Still, United miles are easy to earn thanks to a suite of United credit cards and a couple of major transferable points partners. You also can redeem miles across United’s vast network of domestic and international routes or on over two dozen Star Alliance partners.
Fortunately, United’s website is one of the best for finding award availability, so you can find and book most Star Alliance awards by simply searching its site — no phone calls are required.
However, there are several quirks to understand when booking award flights with United miles, and although there are ways to redeem United miles outside of flights, you typically won’t get a high redemption value.
Let’s explore how to redeem United MileagePlus miles for United flights, partner flights, hotels and other merchandise.
Redeem United miles for United flights
United operates one of the largest international and domestic flight networks, with hundreds of destinations from which to choose — and that’s not including its partner flights.
Just before the pandemic, United removed its award chart for its flights and flights operated by a partner. Now, it uses dynamic award pricing. This is a fancy way of saying United can charge whatever it wants whenever it wants for any flight. If you’re curious how many miles it will cost to fly on United Airlines, you’ll have to search for your desired route on your desired date.
In November 2021, United also introduced another way to redeem miles, Money + Miles. This option provides an unimpressive fixed 1 cent per mile redemption rate. If your ticket can be paid with Money + Miles, you will find this option on the final payment screen after selecting seats.
How to book flights on United’s website
As noted above, United’s website is one of the better Star Alliance options when searching for award tickets, even without logging in. Head to United’s website, enter your flight search criteria and check “Book with miles.” Then, click the purple “Find flights” button to run your search.
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If you have United Premier status or have a United credit card associated with your MileagePlus account, you’ll want to log in before searching. Cardholders and elite status members gain access to additional (or discounted) award inventory on United-operated flights.
United displays flights at the center of the page alongside prices. One nice thing about the United search engine is that it shows a week’s worth of award pricing at the top of the screen. Click on a date to see all the available flight options for a given day. You can sort by price by clicking on the label for the cabin you’d like to fly in. For example, click “Business” to see business-class options.
Once you find an award you like, click the “select” button underneath the price and follow the on-screen prompts to book it. Pay the ticket’s taxes and fees with a credit card that earns bonus miles on airfare and provides travel protections.
Redeem United miles on partner flights
United is a member of Star Alliance, the world’s largest airline alliance. Here’s a look at United’s list of alliance Star Alliance partners:
- Air China.
- Air India.
- Air New Zealand.
- All Nippon Airways.
- Asiana Airlines.
- Austrian Airlines.
- Brussels Airlines.
- Copa Airlines.
- Croatia Airlines.
- Ethiopian Airlines.
- EVA Air.
- LOT Polish Airlines.
- Shenzhen Airlines.
- Singapore Airlines.
- South African Airways.
- TAP Air Portugal.
- Thai Airways.
- Turkish Airlines.
Juneyao Airlines and Thai Smile are connecting partners of Star Alliance.
Additionally, United has an impressive portfolio of non-alliance partners too:
- Aer Lingus.
- Air Dolomiti.
- Boutique Air.
- Cape Air.
- Eurowings Discover.
- Hawaiian Airlines.
- Olympic Air.
- Silver Airways.
- Virgin Australia.
One of the biggest positives of redeeming United miles is that the MileagePlus program doesn’t impose fuel surcharges on partner award tickets. Booking through other programs (like ANA Mileage Club or Asiana Club) can add hundreds of dollars in additional taxes and fees. But at times, booking through partners will cost you significantly fewer miles.
The absence of fuel surcharges comes with a price, though. United’s premium cabin award rates for long-haul partner flights are often higher than the least expensive awards operated by United. With its Europe devaluation, expect to spend at least 80,000 miles on a one-way United-operated flight or 102,400 miles on a one-way partner-operated flight from the U.S. to Europe in business class. Meanwhile, flights to Asia and other continents will almost always price above 100,000 miles now.
Redeem for other travel
You can also redeem United MileagePlus miles for United Club memberships, hotel stays and Wi-Fi. But we seldom recommend doing this. These redemptions usually yield a far lower value than TPG’s valuations, which peg the value of MileagePlus miles at 1.1 cents each. You’ll usually get a value below 0.75 cents for these redemptions.
That said, here’s a quick look at all of your other travel redemption options alongside their redemption values:
Redeem United miles for hotels
You can use United Hotels to book hotel rooms using your United miles, but it isn’t a good deal. Using United’s hotel booking portal, I checked for a one-night stay at the Andaz Singapore. One night in February 2024 costs $578.19 or 83,190 miles, which means you’ll get about 0.7 cents per mile in value. You’re far better off paying cash or redeeming World of Hyatt points for this particular stay.
Transfer United miles to Marriott Bonvoy
You can transfer United miles to Marriott Bonvoy at a 1:1 ratio. This isn’t a good deal either — TPG values Marriott Bonvoy points at 0.84 cents each, which is 0.26 cents per point less than TPG’s valuation of United miles. You should only transfer miles to Marriott if it’s a small number of miles to top-up for a specific, high-value Marriott award.
Buy inflight Wi-Fi with United miles
You can use United miles to pay for inflight Wi-Fi on domestic United flights, but the cost varies by flight length. The airline also offers a $49 monthly Wi-Fi pass for $49 or 7,500 miles. However, by redeeming United miles for this pass, you’d only get 0.65 cents per mile in value, so we recommend steering clear of this redemption.
