Want to collect miles with the largest airline alliance in the world – Star Alliance?

Then you may want to go through the United MileagePlus program – letting you use your miles on United, Star Alliance carriers, and several other partners as well.

To complete your travel plans, you’ll be able to earn and redeem miles on flights, car rentals, hotels, and cruises – plus several other non-travel options.

And, to earn miles on every purchase, Chase offers 3 United credit cards to make it even easier to pad your account with more points.

Let’s dive into the MileagePlus program, and see what it has to offer.

Related: Best Airline Credit Cards

United MileagePlus at a glance

Value of a MileagePlus mile: High: $0.013 for flights
Low: $0.0055 for gift cards
Ways to redeem MileagePlus Miles: * Flights – 1.3 cents per mile (CPM)
* Car rentals – 0.92 CPM
* Cruises – 0.84 CPM
* Hotels – 0.79 CPM
* Apple merchandise – 0.77 CPM
* Merchandise – 0.69 CPM
* Gift cards – 0.55 CPM
* Experiences
* Donations
How to earn MileagePlus Miles: * Flights
* Hotels
* Car Rentals
* Amtrak
* Other partners
* 3 credit cards
Who these rewards are good for: * World travellers
Frequently Asked Questions: * Level of flexibility? Medium
* Blackout dates? No
* Do rewards expire? No
* Rewards cover taxes and fees? No
* Can these rewards be transferred? No
* Is there a way to earn rewards faster? Yes
* How to access MileagePlus login
* United customer service contact info

Calculating the value of a United MileagePlus mile

What are your options for redeeming your United MileagePlus miles? Here’s a low down of all the different ways they can be used.

Redeem United MileagePlus miles for flights – 1.3 CPM

Using miles for flights is probably option #1 when it comes to redeeming miles, and that’s true for most travel rewards programs.

We surveyed 19 different flights, with destinations in the U.S., Canada, as well as Europe and Asia.

We came to an average value of 1.3 cents per mile. You can review the flights we surveyed here.

Overall, there wasn’t much difference in value when it came to where you used your miles – they all had roughly the same value. A few of our flights were even operated by other Star Alliance carriers as well, not just United.

Details on flight redemptions

United uses a base chart to determine how many miles you need for a flight. It generally wasn’t hard to find flights that needed the least miles, provided you had a little flexibility in your dates.

And if you aren’t flexible? You can still access any seat on United flights, but you may have to pay more miles for your rewards ticket.

A nice part of the program? The taxes and fees bills were the same, no matter which carrier you choose. Many programs (like Delta and American) have differing taxes and fees depending on which carrier you booked.

As an example, our Denver to Frankfurt flight had 2 choices for airlines – United or Lufthansa. No matter which airline you chose to use, the taxes and fees bill was identical. You can rest assured that the taxes and fees you have to pay won’t change based on the airline you’re booking with.

As one last bonus, if flights to Canada are your game, then United is the best choice, regardless of where you live.

Why? One of their major Star Alliance partners is Air Canada, which offers the most flights between the U.S. & Canada. You’ll be able to use MileagePlus miles to fly to a host of Canadian cities, from more than 60 cities in the U.S. You won’t be limited to just traveling from United hubs if you want to fly to Canada.

Redeem United MileagePlus miles for car rentals – 0.92 CPM

The next most valuable redemption option is rental cars.

The United rental car booking tool is powered by rentalcars.com. You’ll be able to book cars on Hertz, Dollar, and Thrifty.

We came to an average value of 0.92 cents per mile on rental cars. You can see our results here.

Redeem United MileagePlus miles for cruises – 0.84 CPM

Want to book yourself a cruise and sail the high seas with your miles?

There’s a wide range of options available.

We test booked several cruises and got the same value for all of them – 0.84 cents per mile.

When booking a cruise, you also have the option to pay with a combination of cash and miles if you prefer.

Redeem United MileagePlus miles for hotels – 0.79 CPM

You can use your miles for free hotel stays as well.

The United hotel booking tool is powered by Hotels.com. A nice feature is that you can choose whether you want a flexible booking that can be cancelled at anytime, or one that can’t be cancelled but needs fewer miles to book.

However, hotel stays come in with the least value among the travel redemptions – 0.79 cents per mile. Our test bookings were all non-refundable so we could get the best value.

You can view our numbers here.

Redeem United MileagePlus miles for Apple merchandise – 0.77 CPM

Big Apple fan? If so, you can use miles to get yourself some free Apple gear.

