Everything You Need to Know About United MileagePlus [In-Depth Guide]

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While it's gone through many changes United's MileagePlus remains one of the most valuable airline loyalty programs.

Among U.S. frequent flyer programs, United MileagePlus offers the most ways to earn and use airline miles. It also offers perks you don't get with other programs.

Along with many redemption sweet spots, the MileagePlus program is known for its great economy award availability — a huge benefit as earning miles doesn't mean much if you can't use them!

MileagePlus also doesn't pass on fuel surcharges and it has relaxed award rules that help you maximize the value of your miles.

Ready to get started with the MileagePlus program?

Here's a complete overview of the frequent flyer program, including how to earn and use miles, how to reach MileagePlus Premier status and what it gets you.

United MileagePlus Program Basics

It's easy to sign up for MileagePlus to start earning miles and working your way toward Premier status.

In fact, you can earn miles toward free flights without even flying!

Here are the basics of the program to help you get started.

What is United MileagePlus?

Launched in 1979, United MileagePlus is the frequent flyer program for United Airlines. The program is free to join and allows you to earn United miles that can be redeemed for free flights and upgrades on United, Star Alliance airlines, and United's non-alliance partners.

The program also allows you to earn elite status through United spending and flight segments.

As you earn elite status, you'll get perks like free checked bags, priority boarding, and waived fees.

How to Enroll in United MileagePlus

It's easy to sign up for MileagePlus in just a few minutes.

Go to the MileagePlus enrollment page and provide basic information including your name, contact information, and email to get your unique MileagePlus member number.

You'll use your member number when you fly United, book flights on partner airlines, or with partners like financial partners, hotel partners, and rental car partners to earn miles.

MileagePlus Airline Partners

United MileagePlus has more than 35 partners. You can earn and redeem United miles on all of its partner airlines.

United Airlines is part of the Star Alliance with 25 partner airlines:

  • Aegean
  • Air Canada
  • Air China
  • Air India
  • Air New Zealand
  • ANA
  • Asiana Airlines
  • Austrian
  • Avianca
  • Brussels Airlines
  • Copa Airlines
  • Croatia Airlines
  • Egyptair
  • Ethiopian
  • EVA Air
  • LOT Polish Airlines
  • Lufthansa
  • SAS (Scandinavian Airlines)
  • Shenzhen Airlines,
  • Singapore Airlines
  • South African Airways
  • Swiss
  • TAP Air Portugal
  • Thai Airways
  • Turkish Airlines

United also has 12 non-alliance partners:

  • Aer Lingus
  • Aeromar
  • Air Dolomiti
  • Azul
  • Boutique Air
  • Cape Air
  • Edelweiss
  • Eurowings
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Olympic Air
  • Silver Airways
  • Vistara

United MileagePlus Elite Status

After joining MileagePlus, you'll start earning Premier Qualifying Points (PQPs) on flights that help you earn elite status.

As you achieve MileagePlus Premier status, you can enjoy benefits like complimentary flight upgrades with PlusPoints, preferred seating, waived fees, and more.

The program has four elite status levels:

  • Premier Silver
  • Premier Gold
  • Premier Platinum
  • Premier 1K

There's also a fifth level: United Global Services.

It's an invitation-only status with unpublished requirements. Most members spend thousands each year on full-fare tickets.

Here's how to reach elite status in United's frequent flyer program and what each status level offers.

How to Earn United MileagePlus Elite Status

There are a few ways to earn Premier status in MileagePlus:

  • Earn a minimum number of Premier Qualifying Points (PQP) on United or partner airlines
  • Reach the threshold of Premier Qualifying Flights (PQF) and PQPs
  • Spend with a United Explorer or United Club card
  • Reciprocal elite status through Marriott Bonvoy

United introduced a major overhaul to its Premier status qualifications in 2020. Under the old system, you needed a combination of Premier Qualifying Dollars and Premier Qualifying Miles or Premier Qualifying Segments.

Since January 1, 2020, you the number of miles you fly no longer matters.

United MileagePlus is now one of the few frequent flyer programs that does not use distance as a qualification for elite benefits.

