How to use Amex points to fly on United (and get max value)

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You don’t need to collect United Airlines miles to get where you’re going on United Airlines. In fact, if you’re serious about booking award flights on United, you should be collecting other points instead!

One great example is American Express Membership Rewards points. You can quickly accrue them with the best Amex cards, and the points are elementary to redeem.

No, you can’t transfer Amex points to United. But the program has three airline transfer partners that also partner with United Airlines. Transferring your American Express Membership Rewards points to these airlines can be a better deal than using United Airlines miles.

You can also simply book your United ticket through the Amex Travel Portal, though we don’t recommend this. You’ll only get a value of 1 cent per Amex point (unless you’ve got The Business Platinum Card® from American Express read about this here). It’s possible to get wildly better value by transferring to airline partners.

I’ll show you how to use your Amex points for United Airlines flights!

Want to fly to Paris? You can do that by booking a United flight with Air Canada Aeroplan. (Photo by Alexander Kirch/Shutterstock)

Book through Amex transfer partners to get the best value

You can transfer American Express Membership Rewards points to lots of different airlines. Unfortunately, United Airlines isn’t one of them. But that doesn’t mean you can’t travel on United with Amex points.

In fact, by transferring points to United’s Star Alliance partners, such as Air Canada and ANA, and then booking a United flight through the partner airline’s website, you can often find an even better value than had you actually transferring to United!

Let’s take a look at some fun examples.

Booking a United flight with Air Canada Aeroplan

Air Canada Aeroplan has some pretty wild sweet spots in its award chart – but none too terribly sweet if you’re interested in flying United Airlines.

However, it does give you one free stopover in each direction of your trip! That means if you’re flying round-trip, you can visit two other destinations for very few miles – 5,000 miles per stopover, in fact.

That means you can have three destinations for the price of one award ticket! For example, you could fly from Chicago to Paris, with a stopover in Brazil.

Aeroplan’s award chart charges you based on the distance you fly, as well as the geographical zones you visit:

  • North America
  • South America
  • Atlantic
  • Pacific

Here’s a look at areas included in these zones, as well as the above speculative stopover route between Chicago, Sao Paulo, and London.

Note that at the moment, you can’t book these stopovers online. You’ll have to actually call Aeroplan and convey your desired flights to the phone rep. As long as you can find saver award space on a Star Alliance airline (like United’s website), you can book a stopover on those routes.

Here’s the award chart for travel within North America – since that’s where United mostly operates!

You can check out the rest of Air Canada’s worldwide award prices here. And to figure out how much you’ll pay for your ticket, you can simply use Great Circle Mapper to learn the distance of your flights.

Here’s how to book a United flight with Air Canada miles!

Step 1. Log into Air Canada Aeroplan

Sign in to your Air Canada Aeroplan account (or register if you haven’t already — it’s free to join).

Step 2. Click “Redeem now”

Roll over the “Aeroplan” tab in the top menu and select “Redeem points”. Then click the giant “Redeem now” button on the next screen.

Step 3. Tell Air Canada where you want to go

Enter your travel details and ensure that you’re using “Points” instead of “CA $.”

Step 4. Choose your flights

Find the United Airlines flights you want and select them.

That’s it! If you see flights you’d like, transfer your Amex points to Aeroplan, and book your flights.

You might notice that Air Canada sometimes charges higher fees than other airlines for award flights. But it used to be a lot worse. The taxes and fees on most flights are perfectly bearable.

Booking United flights with Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer

Singapore Airlines tends to charge similar prices for domestic coach flights as United. However, there is no United award chart, so United may charge more or less, depending on what it feels like that day.

There are fantastic deals if you’re booking other classes and routes through Singapore Airlines, however. It can be an even better deal than using United Airlines miles in certain areas. For example:

  • U.S. to Europe in coach – 55,000 Singapore Airlines miles round-trip (generally 5,000 miles less than United charges)
  • Domestic U.S. business class – 46,000 Singapore Airlines miles round-trip (generally 10,000 miles less than United charges)
  • U.S. to Hawaii in business class – 69,000 Singapore Airlines miles round-trip (generally 11,000 miles less than United charges)

Singapore Airlines has a separate award chart for their own flights and flights on their partner airlines. Here’s the chart you need to be looking at if you want to fly on United. Here’s how to use Amex points to fly on United with Singapore Airlines miles!

Step 1. Sign in to your Singapore Airlines account

You’ll need to sign in to your Singapore account to search for award flights. Might as well get it out of the way first thing.

Step 2. Click “Redeem miles”

Roll over the PFS Club/KrisFlyer text at the top of the page, and click “Redeem miles” in the “Use miles” column.

Step 3. Select “Redeem flights”

Enter your travel details on the search page. You must click “Redeem flights” to search for domestic flights.

Step 4. Choose “Star Alliance” awards 

Singapore Airlines doesn’t fly within the U.S. Select the Star Alliance tab to see flights on partner airlines like United. Otherwise, you’ll see no available flights.

Step 5. Choose your flight!

