The Ultimate Guide to United MileagePlus The Ultimate Guide to United MileagePlus

The Ultimate Guide to United MileagePlus

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Despite changes in the past few years and a devaluation in May 2023, United Airlines MileagePlus remains one of the most accessible and easy-to-use frequent-flyer programs. Recent changes include United's overhauled system for earning Premier elite status, which launched in 2019. Also, we've observed increased award prices to many destinations and an increased range of dynamic prices for MileagePlus awards. Nevertheless, the program retains its core value for members.

In this guide, we’ll cover how to earn United MileagePlus miles, the best ways to redeem them, and how to make the most of MileagePlus Premier elite status.

Page Contents

Why Join United MileagePlus?

United MileagePlus members can earn frequent flyer miles for flights on United and more than three dozen partner airlines. Even if United isn’t your favorite airline, it's a great idea to create a free account to make sure you don’t miss out on any miles.

You can create your United MileagePlus account using this link. After you've entered all your personal details, you'll be provided with a United frequent flyer number. For ease in keeping track of this number, add your United account number in AwardWallet.

Unlike most loyalty programs, United doesn't allow us to check your balance automatically through its website. The best way to ensure all your account details are tracked is to link the email that is associated with United to your AwardWallet account. Alternatively, change the email in your United account to your email address, and we'll update everything automatically then forward the emails to you.

Related: How to Track Delta, Southwest, United Accounts in AwardWallet

MileagePlus Partner Airlines and Destinations

United is one of the biggest U.S. airlines with service to more than 200 domestic destinations. Hub airports include Chicago (ORD), Newark (EWR), Houston (IAH), Washington D.C. (IAD), Denver (DEN), San Francisco (SFO), and Los Angeles (LAX).

But perhaps the best feature of MileagePlus is its extensive coverage of international routes. United is a founding member of Star Alliance. That's the largest airline alliance with 26 members.

Star Alliance partners

As a Star Alliance member, you can book flights on United's website with seamless travel across partners. These include Air Canada, Air New Zealand, All Nippon Airways (ANA), Avianca, LOT Polish, Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines, SWISS, and more.

Star Alliance member airlines
Credit: Star Alliance

Independent partners

In addition to its Star Alliance partners, MileagePlus partners with 17 independent airlines. This means even more options to reach destinations that are further off the beaten path when using United miles. Partners include:

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

With so many partners, it helps to organize them by geography. Compared to other programs, United MileagePlus is particularly strong in Europe and Africa. It has plenty of partners on other continents as well. You can find a United partner airline in every region in the world.

image showing all United MileagePlus partners on a map.

Check out our beginner's guide to airline alliances and partnerships for more details.

How To Earn United Miles

Years ago, the primary way to earn United MileagePlus miles was by flying. These days, you can find numerous ways to accrue miles without spending time on airplanes. We'll cover the most important strategies. These strategies include earning with a United credit card, transferring points from Chase Ultimate Rewards, and making purchases with United’s shopping, dining, and travel partners.

Earn MileagePlus miles with a United credit card

Signing up for a Chase United credit card is one of the easiest ways to build up a significant MileagePlus balance. United Airlines partners with Chase in the U.S. to offer a full lineup of co-branded cards for both personal and business use.

These cards often come with a lucrative sign-up bonus that can help you quickly accumulate enough miles for your next trip. Offers for new card accounts typically range from 30,000 up to 100,000 bonus miles. Of course, this depends on the card and whether there is a limited-time offer currently available.

There are several other rewards cards (we’ll cover them in the next section) that offer a better return than the United cards on your everyday spending. But even if you only fly with United a few times per year, these co-brand credit cards come with some great perks that should make it easy to come out ahead after paying the annual fee.

Here are the United cards that are currently accepting new applications:

United℠ Explorer Card
United℠ Explorer Card
Annual Fee$0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95
Welcome Offer Earn 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
  • Earn 60,000 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
  • 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

The United℠ Explorer Card is the most popular, arguably providing the best value for your money. Benefits include:

  • Free first checked bag on United flights
  • Two United Club one-time passes per year
  • Priority boarding
  • Up to $100 reimbursement for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fees
  • Access to more award availability on United flights
  • United elites are eligible for upgrades on award tickets

We've covered this card's benefits in our United Explorer Card review. The card has a $0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95.

United Quest℠ Card
United Quest℠ Card
Annual Fee$250
Welcome Bonus Earn 60,000 bonus miles and 500 Premier qualifying points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
The United Quest Card offers a great mix of benefits that should easily cover the cost of its annual fee over the long term. Unique perks include a $125 credit on United® purchases and two 5k-mile anniversary award flight credits.
  • Earn 60,000 bonus miles and 500 PQP after qualifying purchases
  • Earn 3 miles per $1 spent on United® purchases
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on all other travel, dining and select streaming services
  • 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 priority boarding
  • Up to a $125 United® purchase credit and two 5,000-mile anniversary award flight credits each year (terms apply)
  • Earn up to 6,000 Premier qualifying points (500 PQP for every $12K you spend on purchases)
  • Member FDIC
  • 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 chasing elite-level United benefits without a premium price tag, the United Quest Card strikes the perfect balance of utility, luxury, and affordability. The card features some unique benefits:

I find it odd that the United Quest Card doesn't offer any one-time United Club passes. But the other benefits can easily make it worth its $250 annual fee.