Now, you need either a combination of Premier Qualifying Points and Premier Qualifying Flights or just a higher number of PQPs.

How to Earn PQP and PQF

Each flight or segment counts as a single Premier Qualifying Flight (PQF). All flight classes are worth 1 PQF except basic economy tickets which don't earn PQF.

You earn 1 Premier Qualifying Point (PQP) for every $1 you spend on:

  • Base fare on United
  • Surcharges
  • Economy Plus seating
  • Preferred seat bookings
  • Paid upgrades
  • Co-pays for MileagePlus Upgrade Awards

You also earn PQP on flights operated by Star Alliance partners at a reduced rate.

With preferred partners, your award miles are divided by 5; with a MileagePlus partner, your award miles are divided by 6.

You can also earn PQP with a United credit card. PQP earning depends on the credit card.

You'll earn 500 PQP per $12,000 in spending (up to 1,000 PQP per year applied up to Premier Platinum status) with:

You'll earn 500 PQP per $12,000 in spending (up to 3,000 PQP per year applied up to Premier 1K status) with:

  • United MileagePlus Select Card*
  • United MileagePlus Platinum Class Visa*

You'll earn 500 PQP per $12,000 in spending (up to 10,000 PQP per year applied up to 1K status) with:

  • United Presidential Plus Card
  • United Presidential Plus Business Card*

* These cards are no longer available for new applicants.

PQF and PQP Needed for United Elite Status

You can earn a combination of PQP and PQF or just PQP to reach an elite status tier. Under the new program changes, here's what you need for each tier.

  • Premier Silver: 12 PQF + 4,000 PQP OR 5,000 PQP
  • Premier Gold: 24 PQF + 8,000 PQP OR 10,000 PQP
  • Premier Platinum: 36 PQF + 12,000 PQP OR 15,000 PQP
  • Premier 1K: 54 PQF + 18,000 PQP OR 24,000 PQP

The Million Miler program allows you to earn lifetime elite status in MileagePlus. Lifetime status is still earned by lifetime flight miles:

  • 1 million miles: Lifetime Premier Gold
  • 2 million miles: Lifetime Premier Platinum
  • 3 million miles: Lifetime Premier 1K
  • 4 million miles: United Global Services

With lifetime status, you can invite a significant other to share your Premier status.

United Elite Status Benefits

As you reach each Premier level in the program, you can unlock travel benefits with United including more miles earned on flights. Here are the perks included with each status level.

Premier Silver

  • 7x miles earned on flights
  • Complimentary Premier upgrades
  • Complimentary Economy Plus
  • 1 complimentary checked bag

Premier Gold

  • 8x miles earned on flights
  • 2 complimentary checked bags
  • Complimentary Economy Plus
  • Star Alliance Gold status

Premier Platinum

  • 9x miles earned on flights
  • 3 complimentary checked bags
  • Complimentary Economy Plus for you and up to 8 companions
  • Improved award availability for select premium cabins
  • 40 PlusPoints

Premier 1K

  • 11x miles earned on flights
  • Pre-boarding
  • 1 free snack and drink in economy
  • Complimentary CLEAR annual membership
  • 280 PlusPoints

Along with the benefits above, many of United's fees are waived once you reach a certain Premier status.

The fee to change award travel within 60 days of departure is reduced to $75 at Gold, $50 at Platinum, and waived at 1K.

Phone booking fees and award travel change fees before 61 days are also waived at Platinum level and above.

You can also enjoy perks like:

  • United Club membership discounts (starting at Platinum)
  • Improved award availability in economy
  • Standby for international award flights
  • Complimentary Hertz Gold Plus Rewards status
  • Complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status (starting at Gold)

MileagePlus Complimentary Upgrades

One of the more confusing perks of Premier status in MileagePlus is its upgrade benefit.

There are many ways to qualify for free upgrades with United, depending on your Premier status.

Complimentary Premier Upgrades

Premier members can qualify for space-available, Complimentary Premier Upgrades (CPUs) on select United-operated flights. This perk is available to all Premier members and companions on the same reservation as long as you do not book a full-fare Economy ticket, not basic economy.

