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United Airlines' MileagePlus Program 2022 - Detailed Guide

United Airlines' MileagePlus Program 2022 - Detailed Guide

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United MileagePlus is worth it for travelers who fly United or partner airlines even infrequently. The airline loyalty program is free to join, and you can start earning valuable miles on day one.

With the wide reach of United, MileagePlus members have an array of ways to redeem United miles for free flights. United flies to more than 210 U.S. and 120 international destinations and has more than 35 partner airlines. This flexibility and the rich program perks make membership very rewarding.

You can get free flights, as well as benefits ranging from complimentary checked bags to club lounge access and upgrades that could make your travel a whole lot more enjoyable.

So you may want to consider joining the United MileagePlus frequent flyer program and booking a ticket with United before you jet off on your next business trip or vacation.

What is United MileagePlus?

United MileagePlus is the frequent flyer program for United Airlines, which is a member of Star Alliance. The United frequent flyer program is known for its wide range of award travel destinations, excellent economy award availability and a variety of ways to earn and redeem miles. United Airlines operates out of eight hubs and serves dozens of countries around the world.

There are four levels of elite status you can reach to earn more miles per dollar spent on United flights to get various perks when you fly. These benefits, available at different status levels, include:

  • Free checked bags
  • Same-day flight changes with no fee
  • Flight upgrades
  • Easy award redemptions
United MileagePlus quick facts
Countries served48
Hub airports (U.S.)
  • Chicago (ORD)
  • Denver (DEN)
  • Guam (GUM)
  • Houston (IAH)
  • Los Angeles (LAX)
  • Newark (EWR)
  • San Francisco (SFO)
  • Washington D.C. (IAD)
Airline allianceStar Alliance
Airline loungesOver 45 United Club locations, plus access to participating Star Alliance lounges
Number of miles needed for a free flightAround 5,500 miles and up
United miles value1.2 cents
Pros
  • Wide range of U.S. and international destinations
  • Elite status offers solid to excellent value at middle and higher tiers
  • No fuel fees on award flights
  • Free one-way flight on some multi-city award flights
Cons
  • Lowest tier elite status may not be worth it
  • Mile value below average compared with other airlines
  • Got rid of clear award chart that made award redemption easy

How much are United miles worth?

United Airlines miles value is lower than many other airlines. United miles are worth about 1.2 cents per mile, coming in above American but below three other popular airlines in our valuations.

United miles are more valuable than American Airlines miles (1 cent), but are worth less than miles or points from three other top U.S. airlines: Delta (1.3 cents) and Southwest Airlines (1.5 cents) and JetBlue (1.6 cents).

Ultimately, though, your choice of a frequent flyer program will also depend on factors beyond just the value of the miles, such as where you live, where you fly and the value of elite status perks.

How do you know if using United miles is worth it?

First, take a look at the United Airlines miles value. We peg the value of United miles at around 1.2 cents per mile — so if a fare is worth around 1.2 cents per mile, then it's likely worth it to use miles. To calculate the value of United miles, use this simple equation:

Cash price (minus taxes and fees) / Number of miles needed for fare = Miles value for that specific fare

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Even though award ticket prices are often higher than what other programs charge, United MileagePlus does have a leg up: United does not levy fuel surcharges. United has never charged these fees on their own awards; however, many other partner airlines do, to the tune of hundreds of dollars. (For example, Air Canada Aeroplan charges just 55,000 miles for business class flights between the U.S. and western Europe on partner Lufthansa, but these often require $500 or more in fuel surcharges for a one-way flight.)

United does not pass these charges along, meaning, for some of United’s partner airlines, you can save significant money by booking an award flight on these airlines through United’s Star Alliance and MileagePlus airline partners.

Is United MileagePlus worth it?

The United MileagePlus program is worth joining if you fly with United or its Star Alliance partners even occasionally, especially if you live in or near a United hub. And it's definitely worth it for any United frequent flyer.

It's free to join MileagePlus, and you can begin earning miles as soon as you sign up.

But should you try to earn United elite status? The value of United MileagePlus elite status depends on your travel habits and the level of status you can reach. MileagePlus offers little value for infrequent flyers — but it does offer excellent value for frequent and very frequent travelers.

For example, we've crunched the numbers and determined that you'd probably be better off getting a United credit card than trying to attain Silver status since a card allows you to more easily and cheaply get many of the same perks such as a free checked bag.

However, it is worthwhile to get United Premier Gold, United Premier Platinum and United Premier Platinum 1K status. These levels of status are packed with value, including additional free checked bags, free same-day flight changes, upgrades and access to discounts and status with other loyalty programs.

Pros and cons of United MileagePlus

The United MileagePlus program offers the best value for frequent and very frequent flyers who are United loyalists, live near a United hub city and also fly other Star Alliance airlines. The United MileagePlus program has many advantages but, like all frequent flyer programs, also has its downsides.