United Club℠ Infinite Card
United Club℠ Infinite Card
Annual Fee$525
Welcome Bonus Earn 80,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
The United Club Infinite is the top-tier United co-brand card, and offers some great perks like United Club℠ membership, priority check-in, security screening (where available), boarding and baggage handling privileges. If your not an elite, holding this card means you'll be treated like one of United's most loyal and valuable customers. If you already hold MileagePlus Premier status, the card also grants access to Complementary Premier Upgrades on United flights.
  • 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 8,000 Premier qualifying points (500 PQP for every $12K you spend on purchases)
  • Member FDIC
  • Earn 4 miles per $1 spent on United® purchases
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on all other travel
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on dining
  • Earn 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases

The United Club℠ Infinite Card comes with a higher price tag, but it also delivers some elite perks for frequent travelers. These perks include United Club membership for as long as you hold the card. Here's what you get:

  • First and second checked bags free
  • Premier Access priority check-in, boarding, and baggage handling
  • Up to $100 reimbursement for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fees
  • United Club lounge membership
  • 10% United Economy Saver Award discount within the continental U.S. and Canada
  • Access to more award availability on United flights
  • United elites are eligible for upgrades on award tickets

Check out the rest of the benefits in our United Club Infinite card review. The card carries a $525 annual fee.

United Gateway℠ Card
United Gateway℠ Card
Annual Fee$0
Welcome Bonus Earn 20,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Plus, 0% intro APR for 12 months from account opening on purchases. Then, a Variable APR of 21.74% - 28.74% will apply.
  • Earn 20,000 bonus miles
  • No annual fee
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on United® purchases, at gas stations and on local transit and commuting
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on United® purchases
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent at gas stations, on local transit and commuting
  • Earn 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • 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 Gateway Card
  • Member FDIC
  • 2 miles per $1 spent at gas stations
  • 2 miles per $1 spent on United® purchases
  • 2 miles per $1 spent on local transit and commuting
  • 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases

The United Gateway℠ Card card is the no-annual-fee option amongst United cards. The cards earns 2x miles on United purchases, as well as for spending on gas, local transit, and commuting. There are few other travel benefits, aside from 25% back on inflight United purchases and no foreign transaction fees (features of all other United cards).

United℠ Business Card
United℠ Business Card
Annual Fee$0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $99
Welcome Bonus Earn 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
  • Earn 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $99.
  • Receive a 5,000-mile "better together" bonus each anniversary when you have both the United℠ Business Card and a personal Chase 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 Club℠ one-time passes per year, and priority boarding privileges.
  • $100 United® travel credit after 7 United flight purchases of $100 or more each anniversary year.
  • Member FDIC
  • 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

The United℠ Business Card is a great option for business owners, echoing many benefits of the United Explorer Card.  You can enjoy the following benefits with the card:

  • Free first checked bag on United flights
  • Two United Club one-time passes per year
  • Priority boarding
  • 5,000 bonus miles each year if you also hold a United personal credit card
  • Earn a $100 United travel credit by making at least seven United purchases of $100 or more each year
  • Earn up to 1,000 Premier qualifying points (PQP) through card spending
  • Access to more award availability on United flights
  • United elites are eligible for upgrades on award tickets

Here's our full United Business Card review. The card has a $0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $99.

Transfer flexible rewards to United

United is one of the 14 Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partners. You can convert Ultimate Rewards points to United miles at a 1:1 ratio in increments of 1,000 miles.

The United co-brand cards are worth getting for the long-term benefits and a lucrative sign-up bonus. However, you'll generally earn more miles by using a card that earns Chase Ultimate Rewards for your everyday spending. The Ultimate Rewards family includes cards that earn 1.5X points on all purchases, plus others that earn two or three points per dollar on popular categories like travel and dining.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Annual Fee$95
Welcome Bonus 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®.
Our #1 recommended beginners rewards card featuring a 60,000-point signup bonus after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. This card comes with great benefits and earns valuable Ultimate Rewards points.
  • 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®.
  • Enjoy benefits such as 5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3x on dining, and 2x on all other travel purchases, and $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, plus more.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. 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
  • 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2025
  • 5X points on travel purchased through Chase
  • 3X points on dining at restaurants worldwide
  • 3X points on eligible streaming services
  • 3X points on online grocery purchases (excluding Target, Walmart, and wholesale clubs)
  • 2X points on all other travel
  • 1X point per dollar spent on all other purchases

Supercharge your earnings

In short, you can supercharge your earning by using a combination Ultimate Rewards credit cards. And, since Chase points transfer directly to United, you can always top up your MileagePlus account when needed. If one of the other Chase transfer partners turns out to be a better fit for your trip, you can easily move your points to the right program.

