United MileagePlus guide: The best ways to earn and use United miles

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MileagePlus guide


For world travelers looking to fly with miles, the United MileagePlus program may offer the best combination of travel options, value and flexibility in routing out of any airline loyalty program. Not only can you use miles on United’s worldwide fleet, but you have your choice of 39 airline partners to use your miles (as well as elite status benefits) on.

What is United MileagePlus?

United MileagePlus is the loyalty program of United Airlines, rewarding its frequent flyers with airline miles that they can redeem for awards, including free flights on United or one of its Star Alliance partners, gift cards, merchandise and more.

There are many advantages to the MileagePlus program: United’s flight network is huge, United’s award routing rules are a little more generous than average (allowing you to book a free stopover on certain itineraries), MileagePlus doesn’t add fuel surcharges to any of its flights and, best of all, United miles can be extremely valuable when used the right way.

There are a few drawbacks, too. There are many fees for booking, changing and canceling flights with United, including a $75 fee for booking awards less than 21 days in advance. Also, MileagePlus Saver Awards – which can be a really great redemption value – are limited in availability. Meanwhile, United’s alternative to Saver Awards – Everyday Awards – are widely available but very expensive.

United has a fair amount of Saver Awards scattered through its calendar, but, still, if you don’t have the flexibility to check multiple dates and times, you might give the MileagePlus program a pass.

Read on for a full overview of the United MileagePlus program, including how to earn and redeem miles for the most value.

United program overview

Type of currency Miles
Average point value 1.52 cents
Credit cards United TravelBank, United Explorer Card, United MileagePlus Club Card, United MileagePlus Go, United MileagePlus Explorer Business, United MileagePlus Club Business
Redemption options Airfare, airline statement credits, hotels, car rentals, cruises, TSA PreCheck credit, in-flight wi-fi credit, United Club membership, merchandise, gift cards, gas discounts, magazines/newspaper subscriptions, experiences, event awards, Broadway shows, restaurant gift cards, airport dining, credit card annual fee credit, charity
Minimum required to redeem 8,000 miles for Saver Awards
Do rewards expire? After 18 months of no activity (earning or redeeming miles)
Airline partners 28 Star Alliance partners and 11 additional partners

Flight coverage

Excellent. 21,000+ daily flights, 1,300+ destinations, 190+ countries

Booking restrictions

  • No blackout dates, but Saver Awards are capacity-controlled. Everyday Awards are available for most flights.
  • Roundtrip, one-way, open-jaw and multicity itineraries permitted
  • Book a free stopover with the Excursionist Perk
  • $75 fee for booking less than 21 days before departure
  • $75-$125 fee for changing or canceling an award ticket
  • Hold an award seat for up to 7 days for a fee
  • $25 fee for phone bookings
  • No fuel surcharges on MileagePlus awards
Best for
  • Frequent United flyers
  • World travelers
  • Travelers who like to maximize the value of their miles
  • Travelers who have some flexibility in their scheduling
  • Travelers seeking fairly flexible routing from an airline awards program
  • Frequent travelers who can take advantage of the wide availability of lounges and elite travel perks

The basics:

Latest offers from United:

Other news and advice:

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Updated: 11-15-2018