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 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 will need to know a few strategies for booking flights, including its stopover and open-jaw rules.

Remember to consider its 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 United’s co-branded 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 at a 1:1 rate.

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

You’ll have the chance to redeem miles on United and with partner carriers through a normal search on its front page. Simply check the box next to Book with miles.

United is a part of the Star Alliance, and it also partners 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 collecting 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 is currently offering a 60,000 point bonus after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

The card earns 5x points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3x points on dining and 2x points on all other travel purchases, plus more. Enjoy a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, and other travel benefits such as excellent travel insurance coverage, including car rental insurance and no foreign transaction fees, this card is a very rewarding card.
Chase Sapphire Reserve® - This premium card will get you access to 1,300+ airport lounges. as well as a number of other card benefits. 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 $550 annual fee. As an extra bonus, until 12/31/21, gas station & grocery store purchases will also count towards earning your Travel Credit.

Earn big with this card, earn 5X total points on air travel and 10X total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards 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.
Chase Freedom Unlimited® card - A solid, no annual fee card that earns you a $200 bonus after you spend $500 in your first 3 months. Earn 5% cash-back on grocery store purchases (not including Target or Walmart purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year, and 5% on travel purchases through Chase Ultimate Rewards. Then earn 3% cash-back on dining and drugstore purchases, and 1.5% cash-back on all other purchases, but you won't get any travel benefits with this card.

Recommended Chase Cards (Business)

Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card - this is our #1 recommended business card and right now comes with a 100,000 sign up bonus after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months after account opening. This bonus is worth $1,000 cash back or $1,250 toward travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Pay your cell phone bill with this card to receive up to $600 in cell phone insurance coverage per year; as well as a number of other benefits.

Earn 3x on the first $150,000 spent on travel and select business categories each account anniversary year, plus 1x on all other purchases — with no limit to the amount you can earn. All for an annual fee of $95.
Ink Business Cash® Credit Card - Earn $750 bonus cash back after you spend $7,500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening

This no annual fee business card earns up to 5% cash-back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on internet, cable and phone services each account anniversary year, plus 2% cash-back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each account anniversary.
Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card - Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back rewards on every purchase made for your business.

Earn $750 bonus cash back after you spend $7,500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. There's no annual fee.

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 partner options (instead of just collecting highly restrictive United MileagePlus miles). Plus, Ultimate Rewards points are very easy to earn.

United MileagePlus Credit Cards

There are several MileagePlus credit cards that 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, the United Explorer card benefits include 1 free checked 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.

There are 2 types of award tickets: Saver and everyday. Saver tickets are the cheapest in price, so you’ll 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 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.

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

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 mileage cost to get to Europe, 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 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 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 chosen to increase the number of miles you’ll need for flights that occur within 30 days. Unfortunately, this means anytime you want to redeem United miles for Lufthansa first class you’ll be 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. 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 the 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 timely arrival.

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

Bottom Line: United miles can help 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’s rules require stopovers to be in the same region as a destination and they also can’t take place in the region where you started your travel. Additionally, 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 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 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! A great way to take advantage of this is by booking open-jaw flights.

You could, for example, book a flight from Newark (EWR) to Frankfurt (FRA), 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.

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

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.

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

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

Although United technically pulled its award chart in 2019, the cost for Saver award flights doesn’t vary much — generally speaking, you can reliably find availability priced at certain 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 a mixed cabin itinerary, the price will further change.

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

SWISS has a great business class product that you can utilize by routing through Zurich (ZRH). Additionally, Austrian Airlines has a solid business class and really shines with its fantastic catering service. If you’re a coffee drinker, you’ll definitely want to try a cup of Viennese coffee, too.

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 flights 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. Semi-Private Domestic Flights on Boutique Air

Boutique Air plane
Feel like a celebrity without the paparazzi on Boutique Air. Image Credit: 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, you may want to 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 coolest thing about this airline is that all of its aircraft feature just a handful of seats for a truly private experience. As a United partner, you can redeem your miles here starting at 13,800 miles for a flight.

