So you’ve discovered the various ways to earn United miles, but now it’s time to spend them. What are the best ways that you can do so in order to get the most for your money (or rather, your miles)? Points Authority’s 8 best ways to use United Miles covers all the bases, both the best options and the not so great, so you can make the right decision for you.
1. Award Flights
Obviously the first big way to use your United miles is on United award flights. There are two options for this — Saver Awards and Everyday Awards.
With Saver Awards, you can get a ticket for as little as 8,000 miles. Saver Award flights average out to a value of 3.5 cents per mile in business or first class and 2.3 cents per mile in economy class. The Saver Award flights are, however, available on a very limited scale, so you do have to book in advance if you want to take advantage of one of these.
The Everyday Awards are not as good of a value, about 1 cents per mile in economy class and 1.2 cents per mile in business and first class. However, they are much more widely available. As long as there’s a seat on a flight open, you can book it with your miles.
This is really only best, though, when you’re stuck in a bind and need to use your miles for an award flight, and you can’t find a Saver Awards flight, as the value is so much higher with the latter.
Award flights in United’s Polaris class can be a great option, as you can find tickets for as little as 60,000 miles one-way, between the United States and Europe. When going with this option, though, you’ll want to pay close attention to the route you’re flying and the aircraft, as some United flights do not offer the upgraded and relatively new Polaris service. For just 10,000 miles more, you can fly Polaris to Asia.
If you’re just looking for the best value for your award miles, and you can’t find Saver Awards, only Everyday Awards, you can still get great flight options domestically for as little as 10,000 miles, if your flight is fewer than 700 miles.
You can also get good value when you use your miles for other intra-region flights, regardless of where you’re at in the world, so, for example, you can book an intra-African flight for as little as 17,500 miles, or fly business between South American destinations for as little as 30,000 miles.
2. Award Flights on Partner Airlines
United has a range of partner airlines.
These include Star Alliance partners…
And a few other airlines…
All you have to do to book award flights with partners airlines, which can many times be a better value than booking award flights with United, is to search for award tickets when you’re looking for any flight.
There are several partner award routes that give you the best value, though. For example, you can fly first class in Lufthansa for 110,000 miles, normally a $4,000 ticket. You can fly Turkish Airlines business class from 70,000 miles; THAI Airways first class from 145,000 miles; and All Nippon Airways first class from 110,000 miles. But we’ll get into these redemption options further on down the list.
As noted, you can book a Lufthansa first-class flight from the United States for 110,000 miles, and the one-way ticket is generally $4,000 or more. The great thing about booking this Lufthansa flight using your United miles versus another kind of miles or points, is that United does not make you pay the fuel surcharges (which can be hundreds of dollars). Do note that you can only book first-class award seats on Star Alliance partners via United 14 days before departure. That may make you a bit nervous, as it feels like you’re cutting it quite close, but more often than not, there are plenty of award seats available, so you shouldn’t have an issue.
You can also book Turkish Airlines flights for as little as 70,000 miles, if you’re flying between the United States and Europe. For just 80,000 miles, you can fly to Asia and Africa. Turkish Airlines flies to more destinations than any other airline, so you have plenty of options, and its business class is renowned.
If you’re off to Asia, and want to try THAI Airways’ pristine first class, you can do so for 145,000 United miles. While this is a bit more than Lufthansa’s first class, you’ll likely think it’s worth it. The entire first-class flight experience with the airline is top-notch. Just note that currently THAI Airways does not fly to the United States, so you’ll have to work it into your travel plans elsewhere.
All Nippon Airways
All Nippon Airways’ first class is quite nice as well, and a bit more affordable than THAI Airways’ first class, at 110,000 Untied miles for a trip from the United States to Japan.
When you fly between throughout Asia and Oceania, you could redeem your miles with United…or, you could redeem a first-class flight with Singapore Airlines for as little as 40,000 miles between Singapore and Sydney. It’s a great opportunity to do so, as Singapore Airlines has some of the best and most highly lauded first-class service out there.
Air New Zealand
Now, the best value on Air New Zealand might seem steep compared to the mere 40,000 miles you’ll need on Singapore when flying within Asia, but take into consideration how long a flight between the United States and New Zealand really is. When you look at it that way, the 80,000 miles doesn’t seem that bad, especially thanks to Air New Zealand’s posh new business class.
3. The Excursionist Perk
Many United MileagePlus members tout the Excursionist Perk as a way to get the most value for your miles. Basically, you redeem an award flight and then if you have a one-way ticket between two destinations before your return home, that leg of the journey would be free.
For example, if you were flying from the United States to Europe, you could fly from your destination in Europe to another European spot, before returning back home to the States, and that second European stop would be free.
Rules state that your travel must end in the same region your travel began; the one-way flight you receive for free must depart and arrive in the same region; and the cabin of the one-way flight must be the same or lower than the previous flight.
4. In-Flight Upgrades
You can also use your miles to upgrade. MileagePlus Upgrade Awards allows you to use your miles to request an upgrade on just about any paid ticket on your United-operated flight. You’ll receive a confirmation of your upgrade if it’s accepted, depending on the availability on your particular flight. How many miles your upgrade costs depends on where you’re traveling, the seat type you request, fare class and your Premier status, so the value of this redemption options really varies.
5. Hotel Awards
You can book hotel stays using your MileagePlus miles, but the value isn’t as great. In many instances, you can actually book the same hotel stay for hotel reward points and get a better deal than you would if you were to book with your miles. Generally, the value is under 1 cent per mile.
MileagePlus allows you to redeem your miles for various items as well. These items range from tech to exercise equipment, jewelry to designer bags. You can find items from most of your favorite luxury brands and search for products within a certain miles cost. Again, though, this isn’t always the best use of your miles, and you can get a better deal when you redeem your miles for flights.
Surprisingly, you can redeem your miles for cruises with Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, Carnival and Celebrity, and the redemption value isn’t too shabby. You get a value of more than 1 cent per mile and, while it isn’t as good a value as Saver Awards, you could do worse by redeeming your miles for something like covering your TSA Precheck fee or your in-flight WiFi.
Another surprising redemption option that’s not too bad is when it comes to filling up your gas tank. If you’re a member of BP Driver Rewards, you not only earn United miles for your fuel purchases, but you can then redeem your miles for gas, with a valuation of 1.3 cent per mile used.
There are some great redemption options within the United MileagePlus program, but you’ll get the most value for your points when you redeem your miles for award flights, particularly if you’re booking award flights with some of United’s partners. Many find that earning United miles is an easy way to access first- and business-class services around the world for an affordable price.