Guide to United Airlines MileagePlus

United Airlines MileagePlus is a standout among midrange travel rewards programs because of its robust airline partner network, onboard flight amenities, hotel stays and elite status perks. With United Airline’s credit cards, you can maximize your travel rewards through the MileagePlus program, save money and enjoy a range of advantages.

Best cards to use for United MileagePlus miles

United Explorer Card

  • APR: 17.99% to 24.99% variable rate
  • Annual Fee: $0 first year; then $95
  • Reward Rates: Earn two miles per dollar spent on United purchases, restaurants and directly booked hotel stays. Earn one mile per dollar on everything else.
  • Intro Offer: Earn 60,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 on purchases within three months of account activation through 4/2/2020.

If you tend to spend money on food and beverages while you’re 30,000 feet up, you can feel a little less peeved at those inflated prices thanks to the 25% back on United inflight purchases. There are also no blackout dates and no foreign transaction fees to hold you back when you’re ready to head out on a trip. Plus, card membership includes two United Club one-time passes, one free checked bag and priority boarding.

United Club Card

  • APR: 17.99% to 24.99% variable APR
  • Annual Fee: $450
  • Reward Rates: Earn two miles per one dollar spent on United purchases and 1.5 miles per dollar spent on everything else.
  • Intro Offer: Earn 75,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account activation through 3/12/2020.

In order to make the most of this card, it’s important that you’ll actually use the benefits to help cancel out the card’s large $450 annual fee. But if you can take advantage of the free first and second checked bags, Premier Access travel services and United Club membership, you’ll enjoy a much more prestigious airport experience. Membership to the United Club is also included with the Club Card, so you can whisk yourself and up to two guests away to a quiet, more exclusive space.

How to redeem your United MileagePlus miles

To redeem your United MileagePlus miles, you’ll need to log in to your online rewards account. Then, you can search for your preferred travel dates and book using the “Pay with Miles” filter. In addition to your United Airlines Mileage Plus rewards, you can also work your way up through the four levels of elite Premier status.

Your status level is based on your number of United Airlines flights – although you will get partial Premier Qualifying Points (PQPs) for partner flights as well. With the lowest Premier Silver status, you’re eligible for complimentary Premier upgrades, complimentary access to Economy Plus at check-in and a special 7X earning rate for every flight. The highest level, Premier 1K, offers frequent flyers preboarding, a free drink and snack in Economy and an 11X earning rate. When you log into your rewards account, you can easily see how close you are to the nearest Premier tier. Besides gaining elite status, here are some options you’ll have for redeeming your miles.

United flights

You’ll get the most value from your points if you redeem them for United flights. There are tons of United-operated routes within the U.S. and abroad. United awards are based on zones, so the number of flight miles needed for a trip is determined by your origin and destination region. Simply type in where you want to go, desired dates and make the reservation once you find a flight.

With that said, if you have one of the elite status levels, it’s important to log in before searching for United flights, because you’ll have special flights exclusively offered to you.

Gift cards, merchandise, and experiences

If you download the MileagePlus X app, you can use miles for purchases at your favorite stores, restaurants and merchants. You can also purchase eGift cards from over 270 retailers. Digital shoppers can use the online United shopping portal, to redeem miles for products like housewares, jewelry and electronics. 

You can also use miles to get tickets to live sports and events like Broadway shows, Although these are valid redemption options, you won’t get much value for your miles going this route. It’s a much more lucrative reward if you can trade your miles in for actual flights.

Travel rewards

Redeem your miles for cruises, vacation packages, hotel stays and rental cars. Similar to merchandise and gift cards, these alternative travel experiences don’t offer as much value for your miles.

Transfer to travel partners

United Airlines Mileage Plus members can easily transfer their miles worldwide through United and Star Alliance member airlines. Below are Star Alliance airlines you can transfer your miles to:

  • Aegean Airlines.
  • Air Canada.
  • Air China.
  • Air India.
  • Air New Zealand.
  • All Nippon Airways.
  • Asiana Airlines.
  • Austrian Airlines.
  • Avianca.
  • Brussels Airlines.
  • Copa Airlines.
  • Croatia Airlines.
  • EgyptAir.
  • Ethiopian Airlines.
  • EVA Air.
  • LOT Polish Airlines.
  • Lufthansa.
  • SAS.
  • Shenzhen Airlines.
  • Singapore Airlines.
  • South African Airways.
  • Swiss International Airlines.
  • TAP Air Portugal.
  • Thai Airways International.
  • Turkish Airlines.

There are also several non-Star Alliance partner airlines you can transfer miles to:

  • Aer Lingus.
  • Aeromar.
  • Air Dolomiti.
  • Azul Brazilian Airlines.
  • Boutique Air.
  • Cape Air.
  • Edelweiss.
  • Eurowings.
  • Great Lakes Airlines.
  • Hawaiian Airlines.
  • Olympic Air.
  • Silver Airways.

In a nutshell

If you’re a frequent United flyer, it’s in your favor to get a United card and build rewards through the United Airlines MileagePlus program. With one of the most comprehensive route networks and a significant number of partner airlines, United is a great airline for travelers who plan on redeeming their miles for flights. Other travelers who want more flexible rewards, on the other hand, may want to consider a different, unbranded travel credit card.

Michelle Wilson

Michelle Wilson is a San Diego-based writer specializing in the topics of personal finance, technology, and culture. You can find her writing on sites such as HP Tech Takes, The Simple Dollar, and San Diego Magazine. In her spare time, she enjoys finding new cats to follow on Instagram.