Related: 22 Different Ways To Redeem Ultimate Rewards

If you're part of Bilt Rewards, you can transfer Bilt points to United miles at a 1:1 ratio in increments of 1,000 points. The Bilt Mastercard® is designed with renters in mind. This means that you can pay your rent without the usual fee for paying by credit card. You also can earn points on other purchases, and Bilt offers a once-a-month “Rent Day” promotion where you can earn bonus points.

It is also possible to transfer Marriott Bonvoy points to United MileagePlus. None of the Marriott credit cards measure up to Ultimate Rewards in terms of earning potential. But it's great to have another option if you come up just short of the miles you need for an award ticket.

There are additional options for transferring hotel points to United, but these don't provide much value:

Transfer Ratio
Average Time
United Airlines (Mileage Plus)
Accor Group (ALL - Accor Live Limitless)
United Airlines (Mileage Plus)
United Airlines (Mileage Plus)
Choice Hotels (Choice Privileges)
United Airlines (Mileage Plus)
Hertz Gold Plus Rewards
United Airlines (Mileage Plus)
Hilton (Honors)
United Airlines (Mileage Plus)
Hyatt (World of Hyatt)
United Airlines (Mileage Plus)
30% transfer bonus available through October 31, 2023. Bonus for transferring 50,000+ points
IHG Hotels & Resorts (One Rewards)
United Airlines (Mileage Plus)
Shangri-La (Circle)
United Airlines (Mileage Plus)
Wyndham Rewards (Days Inn, etc.)
United Airlines (Mileage Plus)

Earn miles on United flights

The number of miles you’ll earn for a United-operated flight is based on your elite status and how much you paid for your ticket. Although this revenue-based system is now relatively common among U.S. carriers (Alaska Airlines being a major exception), it differs from many international frequent flyer programs that award miles based on the distance you fly.

MileagePlus members earn a base rate of 5 United miles for each dollar of airfare, excluding taxes and fees. If you hold United elite status, you'll earn a higher multiplier. Here are the current earning rates:

United MileagePlus StatusBase Miles EarnedPremier Bonus Miles EarnedTotal Miles Earned (Based on Fare)
Member5 x fare-5 x fare
Premier Silver5 x fare2 x fare7 x fare
Premier Gold5 x fare3 x fare8 x fare
Premier Platinum5 x fare4 x fare9 x fare
Premier 1K5 x fare6 x fare11 x fare

The revenue-based earning system is to your advantage for shorter and more expensive itineraries. However, it isn't very rewarding if you find yourself flying long and inexpensive United flights. If you routinely fly long-haul international economy with other Star Alliance airlines, it might be worth crediting your flights to alternate programs.

Earn miles with MileagePlus partner airlines

For flights operated by partner airlines, MileagePlus uses a more traditional, distance-based calculation. The best way to tell if you'll earn miles under the partner rules is to look at your ticket number. If it starts with any number other than “016,” the partner earning rates will apply. If United tickets the partner flight, it will have a United ticket number starting with “016.” This means you'll need to use the revenue-based chart above.

Generally, partner flights receive anywhere from 10% to 200% of flown miles as redeemable award miles, depending on the partner and your class of service. You'll need to check the United partners page to find the earning rates for the specific partner, as rates vary. As an example, here is the Lufthansa partner accrual chart:

United Airlines MileagePlus partner earning rates chart for Lufthansa flights
This chart applies to Lufthansa flights credited to United MileagePlus without a “016” ticket number.

As you can see, first-class tickets earn the highest multiplier (200%), and the most discounted economy tickets earn the lowest (25%). On Lufthansa's chart, most of the fare classes that don't earn any miles are award tickets. However, you may find that some of the cheapest paid tickets with certain MileagePlus partners don't earn miles. Make sure you review the partner earning chart before deciding to credit a flight to United MileagePlus. You also can check to get an idea of earnings across various programs, based on the airline you're flying and the fare class of your ticket.

If you have United elite status, you'll earn even more redeemable award miles. Elites get the following bonus on partner flights:

  • Premier Silver: 25%
  • Premier Gold: 50%
  • Premier Platinum: 75%
  • Premier 1K: 100%

If you don't like the earning rates offered by MileagePlus, consider crediting your flight to another frequent flyer program. Every program has its own earning rules for partner flights, so you might end up with more miles through another program.

Related: How to Credit Airline Miles to Partner Frequent Flyer Programs

MileagePlus travel partners

Flights aren't the only way to earn United miles on travel; you can build your MileagePlus balance with car rental and other transportation partners. Rent with Avis and Budget to earn at least 500 miles per rental. Premier members and United credit cardholders enjoy a significant bonus, earning up to 1,250 miles per rental. United no longer partners with Hertz, sadly. This used to be the most lucrative of their car rental partners.

United Cruises offers yet another way to earn miles. The number of miles you receive depends on the specific cruise, the cabin booked, and whether or not you are a United cardholder. General members can earn up to a maximum of 45,000 United miles per cruise, while those with United credit cards can earn up to 60,000 miles per cruise.

As of 2021, there's no longer an option to earn United miles on travel with Amtrak.

