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17 Best Ways To Redeem United MileagePlus Miles [for Max Value]

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

To capitalize on what United offers for award tickets, you need to know the right strategies for booking flights, including its stopover and open-jaw rules.

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

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.

How To Earn United Miles

There are many ways to earn United miles, but the quickest and easiest way is through spending on credit cards that earn transferrable rewards points or United miles.

Though miles can be earned by signing up for United’s cobranded credit cards, like the United℠ Explorer Card, United Quest℠ Card, or the United℠ Business Card, you can also transfer miles to your United MileagePlus account from the Chase Ultimate Rewards program and Bilt Rewards at a 1:1 rate.

Once you have earned enough United miles, you can use your miles to book award tickets on united.com.

We really like collecting Chase Ultimate Rewards points. That’s because these points are flexible (making them extra useful) and can be transferred to Chase’s travel partners — and Chase has lots of partners, including United. (Chase points transfer at a 1:1 ratio to United.) Chase points are also easy to earn.

This is far better than just collecting United miles — you simply don’t have as many options when it comes redeeming United miles for awards.

Hot Tip:

Business owner? See our list of the best Chase business credit cards.

POPULAR FIRST CARD
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

U.P. Rating
The rating for this card has been determined by our own industry experts who know the in's and out's of credit card products. Bonuses, rewards as well as rates and fees are all taken into account. Compensation from the issuer does not affect our rating. We only recommend products we either use ourselves or endorse.

A fantastic travel card with a huge welcome offer, good benefits, and perks for a moderate annual fee.

Learn More(at Chase's secure site)

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

A fantastic travel card with a huge welcome offer, good benefits, and perks for a moderate annual fee.
Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
60,000 points
$1,200
$95
21.49%-28.49% Variable
Upgraded Points credit ranges are a variation of FICO®Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit cardapplication.
Good to Excellent (670-850)

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® card is one of the best travel rewards cards on the market. Its bonus categories include travel, dining, online grocery purchases, and streaming services, which gives you the opportunity to earn lots of bonus points on these purchases.

Additionally, it offers flexible point redemption options, no foreign transaction fees, and excellent travel insurance coverage including primary car rental insurance. With benefits like these, it’s easy to see why this card is an excellent choice for any traveler.

Pros

  • 5x points on all travel booked via the Chase Travel portal
  • 5x points on select Peloton purchases over $150 (through March 31, 2025)
  • 5x points on Lyft purchases (through March 31, 2025)
  • 3x points on dining purchases, online grocery purchases, and select streaming services
  • 2x points on all other travel worldwide
  • $50 annual credit on hotel stays booked through the Chase Travel portal
  • 6 months of complimentary Instacart+ (activate by July 31, 2024), plus up to $15 in statement credits each quarter through July 2024
  • Excellent travel and car rental insurance
  • 10% annual bonus points
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs like United MileagePlus and World of Hyatt

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • No elite benefits like airport lounge access or hotel elite status
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.
  • Enjoy benefits such as 5x on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠, 3x on dining, select streaming services and online groceries, 2x on all other travel purchases, 1x on all other purchases, $50 Annual Chase Travel Hotel Credit, plus more.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Travel℠. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Get complimentary access to DashPass which unlocks $0 delivery fees and lower service fees for a minimum of one year when you activate by December 31, 2024.
  • Member FDIC

Financial Snapshot

  • APR: 21.49%-28.49% Variable
  • Foreign Transaction Fees: None

Card Categories

Rewards Center

Chase Ultimate Rewards

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

U.P. Rating
The rating for this card has been determined by our own industry experts who know the in's and out's of credit card products. Bonuses, rewards as well as rates and fees are all taken into account. Compensation from the issuer does not affect our rating. We only recommend products we either use ourselves or endorse.

A top player in the high-end premium travel credit card space that earns 3x points on travel and dining while offering top luxury perks.