Pros

  • Easy miles redemption — MileagePlus gets top ratings among frequent flyer programs for the sheer variety of award ticket redemption options
  • Good perks for higher-level elite members — MileagePlus perks offer top value at middle- and high-tier elite status levels.
  • Star Alliance partnership — United is a member of Star Alliance, and United miles can be earned on partner airlines and redeemed for high-value awards, such as luxurious first-class flights on Lufthansa.
  • Worldwide flight network — With daily flights all over the world on United and its partners, award ticket redemption options are almost endless.
  • Excursionist perk — There are other benefits like the United Excursionist Perk — a free one-way flight you can get on some multi-city award ticket bookings.
  • No fuel surcharges — United is also one of the few major airlines that does not tack fuel surcharges onto award ticket bookings.

Cons

  • Below-average mile value — While 1.2 cents per mile is a decent value, competitors like Delta and Southwest airlines have more valuable rewards programs.
  • Modest benefits for its lowest elite tier — Travelers who don't want to chase United elite status can get many of the same benefits just by opening a United credit card.
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How to earn United miles

There are many ways to rack up United miles that can get you free flights and other awards. Buying plane tickets and opening a United credit card with a welcome bonus are two of the best ways to earn United miles. Here are all the ways you can bulk up the balance of your MileagePlus account.

Buying plane tickets for United flights is one of the fastest ways to earn United miles. The miles you earn for buying tickets on flights operated by United and United Express are based on the dollar amount of the fare, as well as your tier of United elite status.

Entry-level MileagePlus members earn 5 miles for every dollar spent on United flights. If you have elite status, you can earn an additional 2 to 6 miles per dollar spent based on your level.

Elite Status
Award miles per $1
None5
Premier Silver7
Premier Gold8
Premier Platinum9
Premier 1K®11

Savvy traveler tip: You do earn United miles on Basic Economy fares just as you would when you buy any other flight. But some specialty tickets, such as those purchased through a group tour, may earn miles based on distance rather than cost. And not all flights earn miles. For example, you may not earn miles on award flights or on flights with "unpublished or opaque" fares, including those purchased through Hotwire or Priceline.com.

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Earning United miles on Star Alliance partners is another quick and easy way to rack up rewards.

  • If you buy a ticket for a flight operated by a partner airline but ticketed by United, you'll earn miles based on your fare just like you would for a United flight. (To confirm that an existing reservation was ticketed by United, look for a ticket number starting with 016.)
  • If you buy a ticket for a flight operated by a partner airline and not ticketed by United, you'll earn miles based on both flight distance and purchased fare class.

Another way to earn United miles quickly: an airline credit card.

In fact, getting a United credit card may be the fastest way to earn United miles next to buying a flight.

Not only can you earn a generous sign-up bonus that could get you a free flight right away, but you can also earn United miles for your everyday spending. And if you fly even a few times a year, the amount you save on United baggage fees alone could make it worth having a United credit card.

What are the best United Airlines credit cards? Here are several options for United co-branded cards from Chase:

Card
Welcome bonus
Earnings
Annual fee
United Gateway℠ CardEarn 30,000 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.Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on United® purchases, at gas stations and on local transit and commuting. 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases.$0
United℠ Explorer CardEarn 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on dining, hotel stays and United® purchases. 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases$0 Intro for the First Year, then $95
United Quest℠ CardEarn 80,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.Earn 3 miles per $1 spent on United® purchases. 2 miles per $1 spent at restaurants, on select streaming services & on all other travel. 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases. Plus, each year, receive a $125 credit on United® purchases and two 5k-mile anniversary award flight credits. Terms apply.$250
United Club℠ Infinite CardEarn 100,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.Earn 4 miles per $1 spent on United® purchases, 2 miles per $1 spent on all other travel and dining and 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases.$525
United℠ Business CardEarn 75,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on United® purchases, dining, at gas stations, office supply stores and local transit and commuting. Earn 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases.$99

Savvy traveler tip: Consider applying for the United Gateway℠ Card if you're a new traveler, the United℠ Explorer Card if you're an average traveler and the United Club℠ Infinite Card if you're a very frequent traveler. If you have a small business, the United℠ Business Card could be the one for you. Another option: consider applying for one of the best Star Alliance credit cards.

