20 Ways to Earn Lots of United MileagePlus Miles [2021 Guide]

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United is one of the largest carriers in the world, along with American and Delta, with a strong frequent flyer program that allows you to earn airline miles that can be used for seat upgrades and award flights on United and its many partners. While the program has undergone big changes recently, including a switch to dynamic award pricing, MileagePlus miles are definitely worth earning, even for the infrequent traveler.

Ready to start earning United Airlines miles? Here's why you should get started with a MileagePlus account and how to earn United miles with options that include flying, credit card spending, dining, and shopping.

Enroll in United MileagePlus

To start earning and redeeming United Airlines miles, you'll need a free MileagePlus account. Enrolling in MileagePlus only takes a few minutes and gives you a unique MileagePlus number you will use when you book airfare, hotels, rental cars, or spend with partners. Click here to enroll in United MileagePlus.

Why United Miles Are Worth Earning

Once you've made the decision to join an airline loyalty program and start working toward award flights, one of the biggest challenges you face is choosing the right program. The United Airlines MileagePlus program has a lot going for it thanks to miles that are easy to earn, a large network of partner airlines, and, most importantly, the best award flight availability in the industry.

Here's why it's worthwhile to start earning United Airlines miles.

Great Award Flight Availability

A big problem with airline loyalty programs is they often make it easy to earn miles but offer few award seats at the lowest mileage amount -- or make it difficult to find award seats at all. A benefit of the MileagePlus program is United usually offers more saver award space than other programs. You even get access to greater award availability if you have one of the United credit cards with an annual fee.

Low Fees & No Fuel Surcharges with Partners

One of the biggest surprises with award flights is the fuel surcharge, an extra fee on your "free" flight that can cost hundreds of dollars. While Delta does have fuel surcharges for many award flights, its own fuel surcharges on Delta flights are low -- flying from the U.S. to Europe usually costs about $6 each way in surcharges. While some carriers don't have surcharges on their award flights like American Airlines, Delta still isn't a bad offender by any means.

You can also use United miles for award flights with many Star Alliance partners like ANA and Lufthansa without fuel surcharges.

How Do United MileagePlus Miles Compare to Other Airlines?

As a general rule, United Airlines miles are worth 1.3 cents each, but the value depends a great deal on the fare class and flight cost. United has switched to a dynamic pricing model for award flights rather than a simple award chart so the number of miles you need now depends largely on the cash price of a ticket. Dynamic pricing can result in more costly award seats, but it can also help you get better deals on award fares outside the busy season or on less popular routes.

By comparison, American Airlines miles are worth about 1.2 cents each (and they have an award chart with predictable award prices), Delta SkyMiles are worth 1.2 cents each (with similar dynamic pricing), Miles & More miles are worth around 1.4 cents each, and Avios are worth 1.5 cents each.

How to Earn United MileagePlus Miles

The MileagePlus program gives you more than a dozen ways to earn miles, from flying on United Airlines and partner airlines to shopping, dining, and staying at partner hotels. Here's a look at the many ways to earn United MileagePlus miles and begin earning award flights.

Fly with United

As a MileagePlus member, you earn United Airlines miles when you fly on United and United Express operated flights. The number of miles earned is based on your MileagePlus elite status, fare class, ticketing airline, and operating airline.

When you fly United, you earn miles based on the fare whereas you will earn miles based on flight distance and fare class with Star Alliance and non-alliance partners with tickets issued by an airline other than United. In the past, you would earn miles based on the miles flown, but United has changed to a fare-based system.

Here's how the bonus miles break down based on MileagePlus status on United flights or tickets on partners issued by United.

Fly with United Partners

You don't just earn miles on United Airlines flights -- you also earned MileagePlus miles when you fly with a United Star Alliance or non-alliance partner and use your MileagePlus number.

How miles are earned depends on how you book the flight and how it's ticketed.

When a flight is booked through United and ticketed with a United ticket number, you'll earn miles just as if you were on a United-operated flight and miles will be based on the base fare and MileagePlus status.

When the ticket is booked through a partner airline, miles are based on the flight distance and fare class.

Because mileage rates vary by partner airline, you'll need to check your booking class then review the list of United partner airlines to see how many miles you will earn.

Use a United Credit Card

Want to earn United miles fast? The United credit cards are the perfect way to earn thousands of United miles -- even without flying! United MileagePlus credit cards are issued by Chase and there are four United credit cards, including one business card and a United card that doesn't actually earn United miles or offer travel perks like free checked bags.