Learn More(at Chase's secure site)

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

A top player in the high-end premium travel credit card space that earns 3x points on travel and dining while offering top luxury perks.
Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $900 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Travel.
60,000 points
$1,200
$550
22.49%-29.49% Variable
Upgraded Points credit ranges are a variation of FICO®Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit cardapplication.
Excellent (740-850)

If you’re looking for an all-around excellent travel rewards card, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® is one of the best options out there.

The card combines elite travel benefits and perks like airport lounge access, with excellent point earning and redemption options.  Plus it offers top-notch travel insurance protections to keep you covered whether you’re at home or on the road.

Don’t forget the $300 annual travel credit which really helps to reduce the annual fee!

Pros

  • 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase TravelSM immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually
  • 10x points on Lyft purchases March 31, 2025
  • 10x points on Peloton equipment and accessory purchases over $250 through March 31, 2025
  • 5x points on airfare booked through Chase TravelSM
  • 3x points on all other travel and dining purchases; 1x point on all other purchases
  • $300 annual travel credit
  • Priority Pass airport lounge access
  • TSA PreCheck, Global Entry, or NEXUS credit
  • Access to Chase Luxury Hotel and Resort Collection
  • Rental car elite status with National and Avis

Cons

  • $550 annual fee
  • Does not offer any sort of hotel elite status
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $900 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Travel℠ immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Travel℠. For example, 60,000 points are worth $900 toward travel.
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more
  • Member FDIC

Financial Snapshot

  • APR: 22.49%-29.49% Variable
  • Foreign Transaction Fees: None

Card Categories

Rewards Center

Chase Ultimate Rewards

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. Image Credit: Chase
Bottom Line:

Collect Chase Ultimate Rewards points and then transfer them to United. Ultimate Rewards points offer you many transfer partners, whereas United MileagePlus miles are highly restrictive. Plus, Ultimate Rewards points are easy to earn.

Bilt Rewards

Bilt Rewards allows you to earn points for paying your rent and by spending on the Bilt World Elite Mastercard® Credit Card. You can transfer your Bilt points to a number of partners, including United. Bilt points transfer to United at a 1:1 ratio, and you need to transfer a minimum of 2,000 points at a time.

Bilt World Elite Mastercard® Credit CardTerms Apply / Rates & Fees

Bilt World Elite Mastercard® Credit Card

U.P. Rating
The rating for this card has been determined by our own industry experts who know the in's and out's of credit card products. Bonuses, rewards as well as rates and fees are all taken into account. Compensation from the issuer does not affect our rating. We only recommend products we either use ourselves or endorse.

$0

Never before has there been a credit card built specifically with renters in mind. Enter the Bilt World Elite Mastercard® Credit Card, designed specifically to help renters earn rewards on their rent payments with no transaction fees.

Of course, aside from rewards on rent, there are many other solid benefits that the card offers that add extra value to cardholders. In this guide, we provide a complete breakdown of everything the Bilt card has to offer to help you decide whether the card makes sense for you.

Pros

  • 3x points per $1 at restaurants including eligible delivery
  • 2x points per $1 on travel booked directly with airlines, hotels, and car rental agencies
  • 1x point per $1 on rent payments, without a transaction fee, up to 100,000 points each calendar year
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • Access to airline transfer partners

Cons

  • Does not offer a welcome bonus
  • Must use the card 5 times each statement period to earn points
  • $0 annual card fee
  • 1X points on rent payments with no fees (on up to $100,000 in rent payments every year) and non-bonus purchases
  • 2X points on travel (when booked directly with an airline, hotel, car rental or cruise company)
  • 3X points on dining
  • Use the card 5 times each statement period to earn points

Financial Snapshot

  • Foreign Transaction Fees: $0

Card Categories

United MileagePlus Credit Cards

There are several MileagePlus credit cards that help you to directly earn United miles. Here are some of our favorites:

United℠ Explorer Card

United℠ Explorer Card

U.P. Rating
The rating for this card has been determined by our own industry experts who know the in's and out's of credit card products. Bonuses, rewards as well as rates and fees are all taken into account. Compensation from the issuer does not affect our rating. We only recommend products we either use ourselves or endorse.