{"backgroundColor":"gray","content":"\u003C\/p\u003E\n\n\u003Cp\u003E\u003Cdiv class=\"ShortcodeIcon--root ShortcodeIcon--margin-bottom\"\u003E\n \u003Cspan class=\"ShortcodeIcon--icon ShortcodeIcon--medium ShortcodeIcon--blue ValuePenguinIcon--airplane\"\u003E\u003C\/span\u003E\n \u003Cp class=\"ShortcodeIcon--content\"\u003E\u003Cstrong\u003ESavvy traveler tip:\u003C\/strong\u003E Consider applying for the United Gateway℠ Card if you're a new traveler, the \u003Cspan\u003E\u003Ca class=\"ShortcodeLink--root ShortcodeLink--black\" title=\"United\u2120 Explorer Card Review: Great for United Loyalists\" href=\"https:\/\/www.valuepenguin.com\/travel\/united-mileageplus-explorer-credit-card\"\u003EUnited℠ Explorer Card\u003C\/a\u003E\u003C\/span\u003E if you're an average traveler and the \u003Cspan\u003E\u003Ca class=\"ShortcodeLink--root ShortcodeLink--black\" title=\"United Club\u2120 Infinite Card: Tons of United miles, lounge access and excellent travel coverage\" href=\"https:\/\/www.valuepenguin.com\/travel\/united-club-infinite-card\"\u003EUnited Club℠ Infinite Card\u003C\/a\u003E\u003C\/span\u003E if you're a very frequent traveler. If you have a small business, the \u003Cspan\u003E\u003Ca class=\"ShortcodeLink--root ShortcodeLink--black\" title=\"United\u2120\" href=\"https:\/\/www.valuepenguin.com\/united-mileageplus-explorer-business-credit-card\"\u003EUnited℠ Business Card \u003C\/a\u003E\u003C\/span\u003E could be the one for you. Another option: consider applying for one of the \u003Cspan\u003E\u003Ca class=\"ShortcodeLink--root ShortcodeLink--black\" title=\"Star Alliance Credit Cards\" href=\"https:\/\/www.valuepenguin.com\/travel\/star-alliance-credit-cards\"\u003Ebest Star Alliance credit cards\u003C\/a\u003E\u003C\/span\u003E.\u003C\/p\u003E\n\u003C\/div\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\n\n\u003Cp\u003E","padding":"double"}

The MileagePlus X app allows you to quickly rack up miles while going about your daily life. Just download the app on the App Store or Google Play, then log in and look for offers that allow you to earn as much as 12 miles per dollar or more by shopping or dining at hundreds of merchants. Plus, United credit cardholders can also get a 25% bonus.

Using the app involves jumping through a few extra hoops, but it could definitely be worth it to earn extra United miles.

  1. Each time you want to use the app, you'll click on the name of the merchant you're purchasing from in the app, then buy an e-gift card to the merchant in the exact amount of your total.
  2. To pay, you then use the barcode/gift card number and PIN you receive to pay.

This can be a great way to "double-dip" and earn United miles shopping both via the app and through the linked credit card you use to pay for your purchase.

Want to know how to earn United miles while eating at your favorite restaurants? MileagePlus Dining offers an easy and delicious way to earn extra miles for eating out at restaurants. You join United MileagePlus Dining, then link a credit card, find restaurants that are part of the program, eat at those restaurants and pay with your linked card.

New members can earn bonus miles — there's currently an offer for up to 3,000 bonus miles when you join MileagePlus Dining and dine out four times:

You get 1,500 bonus United miles the first time you dine and 500 bonus miles each for each of the next three times you dine.

There are three levels of earnings with MileagePlus Dining depending on whether you choose to get emails from the program and on the number of transactions you make:

  • Basic members — 1 mile per $2 spent when you choose not to get MileagePlus Dining emails
  • Select members — 3 miles per $1 spent when you agree to get MileagePlus Dining emails
  • VIP members — 5 miles per $1 spent when you become a Select member and complete 11 qualifying transactions during the year

As soon as you complete the required number of transactions, you automatically start earning at the VIP level.

If you're doing less traveling and more shopping from home these days, the United MileagePlus shopping portal is a good way to keep miles rolling into your account. You have a few different options for using it:

  1. You simply go to the MileagePlus Shopping portal and sign in, browse over 900 online stores and services, click on an offer and choose "shop now" to go to the store's site. Then you shop as you normally would and earn extra miles on your purchase.
  2. Or you can link offers to your card and shop in person to get the deals.
  3. Finally, if you're a Google Chrome user, you can install the MileagePlus Shopping button on your browser and use it to apply miles and discounts to your purchases at checkout with a participating merchant.

Through MileagePlus shopping, you may find offers of up to 30 or more miles per $1 spent, or see offers for a certain number of miles for signing up for a service or subscription. For example:

  • 3,000 miles when you sign up for service with Verizon Wireless and 1,000 miles by getting Hello Fresh meal service
  • 30 miles per $1 at 1-800-Flowers
  • 12 miles per $1 at Under Armour
  • 10 miles per $1 at Finish Line
  • 8 miles per $1 at Macy's and The Body Shop

You can rack up miles by choosing United deals and partners next time you travel. For example, you can earn the following on hotel stays:

  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent when you book your hotel through United Hotels.
  • Earn 3 miles per $1 spent when you book a vacation rental stay through Vrbo or book a stay at a private villa through Villas of Distinction.
  • Earn bonus miles with dozens of other United hotel partners, such as Best Western, Courtyard by Marriott, Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts, Hotel Indigo, Hyatt Hotels & Resorts and JW Marriott Hotels & Resorts.

