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TravelUnited Airlines MileagePlus: Guide to earning and redeeming miles, elite status and...

United Airlines MileagePlus: Guide to earning and redeeming miles, elite status and more


In 2023, United massively devalued the MileagePlus program by increasing award rates by up to 122% without advance notice. MileagePlus also uses dynamic pricing (as opposed to award charts), giving the airline total flexibility to adjust award prices.

However, the program can still be valuable to its members since United miles never expire, you can use PlusPoints and miles to confirm long-haul Polaris upgrades and MileagePlus now lets you pool miles.

This guide will provide you with all the necessary information on the program, including how to earn United miles and status and how to maximize your miles for award travel.

United MileagePlus overview

Polaris business class on a United Airlines Boeing 777-300ER. KYLE OLSEN/THE POINTS GUY

With over 100 million members, United MileagePlus is one of the largest loyalty programs in the world.

MileagePlus members can earn miles by flying United and its partners, as well as through non-flight activities like credit card spending, shopping and dining. You can redeem your miles for award travel on the airline as well as its Star Alliance partners.

MileagePlus members can also earn United elite status by meeting a certain threshold of Premier qualifying points. Elite status includes additional benefits, such as upgrades, preferred and Economy Plus seating, priority boarding, and free checked bags. Additionally, United offers various cobranded credit cards that can help members earn miles more quickly and enjoy additional perks.

Related: How to get maximum value from the United MileagePlus program

United Airlines partners

KYLE OLSEN/THE POINTS GUY

You can earn and redeem miles with various international airlines through United Airlines’ membership in the Star Alliance, the world’s largest airline alliance. United Premier members can often enjoy perks like lounge access and extra baggage allowance when traveling with these partners.

Here’s a look at United’s current Star Alliance partners.

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  • Aegean Airlines
  • Air Canada
  • Air China
  • Air India
  • Air New Zealand
  • All Nippon Airways
  • Asiana Airlines
  • Austrian Airlines
  • Avianca
  • Brussels Airlines
  • Copa Airlines
  • Croatia Airlines
  • Egyptair
  • Ethiopian Airlines
  • EVA Airways
  • Juneyao Airlines (a connecting partner)
  • LOT Polish Airlines
  • Lufthansa
  • Scandinavian Airlines
  • Shenzhen Airlines
  • Singapore Airlines
  • South African Airways
  • Swiss
  • TAP Air Portugal
  • Thai Airways
  • Turkish Airlines

United also partners with several airlines outside of the Star Alliance:

  • Aer Lingus
  • Air Dolomiti
  • Airlink
  • Azul Brazilian Airlines
  • Boutique Air
  • Cape Air
  • Discover Airlines
  • Edelweiss
  • Emirates
  • Eurowings
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • JSX
  • Olympic Air
  • Silver Airways
  • Virgin Australia
  • Vistara

Partners can have their own limitations regarding MileagePlus members — including applicable bonuses, eligible fare classes and excluded routes, so be sure to review United’s airline partners page for full details of each one.

Related: The best websites to search for Star Alliance award availability

United Airlines Premier status

Economy Plus seats on a United Airlines Boeing 777-200. KYLE OLSEN/THE POINTS GUY

United Airlines has four levels of elite status: Premier Silver, Premier Gold, Premier Platinum and Premier 1K. There’s also an exclusive Global Services tier, which you can only earn after completing 4 million flight miles or receiving a personal invitation.

To earn United Premier status, you must take at least four United or United Express flights and either earn PQPs or a combination of Premier qualifying flights and PQPs. You can earn PQFs and PQPs by flying United or its partners. You can also earn PQPs by spending on most of United’s cobranded credit cards.

This is what it takes to qualify for United status in 2025:

Tier Premier qualifying points + Premier qualifying flights Premier qualifying points only
Premier Silver 4,000 PQPs + 12 PQFs 5,000 PQPs
Premier Gold 8,000 PQPs + 24 PQFs 10,000 PQPs
Premier Platinum 12,000 PQPs + 36 PQFs 15,000 PQPs
Premier 1K 18,000 PQPs + 54 PQFs 24,000 PQPs

United Premier members enjoy perks like bonus miles on paid tickets, free checked bags and complimentary waitlisted upgrades on most United-operated flights.