With priority boarding privileges, no foreign transaction fees and more, MileagePlus members will definitely enjoy their partnered card.

Learn More(at Chase's secure site)

United℠ Explorer Card

With priority boarding privileges, no foreign transaction fees and more, MileagePlus members will definitely enjoy their partnered card.
Earn 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
50,000 bonus miles
$600
$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95
21.99% - 28.99% Variable
Upgraded Points credit ranges are a variation of FICO®Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit cardapplication.
Good to Excellent (670-850)

You travel United all the time, but you have heard that there could be ways to make your travel experiences even better, including priority boarding, free bags, and more miles.

You should consider the United℠ Explorer Card, because this card does all that and more!

Pros

  • 2x miles per $1 on United purchases, dining purchases (including delivery services), and hotel stays
  • 1x mile per $1 on all other purchases
  • First checked bag free for you and up to 1 traveling companion
  • 25% statement credit on United inflight purchases
  • Priority boarding
  • Global Entry, TSA PreCheck, or NEXUS statement credit
  • 2 United Club 1-time passes each year
  • Premier upgrades on award tickets
  • Travel and purchase protections

Cons

  • $0 intro for the first year, then $95 annual fee
  • Does not earn transferable rewards
  • Earn 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on dining, hotel stays, and United® purchases
  • Up to $100 Global Entry, TSA PreCheck® or NEXUS fee credit
  • 25% back as a statement credit on purchases of food, beverages and Wi-Fi on board United-operated flights and on Club premium drinks when you pay with your Explorer Card
  • Free first checked bag - a savings of up to $140 per roundtrip. Terms Apply.
  • Enjoy priority boarding privileges and visit the United Club℠ with 2 one-time passes each year for your anniversary
  • Member FDIC

Financial Snapshot

  • APR: 21.99% - 28.99% Variable
  • Foreign Transaction Fees: None

Card Categories

Rewards Center

United MileagePlus Frequent Flyer Program

United Club℠ Infinite Card

United Club℠ Infinite Card

U.P. Rating
The rating for this card has been determined by our own industry experts who know the in's and out's of credit card products. Bonuses, rewards as well as rates and fees are all taken into account. Compensation from the issuer does not affect our rating. We only recommend products we either use ourselves or endorse.

Perfect for frequent United flyers who want premium perks like United Club access and free baggage benefits.

Learn More(at Chase's secure site)

United Club℠ Infinite Card

Perfect for frequent United flyers who want premium perks like United Club access and free baggage benefits.
Earn 80,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
Earn 80,000 bonus miles
$960
$525
21.99% - 28.99% Variable
Upgraded Points credit ranges are a variation of FICO®Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit cardapplication.
Excellent (740-850)

The United Club℠ Infinite Card is a premium card designed for the most dedicated of United frequent flyers who are looking for a card that provides the opportunity to earn extra United MileagePlus miles and receive lounge access via a yearly United Club membership.

United frequent flyers will find that the United Club Infinite card provides an enhanced experience on their United flights thanks to the money saved on each flight and the conveniences it provides.

Pros

  • 4x miles per $1 on United purchases
  • 2x miles per $1 on travel and dining purchases
  • Complimentary United Club membership
  • Free first and second checked bag for you and 1 traveling companion
  • United Premier Access
  • 25% back on United inflight purchases
  • Complimentary Premier Upgrades on United-operated award tickets (when available)
  • Expanded award availability
  • Up to 10,000 Premier Qualifying Points
  • $100 Global Entry/TSA PreCheck/NEXUS credit
  • Trip protections like trip delay insurance, lost and delayed luggage insurance, and rental car insurance
  • Shopping protections like return protection, purchase protection, and extended warranty protection
  • IHG One Rewards Platinum Elite status and a $75 annual credit
  • Avis President’s Club elite status
  • 10% discount on United Economy Saver Awards within the continental U.S. and Canada

