The Complete Guide to United MileagePlus

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If you fly United a lot, prefer it over other airlines or live near an airport heavily serviced by United, then you may find that United MileagePlus becomes your go-to loyalty program. If that’s the case, or if you’re just considering United MileagePlus as a potential loyalty program option, here’s everything you need to know about United MileagePlus. 

Here’s how to make the most out of your United MileagePlus experience. Photo: United

MileagePlus Status Levels

MileagePlus status levels include Silver, Gold, Platinum and 1K. You can earn a higher status level by spending more on flights, flying further distances and flying more segments. All of this is calculated to help you earn Premier-qualifying miles (PQM), dollars (PQD) and segments (PQS), all adding up to a higher status level.

  • To earn Silver status, you have to accumulate 25,000 PQM or 30 PQS and $3,000 PQD.
  • To earn Gold status, you need 50,000 PQM or 60 PQS and $6,000 PQD.
  • For Platinum, you need 75,000 PQM or 90 PQS and $9,000 PQD.
  • Lastly, for 1K status, you need 100,000 PQM or 120 PQS and $15,000 PQD.

As you earn more PQM, PQD and PQS, you receive perks and benefits like complimentary access to economy plus, complimentary access to preferred seating, complimentary premier upgrades, extra award miles, priority check-in, priority security screening, priority boarding, priority baggage handling, access to sold-out flights, international lounge access, discounted or waived flight changes, discounted or waived phone service charges, priority waitlisting and more. Here’s how they all break down.

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With Premier Silver Status, you enjoy:

  • Complimentary access to economy plus at check-in
  • 1 economy plus companion
  • Complimentary access to preferred seating at booking
  • 8 preferred seating companions
  • Complimentary premier upgrades
  • Complimentary premier companion upgrades
  • Complimentary premier upgrade confirmation on the day of departure
  • Instant upgrades on Y- or B-class full-fare economy tickets
  • 7X award miles on flights
  • Priority check-in
  • Priority security screening, where offered
  • Priority boarding privileges
  • Priority baggage handling
  • Premier priority desk phone line
  • Access to most sold-out flights
  • Complimentary checked baggage allowance in economy (1 bag at 70 pounds)
  • Complimentary checked baggage allowance in business or first (3 bags at 70 pounds each)
  • Priority award waitlisting
  • Standby for international awards
  • Unrestricted access to Everyday Award flights 
  • Better availability for United Saver award flights
  • Reduced or waived close-in award booking fee
  • Reduced or waived award redeposit fee
  • Reduced or waived award change fee
  • Star Alliance Silver status 

Do note that if you do have Marriott Rewards Platinum Premier Elite status, you automatically receive complimentary United Premier Silver status.

With Premier Gold Status, you enjoy all of the above, plus:

  • Complimentary access to economy plus at time of booking
  • Complimentary premier upgrade confirmation 48 hours before departure
  • 8X award miles on flights
  • Lounge access when traveling internationally
  • Higher complimentary checked baggage allowance in economy (2 bags at 70 pounds each)
  • Star Alliance Gold status

With Premier Platinum Status, you enjoy all of the above, plus:

  • 8 economy plus companions
  • Complimentary premier upgrade confirmation 72 hours before departure
  • Regional premier upgrade availability 
  • 9X award miles on flights
  • Discounted United Club membership rates
  • Discounted or waived phone service charges
  • Better availability for United Saver Award flights in premium cabins

With Premier 1K Status, you receive all of the above plus:

  • 11X award miles on flights
  • A dedicated help line for 1K members only
  • Complimentary premier upgrade confirmation 96 hours before departure
  • Instant upgrades on M-class economy tickets
  • Global Premier upgrade eligibility 

Earning United MileagePlus Miles

MileagePlus miles are valued between 1 and 2 cents each and are relatively easy to earn. They can be earned a variety of ways, including flying, credit card spending, dining and special offers. 

MileagePlus miles do expire after 18 months if you do not hold a MileagePlus credit card. Expiration only occurs if, within the 18 months, there is no action on your United account, including earning, redeeming, buying and/or transferring miles with either United or a partner airline. 

Miles Earned from Flying

Easiest way to earn more miles? Fly! Photo: United

The most straightforward way to earn MileagePlus miles is via flying. The amount of miles you earn per flight changes based on your MileagePlus status as well as the amount of money you spent on your ticket (versus miles flown).

  • MileagePlus basic members earn 5 miles per $1 spent on a ticket
  • MileagePlus Premier Silver members earn 7 miles per $1 spent on a ticket
  • MileagePlus Premier Gold members earn 8 miles per $1 spent on a ticket
  • MileagePlus Premier Platinum members earn 9 miles per $1 spent on a ticket
  • MileagePlus Premier 1K members earn 11 miles per $1 spent on a ticket

Miles Earned Via Credit Cards

United’s primary credit card is the United Explorer Card, from Chase. Learn more about the card here. You receive 2 miles per $1 spent on dining, hotels and United purchases, and then 1 mile per $1 spent on everything else.

The current sign-up bonus is 40,000 miles after you spend $2,000 in the first three months. The annual fee is waived the first year and then $95 thereafter. 

You receive a free first checked bag for you and one other person and priority boarding. Another perk is two free United lounge passes per year. 

