The United MileagePlus program is an easy way for you to build up on miles, and it has a large network of domestic and international routes. Additionally, it’s a vast array of Star Alliance and non-alliance partners. In other words, there are lots of sweet spots in MileagePlus awards.
Read below for more information on the best ways to use your United Miles for the most value.
United MileagePlus Redemption Quick Facts
|Best Redemptions||United flights
Restaurants.com gift cards
|Mile Valuation||$0.014 per mile|
The UnitedSM Explorer Card offers 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 in the first 6 months.
You'll earn 2X Miles per $1 spent at restaurants, hotel stays, eligible delivery services, & purchases from United; 1X miles for all other purchases.
Perks of this card include:
• Getting up to $100 Global Entry / TSA PreCheck Fee Credit
• Get your first bag checked for free (up to $140 savings per roundtrip) when you using your Card to purchase your ticket
• Get priority boarding perks & visit the United Club with 2 one-time passes each year for your anniversary
This card does come with a $95 annual fee, however, the annual fee is waived for the first year.
United MileagePlus Important Redemption Details
Before getting into the best ways for you to use your MileagePlus miles. We must go over some important redemption details.
- You can book one-way and roundtrip awards.
- United does not pass on fuel surcharges on partner awards.
- United charges a $75 close-in fee for awards booked within 21 days of departure. MileagePlus Premier members enjoy reduced or no fee on last-minute awards.
United has a huge domestic and international flight network, so you have hundreds of destinations to choose from – and that’s not including partner awards.
MileagePlus award pricing is dynamic, but zone-based. The number of miles required for a flight largely depends on the region you’re departing from and arriving to. Other factors include time of year and fare type. In order to figure out exactly how many miles you’ll need for a given award, use the United interactive award chart.
Furthermore, if you’re a MileagePlus Premier member or a United credit cardholder. Be sure to sign in before searching for awards. Then, you’ll have an extra award inventory on United-operated flights.
Best Ways to Redeem with United
In general, go for Saver Awards if you want the most bang for your MileagePlus rewards. You’ll get an average of $0.014 for an Economy Class ticket. That’s in-line with what we currently value United miles. Saver Awards for Business and First Class hold even more value – approximately $0.027 each mile.
Keep in mind, Saver Awards are limited and may not be available for times and routes that are in high demand.
United Polaris offers lounge access at United’s hub airports, aisle access for every seat, and a 16-inch, inflight, touchscreen entertainment system. This Business Class product is something you definitely want to consider on a long-haul flight.
Destination: Europe / Asia / South Pacific
Miles: 60,000 / 70,000 / 80,000 for a one-way ticket
MileagePlus has limited-time sales that gives discounts on Saver Awards. In the past, United has offered deals like:
- The Sun and Ski Sale with 40% off roundtrip Saver Economy Awards to Hawaii, Aspen, Sun Valley and Jackson, Wyoming.
- 20% off Saver Awards to Asia and the South Pacific, including China, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand.
For current award sales, click here.
United has lots of Star Alliance and non-alliance partners. So, you’ll be able to use your MileagePlus miles on multiple different carriers and routes available.
Star Alliance partners will include:
Other airline partners will include:
- Aer Lingus
- Air Dolomiti
- Boutique Air
- Cape Air
- Hawaiian Airlines
- Olympic Air
- Silver Airways
As we mentioned earlier, United does not impose fuel surcharges on partner award tickets. While this is good news, it comes with a price. United’s premium-class award tickets for long-haul partner flights are usually priced higher than United awards. For example, a Business Class award flight from Chicago (ORD) to Frankfurt (FRA):
|60,000 miles||70,000 miles|
Even so, unless you’re flying United Polaris, we think premium-class partner awards are worth the extra miles.
Look for your awards segment by segment since United doesn’t always show all the connecting flight options.
Lufthansa’s First Class product is an amazing experience. But at over $4,000 one way, it’s not within the average Joe’s budget. Luckily, you can snag a free ticket with your United miles. Plus, if you book your award through MileagePlus – as opposed to Lufthansa’s Miles and More program – you’ll save over $400 in fuel surcharges.
Remember, Lufthansa only releases First Class award space to Star Alliance partners 14 days before departure.
We recommend making a connection in Frankfurt, Lufthansa’s hub, so you can experience the First Class Terminal. It’s considered one of the best airport lounges in the world. When it’s time to board your connecting flight, you’ll be whisked away to the aircraft in a Porsche.