MileagePlus has its own Apple store shopping portal. Anything you can buy online through the regular Apple store is also available through MileagePlus.

We came to an average mile value of 0.77 cents per mile. Here are the items we surveyed:

Apple Product Miles Required Actual Cost* Value Of 1 Mile
13-inch MacBook Air – Silver – 128 GB 146,600 $988.90 $0.0067
21.5-inch iMac with Retina 4K display, 1 TB, 3.6 GHz quad-core 173,200 $1,318.90 $0.0076
iPhone 11 64GB Black 93,200 $768.90 $0.0083
Apple Watch Series 3 GPS, 38mm Silver Aluminum Case with White Sport Band 26,600 $218.90 $0.0082

*Price as found on the Apple Store, with a sales tax of 10% added on top.

Redeem United MileagePlus miles for other merchandise – 0.69 CPM

There’s also a wide range of other merchandise items available as well. You can view the full catalog here.

The catalog doesn’t give much value for your miles – 0.69 cents per mile.

Here are the items we surveyed:

Merchandise Miles Required Actual Cost* Value Of 1 Mile
Amazon Blink XT2 1-Camera System 13,600 $98.99 $0.0073
Avanti 1.4 CuFt Microwave Oven – White 26,400 $142.99 $0.0054
Amazon 7” Fire 7 Tablet 16GB with Case (9th Gen) 10,400 $54.99 $0.0053
Citizen Eco-Drive Garrison Watch 18,400 $179.29 $0.0097
808 Hex TLS Bluetooth Speaker 8,700 $65.51 $0.0075
LG 32” 720p HD LED TV with HDMI Cable 34,000 $164.95 $0.0049
BabyBjorn Bouncer Balance Soft Cotton 27,100 $219.95 $0.0081
Anolon 17-Piece Knife Block Set 24,600 $175.99 $0.0072
American Tourister Zoom 22” Wheeled Duffel – Black 12,900 $62.69 $0.0049
Garmin Dash Cam 46 21,500 $181.49 $0.0084

* Prices as found on Amazon, with 10% sales tax added on top.

Redeem United MileagePlus miles for gift cards – 0.55 CPM

The last item for getting free stuff with your redemptions are gift cards. There’s a wide range to choose from, with many denominations available.

Gift cards all gave the same value of 0.55 cents per mile – the worst redemption option available.

Redeem United MileagePlus miles for experiences

To get some experiences that money can’t buy, you can use your miles for exclusive experiences.

There’s a wide range of experiences to bid on. You can find the most up to date listing here.

But what value do you get out of it? It all depends on how much you value what you’re getting in return. Some experiences can be priceless, making it hard to put a dollar value on your miles.

Redeem United MileagePlus miles for donations

The last redemption option is to donate your miles to charity.

There are all kinds of charities to choose from. You can find the full list here.

Earning United MileagePlus Miles

Now that you know how you can redeem your miles, how do you earn them?

Here are all the ways you can earn MileagePlus miles.

Earn United MileagePlus Miles by flying

The fastest way to earn miles is by flying with United and their airline partners.

Let’s start with flights operated by United then check out partner airline flights that were purchased through United (shown by the ticket number beginning with 016).

With United-operated flights (or sold by United), you earn miles based on the base airfare and carrier surcharges you paid. You don’t earn miles on any taxes and fees.

Basic members earn 5x the miles based on the fare paid. So, say the base fare was $200, you’d earn 1,000 miles for this flight. If you’re a MileagePlus Premier member, the multiplier increases depending on your current status.

If you’re flying on Star Alliance or other partner carriers, you earn miles based on the actual distance flown, with a multiplier based on the fare class flown.

To see the full details, United has this page for all the information. You can also view all Star Alliance and other partners here.

Earn United MileagePlus Miles with hotel stays

But flights aren’t the only way to earn miles on your travels. When you stay at select hotel chains, you can earn United MileagePlus miles in lieu of the hotel chain’s points.

How much you earn depends on the hotel partner. The details for all their partners can be found here.

You can also earn bonus miles when you book hotels through United Airlines itself.

Related: Score Hotel Discounts With The Best Hotel Credit Cards

Earn United MileagePlus Miles with car rentals

For the last major expense of your travel, you can also earn miles while renting cars.

Hertz, Dollar, and Thrifty are partners with United Airlines. The earn rates vary by partner and you can see the details here.

