United Mileage Plus review: How to get the most from the program

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United Airlines is one of the largest carriers in the U.S. by fleet size and passenger volume, with a major presence in hub cities and smaller or seasonal destinations. Having United miles can be a smart strategy anyone wanting to book cheap award travel. Plus, it’s a member of the Star Alliance – the largest airline alliance – which gives you access to flights on dozens of other unique airlines around the world, as well as other partnerships.

Wherever you want to travel, there’s bound to be a way to get there on United Airlines or one of its partners. T

hat’s a big reason lots of us on the MMS team collect and regularly redeem United Airlines miles, myself included.

You can earn United Airlines miles with a card like the United℠ Explorer Card (the best airline credit card for United flyers) or the United℠ Business Card (the best business credit card for United flyers). You can also transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points instantly at a 1:1 ratio to United Airlines if you have a card such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card (one of our top travel credit cards).

Is it worth it for you to focus on United Airlines miles to attain your travel goals? Here’s our United MileagePlus review to help you decide.

We’ll go over how to earn and redeem your United miles, and if they should be a part of your travel rewards strategy. (Photo by NextNewMedia/Shutterstock)

United Mileage Plus review

MileagePlus is United Airlines’ loyalty program. You’ll accumulate United Airlines miles to use for award tickets, as well as credits toward elite status, when you fly. You’re not limited to using your United Airlines miles for award seats on United Airlines. Thanks to partnerships, you can access many other airlines, too.

Here’s what you need to know.

How to sign-up for a United Airlines MileagePlus account

If you don’t already have one, it’s fast (and free) to sign up for an account. By providing a little bit of personal information you’ll be able to get a MileagePlus number, then use it when you fly United Airlines and any of its airline partners to earn miles and United elite status credit when you fly.

You’ll find our step-by-step guide to registering for a United account here.

How to earn United Airlines miles

There are a whole host of ways to earn United Airlines miles either directly or indirectly.

You could sign up for a co-branded United credit card, like the United℠ Explorer Card, or get a card that earns Chase Ultimate Rewards points like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or Ink Business Preferred Credit Card and transfer the rewards you earn to United at a 1:1 ratio.

There are also other ways, like flying United or its partners, using the United MileagePlus X app, dining out and more. For a more comprehensive look at these options, check out our guide to earning United Airlines miles.

How to use United Airlines miles

In mid-November, United ditched its award chart and moved to dynamic pricing. Even with this change, 99% of the time the best way to use your United miles is for award flights on United or its partner airlines. It’s possible to use your miles in other ways, like for seat upgrades, hotel stays and car rentals, but this is generally not a good idea because you won’t get a great return for your hard-earned rewards.

Here’s more about how to use United Airlines miles.

How does United’s elite status program work?

Like all other airlines, United offers various status levels within its frequent flyer program, including:

  • United Premier Silver
  • United Premier Gold
  • United Premier Platinum
  • United Premier 1K

To reach each level you’ll have to earn a certain combination of

  • Premier Qualifying Flights (PQFs)

And/or

  • Premier Qualifying Points (PQPs)

Here’s an in-depth look at United Airlines status – how to earn it and the benefits offered at each level.

Do United Airlines miles expire?

We’re happy to report that they don’t. This is a recent change. You can read more about United’s miles expiration policy here.

Who should collect United Airlines miles?

United Airlines has hubs at:

  • Chicago (ORD)
  • Denver
  • Houston (IAH)
  • Los Angeles
  • Newark
  • San Francisco
  • Washington, DC (IAD)

Travelers in these cities have plenty of access to United Airlines flights, including tons of international flights. Additionally, United Airlines serves many smaller airports and seasonal destinations. If it has enough flight options at your airport, you can do well to collect United Airlines miles. But the best part about having United Airlines miles is the ability to redeem them on 30+ other partner airlines. So even if there aren’t any United Airlines flights where you live, they’re still some of the best miles for overseas travel.

Most of us on the MMS team collect and redeem United Airlines miles. With its huge network, numerous partners and lack of fuel surcharges, there are still plenty of ways to get outsized value on award travel.

Bottom line

There’s a lot to like about United Airlines miles, from no fuel surcharges and ease of award booking to a vast array of airline partners. While it’s disappointing that it moved to dynamic pricing and got rid of its award chart, there remain many worthwhile ways to redeem your miles – and earn them.

You’ll have the best experience with United Airlines miles if you live near a hub airport or want to access award flights on partners which still have an award chart in place. United Airlines miles are an integral part of my international travel planning – and if either of these scenarios fit your situation, you might find them worthwhile, too.

You can earn more United Airlines miles with Chase credit cards including the United℠ Explorer Card or transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points from cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred. You could also open a business card, like the Chase United Business card. Just keep in mind, all of these cards are subject to the Chase 5/24 rule.

Meghan Hunter 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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