop from Rome to Chicago. I’m currently seeing 2 economy seats on the return flights on Oct 19, 22, 26 at 45k/ticket so 90k UA miles.
          United flies non-stop from Rome to Washington. I’m currently seeing 2 economy seats on the outbound flights on Oct 25 at 30k/ticket so 60k UA miles.

          You are correct on business class. There are currently no saver level seats available on the outbound or return flights so you would need to use 155k miles/ticket each way. I would not recommend doing this.

  6. If United offers a flight for say, 25K award miles but someone only has 20K, are they able to use what they have and pay the difference? Or, is the award ticket “price” a set figure?

    • Jeff Brownson · September 16, 2018 · Reply

      Kiran, the award ticket costs a certain amount, for example, the 25k that you mentioned for a domestic round trip in economy. Although you can not use miles for part of the ticket and pay for the rest, United does allow you to purchase the miles you might need to reach the level of the award trip. They will sell you these miles at what is a pretty terrible value, so it is only advisable to purchase miles if you are very close to the award you want. From the United site:

      When redeeming an award online or through United Customer Contact Center, if you are short on miles, you can purchase up to 50% of the miles needed for any MileagePlus® award on United Airlines®. Please keep in mind that: You need to purchase award miles at the time your travel reward is ticketed.

  7. I have 36,000 United miles that will expire 10/31/18. I haven’t used my United card in quite a while because I typically reach for my Chase Reserve or Ink cards. Do I just need to use my united card on random purchases before the expiration date to keep the 36,000 miles?
    Follow up – if I DO have to burn said miles before the current expiration date – does the actual date of travel have to be before the expiration date as well or do I just have to spend the miles before the expiration date (For example can I log on tomorrow and use my miles to book a flight to Mexico in November?)

    • Hi Missy – yes, all you need to do is make 1 transaction on your United credit card to “refresh” the expiry date. You can also refresh this by earning miles flying on United (or partners, and then crediting to your UA account) – or any of the ways mentioned in this article here: https://upgradedpoints.com/how-to-earn-united-mileageplus-miles/

      Regarding your other question, all you would need to do is make a booking before that expiration date. You don’t need to have traveled by that date. Hope that helps!

  8. Slight correction on this article: It’s not true that “Every Polaris seat has aisle access.” There is a central column of seats in BusinessFirst that provide aisle access to people on both sides, but there are also double seats on the sides of the plane that don’t provide aisle access to people sitting in window seats.

    • Stephen Au · September 23, 2018 · Reply

      Hi Jo,

      You bring up a good point that we’d like to clarify:

      United has a huge slew of seats that they call “Polaris class”. The distinction is typically in the seats. The soft product like bedding, food, drink, and more are typically the same. That’s why United lumps all the different types of Polaris classes together.

      the TRUE Polaris business class is in a 1-2-1 layout with direct aisle access. These planes fly from select routes in Newark and San Francisco. Occasionally, fly on other routes, but it’s very difficult to predict.

  9. We have booked 2 tickets using reward points of 70,000 points one way. The flight which is 6 months away now only requires 30,000 points. How can I change to 30,000 and put the difference back in our account?

    • Stephen Au · September 23, 2018 · Reply

      Hi Robin, you will need to cancel your reservation and re-book the new reservation.

  10. My husband and I both have United Mileage Plus accounts and Mileage Plus credit cards. He isn’t traveling on airlines any more, and we’d like to know what is the best way to use his miles, and if we can transfer them to my account for my use in the future without paying huge fees. He currently has about 160,000 Mileage Plus miles in his account. We use his credit card occasionally to keep the account active. Thank you.

    • Hi Karen – unfortunately United charge heavy fees for transferring miles between MileagePlus accounts. It’s $7.50 per 500 miles and a processing fee of $30 per transaction – it’s a lot. But this transfer might not be necessary…remember that your husband could book an award ticket for you (or anyone else) using their own MileagePlus account. Finally, miles don’t expire for 18 months so using the card just once per year would be more than enough to keep those miles…yours! 🙂

  11. Robin Merkel · October 6, 2018 · Reply

    My question may be similar to one of the others, but I still think I need help. First, glad I stumbled on this site. Ver y informative. My situation is I have about 37,000 miles to expire the end of this year. I don’t expect to travel on United or its partners before then. I do not have a United credit card. I can rent a car that I need next month and use the points, or I can redeem some for gift cards, but it seems you recommend that people keep accruing miles. If that is the case, what do I need to do to spend the least and extend my expiration?

    Thank you

  12. Great post – thank you! I’m curious… I’m about to book a one-way award flight from Paris to Portland, travel date is 2 months away (well over the 21 day $75 fee thing) – and the fee is miles+ $89.83. What is this $89 fee and is there any way around it? I don’t recall paying more than $11ish or so in past award bookings. Thanks!