You can earn even more miles when you book a rental car through United. For example, get up to 1,250 bonus miles for each qualifying car rental from Avis or Budget. Your earnings rate depends on your MileagePlus status and if you have a United credit card:

  • General MileagePlus members get 500 bonus points
  • MileagePlus Chase cardmembers get 750 miles
  • MileagePlus Premier Silver and Gold elite members get 1,000 bonus miles
  • MileagePlus Premier Platinum and Premier 1K members get 1,200 bonus miles

If you're in the market for something more than a staycation, booking a trip through United Vacations can earn you bonus miles on top of the miles you earn for the United flights. United Vacations offers vacation packages to over 250,000 resorts in over 400 destinations with 10,000 available activities. The packages include airport transportation and other services to make your vacation more seamless, as well as a best-price guarantee. United Vacations also offers 2 miles per $1 spent when you pay with your United℠ Explorer Card.

In addition to United Vacations, United is offering a new tool in partnership with Priceline: United Packages. United offers 1,000 bonus miles on any package plus 2 miles per $1 spent for United Chase Visa cardmembers.

You don't have to travel by plane to earn miles — you can also go by sea. When you book a cruise through United Cruises, you can earn up to 4 United miles per dollar spent depending on the category of room you book:

  • Interior or oceanview stateroom: 2 United miles per $1
  • Balcony stateroom or suite: 4 United miles per $1

You may find special offers that will allow you to rack up even more miles. For example, United currently has a special offer for MileagePlus credit cardholders, who can earn up to 7 United miles per $1 spent on a cruise. Cardholders earn:

  • Interior or oceanview stateroom: 4 United miles per $1
  • Balcony stateroom or suite: 7 United miles per $1

United offers cruises through several dozen cruise lines, including Carnival, Celebrity, Disney, Holland America, Norwegian and Princess, and also offers a best-price guarantee.

Need a few more United miles for that award ticket to Paris? You can buy 1,000 United miles at a cost of $35, plus taxes and fees. The minimum purchase amount is 2,000 miles, and you may buy miles for yourself or to give to another MileagePlus member.

Considering you're paying 3.5 cents each for miles that are worth about 1.2 cents each, this is usually not a good way to get United miles. If, however, you need a small number of miles now to secure an award ticket for your dream vacation, it may be worth the cost to buy United miles.

How to use United miles

There are plenty of ways you can redeem United miles for free flights, cruises, hotel stays and more. Keep reading to learn how to use United miles to get the best bang for your buck.

One of the best ways to use United miles is for free flights on United Airlines and on its 25 Star Alliance airline partners. First, let's look at booking flights on United.

The United award chart used to be the first stop for determining the number of miles needed to book an award ticket. With the move to dynamic pricing, you’ll simply need to head to united.com and plug in your origin, destination and date(s) of travel to find out how much an award ticket costs. You can book awards over the phone, but United’s website has a sophisticated award search that will return plenty of results — plus, you’ll avoid the $25 phone booking fee charged to everyone except members with the two highest levels of elite status.

United has two levels of awards for each cabin class: Saver and Everyday:

  • Saver awards are cheaper, but availability at this level is limited.
  • Everyday award seats are plentiful, but the value per mile is poor

There is no difference between the awards aside from these factors.

United award flight prices vary substantially based on the cabin class and when you’re flying.

Example: Economy Saver Award prices for the short hop from San Francisco to Los Angeles start around 5,000 miles, while a first-class Everyday award for the same hop costs around 25,500 miles.

Courtesy of United Airlines
Courtesy of United Airlines

Your trip to see family for the holidays may cost more as well.

Example: Transcontinental flights from San Francisco to Newark generally start at 10,000 one-way as an economy Saver Award. However, an ideally-timed nonstop economy flight on Dec. 23 costs 30,000 United miles, nearly three times the price.

Courtesy of United Airlines
Courtesy of United Airlines

Flights between the U.S. and other continents are subject to variable pricing as well. It used to be easy to calculate the cost for a Saver award using the United award chart, but that’s no longer an option.

Example: Economy Saver Awards between the U.S. and Australia start at 40,000 miles on United flights and 44,000 on partners. Business-class Saver Awards start at 99,000 miles on United partners — on the other end of the spectrum, you’ll pay as much as 250,000 miles for a partner business-class Everyday Award to the Central and Southern Africa zone.