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

Turkish Airlines Business Lounge Self Playing Piano
Enjoy the amazing Turkish Airlines Business Lounge in Istanbul (IST) if you’re flying through. Image Credit: Greg Stone

Turkish Airlines flies to more destinations than any other airline in the world, giving 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 its great business class product. Getting to Europe starts at 77,000 miles, or you could use 88,000 to see Africa.

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.

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

6. United Polaris Business Class

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

In 2017, United launched a revamped business class product called Polaris. While many of United’s international business class flights are now branded as Polaris, not all of United’s 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 from just 60,000 miles one-way. If Asia is more your style, you have lots of options starting at 70,000 United miles.

Here are some great routes you can take to Europe:

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

Here are some great routes you can take to Asia:

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

Not only has United revamped its business class product to compete with airlines like Delta and American on international routes, but it’s 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, the Houston, San Francisco, Newark, Los Angeles, and Chicago Polaris lounges have opened.

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. ANA to Japan in First Class

ANA First Class Cabin, Boeing 777,
ANA first class is very private and luxurious. Image Credit: Alex Miller

For some, flying first class is great because of the high-end Champagne, the caviar, the spacious seat, and impeccable service. Starting at 121,000 United miles, you can get all of that while flying ANA first class from the U.S. to Japan.

What really puts ANA on the map, though, is its 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 from 88,000 United 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.

Bottom Line: First class flights on ANA start at just 121,000 United miles. With superior service and seats, ANA beats United’s business class options to Japan. 

8. Flights Within Oceania in Economy Class

United Island Hopper
Image Credit: Redgeographics via Wikipedia

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. However, many of these intra-region flights are pretty pricey.

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

Alternatively, business Saver award tickets are 20,000 miles for flights under 800 miles and 25,000 miles for flights over 800 miles in this region.

The downside: due to COVID-19, United has reduced its service to destinations such as Guam (GUM) and Yap (YAP).

9. Cheap Flights to Europe in Economy Class

Turkish Airlines 777-300ER economy
Fly Turkish Airlines from the U.S. to Europe in economy from 33,000 miles. Image Credit: Turkish Airlines

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 33,000 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.

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 airline fee credit you can use on United!

10. Travel Throughout Central and Southern Africa in Business Class

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

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 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 in Economy Class

United Airlines Economy
United Airlines economy. Image Credit: United

If you’ve been wanting to check the Caribbean, you can book a round-trip ticket in economy class from the U.S. to the Caribbean for 35,000 miles (or 17,500 miles one-way). 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 mileage cost, but the free stopover allows you to see more of a beautiful part of the world.

12. Fly to the Galápagos on Avianca

Avianca 787-8 economy
Avianca 787-8 economy. Image Credit: Avianca

The Galápagos are notoriously expensive to reach. Fortunately, one of United’s partners, Avianca, operates nonstop flights to both Galápagos airports:

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

With flights ringing in at just under 2 hours, you can spend from just 8,800 United miles for a one-way economy class ticket to these famous islands. If business class is more your style, you can snag a Saver award ticket starting at 22,000 miles.

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

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

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

From 20,000 United 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 22,000 miles in economy.

If you’d prefer a more comfortable flight, you can book from 35,000 United miles to fly in business class on United metal, or 38,500 miles on a partner airline.

Here are some great example routes you can take:

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

14. Fly Business Class From Europe to Central Asia

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

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.

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 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 are some great route ideas to inspire your creativity:

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

15. Fly on United to Africa

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

United stopped flying to Africa in 2012, giving up on a market that it deemed unprofitable. However, it began resuming flights to Accra (ACC) as of May 2021.

Best of all, there is plentiful award space available for these flights — and they’re flying United’s new Polaris seats, so you’ll have ultimate privacy. Since United will be operating these flights, they’ll cost less than other options, ringing in at just 70,000 United miles for a one-way business class ticket. Otherwise, you can fly in economy from just 40,000 miles.