You can qualify for a CPU as soon as you book your flight if you're in a Y- or B-class fare. M-class fare upgrades are only available for 1K Premier members. This will be done automatically.

To qualify for a CPU, you must be flying in one of these regions:

  • Continental U.S. (not premium, transcontinental service)
  • Hawaii (only West Coast departures)
  • Alaska
  • Mexico
  • Canada
  • Central America
  • Caribbean
  • Oceania

The window for confirmation of CPUs depends on your elite status:

Status LevelUpgrade Window
Premier SilverDay of departure
Premier Gold48 hours
Premier Platinum72 hours
Premier 1K96 hours

Award flights aren't eligible for CPUs but you can get around this if you have a United credit card.

United PlusPoints

Prior to 2019, United offered Platinum and 1K members Regional Premier Upgrades and Global Premier Upgrades to upgrade flights. These have been replaced with a new system: PlusPoints.

Premier Platinum, 1K, and Global Services members earn the following PlusPoints:

  • 40 PlusPoints after reaching Platinum
  • 280 PlusPoints after reaching 1K or Global Services
  • 20 PlusPoints for each subsequent 3,000 PQPs (only 1K and Global Services members)

PlusPoints can be used to upgrade any flight operated by United, Lufthansa, Copa, or ANA. They can be used to upgrade several segments on the same itinerary and you can confirm an upgrade as soon as booking and up to departure.

The number of PlusPoints you need to upgrade depends on whether it's a short-haul or long-haul flight, the purchased fare, and the requested seat.

For short-haul flights, you'll need 10 to 20 PlusPoints to upgrade to Premium Plus, First, or Business.

Here's how much it costs to upgrade for long-haul flights:

How to Earn United MileagePlus Miles

You have many ways to earn United miles in the program — even without flying United! Here are the many ways to start earning United MileagePlus miles toward your next award flight.

Fly on United

As you can imagine, you'll earn the most United miles when you book United flights, especially if you use a United credit card.

You'll earn miles on the base fare but the number of miles depends on your MileagePlus status.

All MileagePlus members earn 5x miles on the base fare. With Premier status, you earn bonus points when you fly United:

Status LevelBonus Points Earned
Premier Silver2x miles
Premier Gold3x miles
Premier Platinum4x miles
Premier 1K6x miles

For instance, if you book a United flight with a $200 base fare, you would earn 1,400 miles at Silver level and 2,200 miles at 1K level.

There are some exceptions to these mileage earning rates.

Here's the chart for specialty tickets.

You'll earn miles based on the fare class and flight distance for some specialty tickets like unpublished rates when you don't pay the fare directly to United.

Fly on Partner Airlines

You also earn United miles on Star Alliance airlines, but it gets a bit complicated here.

Instead of earning a flat number of miles based on the fare cost, the miles earned depends on how the flight is ticketed.

If you book a partner flight through United (with a ticket number starting with 016), you'll earn miles just as if you booked a United flight.

Book a partner flight with another airline and miles are based on the fare class and flight distance — not the base fare cost.

To make things more confusing, mileage rates also vary by partner. Click here to check how many miles you'll earn on partner flights booked through other airlines.

For example, here's the mileage rates for Hawaiian Airlines:

As you can see, you won't earn a fare class bonus for most fares.

Here's how you'll earn United miles on Lufthansa by comparison.

Use a United Credit Card

One of the fastest ways to earn miles is with a co-branded United credit card. You'll earn miles on all spending with bonus points on United flights.

There are currently five United cards open to new cardholders — three personal and two business cards. One of the personal cards, however, earns TravelBank cash, not miles.

Along with earning miles, you'll also get expanded award availability as a United cardholder. Economy award seats with "XN" class are only for MileagePlus elite members and cardholders.

All four United cards earn an extra 2x miles on United purchases.

The difference in earning rates between the business cards is similar.

  • The United Business Card earns 2x miles on local transit and commuting expenses, gas stations, office supplies, and restaurants and 1x miles on everything else.
  • The earns a flat 1.5x miles on all spending outside of United.

Learn more about earning miles with United credit cards here.

Earn extra United miles when you book hotel stays!