United Airlines shopping portal

The United Airlines shopping portal is a great way to earn miles on your online purchases. Most retailers offer anywhere from 0.5 to 5 miles per dollar. However, you may see some specialty retailers or promotions with rates as high as 20 miles per dollar. The United shopping portal includes over 1,100 retailers.

United MileagePlus shopping header with menu

The United shopping portal may also offer an additional bonus when you reach a spending target. (e.g., spend $150 to earn 500 bonus miles). We often see these deals around the holidays. Check out our post on shopping portal bonuses to compare your options.

MileagePlus shopping portal partners
Use the United MileagePlus shopping portal to earn miles on all your online purchases!

If you're not using a shopping portal for your online shopping, you're leaving miles on the table!

Earn miles through United Airlines Dining

You also can earn United miles through the MileagePlus Dining Program. The typical earning rate is 3x United miles per dollar. Once you complete 11 or more dines in a year, you'll enjoy VIP status for the remainder of the year. Then, you'll earn 5 United miles per dollar on each subsequent dine within the program.

To participate in the dining program, you need to sign up and register one or more credit cards in your profile. Once this is complete, all you need to do is use that card whenever you dine at a participating restaurant. You'll earn miles based on the total charge, including tax and tip. You'll also typically be awarded 10 miles for completing a survey about your dining experience.

United MileagePlus dining welcome screen

One of the great things about dining programs is that a single purchase can earn bonus miles from more than one source. This strategy is also sometimes called rewards stacking or “double dipping.” For example, if you pay for dinner with one of the best credit cards for restaurants, you'll earn bonus miles from your bank. If that credit card is also registered with MileagePlus dining, you'll also earn bonus miles from United. You could earn 7–10 miles per dollar at restaurants this way.

Related: Beginners Guide to Dining Programs

Buying United MileagePlus miles

You can buy United miles. With so many easy ways to accumulate miles, we don't recommend this option in most situations. However, it does sometimes make sense, such as when MileagePlus is running a limited-time promotion. These deals offer either a discount off the normal price or bonus miles added to the quantity you purchase. A top-tier offer would be a 100% bonus, which should bring the cost down to around 1.75 or 1.8 cents per mile. The standard price is $35 per 1,000 miles (plus taxes and fees), which is a cost of 3.5+ cents per mile.

Even if there is a sale on United miles, it's important to have a specific award redemption in mind. In many cases, you can buy the flight you want for less than the cost of purchasing miles. However, you can find some situations where buying miles is cheaper than buying airfare. Examples include international business- and first-class tickets or one-way international flights.

Earn with promotions

It's also possible to earn United MileagePlus miles through promotions. Examples include the “Month of Miles” — which awarded bonus miles on credit card spending — and Mile Play. This will give you certain tasks to complete to earn a predetermined number of miles through a targeted promotion. Offers vary across accounts, ranging from simple to complex and from a few miles to quite a stash.

Can you transfer MileagePlus miles to other people?

You can transfer your miles to other members, but it is rarely a worthwhile proposition. The cost is $7.50 per 500 miles transferred, plus a processing fee of $30. As an example, if you transfer 60,000 miles — that's enough to book a round-trip ticket between the U.S. and Europe in economy — you'll pay a whopping $930 to transfer the miles. This can easily be more expensive than a cash fare.

Fortunately, you can redeem United miles for anyone. There is no reason to transfer miles to your friend to book a ticket in their name. Just book the ticket from your account and enter your friend's name as the passenger!

Redeeming United MileagePlus Miles

You can redeem MileagePlus miles to fly with United and 42 partner airlines. The sheer number of partners is a big reason why United miles are so useful for getting you wherever you want to go.

It's possible to redeem miles for experiences and other perks, but you'll get the most value when using them for airfare.

a United Polaris business class seat
United Polaris business class seat. Credit: Max Prosperi/ AwardWallet

How many miles do you need for a flight?

United no longer publishes an official award chart listing how many miles you need for flights to each destination. Until November of 2019, MileagePlus used classic, region-based award pricing. Countries were grouped into regions, and the miles required for an award from one region to another was fixed.

But like an increasing number of frequent-flyer programs, MileagePlus now uses a dynamic pricing model where the number of miles you'll need for a trip varies (based on the number of seats available, holidays, cost of the flight in cash, etc.). So far, dynamic pricing primarily affects United-operated flights; partner flights typically have more consistent pricing. However, there is no longer an official chart or list of what those prices should be. That said, we've cracked the code to put together an unofficial United award chart.

United's move towards dynamic pricing is an overall negative for the program. However, we have found you can still get exceptional value when redeeming MileagePlus miles.

Related: How Many Miles Do You Need for a Free Flight?

Finding United MileagePlus awards

The best way to search for award flights with United Airlines and its partners is at The vast majority of partner awards show up in the online search tool, including all Star Alliance partners. You can start your award search from United's home page by checking the “Book with miles” box.United award travel search page

After you click “Find flights,” you'll have the opportunity to log in. You'll want to log in if you have elite status or a United credit card (more on that later). However, you don't need to be logged in to perform an award search. Just close the United login popup, and you'll be redirected to your search results.