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

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

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 some pretty steady fluctuation in pricing for domestic flights.

Previously, it used to be that for 12,500 miles, you could get anywhere in the continental U.S. in economy class. If your flight was less than 700 miles, you’d only need to use 10,000 United miles.

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

Starting at 17,500 United 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 glamour of Lufthansa first class, they are tremendously useful in times when you have to get somewhere.

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.

Using British Airways Avios is often the most talked-about way to take short flights while abroad. However, Star Alliance carriers may 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 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.

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

List of Star Alliance Airline Partners

Air CanadaEVA Air
Air ChinaLOT Polish Airlines
Air IndiaLufthansa
Air New ZealandScandinavian Airlines
ANAShenzhen Airlines
Asiana AirlinesSingapore Airlines
AustrianSouth African Airways
Brussels AirlinesTAP Air Portugal
Copa AirlinesThai Airways
Croatia AirlinesTurkish Airlines
Egypt AirUnited Airlines

List of Non-Alliance Airline Partners

Other Partners
Aer LingusEdelweiss
Air DolomitiHawaiian Airlines
AzulOlympic Air
Boutique AirSilver Airways
Cape AirVistara

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 continuing to expand the routes on which its own premium cabin product are offered, we look forward to seeing premium cabin growth.

Additionally, the first class and business class experiences on partner airlines (with low fuel surcharges) give 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!

The information regarding the Chase Freedom Unlimited® card and Citi Prestige® Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer. 

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 1.6 cents per mile, though the true value depends on where and how you are redeeming your points.

At 1.6 cents per mile, that’s like getting a $100 ticket for the equivalent of about 6,250 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 $15 per 1,000 United miles (1.5 cents per mile) that you transfer, plus a processing fee. 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 via the Reservations tab. Depending on your frequent flyer status and current flight conditions, 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 1.6 cents per mile. However, these can change depending on the redemption, and United 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 to 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 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).

You can also join 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:

Air CanadaEVA Air
Air ChinaLOT Polish Airlines
Air IndiaLufthansa
Air New ZealandScandinavian Airlines
ANAShenzhen Airlines
Asiana AirlinesSingapore Airlines
AustrianSouth African Airways
Brussels AirlinesTAP Air Portugal
Copa AirlinesThai Airways
Croatia AirlinesTurkish Airlines
Egypt AirUnited Airlines

United’s non-Star Alliance partners are:

  • Aer Lingus
  • Aeromar
  • Air Dolomiti
  • Azul
  • Boutique Air
  • Cape Air
  • Edelweiss
  • Eurowings
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Olympic Air
  • Silver Airways
  • Vistara

United also has several hotel partners, including:

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

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).

Travel prices are about to surge from pent-up demand.

Use this points strategy to lock in pennies-on-the-dollar pricing in 2021, all without being a frequent flyer...

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


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


    • 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.


      • 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.


          • 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

    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. 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!


      • 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


        • 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?


    • 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.


    • 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?


  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

    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!


    • 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!


    • 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…


    • 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!


    • 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. 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?


    • 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. 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

    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.


    • 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

    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.


    • 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. 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..


    • 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. 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

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


  24. 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?


    • 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. 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?


    • 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

    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!


    • 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.


  27. Hello,

    My post seems to have vanished, so this may appear as a repeat (apologies if so). Looking for some help on a trip from Dulles (IAD) to Venice or Rome open jaw (fly to one return from other) third week of May 12 days. I would like to buy three tix and then upgrade with Sapphire Prem (new 60K points) and United 110K points, hubby has an additional 50k united on his account. Wondering if there is a best way to do this. Husband is 6’7, son is 6’11, I’m about 6′. Bulkheads might be viable, but would prefer business class. Input is greatly appreciated.

    Thanks! Merry Christmas.


  28. Hi, my husband and I would like to take our kids to Manila Philippines from LAX this November for 2 to 3 weeks and would love to have a stop over in Singapore for 4 days before we fly back to LAX. We have about 200,000 chase points that we can transfer to united. What is the best way to use our points to book this flights?


