The Ultimate Guide to United Miles: Part 1 – Earning Lots of United Miles

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United miles are among the best miles to use for international travel.  That’s because United is part of the Star Alliance (a group of 28 airlines) and you can redeem your United miles not only on United, but ALSO on other Star Alliance airlines such as Lufthansa, Thai Airways, etc.

This opens up lots of travel opportunities!

Even better, United does not charge high fuel surcharges or extra fees for using United miles for award travel.  This makes using United miles cheaper than using American Airlines miles for travel to Europe.

That’s because you pay extra fees and surcharges when you redeem American Airlines miles for flights on British Airways to London.   But you don’t pay these extra fees for flights on United’s partner airlines Lufthansa, Swiss, etc. for flights to Europe.

We Used Our United Miles To Fly Business Class To India For Only 60,000 United Miles One-Way

We Used Our United Miles To Fly Business Class To India For Only 60,000 United Miles One-Way

The Ultimate Guide To United Miles Index

You can use your United miles to book award seats on United and on Star Alliance partner airlines such as Lufthansa, Air New Zealand, and Singapore Airlines.

United lets you book one-way award seats so you could fly to one city and leave from another, or fly there using United miles and come home using another airline’s miles.

United has a reasonable award chart:

  • One-way Coach seats for travel in the US starts at 10,000 United miles
  •  Travel to Hawaii starts at 20,000 miles for a one-way in Coach and 40,000 miles for a one-way in Business class
  • A Coach one-way award ticket to Europe starts at 30,000 miles and a Business class one-way award ticket starts at 50,000 miles.
  •  One-way Business class award tickets to India are 60,000 miles

The fastest way to earn a lot of United miles is through credit card signup bonuses.  But before you apply for credit cards, be sure you know the 5 dangers of applying for credit cards.

290,000 United Miles 

You can earn 290,000 United miles with all the possible cards which earn United miles.

Credit Card
Sign-On Bonus
Minimum Spending Required
Annual Fee
Total272,500 United Airlines Miles
United MileagePlus Explorer (personal)30,000 United Airlines miles (Look out for targeted 50,000 mile offers as well)

5,000 additional United Airlines miles by adding an authorized user and make a purchase within the 1st 3 months of opening your account

$50 statement credit after your 1st purchase
$1,000 within 3 months
$95 waived for 1st year
United MileagePlus Explorer (business)50,000 United Airlines miles$2,000 within 3 months$95 waived for 1st year
Chase Sapphire Preferred50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points

5,000 additional Chase Ultimate Rewards points when you add an authorized user who makes a purchase within the 1st 3 months of opening your account
$4,000 in 3 months
$95 waived for 1st year
Chase Ink Plus60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points$5,000 in 3 months$95
Chase Freedom 15,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points ($150)

$25 (2,500 Chase Ultimate Rewards points) for adding your 1st authorized user who makes a purchase within this same 3-month period
$500 in 3 months
No annual fee
Chase Ink Cash20,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points ($200)
$3,000 in 3 monthsNo annual fee
United Club (personal)$100 statement credit after your 1st purchase

United Club lounge access
none$450 NOT waived for 1st year
United Club (business)$100 statement credit after your 1st purchase

United Club lounge access
none$450 NOT waived for 1st year
Starwood Preferred Guest AMEX (personal)25,000 Starwood points = 12,500 United Airlines miles, plus 5,000 bonus miles when you transfer in 20,000 point increments$3,000 within 3 months$95 waived for 1st year
Starwood Preferred Guest AMEX (business)25,000 Starwood points = 12,500 United Airlines miles, plus 5,000 bonus miles when you transfer in 20,000 point increments$5,000 within 3 months$95 waived for 1st year

You shouldn’t apply for all the cards at the same time because all but two are from Chase, and not all of them will meet your needs!  And you should not apply for credit cards if you have a big loan in the next 2 years.

Earn United Miles

Chase United MileagePlus Explorer  

Link:  United MileagePlus Explorer (personal)

Link:  United MileagePlus Explorer (business)

Sign-up Bonus:   The United MileagePlus Explorer (personal) and the United MileagePlus Explorer (business) offer 30,000 miles after spending $1,000 within 3 months.