United credit cards offer a very unique and valuable perk. Along with earning miles, United credit cards give you expanded award availability. While miles are easy to earn, it can be tricky to find available award space on a flight. With a United card, you'll have more award seats available with the "XN" class reserved for cardholders and those with MileagePlus elite status. Note that the expanded saver award availability only applies to economy class award seats.

Here's an overview of the United credit cards that can help you earn United award flights even faster.

United Explorer Card

  • $95 annual fee (waived the first year)
  • 65,000 bonus miles: 40,000 miles after $2,000 in purchases during the first 90 days and another 25,000 miles after spending $10,000 in the first 6 months
  • 2x United miles on United purchases, restaurants, and hotel stays booked directed through hotels
  • 1x United miles on all other spending
  • Complimentary TSA Precheck or Global Entry
  • First checked bag free
  • 2 United Club passes per year

The United Explorer card is an entry-level airline card that actually offers impressive benefits including bonus miles at hotels and restaurants, two United Club passes every year, Global Entry (a $100 value), and -- importantly -- access to additional award space.

United Club Card

  • $450 annual fee
  • 50,000 bonus miles when you spend $3,000 in the first 90 days
  • 2x miles on United purchases
  • 1.5x miles on everything else
  • United Club membership
  • First and second checked bag free
  • Expanded award availability

The annual fee may be high, but the United Club card is worthwhile if you travel frequently on United. In addition to lounge access, you'll earn boosted United Airline miles on all spending plus get expanded award availability. You can use your miles to book any United flight with no blackout dates or restrictions. That's a major perk since award availability is the biggest problem with airline loyalty programs.

United TravelBank Card

  • $0 annual fee
  • $150 in TravelBank cash after spending $1,000 in the first 90 days
  • 2% in TravelBank cash on United tickets
  • 1.5% in TravelBank cash on all other spending

The United TravelBank card is a good choice if you don't travel often but tend to fly United. You won't get free checked bags or other perks common with airline credit cards, but the card has no annual fee and it does help you earn free or reduced cost United flights without worrying about award seat availability or blackout dates. $1 in TravelBank cash is equal to $1 when used to buy United tickets.

United Explorer Business Card

  • $95 annual fee
  • 50,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 during the first 90 days and 50,000 miles after spending $25,000 within the first 6 months
  • 2x United miles at United, restaurants, gas stations, and office supply stores
  • 1x United miles on everything else
  • Free checked bag on United flights
  • 2 United Club passes every year
  • Access to additional award space

The United Explorer Business card is very similar to the regular United Explorer card except it offers an even more impressive welcome offer plus bonus miles at gas stations and office supply stores but not hotel stays. Only the personal version of the card includes free Global Entry or TSA Precheck.

Earn a United Credit Card Welcome Bonus

Want to know how to earn United miles fast? Qualify for a United credit card welcome bonus and get enough points for several award flights. Credit card offers change regularly and depend on the United card, but you can earn up to 50,000 or even 100,000 United miles once you meet the spending requirement within the first 3-6 months.

Right now, you can earn 50,000 bonus miles with the premium United Club card or up to 65,000 bonus miles with the popular United Explorer card. With access to additional award space as a United cardmember, you'll be taking your first award flight in no time.

Earn Refer-a-Friend Bonus Miles

If you have one of the United credit cards, you may be eligible for a refer-a-friend bonus from United. Referral bonuses change occasionally and not all cards are eligible.

Currently, United Explorer cardholders can earn 10,000 bonus miles for every referred friend who gets approved for the card and up to 50,000 bonus miles per year.

Stay with United Hotel Partners

You don't need to earn hotel points when you stay at major hotel chains. If you'd rather earn miles or you aren't committed to a single hotel brand, you can earn United Airlines miles instead.

Want to know how to earn United miles at hotels? The United MileagePlus program gives you several options to earn miles by booking through a partner booking service or directly at over 15,000 hotels around the world.

Hotel Booking Sites

Don't want to book directly with a hotel or don't belong to a hotel loyalty program? You can earn United Airlines miles by booking through one of three hotel booking websites:

  • United Hotels powered by Hotels.com offers United MileagePlus member deals and earns 2x United miles on your stay.
  • Rocketmiles allows you to earn 1,000 to 10,000 United miles per night.
  • PointsHound allows you to earn up to 10,000 miles per night.

United Hotels works just like Hotels.com with a flat 2 miles per dollar. Rocketmiles and PointsHound are competitors that vary in a couple of ways. Rocketmiles has a curated selection of hotels with more limited options and sometimes higher prices than elsewhere. Pointshound works like Expedia and allows you to book almost anywhere with a low-price guarantee, but this sometimes means you earn fewer miles.