Higher-tier members receive perks like complimentary Economy Plus seating, PlusPoints (which can be used to confirm upgrades), Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status and Star Alliance Gold status, which comes with perks when flying on other Star Alliance carriers.

Related: United Premier status: What it is and how to earn it

How to earn United miles

Three cabins on a United Airlines Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. KYLE OLSEN/THE POINTS GUY

You can refer to our guide on how to earn United miles for the complete picture, but here are some of the most popular ways to boost your MileagePlus balance.

Fly on United Airlines

When flying on United-marketed and -operated tickets, you earn MileagePlus miles based on your ticket’s price minus taxes and your MileagePlus status rather than the distance you fly.

Here’s how many miles you’ll earn per dollar spent based on your level of status:

  • General member: 5 miles
  • Premier Silver: 7 miles
  • Premier Gold: 8 miles
  • Premier Platinum: 9 miles
  • Premier 1K: 11 miles

For example, suppose you buy a one-way United ticket from San Francisco International Airport (SFO) to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) with a base fare of $210 and $30 in taxes and fees. In that case, you’d earn 1,050 miles as a regular MileagePlus member but 2,310 miles if you’re a top-tier Premier 1K member.

These earning rates also apply if you book United’s basic economy fare class.

Fly on partner airlines

You can earn United MileagePlus miles when flying with United’s partners, but it can be complicated. If you book a partner flight through United (indicated by a 016 ticket number), you’ll earn miles based on your ticket fare and elite status.

But if you book on partner ticket stock, you’ll earn miles based on the length of your flight and fare class. Generally, you can see your fare class when booking your flight or in your confirmation email. Mileage-earning rates vary by airline, so check your booking class and use United’s partner airline list to determine your award miles. As expected, premium-cabin tickets earn more miles than economy tickets, and Premier members are eligible for bonus miles on select partners.

Related: Your ultimate guide to United Airlines partners

Get and use United Airlines credit cards

United’s cobranded credit cards issued by Chase are among the most popular ways to earn MileagePlus miles. Here’s a look at the sign-up bonuses and earning rates on some of our favorite United credit cards:

  • United℠ Explorer Card: Earn 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open. The card earns 2 miles per dollar on United purchases, dining and direct hotel purchases, and 1 mile per dollar elsewhere.
  • United Quest℠ Card: Earn 60,000 bonus miles and 500 Premier qualifying points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open. The card earns 3 miles per dollar on United purchases (immediately after earning your $125 annual United purchase credit); 2 miles per dollar on dining, travel and select streaming services; and 1 mile per dollar elsewhere.
  • United℠ Business Card: Earn 100,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open. The card earns 2 miles per dollar on United purchases, gas stations, dining (including eligible delivery services), office supply stores, local transit and commuting (including ride-hailing services, taxicabs, train tickets, tolls and mass transit), and 1 mile elsewhere. You’ll also earn 5,000 bonus miles on each card anniversary when you have both the United Business Card and a personal United credit card.
  • United Club℠ Infinite Card: Earn 80,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. The card earns 4 miles per dollar spent on purchases with United, and 2 miles per dollar spent on all other travel purchases, dining and eligible food delivery services. All other purchases earn 1 mile per dollar spent.

United credit cards with an annual fee allow you to earn 25 PQPs for every $500 you spend on the card, but limits apply. For example, the Explorer Card earns a maximum of 1,000 PQPs per calendar year.

Related: United’s best-kept elite status secret: How to earn PQPs faster with partner flights

Transfer credit card points from Chase Ultimate Rewards

You can instantly transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to United at a 1:1 ratio, which can be an appealing way to instantly increase your MileagePlus balance.

TPG values Chase Ultimate Rewards points at 2.05 cents apiece, while United miles are worth 1.4 cents apiece. You can also redeem your Chase points for United flights in the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal. When you do this, you’ll generally earn United miles since your ticket will be coded as a paid fare.

More ways to earn United miles

Like most airlines, United has an online shopping portal where you can earn miles for your online purchases.

You can also earn more miles with the MileagePlus X app by purchasing select merchant gift cards. Participating merchants include major brands like Walmart, Staples and Panera Bread. Primary United credit card holders also earn a 25% bonus on miles earned from these purchases.

Meanwhile, MileagePlus Dining awards up to 5 miles per dollar when you dine at participating restaurants and use a linked credit card.

