Everything you need to know about the United MileagePlus loyalty program | CNN Underscored

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If you frequently fly with United Airlines, the airline loyalty program you’ll want to focus on is United MileagePlus. From elite status to using miles for free travel, MileagePlus offers a user-friendly experience with straightforward award redemptions.

The program is popular among frequent travelers thanks to the ease with which members can earn and redeem miles. While United no longer publishes an award chart for set redemptions, there are some great deals to be had. And, for those who travel with United and its Star Alliance partners enough, the levels of elite status offer great travel perks and benefits.

Whether you’re a loyal United flyer or looking to dip your toes into the program, here is everything you need to know about United MileagePlus.

Before diving into the ins and outs of the program, it’s important to know what MileagePlus miles are worth. Based on the valuations of frequent flyer website The Points Guy, United miles are worth about 1.21 cents each when redeemed for flights.

Keep in mind that United offers plenty of redemptions beyond flights. The value-per-mile can range from 0.3 cents to 2 cents or more, depending on how you redeem them. Generally speaking, flights will give you some of the better redemptions, while redeeming for merchandise will give you some of the poorest redemptions. If you’re looking to maximize your United MileagePlus miles, you should try to aim for at least 1.21 cents per mile.

While redeeming is the fun part (who doesn’t love free travel?), you have to earn those MileagePlus miles first. One of the biggest perks of earning MileagePlus miles is that they never expire. So, you can start accumulating them years before a trip and redeem them when you’re ready.

Once you know where you want to travel next, you can start accruing United miles pretty quickly. Here’s a look at all the ways you can earn United miles.

underscored united airlines plane

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As you may have expected, the most obvious way you can earn MileagePlus miles is by flying. You can earn between 5 and 11 miles per dollar spent when flying with United Airlines (the exact number depends on your level of elite status).

Remember that in order to earn miles from flying, you’ll need to first create a free MileagePlus account. Then, when booking a flight, ensure you’re logged into your account so your miles are credited without delay.

Here’s a breakdown of how many MileagePlus miles you can expect to earn when flying with United:

  • Members with no status: 5x miles, based on fare
  • Premier Silver: 7x miles, based on fare
  • Premier Gold: 8x miles, based on fare
  • Premier Platinum: 9x miles, based on fare
  • Premier 1K: 11x miles, based on fare

United also has dozens of airline partners with which you can credit flights to your MileagePlus account. Earning rates vary by airline and fare class, but you can look this information up on United’s partner page. If you’re booking flights on a partner airline’s website, simply provide your MileagePlus number to get miles and elite status credit for your flight.

Credit cards are the easiest way to earn MileagePlus miles quickly. Chase offers six United credit cards, including a personal card with no annual fee as well as two business cards. At the moment, these cards are offering pretty substantial welcome bonuses of up to 100,000 miles. Aside from generous sign-up bonuses, United cards also offer bonus miles in common spending categories like dining, gas and travel. Depending on your spending habits, keeping one of these cards in your travel wallet might be worthwhile.

Welcome bonus offer

100,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 within the first three months of account opening

80,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 within the first three months of account opening

60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in the first three months plus an additional 10,000 bonus miles after you spend $6,000 in total purchases in the first six months your account is open

30,000 bonus miles after spending $1,000 within the first three months of account opening

Category bonus earning

4x miles on United purchases; 2x miles on dining and all other travel; 1x miles on all other purchases

3x miles on United purchases; 2x miles on dining, all other travel and select streaming services; 1x miles on all other purchases

2x on United purchases; 2x miles on dining and hotel stays booked directly with the hotel; 1x miles on all other purchases

2x miles on United purchases; 2x miles on gas, local transit and commuting; 1x miles on all other purchases

Annual fee

$525

$250

$0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95

$0

There are also two credit cards in the United portfolio targeted toward small business owners.

United Club℠ Business Card

Welcome bonus offer

75,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 within the first three months of account opening

75,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 within the first three months of account opening

Category bonus earning

2x miles on United purchases; 2x miles on dining, gas, office supply stores, local transit and commuting; 1x miles on all other purchases

2x miles on United purchases; 1.5x miles on all other purchases

Annual fee

$0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $99

$450

Even if you don’t have a United-branded credit card, you can still use credit card points with United. That’s because United is a Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partner, meaning you can convert your Chase points to United miles at a one-to-one ratio. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is a popular rewards card that can be a great addition to your wallet if you’re interested in earning points that can be transferred to United miles.

In fact, if you’re not making use of the airline benefits on the United-branded cards, then a flexible rewards card from Chase might be the better way to go. The rewards are much more flexible and can be transferred to 13 other airline and hotel partners via the Ultimate Rewards program.