Cons

  • $525 annual fee
  • Does not earn transferable rewards
  • Earn 80,000 bonus miles after qualifying purchases
  • Earn 4 miles per $1 spent on United® purchases
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on all other travel and dining
  • Earn 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Free first and second checked bags - a savings of up to $320 per roundtrip (terms apply) - and Premier Access® travel services
  • 10% United Economy Saver Award discount within the continental U.S. and Canada
  • Earn up to 10,000 Premier qualifying points (25 PQP for every $500 you spend on purchases)
  • Member FDIC

Financial Snapshot

  • APR: 21.99% - 28.99% Variable
  • Foreign Transaction Fees: None

Card Categories

These cards have other benefits besides earning points. For example, the United Explorer card benefits include 1 free checked bag on United flights, 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.

There are 2 types of award tickets: Saver and everyday. Saver tickets are the cheapest, so want to book these tickets as often as possible.

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 its partner airlines, and these are the MileagePlus award types we’ll address in this post.

Travel partners often 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 far fewer miles across the board.

United Dynamic Award Pricing 

In 2019, United got rid of its award chart and introduced dynamic pricing for award flights booked with United miles. That means that there are no longer fixed award prices between certain regions and that prices can vary based on a multitude of factors.

The prices listed below are generally what you should expect to see when looking for saver level awards. You may sometimes spot Saver award pricing for more or less than what’s listed below.

Additionally, United charges more for award flights that are booked within 30 days of departure. Normal Saver-level awards cost about 5% to 10% more if booked this close in, both on United and partner flights.

Using United MileagePlus Miles With Airline Partners

You can redeem miles with United and its partner airlines through a normal search on United.com. Simply check the box next to “Book with miles” when searching for your flight.

United isn’t just a part of the Star Alliance, as it also partners with 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, like Lufthansa and Avianca, for flights all around the world.

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.

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 $8,000 isn’t in everyone’s budget.

Fortunately, United miles provide an opportunity to take part in this amazing experience. From 121,000 miles, you can book a one-way, first-class award flight on Lufthansa.

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

Hot Tip:

Need help booking? See our step-by-step guide to booking Lufthansa first class with points.

Lufthansa B747-8 First Class Seat 1A and 1K
Fly Lufthansa first class in the nose of the Queen of the Skies. Image Credit: Cherag Dubash

An 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.

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

Hot Tip:

Keep in mind that although United has technically eliminated its close-in booking fee, it has also increased the number of miles you need for flights within 30 days. Unfortunately, this means anytime you want to redeem United miles for Lufthansa first class you’re subject to the “not-a-close-in-booking-fee” booking fee. Costs vary, but we’ve seen anywhere from 1,000 to 9,000 additional miles tacked on. 

If you want to take your Lufthansa experience to the next level, make sure you have a connection in its hub, Frankfurt Am Main Airport (FRA). There you can visit the First Class Terminal, 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 among frequent flyers, a Lufthansa rubber duck.

You can even take a nap in one of the relaxation rooms, complete with beds.

Finally, when it’s time to head to the gate for your connecting flight, you won’t have to worry about rushing to boarding. Since the First Class Terminal is not connected to the gates, staff will drive you over in a Porsche.

Bottom Line:

United miles can help you snag the elusive and sought-after Lufthansa first class, as long as you don’t mind waiting to book until 2 weeks before your flight.

2. The Excursionist Perk

United has a special bonus you can tack on to some award flights that are essentially free flights within in an award flight. The Excursionist Perk’s an exciting way to stretch your miles value and to turn a trip into an adventure with a bonus stopover.

But there are rules you need to know first.

United requires stopovers to be in the same region as a destination. They can’t take place in the region where you started your travel. Additionally, you must have a round-trip itinerary, but that only means you must end your journey in your region of origin.

For example, you could fly from the U.S. to Stockholm with a stopover in Frankfurt, since both the stopover and destination are in Europe.