    • Stephen Au · October 18, 2018 · Reply

      Hey Pamela! The $89.83 is the taxes and fees that the French government levy on all travel. In this case, United passes these on to travelers as opposed to absorbing the costs. United will not pass on these fees most of the time, but sometimes there’s no way around it.

  13. hi,
    when do the mileage plus awards flights purchased with my chase-united card change in value? One day I see the flight I want is ,17,5k then the next day its 40k. is there a time of day or day per week when they re-evalute them? thanks!

    • Stephen Au · December 2, 2018 · Reply

      Hi Sally,

      There isn’t a time of day or day of the week that this is done. The best way to avoid this is to book as soon as you can.

  14. How much will it cost me to transfer 40,000 United points to a non-alliance partner like Hawaiian Airlines for travel to Las Vegas from Hawaii?
    Thank you…

    • Stephen Au · January 19, 2019 · Reply

      Hey Lynne,

      Unfortunately, you can’t transfer United miles to non-alliance partners. You can only use United miles to book flights on partner airlines. For this, simply visit united.com and book their partner flights on their website. Thanks for reading.

  15. Hello. I am traveling with my family to Cape Town in July. I would like to use United miles to fly from Cape Town to Kruger or Victoria Falls on South African Airways. I can transfer Amex or Chase to my United account to buy tickets but want to see how much they will be first – to see if it is a good deal. It seems you can only find tickets is you have enough miles ? Am I wrong? Do you think the transfer to United is my best best for tickets in South Africa? Thank you!

    • Stephen Au · January 29, 2019 · Reply

      Hey Jeni,

      Thanks for reading. When you are on the United.com website, you can search for award tickets by checking off the box in the search area that says “Book with miles”. After that, type in your search normally and you should be able to see how many miles it will cost.

  16. Mackenzie · February 1, 2019 · Reply

    I’m looking to book roundtrip from Chicago to Sydney, and it looks like ANA would be a great option, but ANA flights aren’t coming up as options when searching via the United website. The ANA website shows Star Alliance flight awards available for the dates we’re looking – how do I go about using our United miles to book these flights?

    • Stephen Au · February 1, 2019 · Reply

      Hey Mackenzie,

      ANA only releases a limited number of award seats to partners like United. As a result, if you search on ANA and flights show up, it won’t necessarily be the same with United. To confirm or deny partner award availability, repeat your search on Air Canada Aeroplan with the same route/dates/class. If it shows up, you’ll want to call United and tell them you want to book that award. They should be able to see the award inventory over the phone.

  17. Heather C · February 22, 2019 · Reply

    I thought I can use the united miles to book activities but can’t find it anywhere on the united website. Can you help?

  18. Mimi McGee · April 8, 2019 · Reply

    My husband is primary cardholder on our Chase United Mileage plus Club credit card. This means when I travel alone, I do not have the perks he has which is quite annoying. Our option is for each of us to have our own Mileage plus card, but I’m thinking it may be smarter for me to get a Chase Sapphire card instead. Any thoughts on this? I’m missing out on the preferred seating, free baggage and club access when traveling alone.

    • Katie Seemann · April 11, 2019 · Reply

      Hi Mimi,
      Yes, it can be very annoying when a credit card is in your spouse’s name so you can’t take advantage of the perks when flying alone (this happens to me too). The Chase Sapphire Preferred and Reserve are excellent cards. I love that the points are flexible and very easy to use. However, they won’t help you out with preferred seating, free baggage, or United Club membership. If those are the benefits you are after, you might want to add yourself as an authorized user on your husband’s account so you can have a card of your own.

  19. Cathy from Australia · April 13, 2019 · Reply

    Living in Australia we have collectively around 60k United MileagePlus points expiring end on July this year. We don’t intend to fly to US within next 12months. Can we use points for hotel accommodation elsewhere in the world?
    Alternatively what would be the best option to retain points? Thanks in advance.

    • Stephen Au · April 17, 2019 · Reply

      Hey Cathy,

      60,000 is a lot of United miles. It might be worth it to just purchase something from the United shopping portal to earn miles and prevent expiration.

      You can redeem for hotel and car awards, but the value is horribly low.. you’ll get around $400 for 60,000 miles. Thanks for reading.

      • Thanks I have been looking at flights to and from Sydney using affiliate airlines ie. Air NewZealand etc. but will take your suggestions on board. Safe travels.

  20. Betty W. · April 18, 2019 · Reply

    For someone moving to Hawaii from LA, who is an avid traveler and will be returning to LA here and there, is it better to get the United Explorer Card or a Hawaiian Master Card. The big issue is baggage charges which will be free once a card is opened for that specific airline only. I am confused about using a United card to buy a Hawaiian ticket (I am leaning toward United for more travel flexibility, but Hawaiian seems less expensive for a ticket). It appears that I will not get a free bag even though Hawaiian is a non alliance partner, is that correct?
    Since I am a student, the annual fee is kinda a big deal for me. Racking up points for miles tickets down the road is important as well. Would you recommend a Chase card fo some type instead? Thanks..

