Finder makes money from featured partners, but editorial opinions are our own. Advertiser Disclosure
Redeem United Airlines miles for best value
Partner airlines and no fuel charges mean your miles go farther.
But there are other redemption options as well, including hotel stays, car rentals, cruises, merchandise, experiences and gift cards.
United miles redemption options
Once you earn enough United miles, you can redeem for any of the following:
- United flights. This is by far the most valuable redemption option, which can be worth up to 3.5 cents per mile.
- Star Alliance flights. Booking flights on Star Alliance partner airlines also comes with high redemption value per mile.
- Seat upgrades. This may seem like a good redemption option, but typically you would get a slightly lower value for your miles.
- Hotel stays. United has its own hotel booking portal powered by Hotels.com where you can book with your miles. This comes with a low redemption value of around 0.6 cents per mile.
- Car rentals. Powered by Rentalcars.com, United’s platform lets you book car rentals with miles from companies like Hertz, Dollar and Thrifty. But this option comes with an even lower redemption value of around 0.4 cents per mile.
- Book cruises. Book cruises with miles from the United website for cruise companies like Norwegian, Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises and Princess Cruises. The redemption rate here is around 0.9 cents per mile.
- Merchandise. You can get an iPhone with a value of around 0.75 cents per mile. Other items may come with an even lower redemption value of around 0.4 cents per mile.
- Gift cards. Redeem your miles for gift cards for a variety of stores, including Walmart, Home Depot, eBay, Starbucks, Uber, iTunes, Nike and more. Download the United MileagePlus X mobile app to buy and use your gift cards.
- Experiences. Use your miles for a variety of experiences, such as suit-level seats for select sporting events, private golf lessons, trip for two to the Olympic games and more.
How to redeem miles for maximum value
As of November 15, 2019, United no longer publishes an award chart. Now the redemption value of every flight will vary depending on demand, how far in advance you book your flight and other factors.
Based on our calculations, miles can be worth anywhere from 1 to more than 3 cents, though the exact value depends on how they are redeemed. To get a higher value, skip on poorer redemption options, such as merchandise.
Cash in your miles with these better redemption options:
Saver Awards offer the best value for your miles and are available on both United and partner airlines. Domestic United flights can cost you as few as 10,000 miles, depending on where you’re flying.
This value comes with some limitations: Saver Awards are capacity-controlled, so there’s only so many seats available. This means you’ll need to act fast to claim them. Saver Awards also aren’t necessarily available on all flights, so it might not be worth basing your flight plans around a potential Saver Award.
Flight award deals
Flight award deals are a new addition to United redemption options. Sometimes you can find generous deals. For example, you can snatch limited-time deals like:
- One-way Economy flight from San Francisco (SFO) to Shanghai (PVG) for 35,000 miles (or 1.6 cents per mile).
- One-way Economy flight from San Francisco (SFO) to Tokyo (NRT) for 37,000 miles (or 3.5 cents per mile).
The Excursionist Perk
The Excursionist Perk is basically a free one-way segment for travelers who do roundtrips between regions — for example, between the US and Europe. But to get the free one-way segment you need to meet these conditions first:
- Your trip ends in the same region it originated as defined by MileagePlus — for example, you start your trip in the US and you need to end your trip in the US.
- You can’t get the Excursionist Perk if your trip is only within one region — say within the US.
- The cabin of service and award type for the free award is the same or lower than the one-way award preceding it, meaning you can’t get a first-class free segment if you flew economy in the previous segment.
- If two or more of your one-way awards qualify, only the first occurrence is covered under the perk.
Excursionist Perk roundtrip example
Starting region — United States.
One way flight from Chicago (ORD) to London (LHR) costs 30,000 miles → London (LHR) to Paris (CDG) costs 0 miles → Paris (CDG) to Chicago (ORD) costs 30,000 miles.
Ending region — United States.
In this example, the Excursionist Perk gives you a free one-way segment between London and Paris, and the total trip costs 60,000 miles instead of 90,000 miles.
Star Alliance business or first-class flights
You can find lower rates for first- and business-class flight awards overseas when you fly with a Star Alliance airline partner. In some cases, a partner first-class award flight can be as cheap as a United economy Everyday Award flight.
Act fast to take advantage of these deals since many are Saver Awards and have limited seating.
Everyday Award flights are more expensive than Saver Awards but are typically more available. United MileagePlus Chase cardmembers can also book Everyday Award flights without capacity controls, offering a little more reliability when it comes to mile redemptions.
In some cases, your mile value goes further if you redeem them to upgrade your flight rather than booking one. This, of course, depends on if you enjoy trading in your points for convenience and comfort.
United Airlines transfer partners
MileagePlus members can earn and redeem miles on Star Alliance partner flights in addition to United flights. The miles needed to book flights depend on the seating class, destination and flight type.
How do I redeem miles on United for a flight?
You can manage and redeem your miles through the main United website.
- Go to the United website and select MileagePlus from the menu.
- Select Use award miles.
- Click Book award travel.
- Put in your trip details and click Search.
- Choose your flight by clicking Select next to the itinerary you want.
- Enter your MileagePlus number and password and click Sign in.
- Finalize your flight information and book your trip.
How to earn United MileagePlus miles
There are many ways to earn miles on your MileagePlus account. Here’s how:
- Fly United Airlines
- Fly United partner airlines
- Use a United Airlines cobranded credit card.
- Dine at participating restaurants
- Shop at participating retailers
- Use the MileagePlus X mobile app
- Stay at partner hotels
- Rent a car from partner companies
- Book cruises through the United Cruise program
- Use select home services and financial services
Compare United cards
United’s cobranded cards have intro bonuses and can help jump-start your MileagePlus reward earnings with additional earnings on United products. The United cards can also help you reach your next status tier faster, letting you earn bonus rates on eligible purchases.
The MileagePlus program is great for domestic and international travelers who want to redeem points by booking flights through United Airlines or partner airlines. It might take a little planning and research to find the best flight for the highest redemption value, but it can be worth it.
Frequently asked questions
More guides on Finder
Delta Medallion status: How does it work and why you should get it
Ascend through its ranks and Delta Medallion Status pays off with additional perks and benefits for SkyMiles members.
United Quest℠ Card review
The Chase United Quest piles on the perks without breaking the bank.
Best credit card combinations
Use these credit card combinations to boost your rewards earnings.
Best rewards credit cards of 2021
Take advantage of miles, points and perks with a card that best fits your lifestyle.
Best cashback credit cards
The top cards often have cashback rewards of 5% or more. But which one is the best for you depends on how you spend.
10 best travel credit cards of 2022
Here are our picks for the top travel cards on the market.
A guide to carbon offsets and how they work
Plus, 3 easy-breezy ways to reduce your carbon footprint.
Best airline credit cards of 2022
Have your sights set on travel this year? We compared nearly 100 cards to find the best deals and perks.
Best Black Friday travel deals available right now
With these Black Friday sales from top travel providers, book your getaway now and save up to 75% off.
Emirates Skywards Rewards World Elite Mastercard® review
Earn Emirates miles on your purchases without paying a high annual fee.
Ask an Expert