Additionally, Marriott Bonvoy is a United transfer partner, albeit at a less-than-favorable three-to-one rate. However, some members prefer to transfer their Marriott points to United MileagePlus in order to redeem for free flights. Ultimately, it’s nice to have options.

After taking a massive hit during the pandemic, the cruising industry is back and offering better deals than ever. Not only can you get in on incredible fares that include gratuities and onboard credits, but you can earn between 2 miles and 4 miles per dollar spent through United Cruises. Meanwhile, United credit card holders earn between 4 and 7 miles per dollar spent.

You can earn bonus United miles on cruises.

United’s partnerships with Avis and Budget allow you to save money and earn miles on rental car bookings. Avis is currently offering up to 35% off car rentals and up to 1,250 bonus miles. Additionally, you’ll earn bonus miles for rentals at the following rates, depending on your United elite status:

  • MileagePlus general members: Earn 500 miles on Avis and Budget rentals
  • MileagePlus Chase card holders: Earn 750 miles on Avis and Budget rentals
  • Premier Silver and Premier Gold members: 1,000 miles on Avis and Budget rentals
  • Premier Platinum and Premier 1K members: 1,250 miles on Avis and Budget rentals

Booking a vacation package or a hotel stay can be incredibly convenient — and rewarding if you book through United Hotels and United Vacations. MileagePlus members earn 2 miles per dollar spent on United Hotel bookings. You’ll also earn miles on your flights, as usual. Meanwhile, with United Vacations, you’ll get 1,000 bonus miles on vacation packages.

Travelers who prefer vacation rentals over hotels don’t have to sacrifice on bonus rewards. Through VRBO’s partnership with United, MileagePlus members can earn 3 miles per dollar spent on vacation home rentals. Simply book through the designated page and you’ll earn 3 miles per dollar in addition to rewards from your credit card.

Gift cards are not only convenient options for friends and family, but they can also be great for earning miles on everyday purchases. MileagePlus partners with hundreds of popular merchants to offer up to 8 miles per dollar on gift card purchases. This is a great way to maximize your mileage earnings on purchases that don’t qualify for credit card category bonuses.

If you’re in the market for a luxury vehicle, you can earn 50,000 United miles by purchasing a new Jaguar. Simply fill out the designated form and you’ll be paired with a participating dealer. This offer is valid on select vehicle leases and purchases through Sept. 30, 2022.

Meanwhile, if you’re in the market to buy a home or refinance an existing loan, you can earn up to 50,000 United miles. Rocket Mortgage offers 25,000 United miles through Dec. 31, 2022. Guaranteed Rate offers an even more impressive bonus of 50,000 miles through Sept. 20, 2022.

Through its partnership with Audience Rewards, MileagePlus members can earn 100 miles per ticket to select Broadway shows and 50 miles on off-Broadway shows. Occasionally, Audience Rewards offers bonuses as high as 2,500 miles per ticket.

You can earn bonus miles on your online shopping, too. There are two ways to earn extra United miles on shopping: The MileagePlus Shopping portal and the MileagePlus X app. Once you sign up for the shopping portal, click directly through the merchant links to make purchases and earn bonus miles for every dollar spent.

MileagePlus X is great for earning bonus miles on in-person shopping and dining. Simply pull up the app when you’re ready to check out at a participating merchant, then enter the total amount of your purchase. You’ll buy a gift card in the amount due and scan it at check-out. The nice thing about this is that you’ll earn at least 0.5 bonus miles per dollar spent in addition to your credit card rewards. Plus, you won’t have an excess gift card balance that you have to worry about spending.

Earn bonus United miles on your online shopping.

We all dine out on occasion. With United’s MileagePlus Dining Rewards program, you can easily earn extra miles at thousands of restaurants. All you have to do is sign up for the program and register at least one credit card. The next time you dine at a participating restaurant, you’ll earn up to 5 miles per dollar spent.

Currently, new members can earn an extra 3,000 bonus miles just for signing up, spending at least $25 within 30 days and completing a review.

MileagePlus dining can be incredibly lucrative, especially if you register and use a card that earns bonus points on dining, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

Earn United MileagePlus miles on energy purchases and flowers

United’s partnership with Reliant and NRG Home Power could help to take the sting out of rising energy costs. MileagePlus members can earn up to 15,000 bonus miles for signing up for a Reliant Secure 24 plan, plus 500 bonus miles per month over 24 months. Meanwhile, NRG offers 10,000 miles, with a 2,500-mile bonus for MileagePlus credit card holders. Beyond this bonus, members will continue to earn 2 miles per dollar spent on monthly service, and United card holders earn 3 miles per dollar spent.

Flowers are one of the most lucrative ways to earn United miles. United offers 20 miles per dollar spent at Teleflora and FTD.