Courtesy of United Airlines
Courtesy of United Airlines
Savvy traveler tip: Typically, you’ll get better value out of your miles by booking long-haul premium cabin awards versus domestic economy awards. Check out this post for a value comparison of various United awards.
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United is a founding member of the Star Alliance network, which offers the most airline partners among the major alliances. The airline also has a long list of partner airlines outside of the Star Alliance network. You can earn or redeem United miles on flights with any of these airlines.

This list of airline partners is a big part of what makes United miles valuable. Booking on Star Alliance partners can offer some of the highest value United award redemptions, especially when choosing business- or first-class on airlines known for their incredible in-flight experiences.

ANA’s "The Suite" first class features a fully-enclosable suite, a massive in-flight entertainment screen and top-notch catering, including champagne and caviar.

Previously, the United award chart had different pricing for United flights versus partner flights for some region pairs. For example, business-class partner flights between the U.S. and Europe cost 70,000 miles one-way versus just 60,000 miles on United-operated flights. Although prices are no longer published, this trend is still widespread under the dynamic pricing model.

United Star Alliance partners
AegeanAir CanadaAir China
Air IndiaAir New ZealandANA
Asiana AirlinesAustrianAvianca
Brussels AirlinesCopa AirlinesCroatia Airlines
EgyptairEthiopianEVA Air
LOT Polish AirlinesLufthansaSAS
Shenzhen AirlinesSingapore AirlinesSouth African Airways
SWISSTAP Air PortugalThai
Turkish Airlines
Other United partners
Aer LingusAeromarAir Dolomiti
Azul AirlinesBoutique AirCape Air
EdelweissEurowingsHawaiian Airlines
Olympic AirSilver AirwaysVistara

Apart from a long list of airline partners and the ease of booking online, another factor that increases the value of United miles is its "Excursionist Perk."

Put simply, this perk allows you one free one-way flight embedded within a multi-city award ticket, allowing you to visit two or more cities for the price of one.

As always, though, there are some restrictions:

  • Your trip must start and end in the same award region, as defined by United.
  • The free one-way ticket using the Excursionist Perk must have an origin and destination within the same award region, as defined by United.
  • 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 (i.e., if your first one-way ticket is in business class, you can get your free one-way flight in either business or economy).
  • If multiple one-way awards qualify as an Excursionist Perk based on the above criteria (i.e., by being wholly within a single MileagePlus award region), only the first of these awards will be free. You can ticket extra segments into a multi-city itinerary, but you cannot use the Excursionist Perk more than once on a single ticket.

A common way to take advantage of the Excursionist Perk is to add an extra city into a European itinerary. Here’s an example United provides:

  • Chicago (ORD) to London (LHR): 30,000 miles
  • London (LHR) to Paris (CDG): 0 miles (this is your Excursionist Perk)
  • Paris (CDG) to Chicago (ORD): 30,000 miles

If you want to visit more cities, you can always add them after the Excursionist Perk, but you’ll have to pay the regular price for a one-way award.

However, you can do much more with the United Excursionist Perk. The fact that your ticket needs to begin and end in the same region means you could depart from the U.S. to Europe as your first segment, and then return to the U.S. from Southeast Asia — you won’t need to return from Europe.

You can also add as many "open-jaws" (i.e., breaks in your segments) into your itinerary as you’d like. The Excursionist Perk segment doesn’t even have to be in the same destination zone of your first qualifying one-way award. Here is a more advanced use of the Excursionist Perk:

  • Chicago (ORD) to Copenhagen (LHR) in SAS business class: 77,000 miles
  • Transit overland to Paris by train, stopping in Amsterdam for a couple of days along the way
  • Paris (CDG) to Singapore (SIN) on a separate one-way ticket
  • Singapore (SIN) to Hong Kong (HKG) in business class: 0 miles (this is your Excursionist Perk )
  • Hong Kong (HKG) to Taipei (TPE) on a cheap cash ticket
  • Taipei (TPE) to Chicago (ORD) in EVA Air economy: 38,500 miles

There’s even more you can do with the Excursionist Perk. Go play with the multi-city award search tool.

Courtesy of United Airlines
Courtesy of United Airlines

Would you rather be stretching out in business class with a glass of champagne than cramped in economy? You can use your miles to make your upcoming flight much more comfortable and luxurious by snagging space in a premium cabin. Here are four ways you can get an upgrade with United miles:

