United MileagePlus Review Summary
The United MileagePlus program is the 1st best frequent flyer program for 2021, according to WalletHub’s review. Some of the best features of MileagePlus are miles worth an average of 1.58 cents apiece, big earning bonuses and lots of airline partners.
Below, you can find an in-depth look at the MileagePlus program, from its earning and redemption policies to its rewards value and destinations. You can also see how MileagePlus stacks up against other popular frequent flyer programs.
MileagePlus Review Scorecard
#9 for Earning Policies
#5 for Rewards Value
#4 for Redemption Policies
#1 for Destination Coverage
#2 for Other Features
|MileagePlus Miles Needed for a Free Flight:||Min: 17,100|
|Average MileagePlus Mile Value:||1 mile= 1.58 cents |
1,000 miles= $15.8
|MileagePlus Airline Partners:||35, including|
Hawaiian Airlines, Lufthansa and Avianca
Earning Policies: How to Earn MileagePlus Miles
Category Rating: 9/15
MileagePlus members earn miles on purchases they make through United and its partners. Below is a description of which types of transactions accrue miles and the number of miles you’ll receive per dollar spent.
Transactions that Earn MileagePlus Miles
- 5 - 11 MileagePlus miles per $1 spent: United flights and flights on partner airlines like Hawaiian Airlines, Lufthansa and Avianca
- 1 - 4 MileagePlus miles per $1 spent: Purchases on a United credit card
- 1 - 2 MileagePlus miles per $1 spent: Stays at Marriott, IHG and Wyndham hotels
- 250 - 500 MileagePlus miles per stay: Stays at Choice (250 miles per stay), as well as Hyatt and Shangri-La hotels (500 miles per stay)
- 3 MileagePlus miles per $1 spent: Purchases at Luxury Villas
- 0.5 - 5 MileagePlus miles per $1 spent: MileagePlus Dining purchases
- 50 – 1,250 MileagePlus miles per rental: Qualifying car rentals from Hertz (1,250 miles per rental), Dollar and Thrifty (each 50 miles per day or 500 miles on rentals of 5+ days)
In addition, you may be able to find special deals on United flights on the airline’s website. You might be able to earn more miles than usual or spend fewer than usual on a booking.
Other Key Things to Know About Earning MileagePlus Miles
Earning limitations: You can earn up to 75,000 MileagePlus miles per ticket.
Retroactive flight credit for members: MileagePlus members can get credited for miles from any United flight taken in the past 12 months if their frequent flyer number was not on the reservation (as long as they were a member at the time).
Retroactive flight credit for non-members: New MileagePlus members can get miles for flights taken up to one month before they became a member.
Rewards Value: How Much Are MileagePlus Miles Worth?
Category Rating: 9/20
MileagePlus miles are worth 1.58 cents each, on average, according to WalletHub’s research. That means you need about 15,500 MileagePlus miles to get a free flight, based on the average domestic fare of $245.
Below, you can check out how many MileagePlus miles you’ll need for some popular round-trip routes, on average.
- New York to Los Angeles: 23,879 miles (or $377.30)
- Los Angeles to Washington DC: 22,607 miles (or $357.20)
- Los Angeles to London: 89,484 miles (or $1,413.85)
Redemption Policies: How to Redeem MileagePlus Miles
Category Rating: 16/20
|Redemption Method||More Info|
|Flights||Get flights with United and its partners|
|Upgrade to a higher flight class|
Cars, hotels and cruises
|Book car rentals, hotel stays and cruises with United partners|
|Use miles to get access to events like concerts, sporting events, Broadway shows and more|
|Buy subscriptions to various magazines and newspapers|
|Give miles to organizations like the American Red Cross, Make-A-Wish and Special Olympics|
|Pay for or renew your membership in the United Club airport lounge network|
|Pay for Wi-Fi on flights|
|Use miles to pay the application fee|
|Buy gift cards from over 270 merchants|
|Buy thousands of products in categories like electronics, housewares, jewelry and more|
Other Key Things to Know About Redeeming MileagePlus Miles
- There are no booking blackout dates.
- You can book a flight with miles up to 338 days before departure.
- There is no short-notice booking fee.
- United allows one stopover on reward flights.
- There is a $50 - $125 award-ticket redeposit/cancellation fee.
Other Features of the MileagePlus Program
Category Rating: 13/20
The United MileagePlus rewards program is free to join, but you won’t get any benefits from it other than earning miles until you qualify for a “Premier” level.
Qualification for MileagePlus Premier levels is based on:
- Premier Qualifying Points (PQP): awarded based on amount spent
- Premier Qualifying Flights (PQF): awarded based on the number of flights taken
The more flights you take with United, and the more money you spend with a United credit card, the higher your status level will go. The higher your MileagePlus status level is, the more benefits you will receive on United flights and the more you will save when you fly.
Below, you can see exactly what you’ll need to do to achieve and maintain each MileagePlus status level, along with the perks that come with it.
|MileagePlus Levels||How to Qualify||Miles Bonus||Other Notable Perks|
|Basic member||Join the program for free||None||Earn United miles|
|Premier Silver||3,500 PQP|
8 PQF + 3,000 PQP
Priority security screening, when available
Group 2 priority boarding
1 complimentary checked bag in Economy
3 complimentary checked bags in Premium cabin
Access to most sold-out flights at least 24 hours before departure
Free confirmed flight changes within 24 hours before departure within same fare class
Complimentary upgrades on the day of departure
Priority waitlist for award flights
Complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status
Complimentary Five Star Hertz Gold Plus Rewards status
No award-ticket change/cancellation fee with redeposit 31+ days before departure
No award-ticket change fee 30 or fewer days before departure, for travel originating in the U.S.
|Premier Gold||7,000 PQP|
16 PQF + 6,000 PQP
|60%||Premier Silver benefits|
Group 1 priority boarding
2 complimentary checked bags in Economy
Complimentary upgrades 48 hours before departure
|Premier Platinum||10,000 PQP|
24 PQF + 9,000 PQP
|80%||Premier Gold benefits|
3 complimentary checked bags in Economy, 70 lbs.