See this post on the different ways folks have been able to get the 50,000 United miles offer after spending $2,000 within 3 months.

Other Perks:  

  • Priority boarding and 1 free checked bag if you book using the card
  • Primary Rental Car Insurance
  • No Foreign Transaction fees
  • 2 free United Club passes every year
  • 10,000 extra United miles if you spend $25,000 in a calendar year.  This means that you earn 1.4 United miles for the 1st $25,000 in spending on the card

If you’re chasing United elite status, you can avoid the Premier Qualifying Dollar spending requirements up to Platinum elite status by spending $25,000 within 1 calendar year on your United card.

Earning United Miles:   The United MileagePlus Explorer card gives you 2 miles for every $1 spent at United.  But, it is NOT the best card to use for non-United spending because you earn only 1 mile per $1 (unless you spend $25,000 within 1 calendar year and earn an extra 10,000 miles).  That said, the card could be worth it for some folks because of the free checked bag, priority boarding etc.

However, the business United Explorer earns 2 points for spending in gas stations, restaurants, and office supply stores.

Your miles won’t expire as long as you have the United card.  If you cancel your card, the miles will expire in 18 months of not earning or using United miles, but it is easy to have some activity in your account.

Ultimate Rewards Points – Direct 1:1 Transfer to United

1.   Chase Sapphire Preferred

Link:  Chase Sapphire Preferred

Sign-up Bonus:  The Chase Sapphire Preferred offers 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 within 3 months.  You can transfer Ultimate Rewards points to United in a 1:1 ratio.

Other Perks:

Earning United Miles:  You earn 2 points per $1 spent on travel and dining, so you’re better off putting those expenses on your Sapphire Preferred than on your United credit card.

You can then transfer Ultimate Rewards points to United & earn 2 miles on ALL travel and dining expenses!

2.   Chase Ink Plus (Business)

Link:   Chase Ink Plus

Sign-Up Bonus:   You earn 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $5,000 within 3 months.  You can transfer 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points to 60,000 United miles.

Other Perks:

  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 2 free lounge passes each year
  • Can transfer Ultimate Rewards points to many different airlines and hotels

Earning United Miles:   You earn 5X points on office supply stores and telecom (cable, wireless, internet) so you are better off paying for those expenses on your Ink Bold or Ink Plus and then transferring the points to United.

Ultimate Rewards Points – Transfer to United via Sapphire Preferred, Ink Bold, or Ink Plus

Ultimate Rewards points earned from the cards below cannot be directly transferred to United.

But you can transfer Ultimate Rewards points earned on the cards below to your Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Ink Bold, or Chase Ink Plus card and then to United at a 1:1 ratio!

1.   Chase Freedom

Link:  Chase Freedom

Sign-Up Bonus:   Earn 15,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points ($150 cash back) after spending $500 within 3 months.

Other Perks:

Earning United Miles:   You earn 5X points with select categories (gas, groceries, etc.) each quarter up to a maximum of $1,500 or 7,500 points per quarter.

You can earn 30,000 bonus points if you max out the $1,500 category limit each quarter for $ 6,000 in annual spending!

If you have a Chase checking account, you will earn a 10% annual bonus on all points which you earn with your Chase Freedom card.

2.   Chase Sapphire Visa

Link:  Chase Sapphire Visa

Sign-up Bonus:  The Chase Sapphire Visa has a 10,000 point sign-up bonus after spending $500 within 3 months.

Other Perks:

Earning United Miles: You earn 2X points per $1 only on dining and 1 point per $1 on everything else.

In contrast, the Chase Sapphire Preferred earns 2X points on both dining AND travel.

3.  Chase Ink Classic

Link:  Chase Ink Classic

Sign-up Bonus:   Earn 20,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $3,000 within the first 3 months on the Chase Ink Classic Credit Card.

Other Perks:

  • No annual fee

Earning United Miles:   You earn 5X points on office supply stores and telecom (cable, wireless, internet) and 2X points on hotel and gas subject to a $25,000 annual cap on each category.

You can use the same gift card strategies for the Ink Bold with this card to earn 5X points on most of your purchases.