Once you’ve got the miles in your account comes the fun part: redeeming them! As with every airline loyalty program, the best way to redeem United miles is for air travel. Business and first-class award tickets on international routes will yield the most value for your miles — but that’s not the only option. You can also redeem miles for hotel bookings, gift cards, cruises and more. Let’s take a look at the options.

The most obvious choice for redeeming MileagePlus miles is for flights with United — and its partners. The airline doesn’t publish an award chart, which makes it somewhat difficult to anticipate how many miles each flight will cost you. And keep in mind that you’ll need to pay the taxes and fees on your award tickets.

However, there are some excellent deals to be had and generally, you won’t pay massive fuel surcharges on MileagePlus awards. For example, we’ve pinpointed some common — and good — deals that can be had using MileagePlus miles for free travel.

  • Short-haul domestic awards: From 3,000 miles one way
  • United business-class to Europe: From 60,000 miles one way
  • Business class to Africa: 88,000 miles one way
  • Private jet flights on Boutique Air: From 13,800 miles one way

Of course, this is only a small selection of sweet spots that are out there. If you’re looking to travel with the sole goal of saving cash, United MileagePlus miles are a great tool to have in your back pocket.

Jet off to Cape Town using your MileagePlus miles.

Earning miles on gift card purchases can be a good value proposition, but redeeming miles? Not so much. You’ll get a measly 0.3 cents per mile in value by redeeming them this way. That’s only a fraction of what you’ll get with a flight redemption. If possible, you’re better off holding onto them for a flight award.

Redeem United MileagePlus miles on merchandise

Redeeming miles for merchandise is another poor use when considering getting the most value. While redemption rates vary depending on the item, you’ll often get less than 0.5 cents per mile in value. If you’re going to redeem miles for low-value awards like this, it might be best to switch to a cash back credit card.

If you find yourself flying United and its partners quite a bit, you might find it worthwhile to aim for elite status. United has four elite status tiers, which you can reach by crediting flights with United and its partners to your MileagePlus account. In turn, you’ll receive generous travel perks that will save you money and make your travels a bit more comfortable.

Achieving United elite status requires a combination of Premier Qualifying Flights (PQF) and Premier Qualifying Points (PQP). PQF are issued based on the number of flight segments flown. At least four flight segments must be on a United airplane to satisfy the PQF requirement.

If you fly with United enough, it may be worth pursuing elite status.

PQP are calculated based on the fare price, including carrier-imposed surcharges, seat purchases and paid upgrades.

You can earn United elite status through a combination of PQF and PQP or completing a higher PQP requirement.

  • Premier Silver: 8 PQF + 3,000 PQP or 3,500 PQP
  • Premier Gold: 16 PQF + 6,000 PQP or 7,000 PQP
  • Premier Platinum: 24 PQF + 9,000 PQP or 10,000 PQP
  • Premier 1K: 36 PQF + 13,500 PQP or 15,000 PQP

Once you earn status with United, you’ll enjoy a myriad of benefits that will improve your travel experience. Aside from upgrades, elite members get complimentary checked bags, bonus miles on flights, pre-boarding and more.

Here’s a look at some of the status highlights at each level.

  • 7x miles earned on every flight
  • Complimentary Premier Upgrades
  • Complimentary Economy Plus upgrades at check-in for you and a companion
  • One complimentary checked bag
  • Priority check-in
  • Priority security screening, where offered
  • Priority boarding (Group 2)
  • Discounted CLEAR annual membership ($109)
  • 8x miles earned on every flight
  • Star Alliance Gold status
  • Complimentary Economy Plus upgrades at booking for you and a companion
  • Two complimentary checked bags
  • Star Alliance Gold status
  • Priority check-in
  • Priority security screening, where offered
  • Priority boarding (Group 1)
  • Discounted CLEAR annual membership ($109)
  • 9x miles earned on every flight
  • 40 PlusPoints upon reaching the status
  • Complimentary Economy Plus upgrades for you and up to eight companions
  • Three complimentary checked bags
  • Priority check-in
  • Priority security screening, where offered
  • Priority boarding (Group 1)
  • United Club annual membership discount ($50 discount)
  • Discounted CLEAR annual membership ($109)
  • 11x miles earned on every flight
  • 280 PlusPoints upon reaching the status
  • Pre-boarding access
  • One free drink and snack in economy class
  • Priority security screening, where offered
  • Three complimentary checked bags
  • United Club annual membership discount ($100 discount)
  • Free CLEAR annual membership

If you often fly with United Airlines or its partners, it may be worth considering committing your travel to the airline. Not only are there a myriad of ways to earn United MileagePlus miles, but you can get great value from those miles. And, if you fly enough with United, you can take advantage of the various elite status levels and all the benefits that come with them.

Looking for a travel credit card? Find out which cards CNN Underscored chose as our best travel credit cards of 2022.

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