Other ways to earn United miles include buying miles, transferring Marriott Bonvoy points and booking hotels, car rentals and cruises through the United travel portal.

Related: Flights, credit cards and more: How to earn miles with the United MileagePlus program

United MileagePlus pooling

A United Airlines aircraft takes off from San Francisco International Airport (SFO). TAYFUN COSKUN/ANADOLU AGENCY/GETTY IMAGES

In 2024, United announced the addition of miles pooling, which will allow MileagePlus members of all ages to share and redeem miles in one account.

Since there is no age restriction on members being able to sign up for a MileagePlus account, extra and unused miles from kids, for instance, can be used in a single account. Up to five members can be added to a pool, and there is no limit to the number of miles you can contribute to a pool.

However, you must be at least 18 years old to create a pool and become the “pool leader.” You can also only operate in one pool at a time, so you cannot be a part of several pools.

Some stipulations exist; you can enter and exit a pool at your own discretion, but the airline will enforce a 90-day “cooling” period when you exit a pool, so you’ll have to wait before joining another one.

When you’re contributing miles to a pool, you have 24 hours to reverse a transaction. After 24 hours have passed, you cannot get the miles you contributed to a pool back.

United also stated that pooling miles will not affect a member’s Premier status.

How to redeem United miles

One of my all-time favorite uses of United miles was flying EVA’s Royal Laurel business class. KYLE OLSEN/THE POINTS GUY

United has retired its award charts and now uses dynamic award pricing. Still, there are ways to maximize the program.

To redeem United miles, go to united.com or the United app. United Airlines credit card holders and Premier members can access additional award space on United flights. If you hold a United credit card or Premier status, log in to your MileagePlus account before searching for award space.

United also has an option called Money + Miles, which offers a fixed rate of 1 cent per mile. This option is available on the final payment screen for eligible tickets. When possible, steer clear of this option since it’s a suboptimal use of miles.

Best uses of United miles

You can refer to our guide on maximizing the MileagePlus program, but here are a few of our favorite uses of United miles.

You might find award options starting around 5,000 miles on high-frequency, short-haul flights. Although these flights almost always cost less than $100, these awards can be a great way to keep your travel plans flexible since United no longer charges redeposit fees when you cancel award flights.

For something a little more complex, the United Excursionist Perk is a great way to maximize your United miles when booking multicity trips. Basically, the first flight within a region different from your departure and destination regions is free in the same class as the preceding flight. For example, if you book a round-trip business-class flight from Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) to London’s Heathrow Airport (LHR) and back, you can also get a “free” business-class flight from London to another European airport, such as Brussels Airport (BRU).

This allows you to fly to London, then Brussels and then back to Newark for the same number of miles as a simple round-trip flight between Newark and London.

To book, use the “Multi-city” search feature on united.com. In our experience, many of United’s phone agents aren’t familiar with this lesser-known United sweet spot.

Besides the Excursionist Perk, you can maximize United miles by booking a transcontinental flight for 15,000 miles for economy class and 30,000 miles for business class when there’s saver award space. You might also consider keeping a healthy “just in case” sum of miles in your MileagePlus account for last-minute situations.

ANA’s new business class on the Boeing 777-300ER. ERIC ROSEN/THE POINTS GUY

Finally, you can consider using United miles to fly on top partner carriers — including products like ANA’s “The Room” business class or EVA Air’s business class, which offer high-end amenities but come in with high award rates.

Related: Feels like first class: Flying ANA The Room business class from LA-Tokyo

Other uses of United miles

You can use United miles for United Club memberships, inflight Wi-Fi purchases, TSA PreCheck fees, car rentals and hotel stays. You can also transfer United miles to Marriott Bonvoy. However, it’s not recommended, as the value you’ll get from these redemptions is almost always lower than the value of MileagePlus miles for flight redemptions.

The same can be said for redeeming your miles for gift cards through the MileagePlus X app, retail products, Broadway tickets, newspapers and magazines. These options generally provide less than 0.5 cents per mile.

Bottom line

If you’re a frequent United Airlines traveler, sticking with the airline’s loyalty program might make sense. By knowing the intricacies of the MileagePlus program, you can get lots of miles and redeem them for top value. And if you fly enough, you can enjoy all the elite status perks.

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