4.   Chase Ink Cash

Link:  Chase Ink Cash

This card has the same sign-on bonus and earnings as the Chase Ink Classic, but you get 2X points on dining (not hotels) and gas.

Other Ways to Earn United Miles

1.  Chase United Club Credit Card 

Link:  United Club (personal)

Link:  United Club (business)

Sign-up Bonus:   The United Club (personal) and the United Club (business) get you:

  • United Club lounge access (free wi-fi, snacks & showers)
  • Premier Access (priority boarding, security, etc.)
  • 2 free checked bags
  • Free Hyatt Platinum status (free internet!) as long as you have the card

You may be able to get the card with the 1st year fee waived if you visit a Chase branch.

If you’re chasing United elite status, you can avoid the Premier Qualifying Dollar spending requirements up to Platinum elite status by spending $25,000 within 1 calendar year on your United card.

Earning United Miles:   The United Club card gives you 2 miles for every $1 spent at United.

You also earn 1.5 miles for every $1 spent everywhere else making it a good card to put your daily spending on if your goal is to earn lots of United miles or if you’re a Big Spender.

2.   Starwood Points –  2:1 Transfer to United & 5,000 Transfer Bonus 

AMEX Starwood Preferred Guest 

Link:  Starwood Preferred Guest (personal)

Link:  Starwood Preferred Guest (business)

Sign-up Bonus:   The Starwood Preferred Guest AMEX (personal) and the Starwood Preferred Guest AMEX (business) offer 25,000 Starwood hotel points –  10,000 after your first purchase and another 15,000 after you spend $5,000 in the first 6 months.

But the transfer ratio isn’t great because you get only 1 mile for every 2 Starwood points.  But there is a 5,000 point bonus for every 20,000 Starwood points you transfer to United.

So you’d get only 15,000 United miles for transferring 25,000 Starwood points (including the 5,000 point bonus).

To be clear – I personally would use my Starwood points for hotel stays or to transfer them to other airlines which have a transfer ratio of 1:1, instead of transferring them to United.

If you do want to use Starwood points for Star Alliance flights, you could transfer them at a 1:1 ratio to US Air (as long as they are in the Star Alliance) or Lufthansa.    25,000 Starwood points would transfer to 30,000 US Air or Lufthansa miles which is a better value than transferring them to United.

Earning United Miles:   The Starwood Preferred Guest card earns Starwood hotel points for every $1 spent at Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) hotels and resorts.

You also earn 1 Starpoint for every $1 spent everywhere else.

You get 5,000 bonus points when you transfer 20,000 Starpoints to one of over 30 airline partners.  But I would use the United Club card (which earns 1.5 miles per dollar) as your everyday spending card if you want to maximize your United miles.

Fidelity Brokerage Accounts

Earn up to 50,000 United miles with a $100,000 deposit in your Fidelity Brokerage account.

Ultimate Rewards Shopping Mall

After credit card sign-on bonuses, the easiest way to earn lots of miles and points is by clicking through to a mile and point earning portal to buy stuff which you would have otherwise bought.

The Ultimate Rewards portal is a great way to earn extra points which can then be transferred to United.

For example, why not click through the Ultimate Rewards portal for your $100 Kohl’s purchase and earn, say, 10X points or 1,000 points for the same purchase?

MILEAGE EXPIRATION

United says that your miles expire in 18 months unless you use or spend your United miles:

Mileage accrued shall only be subject to expiration on the last day of the eighteen (18) months after the last account activity in the member’s account.

But you can easily keep your miles active.

Keep Your United Miles Active by Earning Miles:

Keep Your United Miles Active by Redeeming Miles:

BOTTOM LINE

  • You can earn lots of United miles for Big Travel with Small Money!
  • The quickest way to earn United miles is to put all your spending on credit cards which earn United miles
  • United miles expire after 18 months unless there is some activity such as flying, renting a car, or even dining out

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Editorial Disclaimer: Neither the responses below nor the editorial content on this page are provided or commissioned by the bank advertisers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertisers. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the bank advertisers. It is not the bank advertisers’ responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

114 responses to “The Ultimate Guide to United Miles: Part 1 – Earning Lots of United Miles