Miles: 110,000 for a one-way ticket
Thai Airways isn’t a well-known carrier in the United States, but it should be on your radar if you’re looking to travel to or from Asia. With a First Class ticket, you’ll have access to a special check-in area, a complimentary hour-long massage at the Royal Orchid Spa and the Thai Airways First Class lounge (if you’re departing from or connecting in Bangkok).
Thai Airways does not currently fly to the United States, but you can connect through Europe with a Star Alliance partner.
Destination: Bangkok (from Europe)
Miles: 145,000 for a one-way ticket
Like other carriers, ANA First Class provides spacious seating and high-end champagne. But what sets the Japan-based airline apart is its fantastic service. If you don’t have enough mileage for a First Class award, their Business Class isn’t too shabby either.
Miles: Business 80,000 / First 110,000 for a one-way ticket
Out of all the carriers in the world, Turkish Airlines flies to the most destinations. That means you have plenty of choices for Business Class awards. We recommend connecting in Istanbul so you can experience the airline’s top-notch Business Class lounge.
Destination: Europe / Africa / Japan
Miles: 70,000 / 80,000 / 80,000 for a one-way ticket
It’s just 80,000 MileagePlus miles to fly Business Class with a Star Alliance partner from the United States to anywhere in Africa. While your first thought might be to fly with Ethiopian Airlines or South African Airways, we suggest first making a stop in Europe for an even better travel experience.
Swiss Air offers a solid Business Class product you can take full advantage of by routing through Switzerland. And Austrian Airlines has a great Business Class with excellent catering service.
Destination: Africa (with stopover in Europe)
Miles: 80,000 for a one-way ticket.
The flight from the United States to New Zealand is an excruciatingly long one, so you’ll want a comfortable seat that reclines to a bed, good catering and a friendly crew. Guess what? Air New Zealand’s Business Class ticks all those boxes.
Destination: New Zealand
Miles: 80,000 for a one-way ticket
The Excursionist Perk
One of the best ways to maximize MileagePlus miles is the Excursionist Perk. This will let you tack on a free segment on eligible roundtrip itineraries. Usually, for adding another city to your journey at no extra cost. Remember, the rules that come with this perk:
- You must travel to a region outside of where you begin your journey. If you’re flying from North America, you need to travel outside of North America.
- Your travel must end in the same region where you began your travel. If you’re flying from North America, you need to end your travel in North America.
- The origin and destination of the Excursionist Perk must be within the same region.
- The cabin of service and award type of the free one-way award is the same or lower than the one-way award preceding it.
- If two or more one-way awards qualify, only the first one will be free.
There’s the simple way to use the Excursionist Perk, and then there are the creative ways. The latter takes more work, but you’ll stretch your miles a lot further.
The simplest way to use the Excursionist Perk is to add a free leg between two cities in the same region. For example, booking a roundtrip award to Europe and adding a segment between two European cities.
Newark – Vienna – London – Newark
In the example above, the Vienna to London segment would be an Excursionist Perk, priced at 0 miles.
There’s plenty of ways to use this perk. The tick is to use open jaws. For example:
- East Asia (Business Class: 45,000 miles)
- Seoul to Taipei
- Taipei to Singapore (open jaw)*
- Singapore to BKK (layover) to Hong Kong (Excursionist)
- Hong Kong to Beijing (open jaw)*
- Beijing to Seoul (layover) to Jeju
- South Asia (Economy Class: 85,000 miles)
- Chicago to Istanbul (layover) to Kathmandu
- Kathmandu to Delhi (open jaw)*
- Delhi to Bengaluru (layover) to Male (Excursionist)
- Male to Columbo (open jaw)*
- Columbo to Bangkok (layover) to Taipei (layover) to Chicago
- Ecuador & The Galapagos (Economy Class: 40,000 miles)
- Houston to Quito
- Quito to Guayaquil (open jaw)*
- Guayaquil to Baltra (Excursionist)
- Baltra to Quito (layover) to Houston
*You’re responsible for getting from Point A to Point B in an open jaw. Open-jaw travel is not included in the award cost.
The best way for you to use your United MileagePlus miles are towards United flights, partner flights, and more. Additionally, with the Excursionist Perk, you’ll be able to benefit from a top-of-the-line award search engine and low taxes and fees on award tickets.
If you want more information on the United MileagePlus program, check out these guides below:
- The Complete Guide To United Airlines MileagePlus.
- United Premier Elite Status: What Is It Worth In 2020?
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