If you want to perform a more complicated search, such as a multi-city ticket, you'll need to use the “advanced search” link near the bottom of the form. The advanced search also lets you include nearby airports, choose connection cities, and search for specific fare classes. Sometimes, the basic award search will give you hundreds of options, so the additional filters can help you dial in on the award you want.

United's award search is one of the best of any frequent flyer programs. That's why we often recommend using United's website to do your preliminary research when using other types of Star Alliance miles.

Related: The Basics of Booking an Award Flight with United

Mixed cabin awards

When searching for awards with United miles, you may occasionally see “mixed-cabin” awards displayed. These are tickets where some flights will be booked in a lower class of service. For example, you may find a business-class award with one or more flights in the economy cabin. Look for the words “Mixed Cabin” under the award price.

United MileagePlus typically you the number of miles based on the highest class of service on your itinerary. In other words, an all-business-class award should cost the same number of miles as an itinerary with two flights in economy and one in business class. There are exceptions, and finding one of these could be an opportunity for a discount if you don't mind flying from Columbus (CMH) to Chicago (ORD) in economy to save miles before your business-class flight to Dublin (DUB).

United MileagePlus mixed cabin booking example

Are mixed cabin awards worth it?

This is noteworthy because some loyalty programs— like Avianca LifeMiles —charge a pro-rated price based on the percentage of your trip in each class of service. Unless United is offering a cheaper price, it may not be worth paying for business class pricing if your whole trip isn't in business class — or the same logic for premium economy.

United Mixed Cabin Awards example for premium economy
Look for the words “Mixed Cabin” to see what awards include segments in a lower class of service

While mixed-cabin awards might sound like a bit of a rip-off, we think it's a great thing to have the option. Sometimes, the first-class cabin on a short connecting flight will be sold out, but you can still book a business-class seat on the longer flight. Living outside a major city, most of my long-haul business-class awards booked through United MileagePlus include a one-hour connecting segment in economy. I'd be frustrated if United didn't offer Mixed Cabin awards.

A huge point in United's favor is that the award search doesn't usually show mixed-cabin itineraries when the longest flights are in the lesser cabin. Other programs — notably Alaska's Mileage Plan program — tease you by showing “business class” results that are actually primarily economy flights. When you check the flight details, you'll see that Los Angeles to San Francisco is in “business class” while the 12-hour connecting flight to Tokyo is in economy. And  Alaska tries to charge the business class price for this! No thanks.

United award availability

Award availability (or award space) refers to the seats on each flight that you can pay for with miles instead of cash. In general, the flights you can book with miles will be a small subset of those you can buy.

One of the positive aspects of MileagePlus' dynamic pricing for United-operated flights is that you can almost always find award space, as long as you're willing to pay more miles. This is because United Airlines reserves more award seats for MileagePlus members than it offers to those redeeming miles from partner programs like Air Canada Aeroplan, Avianca LifeMiles, or Singapore KrisFlyer.

United MileagePlus Award Results - Saver award space
United will indicate which are “Saver” awards. Look for (X) class space in economy.

Below the award price, you'll see which itineraries are labeled as “saver awards.” Another tell is the fare class: X is Economy Saver and I is Business Saver. Saver awards are the lowest-priced option and should always be the first thing you look for when redeeming United miles. However, the higher-priced options may be worth the extra miles when you have limited flexibility. If you're searching for United award flights to book using partner miles, you must find Saver space in the majority of cases.

For partner-operated flights, the options available with United miles are determined by the airline operating the flight. Some MileagePlus partners offer lots of award space to book with partner award miles; others are highly restrictive. But thanks to the fact that United has so many partners, you'll find that MileagePlus gives you more choices than many other frequent-flyer programs.

Related: What Flights Can I Book with Miles?

Extra award options for United MileagePlus elites and Chase cardholders

United MileagePlus opens up additional award inventory to elite members and non-elites with most United co-branded credit cards (the United Gateway℠ Card is excluded from this benefit). In short, these are extra award seats not available to the general public.

This unique feature can be a trip saver. It has saved me tens of thousands of miles over the years. Often, there won't be a saver award available for the flight you want. However, once you log into your account, the award search will return additional options for your trip. You must be logged into your MileagePlus account to see this extra space as a United cardholder or elite member.

If an economy award is exclusively available to Premier members or cardholders, you'll see it noted as “XN” space in the award search. If this results in a better price, the normal price will be shown so you can see how many miles you're saving. For business-class award space exclusively for Premier elites, you'll see the “IN” fare class.

Cardholder exclusive award space
United opens up award space exclusively to Premier members and credit cardholders.

Related: Get Access to Hidden Award Space with United Credit Cards

United's Excursionist Perk

One of the most interesting ways to use miles is the United Excursionist Perk. While this benefit is intended to allow you to add a simple stopover to your itinerary, it's much more powerful than that.