  1. Pingback: News You Can Use - Earn Up to 25,000 Points With Marriott Getaway Bonus, Up to 35% Bonus on Purchases of Alaska Airlines Miles | Million Mile Secrets

  2. A super fast way to earn miles for me is booking hotel nights through rocket miles. At least 1000 miles per night up to 5000 miles per night, most are 2000-3000 per night. I book hotels not only for myself but anyone I know that is planning on staying in a hotel in the future. Rates are competitive with any other online booking site, usually a few bucks more a night but it is well worth the large quantity of miles. Check it out, I think you get free miles just for signing up, and I rarely get emails from them, if I do it’s usually worth looking at.

    https://www.rocketmiles.com/refer/CARDS7777

  3. Pingback: "As My Friends Described Me, I’m Just a Dork That Found the Gym" | Million Mile Secrets

  4. Hi Darius,
    Thanks for the great post as always.
    Quick question, I have some United miles in my United account which I earned by flying on Revenue tickets. I do not have any United credit card. I would like to keep them active/alive.
    Is it possible. let’s say if I want to buy something from Walmart, I login to United shopping portal and click on Walmart but use my Chase Sapphire/Freedom card to purchase item from Walmart site. Will I be able to earn points on my United account?
    Please let me know.
    Thanks,
    Bash

  5. Pingback: Last Day to Apply for the Chase United Explorer 50,000 Mile Sign-Up Bonus | Million Mile Secrets

  6. Pingback: The Best 50,000 (or More!) Miles and Points Credit Cards | Million Mile Secrets

  7. So how do you spent 4000 in 3 months? do you spend so much money then only you get miles or there is some work around there. Our EMI is deduced from back account. All utilites as well from bank account. how can i earn miles in that case

  8. If you have an active united mileage PERSONAL Regular card, can you apply for the business card and get the 50K promotion?

    Dear website owner, please have courtesy TO REPLY

  9. Hey Guys!

    I just set my first travel goal for next year to Australia. I have plans to go there regardless of whether I can do it with points, so I might as well try to get there on points!

    I read your article on United Miles and the best way to get to Australia. I crunched the numbers and determined that it would cost 40,000 United Miles to get there.
    Last month I applied and received the Chase Freedom and British Airways card. I’m worried about not being approved for another Chase card in order to get to the mileage I need. With the new sign up bonus you told me about, I can get there (but not back) on ONE card!

    However, I’m a student and have a limited credit history (although a good score). Should I go ahead and apply for the card to get the bonus, or find another way around? To put this more generally: how soon is too soon to apply for a new card from the same bank?

  10. Truly enjoying the benefits of United rewards in doing our short term medical/educational/surgical/dental mission trips. 2014,a Costan Rican dentist flew to Switzerland to attend a seminar to improve delivery of dental services to the less unfortunate,and our organization sponsored a mission trip along with high school students to Costa Rica where we did health screening, dental hygiene lectures,and painted a school. All were possible with earned rewards,truly rewarding when we know we served and gave to many people who are needy and poor. 2015, we just got back from a 3 month long mission trip in the Philippines where served over 7,000 hands on patient,and over 10,000 school children received dental hygiene lessons. We did not have enough rewards to cover our mileage but this was an opportunity for us to earn more rewards for the next trip which we aiming to be in Nicaragua . We thank you for your guidance which really help us serve more people!

  11. I think I may have got some things wrong. We weren’t sure of our schedule and everything, but wanted to start getting miles. So I got a Sapphire card. My husband has miles on British Airways from 3-4 trips to France. We decided to go to Israel. We read about the problems with using Bristish Airways on long flights so we chose to get AA miles for the bonus. So we have 5000 so far with me on the card and some for spending money, but haven’t hit the 40,000 bonus point yet. He heads to France again for work on AA. I keep wanting to find out if we have things in the right places, but I am overwhelmed. Should we keep him on AA for his trip and on the bonus for Sapphire or should we be trying to change them for United or some other airline?

  12. Pingback: Getting to Europe on Points: American Express Membership points vs. Chase Ultimate Rewards points – dinapaul1

  13. Pingback: How to earn enough miles to fly free to Uganda (or anywhere, really!) | Getting My Points High

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