Earn United MileagePlus Miles with Amtrak

Flying on United, then connecting onto an Amtrak train in the North East? You can earn more miles as you continue your journey by rail.

Here’s the details on how it works:

Amtrak United partnership details

Earn United MileagePlus Miles with other partners

There are a few other minor travel partners you can earn miles with as well.

Who they are and how much you can earn with them can be viewed here.

United MileagePlus Chase cards

To earn miles on everyday purchases (or to double dip with United Partners), you’ll want to get a United MileagePlus credit card.

Chase is the issuer of 3 United personal credit cards. Here’s an overview of each of them.

Related: Save Money Every Time You Fly – Credit Cards With Airline Miles

United Explorer Card

The standard offering is the .

Earn 40,000 bonus miles after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months. And for a limited time (until January 9, 2020), earn an additional 25,000 bonus miles when you spend $10,000 in the first 6 months.

On top of your bonus, here’s what you’ll earn on all your purchases:

  • 2 miles per $1 on United purchases,
  • 2 miles per $1 on restaurants and hotel accommodations booked directly with the hotel, and
  • 1 mile per $1 on all other purchases.

On top of all these miles, it comes with a host of benefits when actually flying on United as well, like:

  • free first checked bag,
  • priority boarding,
  • 25% back on in-flight purchases.

It also offers no foreign exchange fees, plus up to $100 statement credit to reimburse Global Entry or TSA Precheck fees every 4 years.

And that’s all for an annual fee of $95, which is waived for the first year.

United TravelBank Card

Prefer if your card had no annual fee? Then take a look at the .

A key difference with this card though is that you don’t earn miles. Instead, you earn dollars (called TravelBank cash) you can use to pay for United tickets. And you can combine these dollars with other select forms of payment as well.

So what will you earn? First, you’ll get $150 in TravelBank cash after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months.

On top of that you’ll earn 2% in TravelBank cash on United purchases, and 1.5% back on everything else.

And while the only other benefits are a 25% discount on United inflight purchases and no foreign transaction fees, for no annual fee you’ll still be getting plenty of rewards to save on United flights.

United Club Card

For the most lavish perks, the may be your card.

For a $450 annual fee, it offers quite a bit to make your travels more relaxing.

First, you’ll earn 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months.

You’ll also earn plenty of miles on your everyday purchases:

  • 2 miles per $1 on United purchases, and
  • 1.5 miles per $1 on all other purchases.

The perks you receive however? Top notch.

First, you’ll be able to get unlimited access to United Club lounges, as well as participating Star Alliance lounges worldwide. This is worth up to $650 per year, covering the annual fee (and then some) on its own.

Then, get Premier Access travel services. These include:

  • priority check-in,
  • priority security screening (where available),
  • priority boarding, and
  • priority baggage handling.

You’ll also receive 2 free checked bags on all United flights, as well as a 25% discount on United inflight purchases and no foreign transaction fees.

Is the $450 worth it to get all this? That’s for you to decide.

United MileagePlus questions and answers

Here are some common questions and answers on United MileagePlus.

How flexible are these rewards?

These are somewhat flexible rewards, in that they can be used on United as well as their partners for flights. Not to mention you can book any United flight, though it may take more miles to book some of them.

But to get the best value, you’re limited to flight redemptions.

Are there blackout dates?

No, there are no blackout dates on flights operated by United only. That being said, partner carriers may have blackout dates.

Do these rewards expire?

No, provided you make a transaction on your account at least once every 12 months.

Can you use miles to cover taxes & fees?

For flights, you can’t use miles to cover taxes and fees. For hotel and car rentals, however, your miles do cover taxes and fees.

Can these rewards be transferred?

No, these rewards can’t be transferred to other programs.

Is there a way to earn rewards faster?

Yes, by using both your United loyalty card and credit card when booking flights, hotels, and car rentals.

How to access your MileagePlus login

To access your Mileageplus account, head to united.com and click on “sign in” in the top navigation bar.

MileagePlus customer service contact info

To contact MileagePlus, you can reach them at 1-800-421-4655 in the U.S. or Canada.

Other ways to reach them can be viewed here.

In conclusion

United MileagePlus offers you the chance to use miles for all facets of your journey.

And with Star Alliance carriers and other partners at your disposal, if United can’t get you where you want to go, there’s a carrier that will.

What are your thoughts on United MileagePlus?

Let us know in the comments below.