The Excursionist Perk is a free one-way award within select multi-city itineraries. Members who book an itinerary with three or more one-way awards will be eligible to get one of those flights for free as long as it meets all of these conditions:

  • The Excursionist Perk cannot be in the MileagePlus-defined region where your travel originates.
  • Travel must end in the same MileagePlus-defined region where it begins.
  • The origin and destination of the Excursionist Perk are within a single MileagePlus region.
  • The cabin of service and award inventory of the free one-way award is the same or lower than the one-way award preceding it.

Here's a simple example: Assume you're flying from the U.S. to Europe. You could book a ticket from New York to London, London to Copenhagen, and then Copenhagen to New York, all as a single multi-city award. Since travel both originates and ends in the same MileagePlus award region, and the one-way segment is entirely within the Europe region (LHR-CPH), this segment is free.

Showing LHR-CPH flights for 0 miles with the United Excursionist Perk
Pricing out a multi-city United Excursionist Perk business-class ticket.

This is a simple example. However, you can use the Excursionist Perk in far more creative ways to save a significant number of miles. Taking a simple round-trip flight to Australia? Add a completely unrelated flight within the U.S. for your cousin's wedding in another state. The ideas are endless.

For reference, here are the MileagePlus region definitions.

Best ways to use United MileagePlus miles

The sweet spots for United miles typically involve premium cabin awards. However, there are certainly economy awards where you can get good value. Domestically, using miles for last-minute tickets or flights to expensive regional airports is a great strategy. Internationally, you can find many more options.

Here are some of our favorite United MileagePlus redemption opportunities:

  • United States/Canada to Europe for 80,000 miles in United Polaris business class
  • U.S./Canada to Europe for 102,000 miles in business class with partner airlines
  • U.S. West Coast to Japan for 88,000 miles in business class
  • United States/Canada to central and southern Africa in business class for 88,000 miles with partner airlines
  • U.S. to South America for 60,000 miles in business class

Related: How to Redeem United Miles for Maximum Value

MileagePlus upgrade awards

In addition to booking standard award tickets, you can use United miles to upgrade a paid ticket to a higher cabin class. The price varies based on the route, original fare class, seat type you want, and your Premier status.

Here is the pricing calculator for United upgrade awards.

Upgrade awards are subject to availability, and you must call United to book. If you redeem miles for an upgrade, you will be placed ahead of MileagePlus elites seeking complimentary upgrades. Note that the miles will only be deducted from your account if your upgrade is confirmed. Basic economy tickets cannot be upgraded using this method, nor can award tickets.

Some upgrade awards require a cash co-pay in addition to the miles you redeem. In many cases, you may find better value redeeming miles for a saver award ticket, rather than buying a cash fare to upgrade with miles. Make sure you do the math before you book.

Other ways to redeem United miles

You can redeem United miles for hotel stays, car rentals, cruises, merchandise, gift cards, and experiences. You can even use your miles for a United Club membership, in-flight WiFi, to apply for TSA PreCheck, or to pay your United credit card's annual fee.

In general, these redemption options are a bad deal. For example, you can redeem 10,000 miles to apply for TSA PreCheck. The application cost is $85, so you're getting just 0.85 cents per mile. Better still, check out our list of rewards cards that will reimburse you for the TSA PreCheck application fee. Consider getting the United℠ Explorer Card. This card not only lets you earn bonus miles, but it offsets the cost of applying for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry if you pay with this card.

Redeeming for a United Club membership gives you only 0.76 cents per United mile, and you can get that benefit by applying for a United Club℠ Infinite Card. Even a relatively poor flight redemption should save you at least one cent per mile, so we don't recommend exploring United's alternative ways to spend miles.

What are United miles worth when booking award flights?

Given all these options, you're probably assuming that some provide better value than others. You're right on that. We highlighted the low values from using miles for experiences in the section above.

When redeeming United miles for flights, AwardWallet users get the following average values:

  • Average value for United miles: 1.78¢
  • Short-haul economy and premium economy flights: 1.23¢
  • Short-haul business and first class: 2.12¢
  • Long-haul economy and premium economy flights: 1.67¢
  • Long-haul business and first class: 2.69¢

How To Earn United Elite Status

In early 2020, United MileagePlus made some big changes to its elite program. The new system focuses more on how much you spend on flights with United, rather than how much you fly. The rules are complicated enough that we have an entire post about earning Premier Qualifying Points (PQP) through flying.