Pay for TSA PreCheck with United miles
Finally, you can redeem United miles for TSA PreCheck. 11,000 United miles covers the $78 application fee, meaning you’d only get a redemption value of 0.7 cents per mile. You’re far better off getting a credit card that covers the TSA PreCheck or Global Entry application fee, like the United℠ Explorer Card. Then you can save on the fee and earn a new sign-up bonus.
Redeem for merchandise
You can also redeem United miles for merchandise, gift cards, newspapers and Broadway tickets. Like redeeming miles for hotels, these redemptions are generally a poor value that we recommend skipping.
Here’s a quick look at all of your options alongside their redemption rates.
Redeem United miles for products
You can redeem United miles for merchandise via United’s online store. This store offers electronics, luggage and home goods. We don’t recommend doing this, as you’ll generally get a low redemption value. For example, a pair of the Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700 costs 66,800 miles. These headphones retail for $379, giving you just 0.58 cents per mile in value.
Pay for MileagePlus X gift cards with United miles
We recommend earning miles with the MileagePlus X app, but we don’t recommend spending your miles with it. This app lets you purchase gift cards for immediate use and earn miles. You’ll get a mere 0.3 cents per mile in value if you redeem miles for gift cards. This is one of the worst possible redemptions you can make.
Subscribe to newspapers and magazines with United miles
You can also redeem United miles for magazine and newspaper subscriptions, but this is a poor use of miles as it yields an extremely low redemption value.
Donate your United miles to charities
Finally, you can donate United miles to select charities. You can donate a minimum of 1,000 miles at a time and choose from various charities. This can be a good option for those who want to liquidate their mileage balance and give to a good cause. That said, it’s always worth considering if a cash donation is a more effective way to help.
Best use of United miles
United has devalued its miles time after time, but there are still a handful of excellent ways to redeem United miles. Here’s a look at some of the best United MileagePlus sweet spots you should know about.
Travel from the U.S. to Europe on a United Airlines flight
Although United increased Europe saver award rates by around 33%, you can still fly to Europe for 31,800 miles in economy class on off-peak dates. This can be a great use of miles.
Short-haul Europe and domestic Japan awards
You might consider using your United miles on short-haul Europe and domestic Japan awards. These flights generally cost under 10,000 miles; if you have Star Alliance Gold status, you’ll have access to Star Alliance-branded lounges.
Low-cost domestic award tickets on United
One of the nice things about United’s move to dynamic pricing is the addition of low-cost award tickets. Some of the low-cost tickets we’ve seen recently include Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) to San Francisco International Airport (SFO) for 12,500 miles and Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to Denver International Airport (DEN) for 8,200 miles.
At the time of writing, this LAX to DEN flight was on sale for $103 in United’s deeply discounted “G” fare class. If you redeemed miles for this flight, you’d get a redemption value of 1.19 cents per mile, which is above TPG’s current valuation of United miles.
Free stopovers with the Excursionist Perk
One of the benefits of booking round-trip or multicity awards with United is the Excursionist Perk. This perk lets you add a free stopover to select round-trip tickets.
In its most basic form, you use this perk to book something like Newark to London’s Heathrow Airport (LHR), then London to Frankfurt Airport (FRA) and finally Frankfurt back to Newark — with stops in both London and Frankfurt. You wouldn’t pay any additional miles for the London to Frankfurt leg, an excellent money-saver on a European adventure.
How to find United award space
Thankfully, finding United award space is relatively straightforward. Many travelers consider United’s website the best Star Alliance search engine since virtually all United and Star Alliance partner award space is available online. You’ll rarely have to call United to book an award ticket — search online and book accordingly.
That said, United’s website sometimes shows phantom award space. This is when an award appears online that isn’t bookable. You can verify award space before you transfer miles from Chase Ultimate Rewards by searching ANA’s website. ANA’s search tool isn’t the most intuitive but reliable. All flights shown on ANA’s website should be bookable with United miles.
Frequently asked questions
The United MileagePlus program may initially seem daunting — especially if you’re new to the points and miles world. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions regarding United MileagePlus:
How do I join United MileagePlus?
You can join United MileagePlus for free. Head to United’s website and click “Join now” in the upper right corner of the screen. Then, enter the requested information at the center of the screen.
Once you’ve signed up, you can find your MileagePlus number by clicking on your name at the top of the screen. Add this number to United and Star Alliance partner bookings to earn mileage.
When do United miles expire?
In 2019, United changed its expiration policy for the better. Nowadays, United miles don’t expire even during prolonged periods of inactivity. This is excellent news for occasional United flyers and travelers without immediate use for their United miles.
Can I transfer points to United MileagePlus?
You can transfer miles from Chase Ultimate Rewards and Marriott Bonvoy to United MileagePlus. You can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards to United at a 1:1 ratio with a 1,000-mile minimum transfer. These transfers process instantly, giving you a fast and easy way to accrue miles.
Marriott Bonvoy points transfer to United MileagePlus at a 3:1 ratio. However, you’ll get 10,000 bonus miles for every 60,000 points you transfer thanks to to United and Marriott’s RewardsPlus partnership. Just note that transfers take roughly three days to process based on our prior tests.
There are many ways to redeem your United MileagePlus miles, but you’re generally best off looking to book award flights. Thankfully, booking these tickets online with United and its Star Alliance partners is relatively easy.
The carrier’s award search engine is one of the best out there, and the program charges low taxes and fees compared to other Star Alliance mileage programs. And with the ability to transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to United at a 1:1 ratio, you can quickly boost your account and unlock some of these redemptions as you plan your next trip.
Additional reporting by Kyle Olsen.