This seems pretty straightforward, but there’s a twist that you take advantage of to put together interesting journeys. In practice, United’s stopover rules allow you to take a free, one-way segment 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 intraregion 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! A great way to take advantage of this is by booking open-jaw flights.

United Excursionist perk map
You’d need to book a separate flight between Frankfurt and Addis, but you could then use the Excursionist Perk to fly between Addis Ababa and Cape Town for free. Image Credit: Great Circle Mapper

You could, for example, book a flight from Newark (EWR) to Frankfurt, then book your own connection to Addis Ababa (ADD). A one-way ticket from Frankfurt to Addis Ababa can be had for a little over $300. From Addis Ababa, you can access anywhere in Africa for free. Want to head to Cape Town (CPT)? Great — that 6.5-hour flight can be the segment included in your Excursionist Perk. You can then continue home from Cape Town to complete your journey.

This is a less common way to use the Excursionist Perk, but using this strategy correctly could yield great value! Of course, if that’s not your style, there are plenty of simple stopovers and open-jaw bookings that can still maximize your United miles.

Bottom Line:

Savvy customers can take advantage of the Excursionist Perk to get free segments on their qualifying award bookings.

3. Business Class on a Star Alliance Partner to Africa

Although United technically pulled its award chart in 2019, the price for Saver award flights doesn’t vary much — generally speaking, you can reliably find availability priced at fixed amounts.

For example, flights from the U.S. to any African country in business class on a Star Alliance partner price out at 88,000 miles one-way.

This is true as long as you’re booking more than 30 days out, of course. If you’re booking an itinerary that mixes cabins, the price will also change.

Swiss Air business seat view
Fly on Star Alliance partner SWISS in business class to several countries in Africa. Image Credit: SWISS

Many people immediately default to checking out partners Ethiopian Airlines or South African Airways. These might be solid choices for your needs, but we suggest routing through Europe for an even better experience.

SWISS, for example, has a great business class that you can get by routing through Zurich (ZRH). Additionally, Austrian Airlines has a solid business class and fantastic catering service. If you’re a coffee drinker, you’ll definitely want to try a cup of Viennese coffee.

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

Bottom Line:

Business class to Africa on a Star Alliance partner can be a good way to spend 88,000 United miles, especially if you choose to route via Europe. 

4. Semiprivate Domestic Flights on Boutique Air

If you’ve ever wanted the experience of flying privately but, like most of us, can’t afford to shell out for it, consider Boutique Air. It’s a small domestic airline with an unusual route map — most of its flights connect otherwise hard-to-find airports. The most remarkable thing about the carrier is that all of its aircraft feature just a handful of seats for a truly private experience.

Since Boutique Air is a United partner, you can redeem United miles for Boutique Air flights. Though award availability can be hard to come by, we’ve found the pricing to be reasonable. For example, you can book a one-way flight between Boston (BOS) and Massena International Airport (MSS), near the New York-Canada border, for 16,500 miles.

Boutique Air plane
Feel like a celebrity without the paparazzi on Boutique Air. Image Credit: Boutique Air

5. Turkish Airlines in Business Class From the U.S.

Turkish Airlines flies to more destinations than almost any other airline in the world (it’s third behind American and Delta), giving you ample opportunity to use MileagePlus award miles for a great business class product.

Getting from the U.S. to Europe starts at 88,000 MileagePlus on Turkish. It’d cost the same to see Africa.

Alternatively, you could just fly to Istanbul and enjoy an amazing city! If your connection gap is long enough, you could get out of the airport for a few hours. If you have a short connection that doesn’t give you time to leave Istanbul Airport (IST), you can experience Turkish Airlines’ amazing business class lounge.

Turkish Airlines Business Lounge Self Playing Piano
Enjoy the amazing Turkish Airlines Business Lounge in Istanbul. Image Credit: Greg Stone
Hot Tip:

Enjoy hotel elite status and airport lounge perks when traveling if you have The Platinum Card® from American Express (enrollment required).