  1. Get a United upgrade during booking — You can request a United upgrade award during booking. To do so, sign in to your MileagePlus account and choose "Advanced search options." Search for your flight and choose "MileagePlus Upgrade Awards." If no flights show upgrade availability, you can book and request an upgrade later.
  2. Request a United upgrade after booking — You can get an upgrade after booking in several ways: You can sign in to your MileagePlus account and pull up your reservation to make the request online, call your dedicated Premier elite service line or United Reservations at 800-UNITED-1 (800-864-8331), or talk with a United representative at a check-in counter or at the gate within 24 hours of departure.
  3. Choose a PlusPoints upgrade — You can also get what United calls a PlusPoints upgrade during or after booking a flight on United or a partner airline. During booking, go to "Advanced search options" and choose "PlusPoints Upgrades" from the dropdown menu of upgrade types. For an existing reservation, you can request a PlusPoints upgrade at United.com, through the mobile app by clicking the "Upgrade reservation" link or by calling your dedicated Premier service line.
  4. Get a Star Alliance upgrade — You also may be able to use United miles to buy a one-cabin upgrade on eligible flights on certain Star Alliance partner airlines. You can request these upgrades for up to four people per reservation (even if you're not traveling with them). You can get these upgrades up to 24 hours before departure.

Using United miles for upgrades can be a good way to use your rewards and, depending on the upgrade and the flight, can offer an excellent value.

Award flights are by far the best way to redeem your United MileagePlus miles, as you’ll generally get more than 1 cent per mile based on ValuePenguin’s valuation. However, there are other redemption options if you don’t wish to book flights, including:

  • Car rentals – You can use miles to book a rental car with Avis and Budget through the MileagePlus Car Awards booking portal.
  • Cruises – Redeem your United miles for cruises to many destinations.
  • Experiences and events – You can usually use your miles to book events and experiences, though experiences may not be available due to the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Hotel stays – You can use your miles to book stays at hotels and resorts around the world by using the United Hotels booking portal.
  • In-flight Wi-Fi – Use your miles to pay for in-flight Wi-Fi on United flights.
  • Magazine subscriptions – Use your United miles to subscribe to your favorite magazine or give a subscription as a gift.
  • Gift cards – Use your United miles to buy electronic gift cards from a variety of retailers and restaurants, from Apple and Lowe's to Starbucks and Walmart.
  • Merchandise – You can use the MileagePlus Merchandise Awards portal to shop with United miles for merchandise, from electronics and luggage to jewelry and sports equipment, from a variety of retailers.
  • TSA Precheck® – Use your United miles to give yourself the gift of a speedy and more convenient trip through airport security.
  • United Club membership – Redeem United miles for an airport lounge membership so you can have space to rest or work between flights.

In general, redeeming miles in these ways will yield less value than award flights. For example, redeeming United miles for hotel stays, car rentals or TSA Precheck membership all yield less than 1 cent per mile. Redeeming for merchandise will give you little more than half a cent per mile. It is highly recommended to redeem your miles for award flights.

You can check out all the ways to redeem miles here.

How to transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to United

If you have a premium Chase Ultimate Rewards credit card (i.e., one with an annual fee), you can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to United, one of 10 different airline rewards programs and three hotel rewards programs that Chase cardholders can transfer points to. Points transfer at a 1:1 ratio, in increments of 1,000 points.

The transfer process is simple, and your points are converted into United miles almost immediately:

1. Initiate transfer on Chase's website

To initiate a transfer, log in to your Ultimate Rewards account. Select "Transfer to Travel Partners" from the banner of options at the top of the page.

2. Select United MileagePlus as transfer partner

Scroll down the list of travel partners until you find United MileagePlus®, and select "Transfer Points."

3. Enter member identification

Enter your United MileagePlus member number. If you aren’t already signed up for United’s MileagePlus program, you’ll have to do that first. It’s free and easy to join.

How to transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to United
Screenshots in this article taken from the United website, August 2019

4. Allot # of transfer points

Enter the number of points you’d like to transfer to United (remember, points can be transferred in 1,000-point increments).

5. Confirm transaction

Once you have decided how many points you want to transfer, confirm the transaction. Your Chase Ultimate Rewards points will be immediately deducted, and the miles should show up in your United MileagePlus account within minutes.

Savvy traveler tip: Chase doesn't guarantee that your points will transfer immediately (points can take up to seven days to process). It's a good idea to have a backup plan in case your seat gets sold before you can grab it.
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United elite status

Wondering how to earn United elite status? There are four levels of United Elite status, and different requirements to attain each level. United grants elite status based on the number of Premier Qualifying Flights (PQF) you take and/or Premier Qualifying Points (PQP) you earn.

But what does that mean? We'll break down those terms for you.

  • Premier Qualifying Flight (PQF) — United defines a PQF as a takeoff and landing. You can accrue PQFs with all types of United tickets except for Basic Economy and award tickets.
  • Premier Qualifying Point (PQP) — You get 1 PQP for every eligible U.S. dollar you spend with United, including purchase of a Basic Economy ticket (however, PQPs can only be earned on the base fare, and this does not include taxes and fees). Expenses that will accrue PQPs include fares, preferred seat purchases, Economy Plus seating or subscriptions, MileagePlus upgrade award copays, flights ticketed and operated by Star Alliance partners and paid upgrades on flights operated by United and United Express.

