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The United credit cards from Chase can be quite valuable for anyone who flies with the airline at least a few times each year. Most of the cardholder benefits get plenty of attention—and it doesn't take much explanation to understand something like free checked bags.
However, one of the most valuable perks of these cards is poorly understood and often overlooked:
“MileagePlus Premier® members and qualified MileagePlus Chase Cardmembers are eligible for exclusive award travel availability.”
In other words, if you have an eligible United card, you can use miles to book flights that aren’t available to everyone else.
More Award Flights, Just For You
There's a reason you may never have heard of this perk. United doesn't advertise this as a benefit in their marketing materials.
United only advertises “No Blackout Dates” as one of the key benefits of the card. This means you can use miles to book the last seat on a flight—effectively giving you the same options with miles as you have when paying with cash. Unfortunately, booking the last available seat will require a lot of extra miles. Those tickets are known as Everyday Awards, and they generally cost at least double the number of miles needed for a Saver Award.
So what are Chase and United leaving out? Cardmembers also get access to extra economy-class flights at the cheapest price in miles—also known as Saver Awards. You won't see these awards if you aren't a cardholder—or a MileagePlus elite. These awards are completely hidden from the general public.
That means being a cardholder can make a huge difference in your options for using miles.
Related: Which Flights Can I Book with Miles? (If you aren't familiar award space, this guide for beginners will explain everything you need to know.)
How to Find Expanded United Award Space
To unlock United's hidden award space, simply sign in to your MileagePlus account before searching United for award flights. United will recognize your status as a co-brand cardholder and display additional fare classes when you search for awards. Flights featuring expanded award space will be labeled, “Exclusively available to you as a MileagePlus Chase Cardmember.”
The expanded award space is labeled as a different fare class from the award space available to all MileagePlus members:
- Additional Economy Saver Awards are labeled: (XN)
- Additional Business Everyday Awards are labeled: (JN)
For example, you'll see in the flight details for this itinerary that the fare class for Economy Saver award space is labeled (X). That's the standard fare bucket for Economy Saver awards. However, the AUS-IAH economy segment on the Business Saver award is labeled with the (XN) fare class. That's the bucket that's only available to MileagePlus Chase cardholders and Premier elite members.
Without access to the (XN) economy seat on the one-hour flight from Austin to Houston, you can't book the 60,000-mile business-class ticket all the way to Frankfurt.
The expanded award space can help you piece together much better itineraries on multi-segment, international awards. More award availability often leads to shorter connection times, and fewer stops to reach your destination.
The additional Business Everyday Award space with the fare class (JN) is also only available if you hold a co-brand card. Everyday award space requires a lot more miles. However, it may come in handy if business class is a priority and cash fares are expensive.
Which United Co-Brand Cards Qualify for Additional Award Space?
- Earn up to 150,000 bonus miles.
- Earn 75,000 miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Earn an additional 75,000 miles after you spend $20,000 total in the first 6 months.
- Receive a 5,000-mile "better together" bonus each anniversary when you have both the UnitedSM Business Card and a personal United credit card.
- Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on United purchases, dining (including eligible delivery services), at gas stations, office supply stores, and on local transit and commuting.
- Earn 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases. Plus, employee cards at no additional cost - miles earned from their purchases accrue in your account so you can earn rewards faster.
- Enjoy a free first checked bag - a savings of up to $140 per roundtrip (terms apply), 2 United ClubSM one-time passes per year, and priority boarding privileges.
- Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for one year with DashPass, DoorDash's membership service. Activate by 12/31/21.
- $100 United travel credit after 7 United flight purchases of $100 or more each anniversary year.
- 2x on United purchases
- 2x on local transit and commuting- including train tickets, taxicabs, mass transit, tolls and ride share services
- 2x at gas stations, restaurants and office supply stores
- 1x on all other purchases
- Earn 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Plus, an additional 10,000 bonus miles after you spend $6,000 in the first 6 months.
- $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 or TSA PreCheck® fee Credit
- 25% back on United inflight purchases
- Check your first bag for free (a savings of up to $140 per roundtrip) when you use your card to purchase your ticket
- Enjoy priority boarding privileges and visit the United Club℠ with 2 one-time passes each year for your anniversary
- Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on dining and eligible delivery services
- 2X miles per $1 spent on purchases from United
- 2X miles per $1 spent at restaurants and on hotel stays
- 1X mile per $1 spent on all other purchases
- Earn 80k bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Plus, an additional 20k bonus miles after you spend $10,000 in the first 6 months.
- $250 Annual Fee
- Earn 3X miles on United® purchases, 2X miles at restaurants, on select streaming services & all other travel, 1X on all other purchases
- Earn 3X miles on United Airlines purchases
- Earn 2X miles at restaurants and on select streaming services
- Earn 2X miles on all other travel
- Earn 1X mile on all other purchases
- Each year, receive a $125 credit on United® purchases and two 5k-mile anniversary award flight credits. Terms apply.
- 3 miles per $1 spent on United purchases
- 2 miles per $1 spent on all other travel
- 2 miles per $1 spent at restaurants
- 2 miles per $1 spent on select streaming services
- 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases
If you are looking for a personal card, the United℠ Explorer Card is the best place to start. However, these cards also offer expanded award space:
Does Expanded Award Space Include Partners?
The short answer is no. Holding the United Business Card or any other United card only opens up additional award space on United-operated flights, including regional subsidiaries like United Express. But the expanded award availability can make partner awards more accessible. In many cases, the extra availability eliminates the need to purchase a separate ticket to position to an international hub where saver-level partner flights are available.
What Miles Can I Use To Book Expanded MileagePlus Award Space?
You can only book the expanded award inventory using United miles, or points transferred to MileagePlus from your Ultimate Rewards or Marriott Rewards accounts. Ultimate Rewards points transfer to United at 1:1, and Marriott Rewards points transfer at 3:1.1 with an additional 5,000 United miles awarded when you transfer in blocks of 60,000 Marriott points.
There is no way of booking the expanded award space with partner miles from the likes of Singapore KrisFlyer or Avianca LifeMiles. Partners can only access the saver-level fare buckets for economy and business—not the expanded (XN) and (JN) fare classes reserved for United cardholders.
Strategies for Earning United Miles
The United cards aren't especially competitive for earning miles on everyday spending. You can generate more United miles by focusing your spending on cards that earn Chase Ultimate Rewards—many of which earn more than one point per dollar on select purchases. Ultimate Rewards transfer to United at a 1:1 ratio, so you can always turn them into United miles when needed.
If you collect Ultimate Rewards in two-player mode with a spouse or partner, only one of you needs to hold a MileagePlus co-brand card to access the extra award space. Chase allows you to combine Ultimate Rewards with a partner, and then you can transfer those points to the ‘enhanced‘ MileagePlus account to book.
It’s also worth noting that the United cardholder doesn’t need to be traveling to take advantage of the extra award space. MileagePlus will let you book travel for whomever you’d like using miles from your account.
Other United Card Benefits
Cardholders get most of these United benefits just for being a cardholder, but there are a few exceptions. For example, you'll need to use your United card to pay for your flight to activate the free checked bag benefit. These cards also offer primary rental car insurance which is activated by using the card for payment. (Note: Many business cards only extend primary coverage if you are renting for business purposes.)
Just for holding the United℠ Explorer Card or United Business Card, you automatically gain access to additional award space at both the saver and everyday award levels. While the extra saver availability is restricted to economy awards, it's still one of the most valuable features you get for being a cardholder.
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