6. United Polaris Business Class

In 2017, United launched a revamped business class product called Polaris. As of late 2023, United has the new Polaris seat on all of its long-haul international flights and many of its wide-body aircraft that fly within the U.S., including the Boeing 777-300, 777-200, 767-300, 787-8, 787-9, and 787-10.

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’re looking for an excuse to redeem United miles, you can try the new Polaris business class on a trip from the U.S. to Europe from 80,000 miles one-way. If Asia is more your style, you have options starting at 100,000 United miles. However in our searches we found that it’s hard to come by that level of pricing, as most flights across the Pacific come in around 170,000 or more miles one-way. 

United Polaris Business Class Seat on Boeing 787 9 Dreamliner
Fly Polaris business class to Europe from just 60,000 miles one-way. Image Credit: Chris Hassan

Here are some great routes you can take to Europe:

  • Chicago (ORD) to Frankfurt (FRA)
  • Newark (EWR) to Frankfurt (FRA)
  • San Francisco (SFO) to London (LHR) 

Not only has United revamped its business class to compete with airlines like Delta and American on international routes, but it’s also stepped up its lounge game, as well.

With Polaris lounges at United’s hub airports, you can experience a new level of flying with United. So far, there are Polaris lounges in Houston (IAH), San Francisco (SFO), Newark (EWR), Los Angeles (LAX), Washington Dulles (IAD), and Chicago (ORD).

Bottom Line:

United’s amazing new Polaris business class is a great way to spend your miles if you can find availability on one of the planes featuring its new seats. 

7. Fly The Room on ANA to Japan

In 2019, ANA gave its business class a massive upgrade. The airline rolled out a new seat dubbed The Room, which features significantly more space than many other carrier’s business seats — in fact, the seat’s comparable to some first-class suites.

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

ANA The Room Business Class
ANA’s new business class features very spacious seats. Image Credit: Stella Shon

You can book ANA business class from the U.S. to Japan starting from 110,000 United miles. Note that The Room is only installed on certain aircraft right now, like the Boeing 777-300ER. Make sure the flight you book features the new seats.

However you look at it, experiencing an ANA premium cabin should be on your must-fly list. Whether or not it’s on ANA, you should check out our guide to the best ways to fly to Japan using points and miles.

Bottom Line:

Business class flights from the U.S. to Japan on ANA start at 110,000 United miles. With superior service and seats, ANA beats United’s business class to Japan. 

8. Flights Within Oceania in Economy Class

Once you’ve flown to the other side of the world, you might want to spend some time visiting different islands. United operates its famous Island Hopper route among these islands, which is an AvGeek bucket-list item. The problem is that many of these intraregion flights are pretty pricey.

United Island Hopper
Image Credit: Redgeographics via Wikipedia

A one-way flight in economy class can be booked from 20,000 United miles for flights under 800 miles. Flights over 800 miles start at 30,000 miles. Though this might seem like a lot of miles to redeem for a short flight, keep in mind that the cash rates can also be quite high.

Alternatively, business Saver award tickets are 50,000 miles for flights under 800 miles and 85,000 miles for flights over 800 miles in this region.

9. Cheap Flights to Europe in Economy Class

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

Starting from 30,000 United miles, you can fly one-way in economy class on United. If you’d prefer a Star Alliance partner airline, such as Turkish or Lufthansa, you can book a flight from 43,900 miles.

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.

Turkish Airlines Boeing 777 Business
Fly Turkish Airlines from the U.S. to Europe in economy from 43,900 miles. Image Credit: Chris Dong
Hot Tip:

Make stopovers even better with the Amex Platinum card and get access to airline lounges around the world, as well as up to $200 in airline fee credits you can use on United!

10. Travel Throughout Central and Southern Africa in Business Class

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

Beginning at 33,000 United miles, you can fly one-way in business class throughout the region. Having 2 major airline partners in the region means you can go almost anywhere there you can imagine!