  • You earn one Premier Qualifying Point (PQP) for every dollar you spend on a United flight and one Premier Qualifying Flight (PQF) for each flight segment.
  • You earn 1 PQP for every 100 miles you redeem for an award ticket and 1 PQF per flight segment (this applies to travel on United and United Express flights only).
  • Earn PQP on partner flights as a fraction of the award miles earned (rate depends on Preferred versus other MileagePlus partners) and 1 PQF per segment, if the ticket is eligible for award miles accrual.
  • Earn PQP for some incidental purchases, including Economy Plus seating or Economy Plus subscriptions, Preferred seat purchases, paid upgrades on flights operated by United and United Express, and MileagePlus Upgrade Award co-pays.
  • Achieve elite status by reaching the higher PQP requirement or with a combination of lower PQPs plus PQFs

MileagePlus has four Premier elite status levels. The current qualification requirements are:

United elite status requirements and tiers

  • Premier Silver: 4,000 PQP plus 12 PQF OR 5,000 PQP
  • Premier Gold: 8,000 PQP plus 24 PQF OR 10,000 PQP
  • Premier Platinum: 12,000 PQP plus 36 PQF OR 15,000 PQP
  • Premier 1K: 18,000 PQP plus 54 PQF OR 24,000 PQP

United also awards a limited number of Premier 1K members with Global Services elite status. This is an invitation-only status and comes with some exclusive benefits. You need to spend heavily with United Airlines to get an invitation.

Earning PQP through credit card spending

You can earn PQP through spending on several United credit cards. Each card earns 500 PQP for every $12,000 you spend on the card. The United Quest Card is one of the better options for earning PQP, if you want to go this route, as it allows you to earn an annual maximum of 6,000 PQP. The United Explorer Card and United Business Card each only let you earn a maximum of 1,000 PQP.

While you'll get a better return for your spending using other credit cards, it may be worthwhile to earn some PQP this way if it lets you achieve a higher level of Premier elite status.

Related: Guide To Earning United Premier Qualifying Points Through Credit Card Spending

United Premier benefits

Once you achieve elite status, you'll have access to some great benefits that can make your travel experience more enjoyable. Here's what you can expect at each Premier level:

BenefitPremier SilverPremier GoldPremier PlatinumPremier 1K
Complimentary Economy Plus UpgradeAt check-in (if available)At bookingAt bookingAt booking
Complimentary First Class UpgradesDay of departure48 hours72 hours96 hours
Companion Economy Plus Upgrades1 companion1 companion8 companions8 companions
Free Checked Bags1233
Priority Check-InYesYesYesYes
Priority BoardingGroup 2Group 1Group 1Pre-board
Additional award miles7 x fare8 x fare9 x fare11 x fare
Star Alliance statusSilverGoldGoldGold
CLEAR Plus discounted annual membership$149$149$149Complimentary
Phone Booking Service Fee$25$25WaivedWaived
Complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite statusYesYesYes
Better premium cabin award availabilityYesYes
Free snack and drink in economyYes

United PlusPoints allow you to request and confirm premium cabin upgrades. You can use these online or in the United app, and the PlusPoints only come out of your account when the upgrade is confirmed.

United MileagePlus Million Miler

United offers a Million Miler program that rewards loyal MileagePlus members with lifetime Premier Gold elite status after they hit one million miles. You can earn a higher lifetime status as you hit additional million-mile milestones. One fantastic aspect of United's Million Miler program is that you can designate a companion to share your status each year.

These numbers are based on lifetime flight miles, awarding the following lifetime status:

  • One million: Premier Gold
  • Two million: Premier Platinum
  • Three million: Premier 1K
  • Four million: Global Services

Final Thoughts On United MileagePlus

United Airlines MileagePlus remains one of our favorite frequent flyer programs. United miles are easy to accumulate by using a United credit card or one of the many Ultimate Rewards cards for your everyday purchases, then transferring to your United account. If you want to take your earning to the next level, you can build your MileagePlus balance with United dining, shopping, and travel partners.

When it comes time to redeem, MileagePlus offers global coverage through its network of over 40 airline partners. Award travel is subject to availability, but if you’re willing to invest a little time to learn about this program, you’ll find excellent value.

For those who fly often, MileagePlus Premier elite status does a decent job of rewarding its most loyal members. But you don’t need to pursue elite status to get outsized value from this program. Many of the benefits offered to Chase co-branded credit cardholders can make your airport and travel experience feel a lot like having elite status — without the need to spend so much time flying.

United MileagePlus FAQ

Is United MileagePlus free to join?

Yes, anyone can join. You can sign up at

How do you find your United MileagePlus number?

You can find your MileagePlus number in the initial email you received when you signed up for the program. If you've forgotten it, you can head to and click the "Forgot MileagePlus number?" link, input your name and birthday, and United will email it to you.

Can I buy United Airlines miles?

Yes! You can normally buy 1,000 United miles for $35. MileagePlus also occasionally runs promotions where you can buy United miles at a significant discount.

Do United Airlines miles expire?

No. United Airlines changed its rules so that MileagePlus miles never expire.

What points can I transfer to United?

United MileagePlus is a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards. You can transfer Ultimate Rewards points to MileagePlus in increments on 1,000 via Chase's website. You also can transfer Marriott Bonvoy points to United MileagePlus. It's best to transfer in increments of 60,000 Marriott miles to 20,000 United MileagePlus miles because you will receive 10,000 bonus miles for a total of 30,000.

How long does it take to transfer Marriott Bonvoy points to United miles?

Marriott Bonvoy point transfers typically take 24–48 hours. Officially, Marriott states that all transfers to airline programs may take longer, and we've seen it take up to five days.

How long does it take United Airlines miles to post after a flight?