$50 annual United Club membership discount
Access to most sold-out flights at least 2 hours before departure
Complimentary upgrades 72 hours before departure
Complimentary President's Circle status in the Hertz Gold Plus Rewards program
Waived phone-booking service fees
|Premier 1K®||15,000 PQP|
36 PQF + 13,500 PQP
|120%||Premier Platinum benefits|
$100 annual United Club membership discount
Access to most sold-out flights at least 1.5 hours before departure
Free CLEAR membership (gets you through airport security faster)
Complimentary upgrades 96 hours before departure
Free drink and snack in economy
No change/cancellation fee for all award tickets (with miles redeposit)
Note: The weight limit for free checked bags is 70 lbs.
Members must satisfy a given status level’s qualifying requirements between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31 to reach or maintain that status level and enjoy its benefits. Once you earn any MileagePlus status level, you will keep it for the rest of the current calendar year and January of the next calendar year.
Other Key Features
- United miles never expire.
- You can transfer miles between accounts, for a fee of $7.50 per 500 miles.
- Buying miles costs more than they’re worth, as there’s a 122% markup on average.
Destination Coverage: Where Can MileagePlus Miles Take You?
Category Rating: 25/25
United flies to 246 U.S. destinations and 124 international destinations. In addition, United has 27 partner airlines from the Star Alliance and 8 non-alliance partners, which collectively visit 555 U.S. destinations and 2,934 international destinations.
You can’t directly transfer miles from the loyalty programs of these partners to MileagePlus or vice versa. For example, you can’t turn MileagePlus miles into Hawaiian Airlines miles. However, you can earn and redeem MileagePlus miles for flights with all of United’s partners.
Summary: United MileagePlus Scores by Review Category
United MileagePlus Credit Cards
This content is not provided or commissioned by any issuer. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of an issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by an issuer. Some offers are from WalletHub partners.
Applying for a United MileagePlus credit card is worth considering if you have good credit or better and you take United flights multiple times per year.
MileagePlus Credit Card Offers Compared
|MileagePlus Credit Card||Annual Fee||Initial Bonus|
|United Explorer Credit Card||$0 1st yr, $95 after||65,000 miles|
|United Gateway℠ Credit Card||$0||20,000 miles|
|United Club Infinite Credit Card||$525||75,000 miles|
|First Hawaiian Bank United MileagePlus Credit Card||$99||20,000 miles|
|United℠ Business Card||$0 intro 1st yr, $99 after||75,000 miles|
|First Hawaiian Bank United MileagePlus Business Credit Card||$45||30,000 miles|
For more information, check out our complete review of the latest United credit card offers.
8 Tips for MileagePlus Members
- The best way to redeem MileagePlus miles is for United flights. Miles are worth 1.58 cents apiece that way.
- Pool or transfer miles if it makes sense. MileagePlus allows members to pool their miles together for easier redemption, but there is a fee of $7.50 per 500 miles.
- Avoid buying MileagePlus miles, if possible. MileagePlus miles cost more to purchase than they are worth when redeemed, on average. However, it could be worth buying a small number if it puts you over the top for a free flight.
- Take advantage of status perks. One of the biggest reasons that airline rewards programs are worth joining is that their status levels tend to provide a wealth of benefits, such as bonus miles, free checked bags and complimentary upgrades. Make sure you take advantage of everything United MileagePlus offers.
- Consider applying for a MileagePlus credit card. The best United MileagePlus credit card could save the average person roughly $3,000 over the first two years of use, according to WalletHub’s calculations.
- Try the Island Approach with your credit cards. MileagePlus credit cards offer competitive rewards on United flights, but different credit cards may provide better terms on other types of transactions. Using a collection of cards for specialized purposes can enable you to get the best deal on everything you buy.
- Make sure to read United reviews & MileagePlus FAQs. Learning from experts and fellow travelers will help you pick up some helpful tips as well as avoid tricks and pitfalls.
- Compare your flight options if you’re not wedded to MileagePlus. United is not the only airline with a rewarding loyalty program. You can see how MileagePlus compares to a couple of popular alternatives below. You can also check out WalletHub’s rankings of the Best Frequent Flyer Programs to learn more.
United MileagePlus vs. Delta SkyMiles vs. American Airlines AAdvantage
|Category||United MileagePlus||Delta SkyMiles||American Airlines AAdvantage|
|Average Mile Value||1.58 cents||1.37 cents||1.29 cents|
|Average Daily U.S. Departures||783||1,569||1,583|
|Mile expiration||Never||Never||After 18 months of inactivity|
|Credit Card to Consider||United Explorer Credit Card||Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card||American Airlines AAdvantage® Aviator™ Red Credit Card|
MileagePlus Review Methodology
Overall program rankings are based on the same methodology as WalletHub’s annual study on the Best Frequent Flyer Programs. Editor’s ratings reflect the sum of each rewards program’s scores across the study’s 6 major categories – airline coverage, partner coverage, rewards value, earning policies, redemption policies and other features – adjusted to a 5-point scale, to create a representative distribution of ratings.
WalletHub calculated United MileagePlus mile values by comparing flight rates between U.S. cities and popular travel destinations – both domestic and international – to the number of miles needed to book a flight. We applied the process to round-trip flights from Friday to Monday for each destination’s high and shoulder tourist seasons.