Marriott Bonvoy Partnership

Marriott Bonvoy and United have a lucrative RewardsPlus partnership if you're a member of both loyalty programs. You can enjoy reciprocal elite status if you're a United MileagePlus Premier Gold, Platinum, or 1K member to get complimentary Marriott Gold elite status. With Marriott Bonvoy Titanium or Ambassador elite status, you get complimentary United Premier Silver status. You can also convert Marriott Bonvoy points to United miles or even transfer United miles to Marriott.

The best benefit of the partnership? When you pair United flights with Marriott stays, you can earn Marriott Bonvoy points AND United miles to double dip. With this perk, you get 500 bonus miles per completed Marriott stay if you have Marriott Gold elite status or higher.

If you convert Marriott Bonvoy points to United MileagePlus miles, you get 5,000 bonus miles for every 60,000 Marriott points you transfer at a 3 points to 1 mile ratio.

Earn United Miles Through Hotel Loyalty Programs

In addition to the Marriott partnership, United Airlines partners with other loyalty programs. You can set United MileagePlus as your preferred earning option to earn United miles for hotel stays instead of hotel points with the following loyalty programs:

  • Marriott Bonvoy: Earn 1-2x United miles depending on the Marriott brand by selecting MileagePlus as your earning preference.
  • Hilton Honors: You can no longer earn miles instead of points, but Hilton points can be transferred to United at a ratio of 10,000 points to 1,000 miles.
  • IHG Rewards Club: Earn 2x United miles at most IHG brands (1x miles at extended stay brands) when you choose United as your earning preference.
  • World of Hyatt: Earn 500 United miles per stay when you use your MileagePlus number at check-in.
  • Choice Privileges Rewards: Earn 250 United miles per stay when you use your MileagePlus number at check-in.
  • Radisson Rewards: Earn United miles at Radisson when you choose MileagePlus as your earning preference.
  • Wyndham Rewards: Earn 1x United miles as a Blue or Gold member and 2x United miles as a Platinum or Diamond member in Wyndham Rewards when you choose MileagePlus as the earning preference.
  • Accor Live Limitless: Earn United miles when you choose United as your earning preference.
  • Golden Circle: 500 United miles per stay at Golden Circle hotels when you use your MileagePlus number at check-in.

Earn United Miles with Transportation Partners

From car rental and rail partners to airport transportation, you can earn United miles with several transportation partners on your next trip.

United's exclusive car rental partner is Hertz, plus Thrifty and Dollar, both earned by Hertz. To earn miles on Hertz car rentals, you need to book with your United MileagePlus account and use discount code CDP 62455. The miles you earn depends on your MileagePlus status:

  • MileagePlus members: 500 miles per rental
  • MileagePlus Chase cardmembers: 750 miles per rental
  • MileagePlus Premier Silver and Premier Gold members: 1,000 miles per rental
  • MileagePlus Premier Platinum and Premier 1K members: 1,250 miles per rental

With Dollar and Thrift, you will earn 50 United miles per day on rentals of 1-4 days or 500 miles per rental of 5+ days.

GroundLink rides also earn United miles. GroundLink is a black-car vehicle service with professional drivers aimed toward professional and business travelers who need scheduled rides. You'll earn 200 miles for every GroundLink ride.

You can also earn United miles on Amtrak. You earn 500 miles for every Business class segment and 750 miles for every First class segment on Acela Express trains at select stations and 250 to 325 United miles on qualifying Coach and Business class fares when you fly United and make a connection at select destinations.

Transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards Points to United

Sitting on a lot of Chase Ultimate Rewards points? You can transfer Ultimate Rewards points to United MileagePlus at a 1:1 ratio in 1,000-point increments. However, this may not be the best use of your Chase points, which are among the most valuable in the industry. You may also get a better deal on a flight by booking directly through the Chase travel portal rather than transferring the points to miles.

Shop Through the United MileagePlus Shopping Portal

One of the most lucrative ways to earn miles outside of flying is the MileagePlus shopping portal. It's easy to overlook shopping for earning miles, but you can get anywhere from 1x to 20x miles at more than 900 retailers. After signing up for a free account, you can use the portal to earn miles on top of any miles you earn using one of the United credit cards.

There are also frequent promotions to learn bonus miles through the shopping portal, potentially earning 1,000 or more bonus miles on top of what you earn at your favorite retailers.