You can see who operates the flight to the right of the flight itinerary.

Then just simply pay the miles, and you’re on your way! Remember, you can only transfer Amex points one way. Once they become Singapore Airlines miles, you’re stuck with them!

Booking United flights with Avianca LifeMiles

Avianca has some extremely favorable prices, though itineraries on United planes aren’t a screaming good deal. If you aren’t dead-set on traveling with United for every flight, you can do things like:

  • Fly to Asia in business class for 75,000 miles one-way
  • Fly to Europe in business class (on United!) for 63,000 miles
  • Fly to Europe in first class for 87,000 miles one-way
  • Fly domestically in business class (on United!) for 25,000 miles one-way

Here’s how to book a United flight with Avianca miles.

Step 1. Sign into Lifemiles.com

Head to the LifeMiles website. You can’t book award flights at the regular Avianca site – you’ll have to navigate to their loyalty program’s dedicated website.

Step 2. Enter your search details

You don’t have to specify that you want to use rewards – you’re on the LifeMiles website, so that’s the only choice you have! If you want to buy flights, head to the Avianca site. Click the blue arrow to search.

You can choose your travel dates from a calendar, which shows you available awards at a glance with a blue dot.

Step 3. Choose your United flights

If United flies the route you’re searching for, you’ll see available seats on the results page with coach and business class flights. As you can see, business class flights from the U.S. to Tel Aviv cost 78,000 Avianca miles each way.

A big disclaimer here is that Avianca miles tend to sell for dirt cheap. Last year, we saw Avianca miles sell for 1.1 cents each. Consider how inexpensively you can purchase Avianca miles before transferring your precious Amex points to Avianca. You may want to save your points for another program and simply pay cash for Avianca miles.

The same flight would cost 75,000 miles if booked through United. However, United sells its miles for 1.75 cents at the absolute cheapest. In other words:

  •  If you were to buy 75,000 United miles on sale, you’d spend $1,312.50
  • If you were to buy 78,000 Avianca miles, you’d spend $858

Avianca’s higher award price doesn’t necessarily mean more expensive.

Booking United flights with ANA Mileage Club

You should only transfer your Amex points to ANA if you’re planning to book a round-trip ticket.  ANA does not allow you to book one-ways.

However, ANA does allow a free stopover and open-jaw on each ticket. You can book incredible deals with ANA miles, such as:

  • U.S. to Southern South America in coach – 55,000 ANA miles round-trip (generally 5,000 miles less than United charges)
  • U.S. to anywhere in Africa in coach – 65,000 ANA miles round-trip (generally 15,000 miles less than United charges)
  • U.S. to Europe in business class – 88,000 ANA miles round-trip (generally 27,000 miles less than United charges)

Here’s how to book United Airlines seats with ANA miles.

Step 1.   Log into ANA

Navigate to the ANA website and sign-in to your ANA account (or create an account if you haven’t yet — it’s free to join).

Step 2. Enter your travel information

Input your travel details. Check “Compare Seat Availability +/- 3 Days” to see more dates at once.

If you want to take advantage of the free stopover or open-jaws, you’ll want to click “Multiple Cities/Mixed Classes.” But you won’t be able to book a simple one-way flight.

Step 3. Choose your flights

After you settle on dates, choose a United Airlines operated (or any other) flight.

When you find what you want, you’re ready to transfer your Amex points to ANA and book your flight! ANA no longer passes along egregious fuel surcharges, so they’re a great Amex transfer partner.

Earning Amex Membership Rewards points

There are several cards that earn Amex Membership Rewards points, including personal and small-business cards. Here are some of our favorites:

The Platinum Card® from American Express

  • Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on the card in the first six months of card membership. Plus, earn 10x points on eligible purchases on the card at restaurants worldwide and when you “Shop Small” in the U.S., on up to $25,000 in combined purchases, during the first six months of card membership.
  • $695 annual fee (see rates & fees)

American Express® Gold Card

  • 60,000 Amex Membership Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases on your new card in your first six months of card membership
  • $250 annual fee (see rates & fees)

The Business Platinum Card® from American Express

  • 100,000 bonus points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases in the first three months of account opening.
  • $595 annual fee (see rates & fees

Bottom line

You can’t transfer the rewards you earn with Amex to United. But you can still use Amex points for seats on United Airlines! Our favorite ways are by transferring your points to these four other Star Alliance airlines:

  • Singapore Airlines
  • ANA
  • Air Canada
  • Avianca

You can then book an award seat on partner United Airlines. Sometimes you’ll even get more value from your awards by booking United flights with partner airline miles instead of United Airlines miles!

Let us know your favorite way to fly United!

For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum card, click here.

For rates and fees of the Amex Gold, click here.

For rates and fees of the Amex Business Platinum card, click here.

The Platinum Card® from American Express

The Platinum Card® from American Express

Annual fee

$695

Welcome offer

Earn 100,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on the Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.

Show more

Sarah Hostetler is a contributor to Million Mile Secrets. She covers topics on points and miles, credit cards, airlines, hotels, and general travel.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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