    • Stephen Au · April 26, 2019 · Reply

      Hey Betty,

      Generally you want to have the Chase United Explorer card. Keep in mind that you have to purchase your airline tickets with your Explorer credit card to get the free bag. Thanks for reading.

  21. We used to be able to fly from Japan to Oceania, even southern oceania like Fiji and Tahiti via NZ for 12500 miles one way 3 years ago and 25000 or 20000 (I dont remeber ) for business but Air NZ has no award seats open for mileage plus members at all especially not for business. It was extremely difficult to book and need to book 8-12 months in advance. A lot of planning and modifications needed.
    I dont know if this Japan to Oceania still works now because I think this was intended to be used for flights to Guam. If you are flexible and dont mind taking long flights, and have a mean and time to be in Japan, or travel to Japan, you should try this little loophole.

  22. Fernando · June 12, 2019 · Reply

    Hi! I just flew with Ethiopian Airlines and would like to get the miles I earned to use them with United.

    How can I add those miles into my united milage balance?

    Thanks a lot!

  23. jonesstuart31 · August 5, 2019 · Reply

    Wow!!! What a great post. Thanks for sharing such a great post as it is very helpful for me.

    • Christine Krzyszton · August 5, 2019 · Reply

      We’re glad you found the information useful. Thanks for reading.

  24. Harland · August 19, 2019 · Reply

    My wife and I are both star alliance gold, and each of us has about 100k United miles (which we would love to combine, but that’s too expensive on United).
    We’re looking at an economy round trip USA to South Africa (80k per person). Which do you think is better — each person books a separate round trip ticket, or one of us books two outbound tickets and the other person books two return tickets?

    • Andrew Kunesh · August 19, 2019 · Reply

      Hey Harland, booking two sets of round-trip tickets will let you take advantage of United’s Excursionist perk that gives you a free one-way domestic award on a round-trip award ticket. For example, you can use this to add a CPT-JNB ticket to your award ticket for free. With that in mind, we recommend booking two round-trips. Thanks!

  25. Louann Eadie · September 18, 2019 · Reply

    I really loved reading your article and posts here. Maybe you can give me some advice also. My husband and I both have stage 4 metastatic cancers. We would LOVE to go to Paris next Sept. 2020, rent an apartment, and assimilate into the lifestyle for that month. We currently have 155,000 miles.
    We also want to fly business class since we are 6′ and 6’4″ to be comfortable.
    We thought of maybe flying nonstop to London from IAD for 2 nights to see the sights and taking the chunnel to Gare de Nord in Paris. Then fly home from Paris a month later. I had heard that when you go on the United site and look around that the next time the miles needed increase. I have NO earthly idea . but would appreciate your input. Even at 60,000 one way for each and then another 60,000 to get home each leaves us short of miles. Any thoughts?

    • Michael McHugh · September 18, 2019 · Reply

      Hi Louann,

      You’re correct. Business class on United metal (United planes) will cost 60,000 United miles each way at the saver-level. United will be implementing dynamic pricing, which means award pricing will be tied to the cash cost of the flight, instead of what’s shown in the current award chart.

      If you have other miles and points, please let us know and we can help you to find more ways to fly business class. For now, 155,000 miles will potentially get you 2 one-way business class flights on United metal from the US to Europe, and 1 one-way economy flight from Europe to the US.

  26. Anna Okalelei · October 3, 2019 · Reply

    Hello, my husband and I like to take our two grade-school children from LA to China at the end of May 2020 for 2-3 weeks – destination city does not matter much, and we’d love to have a stopover in HK, Taiwan, Japan or Thailand. We have about 200k points. My problem with the UA search is that it takes many trials to find the best deal when we are more flexible with dates and destination. If our points are not enough to cover all four of us, I will also have to taken into consideration of the extra out-of-pocket cost.
    Can you help? Thank you very much!

    • Andrew Kunesh · October 7, 2019 · Reply

      Hi Anna, thanks for reaching out. United Airlines charges 70,000 MileagePlus miles for a round-trip economy ticket from the U.S. to China. This means you’d only have enough points for two of you to travel, so the other two tickets would need to be purchased cash. Unfortunately, trial-and-error is the best way to find award flights, so we’d recommend continuing your searches.

      United award tickets include one stopover using the Excursionist perk. You can add your free stopover by performing a multi-city search on the United website. One example of this would be searching Los Angeles (LAX) – Tapiei (TPE), TPE – Shanghai (PVG), PVG-LAX.

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