    • Rocky,

      If you’re looking to fly business class, you’ll be able to book a one-way ticket, but not round-trip for the both of you. If you want to fly economy, look into leveraging the United Excursionist perk.

      The easiest way is to search online at United.com for award flights. Remember to break up your searches. This means 1 search for LAX-MNL, then 1 search for MNL-SIN, then 1 search for SIN-LAX to search for availability


  29. I’m trying to get my Chase Ultimate Rewards to transfer to United but there isn’t an option to transfer to partners on the dashboard. Is this a new change?


    • Hi Vi,

      It doesn’t appear there was any change on my end, “Transfer to Travel Partners” appears on my Ultimate Rewards dashboard between Gift Cards and Travel. Is it still not working for you?


  30. Good evening.
    I would love some advice regarding United and how to avoid being charged fees for redepositing miles back into my account. I just had to cancel a flight to Houston and Orlando due to Coronavirus. Just a few days ago I knew that I should not fly. United stated on their web site that they were waiving change fees. There was a link to go in and change that flight to another at a later time. It kept booting me back out of it. So, I went back and cancelled the flight, believing that I would not be charged any money. I was going to then rebook another flight. Immediately, a charge of $250 hit my credit card for the fee to put my miles back into my account. I am outraged that United would do this, especially during such a hectic, uncertain time. It was misleading to say no change fees without at least a warning that cancelling would incur a fee for putting miles back into my account. I wrote to them and have yet to receive a reply. I am now hesitant to rebook using miles as I may well have to cancel if it is unsafe or if current conditions dictate that we should not fly in June. Are you able to help me with this? I have over 120,000 miles and don’t want to lose them. On the other hand, I am fed up with the hassle of booking flights with miles when travel plans are so uncertain. You have said that you don’t get a good return on hotels with using miles. I feel so stuck.
    By the way, I had a flight cancelled due to Hurricane a year or so ago. United waited until the last minute to cancel the flight and only then could I get miles back without incurring a fee. I do not feel like a valued customer. Thank you


    • Hi Leslie. Sorry you are having such a frustrating experience. United’s highest redeposit fee is $125 and that is only for bookings less than 60 days from departure (according to their web site). You may be able to call United and ask for the redeposit fee to be waived. It will be a long wait on hold but it could be worth it.


  31. Hey Spencer (or anyone else), what do you think of the current Chase United Club card offering 100,000 bonus miles? I’m trying to plan for reward travel in 2021 from LAX to Rome (return) for my wife and my anniversary (either Polaris business or their decent partners like Lufthansa for a great First Class). We also have a few hundred thousand points with Chase Ultimate Rewards Program, that could be transferred to United MileagePlus too. What’s your thoughts on adding that United Club card to give a large boost in points for getting such a trip? We’re open to any other suggestions too…


    • Hey Martin,

      In general, it’s always better to get transferable points. You can always transfer Ultimate Rewards points to United, but you can’t transfer United miles back to Ultimate Rewards points. Therefore, a card like the Chase Ink Business Preferred, which currently has a welcome bonus of 100,000 points, could be more valuable. If you don’t own a business, you can consider signing up for the United Club card. Just remember that the annual fee is hefty.


  32. Does anyone know if the United Excursionist fare is available in late July-early August 2020 for a Hawaii island hop?


  33. Masood Haider July 29, 2020

    We have 45,000 miles on our United Plus Mileage card. How many points are needed to upgrade our round trip ticket from Newark to LA on Alaska Airlines in late September to First Class?


  34. In your review, the explorer card allowed you to travel within the contiguous 48 states for 12,500 miles or less. This is why we got the card. When I tried to book a flight for 2, it was going to cost over 102,000 miles. What’s going on?


    • Hi Amy,

      In order to book at those prices you need to locate Saver award space with United, which may or may not be available for your particular dates or destination. The more flexibility you have with your travel dates the easier it will be to book dates with saver availability.


Any thoughts or questions? Comment below!

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