Purchasing United MileagePlus miles can be a good way to save money on airfare. However, it is important to do the math before making a purchase.
The United Airlines mileage program offers many perks for frequent flyers. These include free flights, club lounge access, and merchandise. You can also earn miles by credit card spending and qualifying cruise vacations.
Free one-way flights
Travel rewards can be a big help when planning your vacation, particularly airfare. If you’re flexible about dates and destinations, you can often find round-trip flights on United or its partners for 30,000 miles plus taxes and fees. During times of high demand, you might have to spend a little more on your award ticket, but it’s still possible to get to Europe, Africa or Asia on a single trip with United miles.
United Airlines is part of the Star Alliance network, with 26 global airline partners that offer access to 1,300+ airports in more than 190 countries. United MileagePlus members can earn and redeem miles on Star Alliance airlines as well as on United itself.
You can earn miles by flying on United or its partner airlines, using a co-branded credit card that offers United miles as a welcome bonus and by shopping with the MileagePlus Shopping portal. The number of miles you earn on tickets issued by other airlines depends on the fare class and flight distance.
United Airlines allows MileagePlus members to redeem miles for upgrades from economy to a Premium Plus seat or to the next cabin on most flights. You can search for upgrades on the airline website before or after booking your flight and before you pay for it. Upgrade requests are dependent on seat availability and may be delayed.
Elite status perks on United include complimentary Premier upgrades (on paid and award tickets) for yourself and one companion, priority check-in, free checked bags, discounted and waived fees, better award seat availability and access to United Club airport lounges. Silver elite members can also earn elite status through certain United co-branded credit cards.
Complimentary Premier upgrades are based on fare class with the lowest paid fares receiving top priority, followed by premium economy passengers and then elite members with any tier above Silver. The airline then prioritizes upgrades by time of request for Premium Plus members, and based on elite status and upgrade type for other passengers.
Unlike some competing programs, United MileagePlus offers more flexibility in how you earn and redeem miles. The program partners with more than two dozen airline and hotel brands. It also has a large list of non-alliance partners. This makes it easy to find award flights to nearly any destination in the world.
You can also use your miles to book cruise vacations, car rentals and hotels. You can even earn miles by shopping online through the MileagePlus X app and at partner retailers. You can also earn miles by using a credit card issued by United or by buying eGift cards.
United MileagePlus miles have a value-per-mile of 1.2 cents when redeemed for flights. The value of other redemptions varies, however. Gift card purchases, for example, yield a meager 0.3 cents per mile, according to NerdWallet’s valuations.
The airline offers a wide range of options to earn and redeem MileagePlus miles. You can purchase miles through the program or you can earn them by flying with United and some partner airlines. You can also use your United miles for hotel stays, car rentals, eGift cards and more. Generally, you can earn United miles based on the price of your flight or on distance flown, depending on the fare type and how you purchased your ticket.
You can also earn United MileagePlus miles by shopping through the company’s online shopping portal. Keep an eye out for promotions, as you can earn even more miles when you shop using a card linked to the program. The value of MileagePlus miles varies, but you can usually get at least 1.2 cents in value for each redemption. However, speculatively purchasing miles is generally a poor idea. Buying them often results in low values, and it can be difficult to sell them later.