Stay with Hotel Partners

There are many ways to earn United miles when you stay at hotels, whether you book directly with the hotel, belong to a hotel loyalty program, or book through third-party websites.

One option is booking through a booking website:

United has several partnerships with hotel loyalty programs too.

With each partner, you'll typically need to choose at check-in that you want to earn MileagePlus miles instead of hotel points. You'll earn anywhere from 250 miles per stay or 1-2x miles per dollar depending on the brand.

Earn United miles with the following hotel programs:

Note: United and Marriott have a unique RewardsPlus partnership with reciprocal elite status.

If you have at least MileagePlus Premier Gold status, you can receive complimentary Marriott Gold status. With Marriott Bonvoy Titanium status or higher, you get complimentary United Premier Silver status.

This partnership also allows you to earn Marriott points and United miles when you book Marriott stays with United flights.

Transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards Points to MileagePlus

Currently all United credit cards are issued by Chase. Because United partners with Chase, you can transfer Ultimate Rewards points to MileagePlus at a 1:1 ratio.

Just keep in mind this isn't necessarily the best use of Chase points. Make sure you're getting a value of 2.0 cents or more and have an award flight in mind.

You can earn United miles on your next rental car!

Earn Miles on Transportation

Earn miles when you book a rental car or travel on Amtrak. United has the following transportation partners:

  • Hertz
  • Thrifty
  • Dollar
  • GroundLink
  • Amtrak

With Hertz, you'll earn 500-1,250 miles per rental depending on your elite status. You must use discount code CDP 62455 and your MileagePlus number to earn bonus miles.

Dining out can mean earning more United miles when you enroll in MileagePlus Dining

Earn Miles on Dining

With the MileagePlus Dining program, you can earn up to 5x United miles at hundreds of participating restaurants. You'll need to sign up for a free account and link your credit or debit cards to get started.

If you spend at least $25 at a participating restaurant within the first month, you'll get up to 3,000 bonus miles!

Shop using the MileagePlus shopping portal to rack up extra miles

Earn United Miles Shopping

You can earn United MileagePlus miles at more than 900 online retailers through the United MileagePlus shopping portal. Depending on the retailer, you'll earn up to 20x miles plus the miles you earn if you use a United credit card.

The MileagePlus portal has frequent promotions to earn even more bonus points, including limited-time offers to get up to 1,000 bonus points for spending a certain amount within the time limit.

There are also plenty of retailers at which you can earn miles in-store by linking your debit or credit card first.

Other Ways to Earn United Miles

You can also earn United MileagePlus miles with these partners:

  • United Cruises
  • Quicken Loans
  • LifeLock
  • MileagePlus Golf
  • United Vacations
  • eGift cards

How to Redeem United Miles

From award flights on United and its 35+ airline partners to flight upgrades and even experiences, you'll have seemingly endless options for using United miles in the MileagePlus program.

Here's how to use your miles to book award flights and other redemption options available to you.

United MileagePlus Award Chart

Unfortunately United no longer publishes an award chart. MileagePlus switched to dynamic pricing for United and United Express awards which means there isn't a set amount of miles needed to book an award ticket.

This means there is no minimum or maximum price for award prices on United-operated flights, but awards generally start at 5,000 miles and go up to 100,000+ miles.

With dynamic pricing there is not way to know how much a United award flight will cost

If you like to get maximum value for your miles during peak holiday seasons, that's definitely bad news. However, it has made some routes and dates more affordable if you can be flexible with your travel plans.

While there is no United award chart anymore, the good news is United still uses award charts for its partner awards.

You can use United's interactive awards chart to get an idea of the minimum number of miles for one-way flights.

Book Award Flights

You can use MileagePlus miles to book award flights not only on United but also its 35+ Star Alliance and non-alliance partners. The Star Alliance alone flies to more than 1,300 destinations around the world in 98% of countries.

Among U.S. global airlines, United ranks #1 in economy award availability with the most award destinations.

You'll find United MileagePlus has excellent award availability compared to other frequent flyer programs, especially economy awards.

When you book award flights through United, unlike many of its partners and other major carriers like American, you will never pay fuel surcharges — even on partner flights!