You get status based on a combination of the number of flights you take and the amount you spend on those flights. You can earn status based on a combination of PQFs and PQPs or only on PQPs. Here is a breakdown of the different levels of United elite status and the 2022 requirements for earning each one:

Elite status level
Premier Silver
Premier Gold
Premier Platinum
Premier 1K
Requirements to earn that level with PQF+ PQP8 PQFs and 3,000 PQPs16 PQFs and 6,000 PQPs24 PQFs and 9,000 PQPs36 PQFs and 13,500 PQPs
Requirements to earn that level with just PQP3,500 PQPs7,000 PQPs10,000 PQPs15,000 PQPs

2022 Premier status expires January 31, 2023.

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Benefits of United elite status

There are many benefits to United elite status, with fewer perks on the lowest tier and more on the higher tiers.

The best MileagePlus perks include:

  • Bonus mile earnings on United flights
  • Free checked bags
  • Free access to Economy Plus seating for you and your travel companions
  • The ability to change or cancel a flight without a fee on the day of departure
  • A free snack and drink in economy for top elites.
  • Free upgrades on United when space is available (for MileagePlus Premier members)

Determining who gets upgraded first on United is complicated. Upgrades are handed out based on various factors, including your elite status, the class of your ticket, and if and when you requested an upgrade

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This chart shows the main benefits of United elite status at each level:

Member (no elite status)
Silver
Gold
Platinum
Platinum 1K
Miles earned per $1 spent on flights578911
Free checked bagsNo1233
Same-day flight change feesA fare difference may applyFree within same fare classFree within same fare classFree within same fare classFree within same fare class
Show All Rows

FAQs about United MileagePlus

Is United MileagePlus free?

It's totally free to sign up for United MileagePlus, so you can get a frequent flyer number and start earning miles that can get you free flights and other rewards. However, you'll need to spend money with United and its partner airlines, or sign up for a United credit card, in order to earn enough miles to make the program worthwhile.

How do you sign up for United MileagePlus?

You can sign up for United MileagePlus by filling out an online enrollment form. You fill in your name, birth date, gender, address, mobile phone number and email address. You choose five security questions and answers and a password. Once you've signed up, you get a frequent flyer number and you can start earning miles — it takes only a few minutes.

How does United MileagePlus work?

You can join the United MileagePlus program for free by filling out an online form. When you sign up, you become a MileagePlus member and you get a frequent flyer number that you'll use when making reservations with United and partner airlines to earn miles and credit toward elite status. You also can earn miles in other ways, such as opening a United credit card with a welcome bonus or shopping through the MileagePlus shopping portal. When you earn enough miles, you can redeem them for free flights and other rewards.

How do you earn elite status with MileagePlus?

You can earn elite status by taking a certain number of qualifying flights and/or earning enough qualifying points in a year. United has four levels of elite status: Premier Silver, Premier Gold, Premier Platinum and Premier 1K. Each level comes with its own perks, such as earning extra miles on flights and a certain number of free checked bags.

Is United MileagePlus a credit card?

No, United MileagePlus is not a credit card. MileagePlus is the frequent flyer program for United Airlines. However, you can open a United Airlines co-branded credit card that will allow you to earn United miles by making everyday purchases. These cards also provide welcome bonuses and perks such as free checked bags.

Can you transfer points from United MileagePlus to your Chase Sapphire card?

You can't transfer points from your MileagePlus account to a Chase Sapphire card. However, you can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points earned by spending on a Sapphire card to your United MileagePlus account — United is one of Chase's transfer partners. Points can be transferred from your card account to your frequent flyer account, but not in the other direction.

How do you add your MileagePlus number to a United reservation?

You can add your MileagePlus frequent flyer number to an existing flight reservation by logging in to your United account online or on the mobile app. Click on your reservation and then choose "Edit traveler information" and add your MileagePlus number.

How do you add a previous flight to United MileagePlus?

You may submit requests for credit for a previous flight up to 12 months after the date of the flight. You'll have to log in to your account and fill out a mileage request form. You'll need to enter your 13-digit ticket number. If the flight was operated by a partner airline and United can't find the flight in their system, they may ask you to supply additional information in order to get credit for the flight.

How long do you have to add a previous flight to United MileagePlus?

If you're a new MileagePlus member, you can submit a request for credit for flights taken during the 30 days before you signed up. If you want credit for a flight that doesn't fit in that timeframe, you may pay a $50 fee to get credit for a flight you took in the previous six months before you enrolled.

How do I find my United MileagePlus number?