Free lounge access is one cardholder perk. Photo: United

Other cards that earn miles that are issued by United directly include… 

  • The United MileagePlus Club Card (which gives you 2 miles per every $1 spent on United purchases and 1.5 miles per $1 spent on everything else, plus United Club membership)
  • United Explore Business Card (2 miles per $1 spent at restaurants, gas stations and office supplies stores, as well as on United purchase; 1 miles per $1 spent on everything else)
  • United MileagePlus Club Business Card (2 miles per $1 spent on United purchases; 1.5 miles per $1 spent on everything else)

You can also transfer other credit card points and miles to your United MileagePlus account, including Chase Ultimate Rewards points and Marriott Rewards points.

Miles Earned Via Partner Brands

You can earn United MileagePlus miles at select brands. Hotel rewards program partners include…

  • Ritz-Carlton Rewards
  • Radisson Rewards
  • Wyndham Rewards
  • Marriott Rewards
  • Choice Privileges
  • IHG Rewards Club
  • Golden Circle
  • Le Club AccorHotels
  • World of Hyatt

You can also earn miles when you book via Rocketmiles or PointsHound. United additionally has its own booking platform, United Hotels, which gives you 2 miles per $1 spent. 

Other travel-related partner brands include Hertz (including sister brands Dollar and Thrifty) and Amtrak. See the full terms and conditions for miles-earning through these brands, here. 

You can earn and redeem United MileagePlus miles when you fly with Star Alliance airlines or other partner airlines that include…

  • Aer Lingus
  • Aeromar
  • Air Dolomiti
  • Azul
  • Cape Air
  • Edelweiss
  • Eurowings
  • Great Lakes Airlines
  • Hawai’ian Airlines
  • Silver Airways

Award Flights with Partner Airlines

You can earn and use MileagePlus miles on any Star Alliance member airline, as well as access Star Alliance member airport lounges internationally, if your ticket qualifies. 

Star Alliance members include:

To redeem miles for flights on any of the above, just search for an award flight as normal through the United Airlines’ website and, when you look at the specific flight details, you’ll see when it’s operated by a Star Alliance partner airline. 

Keep in mind that Star Alliance award flights have limited availability and certain award flights may only be booked over the phone with a United representative (if you make a reservation over the phone, you will be charged $25 per person). Award tickets reserved fewer than 21 days before travel are subject to extra fees as well. 

With both Star Alliance and other partners airlines, United allows you to both spend and earn miles, and you can earn miles based on how many miles you’ve actually flown, versus how much you spend on a ticket. However, when booking, keep in mind that if your ticket is coded with 016, the miles earned are based on United’s fare-based system, not distance flown.  

MileagePlus Dining

As do many travel brands these days, United has its own dining program through which you can earn miles. The MileagePlus Dining program is free to join. Then, you can dine at more than 10,000 restaurants and bars and, when you pay with your United card, you’ll earn miles. You receive one mile per dollar spent as a basic member, three miles per dollar spent as a select member and five miles per dollar spent as a VIP member.

Basic members are those that have just signed up for the program. Select members have elected to receive emails from the program with a valid email address. VIP members receive emails and also have completed at least 11 qualified transactions in the calendar year. 

MileagePlus Shopping

Similarly, there’s the MileagePlus Shopping portal, which also lets you earn bonus miles for everyday purchases from your favorite brands. Specials are available almost always, giving you more ways to earn on specific products. 

All you have to do to earn is go to the shopping portal, search through more than 900 stores and brands, click on the one you want, go straight to the brand’s own website and make a purchase. Then, miles are credited to your account. 

MileagePlus X App

Image: United

There’s also the recently revamped MileagePlus X app, which allows you to earn three or five miles per $1 spent at participating stores, restaurants and retailers. You just download it, enter your account information and then start shopping. 

The usage, however, is a bit clumsy. Once you’re ready to check out at a store, you have to enter your total price into the app, which then will issue you a gift card for that amount, and then the cashier has to scan the gift card code on your phone. 

Redeeming Your Miles

Of course, after you earn all those miles, you’ll want to redeem them somewhere. There are several different redemption options.

  • Free flights 
  • Upgrades to a premium class
  • United Club membership fees
  • Hotel stays
  • Car rentals
  • Gift cards
  • Cruises 

You get your best value when you redeem your miles for flights or an upgrade. 

Redeem those miles for a much-deserved upgrade! Photo: United

United offers two different types of award redemptions for flights, Saver Awards and Everyday Awards. Saver Awards are those that are rarely available and offer the best deals. Everyday Awards are just your, well, everyday awards offers. Award seat redemptions start at around 10,000 miles and you can search through award options, at the interactive award chart, here. 

Final Thoughts

The United MileagePlus loyalty program is a no-brainer for those who live in or near a United hub, or who are looking for a loyalty program that offers lots of miles earning and spending opportunities internationally, with a wealth of partners. While it is necessary to familiarize yourself with the program rules and the best ways to earn miles in order to take the best advantage of the program, once you get into the habit of earning United Miles, you’ll find it both easy and rewarding.

Notice: These responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

2 comments
  1. I have started to question the value of airline miles programs, given that it takes increasingly more and more miles to get a seat on a flight, i.e., if you can even get one. I have accumulated miles for decades, attaining AAdvantage Gold. It used to be worthwhile, before the airlines cheapened the miles. I am on the verge of giving up on AAdvantage and MileagePlus, switching to Ultimate Reward points instead.

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