South African Airways
South African Airways A330-300 business class. Image Credit: South African Airways

11. See the Caribbean in Economy Class

If you want to check out the Caribbean, you can sometimes book a round-trip ticket in economy class from the U.S. to the Caribbean for as low as 13,200 miles (or 6,600 miles one-way).

Prices on these routes vary significantly, so it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what a traditional Saver award costs these days. If you want to find the lowest price, take advantage of United’s flexible date search function to find the best deal.

United Airlines Economy
United Airlines economy. Image Credit: United

Savvy travelers can also take advantage of the Excursionist Perk to tack on a visit to a different island without additional cost. It’s not the cheapest way to use your miles, but the free stopover allows you to see more of a beautiful part of the world.

12. Fly to the Galápagos on Avianca

The Galápagos are notoriously expensive to reach. Fortunately, one of United’s partners, Avianca, operates nonstop flights to both Galápagos airports, Baltra Island (GPS) and San Cristóbal Island (SCY):

  • Guayaquil (GYE) to Baltra Island (GPS)
  • Guayaquil (GYE) to San Cristóbal Island (SCY)
  • Quito (UIO) to Baltra Island (GPS)
  • Quito (UIO) to San Cristóbal Island (SCY)

Clocking in at just under 2 hours, one-way Galápagos economy flights start at 8,800 United miles.

Avianca economy A320 LAX SAL seat spacing
Avianca A320 economy class. Image Credit: Ryan Smith

13. Fly From the U.S. to Northern South America

United breaks South America down into 2 separate regions, meaning you can save miles by choosing to land in the northern half rather than the southern.

From 28,300 miles, you can fly in economy on United from the U.S. to the northern part of the continent. Flying with its Star Alliance partners starts at 33,000 miles in economy.

If you’d prefer a more comfortable flight, you can book from 55,000 United miles to fly in business class on United metal, or 60,500 miles on a partner airline.

Avianca A319 business class
Connect to South America via Star Alliance partner Avianca’s hub in Bogotá (BOG). Image Credit: Avianca

Here are some great example routes you can take:

  • Houston (IAH) to Lima (LIM) 
  • Houston (IAH) to Panama City (PTY) or Georgetown (GEO)
  • Houston (IAH) to Quito (UIO)
  • Los Angeles (LAX) to Bogotá (BOG)

14. Fly Business Class From Europe to Central Asia

American travelers don’t often visit Central Asia from Europe, but United miles provide a great way to do it.

Beginning at 60,500 United miles, you can fly business class one-way on a Star Alliance partner such as Lufthansa or Austrian. You can also fly economy class one-way from 33,000 miles.

This gives you access to amazing destinations 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.

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

Here are some great route ideas to inspire you:

  • Vienna (VIE) to Male (MLE)
  • Zurich (ZRH) to Delhi (DEL)

15. Fly on United to Africa

In recent years, United has launched a number of direct flights to Africa. Currently, the airline flies to Cape Town (CPT) and Johannesburg (JNB), South Africa; Accra, Ghana (ACC); and Lagos, Nigeria (LOS).

You can find United’s Polaris seats on these routes, but prices aren’t cheap — you have to shell out 190,000 United miles for a one-way business-class ticket. Otherwise, you can fly in economy from 45,000 miles.

United Polaris cabin at night
United’s Polaris class is one of the best ways to get to Africa. Image Credit: Chris Hassan

16. Fly to Any of the 48 Continental States, Alaska, or Canada

Sometimes, domestic flight costs are simply unbearable, so it can be useful to redeem United miles for these flights. Since ditching its award chart, United has shown fluctuations in pricing for domestic flights.

It used to be that, for 12,500 miles, you could get anywhere in the continental U.S. in economy class. If your flight were less than 700 miles, you only needed to use 10,000 United miles.

Now, however, you can now find flights as low as 5,000 miles, though more desirable flights, such as nonstops, can cost more than that with stopovers.