Dine with the MileagePlus Dining Program

Love to dine out? The MileagePlus Dining program rewards you with up to 5x miles when you dine at participating restaurants. To earn miles on dining, you need to sign up for a free MileagePlus Dining account linked to your account then link the debit and credit cards you'll use for dining. You can earn up to 3,000 bonus miles during your first 30 days by spending at least $25 at a participating restaurant in the program.

Earn United Miles with Financial Partners

Planning to take out a personal loan or mortgage? If you use one of United's partners, you can earn thousands of United miles!

With Quicken Loans, you can earn 25,000 points when you take out a mortgage or refinance your home loan.

Need a personal loan? Use your MileagePlus number with Lending Club and earn 1x United miles up to 40,000 miles.

Other Ways to Earn United Miles

Need more ways to earn miles with United Airlines? Here are some other options that can be lucrative.

  • eGift cards. Buy eGift cards through MileagePlus and earn bonus miles. The number of miles depends on the retailer. You can also sell gift cards you don't want for miles.
  • MileagePlus Golf. Golfers can earn 4x miles for tee time reservations and at least 4x miles on golf equipment and gear.
  • United Vacations. Book a trip for exclusive offers and bonus mile offers. Use a United card and earn an extra 2x miles as United Vacations count as United purchases.
  • Take a cruise with United Cruises. Earn up to 45,000 United miles (60,000 as a United cardmember) when you book a cruise.
  • Sign up for LifeLock and earn up to 13,000 miles.
  • Buy United miles. You can buy miles for $35 per 1,000 miles plus taxes and fees. You need to buy at least 2,000 miles. Sometimes United Airlines offers bonuses, but it's usually not worthwhile to buy miles unless you're very close to an award.

Wrap Up

While the MileagePlus program has some quirks, United is one of the biggest U.S. and global airlines with dozens of partner airlines where you can earn and redeem miles. The MileagePlus program gives you plenty of options for earning miles, even without stepping foot on an airplane, to redeem for award flights with possibly the industry's best saver award availability.


What is United Airlines MileagePlus? What are the benefits?

MileagePlus is United's frequent flyer program that allows you to earn and redeem miles for award flights on United and its partner airlines. By earning elite status, members can earn free upgrades, priority boarding, free checked bags, and other perks.

How can I earn United miles?

There are many ways to earn United Airlines miles:

  • Fly with United Airlines
  • Fly with partner airlines
  • Use a United MileagePlus credit card
  • Stay with United hotel partners
  • Earn miles through hotel loyalty programs
  • Earn miles with transportation partners
  • Transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to United
  • Shop through the MileagePlus shopping portal
  • Dine with the MileagePlus Dining program
  • Earn miles with financial partners
  • Shop with other United partners
  • Buy United miles

Which credit cards earn United miles?

There are three credit cards that earn MileagePlus miles:

  • United Explorer Card ($95 annual fee)
  • United Club Card ($450 annual fee)
  • United Explorer Business Card ($95 annual fee)

Is a United credit card worth it?

Absolutely, if you want to earn award flights faster. A United card allows you to earn miles on all spending with perks when you fly United and automatic elite status in MileagePlus to earn miles faster.

What are United MileagePlus miles worth?

United miles are worth about 1.3 cents each, but the value depends on how they're used.

Who are United MileagePlus partners?

United is part of the Star Alliance with alliance partners that include: Aegan, 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 Air, LOT Polish Airlines, Lufthansa, Scandinavian Airlines, Shenzhen Airlines, Singapore Airlines, South African Airways, Swiss International Air Lines, TAP Air Portugal, Thai Airways, Turkish Airlines

Non-alliance partners include: Aer Lingus, Aeromar, Air Dolomiti, Azul, Boutique Air, Cape Air, Edelweiss, Eurowings, Hawaiian Airlines, Olympic Air, and Silver Airways.

When do United MileagePlus miles expire?

United miles do not expire. They used to expire after 18 months of inactivity, but that, fortunately, has changed.

How can I get United miles fast?

The fastest ways to get miles in MileagePlus are flying with United and partner airlines, using a United credit card, shopping through the MileagePlus shopping portal, and staying at partner hotels.

Can I transfer miles with United Airlines?

You can transfer up to 100,000 United miles to another MileagePlus account at $7.50 per 500 miles transferred.

How many miles does it take for a free flight on United?

United no longer publishes an award chart and has switched to dynamic pricing that makes it tricky to figure out how many miles you need for an award flight. As a general rule, you usually need at least 5,000 miles for a one-way short domestic flight.

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