Miles from flights typically credit the same day, often within an hour after your flight. If you haven't received miles within a week, submit an inquiry.

How long does it take for United shopping portal miles to post?

Shopping portal miles typically post within 3–5 business days but can take up to 15 business days.

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  • If I’m planning to earn MileagePlus miles on Air Canada four international flights, would it be better to buy those tickets from United, or Air Canada?

    • That’s a complicated question. The best answer will depend on the flight’s length, the flight, the cost of the flight before government taxes/fees, and the booking fare class. I’d recommend checking the booking fare class and then heading to

  • Carlos Levin says:

    El programa de United resulta ser uno de los mejores.

  • I agree that United MileagePlus is the best airline program in the world.

  • Reward points continue to be more and more complex. I’ll just take cash back.

  • Stan Turner says:

    Looking forward to getting back in the air. It seems that United has been making an effort to be more customer friendly. I’ve always liked the mainline flights, but my experience in small airports with their contractor flights has ranged from horrible to just OK.

  • Eileen Kerrigan says:

    Those award change fees, though … 😮 It’s especially tough to swallow given that these days travel plans can change dramatically overnight, for a variety of reasons. If United could change just ONE thing, that would be a good place to start.

  • Dudalicious says:

    Note that United’s free luggage allowance apparently does not apply if the first leg on the trip is with “a partner”(ie codesharing).
    This is confusing, because when choosing flight options these additional charges payable at boarding are nowhere mentioned when buying the ticket.
    I did pay the luggage fees with my United credit card at boarding and then appealed the luggage charge to United, which they declined based on the fact that it was in the fine print.

  • So sad to see the airline employees losing jobs during the pandemic. Many of them worked for the low-paying regional airlines for years before moving up to the majors. It is beginning to look like a long ridge before travel gets back to normal.

  • I was pleased by an immediate positive response for mileage request for my flight with Turkish (Star Alliance member).

  • It’s really stark to read through all this at once and realize the crazy devaluations they’ve made in recent years to earning miles on flights, spending miles on awards, and award ticketing rules.

  • I agree that United MileagePlus is the best airline program in the world. I want to flight to somewhere soon.

  • David Asteggiano says:

    Muy interesante el amplio menú de opciones presentadas, es una información muy bien sistematizada, para los interesados en el uso de programas de millas, es para estudiarlo con detenimiento y tenerlo como guía a mano.

  • Singapore airlines is currently not accepting United award bookings due to Covid-19. Turkish Airlines covers a lot of the same routes and has good availability. I suggest you look at this option for award flights from the US to destinations in Asia.

  • I used to credit to COPA but will keep this in mind, I’ve always found United to have good service

  • Many of the benefits of the Explorer credit card make United a good option to consider. Unfortunately though, the PQP requirement puts elite status out of reach for most casual travelers.

  • United seems having most partners than other airlines

  • I agree that United miles are valuable because of their many partnerships thru the star alliance. This is one of the more robust alliances.

  • Good chance for transfer Marriott Bonvoy points . Or it’s better to expect any incentive! I am asking

  • I was generally a free agent for many years until I discovered the points/miles hobby, and hadn’t flown United since 2012. Thanks to 5/24, I started with the Chase trifecta, and my brother extolled the value of his United elite status & flying Polaris transatlantic. Based on his recommendations, I discovered how easy it was to earn miles with United, competitive flight prices, and expansive destinations/partner airlines. I decided to give United loyalty a try, mostly as a matter of convenience since I’m banking lots of Chase UR during the pandemic & card SUBs, and would rather start out with clear-cut redemptions. In one aspect it could either be a great time for me to come into the credit card sphere in the middle of the pandemic, or terrible timing. United is surely going to be a shadow of its former self as COVID-19 continues to be a marathon.

    Thanks for the guide – I’ve bookmarked this as a primer on the program!

  • I guess I never really looked at everyone they partnered with! Wow. I am hoping that I’ll be able to redeem for a trip to Australia. I have yet to see the lower amount even though I have the credit card. I am just assuming that I will have to go with the highest and hope the lower amount may be there when I book. I know it’s hard to use miles to Australia so always plan for the worst and hope for the best :o)

    I wonder if going forward for the next couple years availability might be better until numbers for fliers come up?

  • These are good offers, even in this context of crisis. Thank you!

  • This post prompted me to check what’s happening at United’s invitation-only CLASSIFIED restaurant, at EWR.

    Here’s the message on their web page:

    “CLASSIFIED is not currently taking reservations
    We’ve temporarily closed CLASSIFIED due to government orders and to help keep our customers safe. We appreciate your interest and look forward to serving you in the future. While CLASSIFED is closed, other concession locations in the airport continue to offer food, drinks and travel essentials.”

  • I have had many wonderful years with MileagePlus, but I can see that writing is on the wall because of the permanent changes bought by the coronavirus.

  • With these award flights the taxes usually cost more than the ticket fare itself, which you still must pay out of pocket. So I think using miles for upgrades is far better.

  • Kudos! This is a great refresher and base guide. Inspires me to go looking fir some award flights.