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United Airlines miles are a favorite of the MMS team and our readers because they offer a decent number of award seats compared to other airlines. But, how much are United miles worth now that United has moved to dynamic pricing?
On average, you can get a minimum value of ~1.3 cents per mile, but the value will always vary depending on the route you’re flying, fees associated with certain award tickets, whether you traveling during peak times and more. In some cases, they’ll be worth much more than their average value – as much as 12 cents per mile – which is incredible.
United Airlines miles are easy to earn with some of the best airline credit cards like the United℠ Explorer Business Card. United is also a Chase transfer partner, so you can indirectly earn miles from top travel credit cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card.
Let’s look at a few examples to see what United Airlines miles are worth and how to calculate their value.
United miles value
United Airlines recently moved to dynamic pricing, but the way you calculate the value of your miles is still the same:
(Cash price of the ticket – taxes and fees you’d pay on the award ticket) / number of points required for an award ticket.
You are no longer guaranteed a certain value on a particular route because there’s no award chart. United has removed close-in booking fees, but it raised award prices for flights booked within 30 days of departure and you’ll now see a surcharge of 1,500 to 3,500 miles when booking in this time frame. But, you can still find saver awards that somewhat align with the pricing from the old United Airlines award chart. Some awards are pricing at even lower levels than we used to see with the old award chart. And as of now United doesn’t have basic economy award flights, so with miles you are booking a more expensive and less restrictive economy fare that allows refunds (for a fee), seat selection and more.
Here are some good deals you can get using United Airlines miles:
Domestic flights (especially last-minute flights)
On this round-trip coach ticket between Seattle and Denver, if you were to use miles, you’d spend 10,000 miles and ~$11 in taxes and fees. The same ticket costs ~$152 in cash. That means by using your miles for this ticket you’d get a value of ~1.4 cents per mile: ($152 – $11) / 10,000 miles.
You often get even more value for your miles if you’re booking a last-minute flight, even with the miles surcharge United has added in place of the old close-in booking fee.
Take a look at this round-trip flight between Missoula, Montana, and Denver.
In this case, the departure is a month away (at the time of writing) and the cash price is $408.80. If you use your miles you’d spend just 20,000 miles and $11.20 in taxes and fees. That’s a value of ~1.98 cents per mile, which is an incredible use of your hard-earned rewards.
Round-trip coach tickets to Europe
United Airlines charges 60,000 miles for round-trip, saver-level coach flights to Europe, which means you can get a lot of value from your miles using them for tickets to top vacation destinations like Paris, London or Madrid.
I did a quick search for flights between Chicago and Madrid in June 2020 and found a number of options for 60,000 United Airlines miles and ~$78 in taxes and fees.
Cash prices for this same route were running $1,500+ at the time of the search. That means you’d get a value of ~2.4 cents per mile in this scenario, which is an excellent deal.
International business and first-class flights on partner airlines
Once you’ve flown up front it’s hard to think about taking a long-haul flight in coach. Luckily, using United Airlines miles to fly in an expensive business-class or first-class seat on an overseas trip can help save your wallet … and your back. And you’ll get tons of value from your miles while you’re at it.
For example, I found a nonstop business-class ticket from Denver to Frankfurt on United Airlines’ partner Lufthansa for 70,000 United Airlines miles and ~$6 in taxes and fees.
If you paid cash for the same flight, you’d need to fork out a whopping ~$8,716.
After doing the math, you’d be getting a value of ~12.44 cents per mile. That’s an insanely fantastic deal – over 8x the average value you normally get from your United Airlines miles.
This shows how widely the value of United Airlines miles can fluctuate and just how valuable they can be.
Round-trip coach tickets to Hawaii
If spending a week in Hawaii sounds enticing, it’s easy to realize that dream with your United Airlines miles. Plus, using your miles can save you a lot of cash.
For example, I found a round-trip coach ticket from my hometown of Missoula to Honolulu in late March 2020 for 45,000 United Airlines miles and ~$11 in taxes and fees. The same seat costs ~$700 in cash.
I don’t know about you, but I’d rather use my miles than be about $700 in cash. Plus, I’d be getting a value of ~1.53 cents per mile from my miles, which is a decent deal.
How to earn United miles
If you’re looking for more ways to earn miles there are a couple of United credit cards with limited-time welcome offers:
- United℠ Explorer Card – earn up to 65,000 bonus miles; 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Plus, an additional 25,000 bonus miles after you spend $10,000 total in purchases in the first 6 months your account is open
- United℠ Explorer Business Card – earn up to 100,000 United Airlines miles; 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 in purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Plus, an additional 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $25,000 total in purchases in the first 6 months your account is open
Don’t forget, you can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to United at a 1:1 ratio from these cards:
- Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card – earn 80,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
- Chase Sapphire Preferred Card – earn 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months after account opening
- Chase Sapphire Reserve – earn 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
Chase Ultimate Rewards points are my favorite transferable points to earn because of their flexibility – you can redeem them for cash back, travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal, or (when you have an annual-fee Chase Ultimate Rewards card) transfer them to valuable travel partners like United Airlines.
The value of United miles varies depending on your itinerary — route, time of travel and class of service. This is especially true now that United has moved to dynamic pricing, but at a minimum, you should be able to get an average value of ~1.3 cents per mile, and more for last-minute domestic flights. If you use your miles for awards like business-class seats to Europe, you could very well get value of up to 12+ cents per mile.
To figure out the United Airlines miles value on your particular flight, use this formula:
(Cash price of the ticket – taxes and fees you’d pay on the award ticket) / number of points required for an award ticket
What’s your experience been like? What are United Airlines miles worth to you?
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