If you misplaced your MileagePlus number, you can go to the MileagePlus sign-in page and click the "Forgot MileagePlus number?" link below the space where you enter your MileagePlus number to sign in. Or you can use this Forgot MileagePlus number link. Either way, you'll end up on a page where you can enter your first name, last name, email address and date of birth and click the "Submit" button. United will then send you an email with your MileagePlus number. If you don't get an email or still need help finding your MileagePlus number, you can call the MileagePlus service center at 800-421-4655.

How do you add a family member to United MileagePlus?

You can merge two MileagePlus accounts only if they belong to the same person. If you're a MileagePlus member and one of your family members also wants to join, they'll need to create their own account. If you want to add one of your children who is under 18, you can sign them up for an account.

How do you change your name on United MileagePlus?

You can make a name change on MileagePlus by logging into your account online. Go to "Profile & Preferences," select "Personal Information" from the drop-down menu and finally click on the "About Me" section to edit your information. You can make simple name changes this way, such as correcting a spelling error or changing from a nickname to a full name.

What documents do you need to verify a name change on United MileagePlus?

If you need to make a significant name change on your account, such as changing to a new last name, United will ask you to make the request by mail. You'll need to include one of the following documents to verify your name change: marriage license, divorce decree, legal name change document or government-issued IDs with your current and former names.

What if you don't have supporting documents to verify a name change?

If you can't provide one of these documents, you may fill out a name change affidavit and submit it with a copy of your ID. You will have to get the affidavit notarized and submit it by mail.

Does my legal name have to match my United MileagePlus name?

Yes — the TSA Secure Flight Program requires that the name on your flight reservation and the name on your MileagePlus account exactly match the name on your government-issued ID.

How do you keep United MileagePlus miles from expiring?

You do not need to do anything to keep your United miles from expiring. United miles used to have expiration dates, but United announced in August 2019 that United miles no longer expire. The miles in your MileagePlus account will stay there until you redeem them for an award. However, you can forfeit your miles in certain circumstances. For example, if you close your account or don't respond to United's repeated attempts to contact you about your account, you may lose your miles.

How do you sign up a child for United MileagePlus?

You can sign up a child for United MileagePlus if you are the parent or legal guardian of that child (or children over 18 can sign themselves up). You'll fill out the MileagePlus online enrollment form, supplying the child's name, date of birth, address, phone, email and security questions and answers. United only uses information collected about children under 13 to provide services, not for marketing purposes.

How do I earn miles on United?

First, you'll need to sign up for the United MileagePlus frequent flyer program for free. Once you're a member, you can start earning United miles by buying plane tickets on United, United Express or Star Alliance partner airline flights. The number of miles you earn is based on the cost of your ticket and your level of United elite status. Another quick and easy way to earn United miles is to get a United Airlines credit card. You may be able to earn enough miles for a free flight by opening a United credit card account and spending enough to earn a sign-up bonus. You can also continue to earn miles by putting your regular spending on your United card. You also can earn miles by getting the MileagePlus X app and taking advantage of offers in the app. And you can earn extra miles when you dine out and shop by joining the United MileagePlus Dining program and shopping through the United MileagePlus shopping portal. And, finally, you can earn by purchasing travel through United and travel partners.

How can I get free United miles?

The best way to get free United miles: put them on your holiday or birthday gift wish list. Your friends and family can transfer United miles from their account to yours or give you United miles as a gift at no cost to you. The giver will have to pay a $30 transaction fee, but United sometimes offers discounts on the fee. A MileagePlus member can transfer up to 100,000 United miles a year to another member. Another good way to get virtually free United miles is to sign up for a United Airlines credit card and spend enough to earn a sign-up bonus. This could be considered getting free United miles, assuming that you would spend that amount anyway, that you pay your credit card bill on time every month, and that the value of the miles far outweighs any annual fee on the card.

How do United miles work?

United miles work by serving as a currency you can earn through everyday activities and then trade them in for free flights and other rewards. You can start earning United miles by joining the United MileagePlus program for free. Once you've joined the loyalty program, you can earn United miles in a variety of ways, such as buying flights on United and partner airlines, spending on a United credit card, and dining out, shopping and buying travel. You build up United miles in your MileagePlus account until you have enough miles to redeem for the award of your choice. The most valuable awards are flights on United and partner airlines. United miles are a great way to leverage your everyday spending to get free travel.

These responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which ValuePenguin receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). ValuePenguin does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

How We Calculate Rewards: ValuePenguin calculates the value of rewards by estimating the dollar value of any points, miles or bonuses earned using the card less any associated annual fees. These estimates here are ValuePenguin's alone, not those of the card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer.

Example of how we calculate the rewards rates: When redeemed for travel through Ultimate Rewards, Chase Sapphire Preferred points are worth $0.0125 each. The card awards 2 points on travel and dining and 1 point on everything else. Therefore, we say the card has a 2.5% rewards rate on dining and travel (2 x $0.0125) and a 1.25% rewards rate on everything else (1 x $0.0125).