United has two types of award flights:

  • Saver awards which are the award seats that require fewer miles
  • Everyday awards which are more widely available but require more miles

Here is an example of United's featured Saver awards:

Pro Tip: With a United credit card such as the United Explorer Card, you'll have access to hidden Saver awards only available to cardholders and MileagePlus Premier members. This expanded award availability is only offered on economy class award flights.

Make sure you read our in-depth guide to using United miles for more information on United award flight rules and the best ways to maximize the value of your miles.

Upgrade Flights with Miles

Along with booking award flights, you can use your United miles to upgrade United and Star Alliance flights.

Just note this usually isn't the best value, although it may be worth it for long-haul international flights.

The amount of miles to upgrade depends on your:

  • Fare class
  • Elite status
  • Travel region

Unless you're booked in B, O, or Y class — or you're a Premier member flying on a select route — you'll have to pay a co-pay.

Here's a sample of what United upgrade awards cost between the mainland U.S. and Europe.

After buying a ticket, go to "Manage Trip" on your MileagePlus account and select "Upgrade Cabin."

If there's upgrade availability, you can buy your upgrade with miles with a co-pay of up to $600. You can also upgrade with miles during the booking process.

You won't get max value, but you can redeem your United miles for gift cards

Other Ways to Use United Miles

There are actually plenty of other ways to redeem United miles, although you'll probably want to stick with award flights and possibly flight upgrades.

You'll usually get a value of 0.5 cents or less per mile with the following redemption options:

  • Gift cards
  • Travel for cruises, rental cars, and hotel stays
  • Merchandise
  • Experiences through MileagePlus Exclusives
  • United Wi-Fi
  • United Club membership
  • TSA Precheck

FAQ

What is the United MileagePlus program?

MileagePlus is United Airlines' frequent flyer program. Earn miles that can be redeemed for award flights on United and partners plus free upgrades and more.

Is United MileagePlus free?

Yes, it's free to join and participate in United MileagePlus.

What are the benefits of United MileagePlus?

You'll earn miles toward free flights on United and its 35+ partners. You also earn elite status with perks like free checked bags and priority boarding.

What credit cards transfer miles to United?

You can transfer Ultimate Rewards points to United with the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve, Chase Ink Business Preferred.

What credit cards earn United miles?

Earn United miles with these credit cards:
United Explorer Card
United Club Card
United TravelBank Card (earns TravelBank cash redeemable at United)
United Business Card
United Club Business Card

What is the best credit card for United miles?

This depends on your travel habits. The United Club Card is worth the $495 annual fee but the United Explorer card earns United miles on several bonus categories.

Who is United Airlines partners with?

United is part of the Star Alliance with 25 other members. United also has 12 non-alliance partners like Hawaiian Airlines and Aer Lingus.

What are United miles worth?

United miles are usually worth about 1.3 cents each. You can get 0.5 to 6.0 cents or more when you use miles for award flights, however.

Do United miles expire?

No, starting in 2019, United miles never expire.

What are the United Airlines status levels?

There are four levels in MileagePlus:
Premier Silver
Premier Gold
Premier Platinum
Premier 1K
There is also an invite-only level called United Global Services.

How do you get Premier status on United?

Earn Premier status by reaching the minimum number of Premier Qualifying Points (PDPs) and Premier Qualifying Flights (PQFs) or a higher number of PQPs.

How do I earn United miles?

Earn United miles in the following ways:
Fly with United or one of its 35+ partners
Use a United credit card
Shop through the MileagePlus shopping portal
Dine through the MileagePlus Dining program
Transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to United
Stay with United hotel partners
Use transportation partners like Hertz
Book a United Vacation
Buy eGift cards

How can I use United miles?

United miles can be used for:
Award flights on United and partners
Seat upgrades on United and Star Alliance partners
Merchandise
Gift cards
Experiences
Travel including rental cars and hotel stays
United Club memberships
United Wi-Fi
TSA Precheck

Extra tips on how to maximize your rewards

Getting the most out of your credit cards is a must. Compare the current best offers with our Card Maximizer tool or take a look at our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2020. Here are the highlights:

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