United CR700 Economy Class
United Airlines economy. Image Credit: United

Starting at 13,000 United miles, you can fly in economy class to Alaska or Canada for a quick adventure to colder climates.

While these redemptions don’t bring the glamour of Lufthansa first class, they are quite useful when traveling domestically and can still provide above-average value for your miles.

Bottom Line:

United’s dynamic pricing is most visible on domestic U.S. flights, where you can now score flights for as few as 5,000 miles. 

17. Flights Under 800 Miles Outside of the U.S.

Points and miles travelers love to talk about using British Airways Avios to take short flights while abroad. The thing is, Star Alliance carriers may actually be more convenient for your itinerary. United MileagePlus allows you to book flights under 800 miles in economy from 8,800 United miles.

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

Bottom Line:

Redeeming your miles for short-haul flights overseas is a cheap, easy way to get around. 

List of Star Alliance Airline Partners

SCROLL FOR MORE
Star Alliance Partners
Aegean AirlinesEthiopian Airlines
Air CanadaEVA Air
Air ChinaLOT Polish Airlines
Air IndiaLufthansa
Air New ZealandScandinavian Airlines
ANAShenzhen Airlines
Asiana AirlinesSingapore Airlines
AustrianSouth African Airways
AviancaSWISS
Brussels AirlinesTAP Air Portugal
Copa AirlinesThai Airways
Croatia AirlinesTurkish Airlines
Egypt AirUnited Airlines

United Airline Partners Outside an Alliance

SCROLL FOR MORE
Other Partners
Aer LingusEurowings
AeromarEurowings Discover
Air DolomitiFlydubai
AirlinkHawaiian Airlines
AzulJSX
Boutique AirOlympic Air
Cape AirSilver Airways
EdelweissVirgin Australia
EmiratesVistara

Final Thoughts

We’ve talked about a good number of great premium cabin redemptions on both United and its partner airlines to get you around the world. These are some of the best ways to use United miles right now.

Additionally, you can use your United MileagePlus miles for solid redemptions and amazing experiences in first class and business class on partner airlines (with low fuel surcharges, of course).

Before you go, you probably want to check out the baggage rules on United.

Happy redeeming!

For rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, click here.

Frequently Asked Questions

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?

We value United miles at 1.2 cents per mile, though the true value depends on where and how you are redeeming your points.

At 1.2 cents per mile, that’s like getting a $100 ticket for the equivalent of about 8,350 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, plus a processing fee of $30. Generally, it’s 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 via the Reservations tab. United eliminated award change and redeposit fees in 2022.

How much are United miles worth?

MileagePlus program miles are commonly valued at around 1.2 cents per mile. That can change depending on the redemption.

When do United MileagePlus miles post in your account?

United miles should post to your account within 48 hours after your travel is completed.

If miles still aren’t showing after 48 hours has elapsed, consider requesting missing miles.

How can I earn more United miles?

You can earn more United miles with cobranded credit cards such as the United Club Infinite card or United 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® Card (you must have one of these cards in order to transfer points to partners). Bilt Rewards points also transfer to United.

You can also earn miles through the United MileagePlus Dining program and the United MileagePlus Shopping portal. Every bonus mile counts!

Who are United Airlines' partners?

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

[table id=183 /]

United’s non-Star Alliance partners are:

  • Aer Lingus
  • Aeromar
  • Air Dolomiti
  • Airlink
  • Azul
  • Boutique Air
  • Cape Air
  • Edelweiss
  • Emirates
  • Eurowings
  • Eurowings Discover
  • Flydubai
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • JSX
  • Olympic Air
  • Silver Airways
  • Virgin Australia
  • Vistara

United also has several hotel partners, including:

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

When do United miles expire?

United MileagePlus miles do not expire.

What is my MileagePlus number?

Your MileagePlus number is the frequent flyer account number United assigns you when you sign up for the reward program. You should receive an email containing your number, or you can call customer service to get it.

Spencer Howard's image

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). He runs Straight to the Points, an award-seat alert platform.

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