United MileagePlus is one of the most versatile airline rewards programs around. It’s easy to earn and use miles thanks to the numerous United Airlines credit cards available. Between several Chase co-branded consumer cards and the United Business Card, there are plenty of ways to earn miles through your spending.
Perhaps one of the most lucrative ways to earn miles is through Chase Ultimate Rewards since United is one of its transfer partners. You can transfer points earned with your Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve® or Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card, directly to your MileagePlus account.
However you choose to earn United MileagePlus miles, you can redeem them for free or discounted travel around the world. Here’s a look at some of our favorite ways to use United MileagePlus miles.
1. Lufthansa to Europe (30,000 Points)
A trip to Europe has been on our family bucket list forever. One of the best ways to fly to Europe is a Lufthansa flight. Unfortunately, tickets are expensive, and if you book through the airline’s loyalty program, Miles & More, you’ll likely pay hundreds of dollars in fuel surcharges.
The good news is that Lufthansa and United are Star Alliance partners, so you can use your MileagePlus miles to book Lufthansa flights. You can find great deals to several European destinations. Through a quick search, I found a non-stop one-way economy fare from San Francisco to Frankfurt on Lufthansa (booked through United) for just 30,000 miles plus $5.60 in taxes and fees. The same flight booked directly through Lufthansa would cost you nearly $230 in taxes and fuel surcharges alone plus the ticket price.
If you have enough miles stored up, you could also opt for a first-class award ticket on Lufthansa, one of the most sought-after flight experiences among frequent travelers. In most cases, you’ll need 121,000 miles to make this happen. You’ll also need a bit of luck since Lufthansa only releases its first class award space to airline partners, like United, 14 days before departure.
2. United Polaris Business Class to London (60,000 Miles)
A few years ago, United Airlines rolled out an upgraded business class option called Polaris. While its older business class is somewhat antiquated, the upgraded version included several amenities and culinary upgrades, including restaurant-quality meals, luxury bedding, extremely comfortable (and ergonomic) seating that converts to a flatbed, premium amenity kits and entertainment options and much more.
United has even opened Polaris airport lounges in select cities like Chicago, Los Angeles, Houston and Newark. These new luxurious lounges are exclusive to Polaris ticket holders and select Star Alliance business and first-class passengers.
Unfortunately, not all United international flights are equipped with the full range of Polaris benefits yet. Some planes only feature an upgraded experience, while others are equipped with the new Polaris business class seats. As your search United’s site, you’ll need to pay attention to the type of plane listed so you can tell if it includes the upgraded seats and amenities. If the flight is aboard United’s Boeing 777-300, it includes Polaris seats. Other aircraft, like the 767-300 and 777-200, are being retrofitted now. You should call United before booking to verify you’re on an upgraded aircraft.
You’ll save considerable miles if you can find a business saver award for Polaris flights, but they may be hard to come by unless you plan ahead. I was able to find a one-way Polaris saver award from Chicago to London aboard a 767-300 with Polaris seating for 60,000 miles plus $5.60 in taxes and fees. If saver awards aren’t available, flights like this can run upwards of 155k miles.
3. Business Class to Athens (75,000 Miles)
Everyone should make the trek to Greece once in their lifetime, including a stop in its capital city, Athens. The city is a historical marvel and modern city rolled into one. The Acropolis is a must-see and the area provides plenty of culinary and cultural adventures too.
There are several ways to use United miles to get to Athens. Several Star Alliance partners offer flights to Greece. You could save miles by traveling economy, but if you have miles available and there’s business saver award availability, opt for the upgraded fare. I found a one-way business saver ticket on Swiss Air from Newark to Athens this spring for 75,000 miles plus $22.90 in taxes and fees. You can usually find economy fares to Athens between 30,0000 and 35,000 miles from several U.S. airports.
4. Alaska (15,000 Miles)
It wasn’t until recently that I thought Alaska would make for a great travel experience. Maybe I’m weird, but it just didn’t seem like a place i’d enjoy. After hearing reports from family and friends who’ve traveled there, I’m slowly changing my tune.
The best time to visit Alaska is during its peak season (June to August), but you could also opt for shoulder season to avoid other tourists and higher prices. You can certainly save money traveling other time of the year, but the weather isn’t conducive for most travel.
United offers tons of flights to Alaska, including to Anchorage, the state’s largest city. I found affordable flights from Seattle to Anchorage for just 15,000 miles plus $5.60 in taxes and fees.
5. Short Haul Flights like Los Angeles to San Francisco (15,000 Miles)
Airline travel doesn’t always have to be a reserved for world travels. Another way to extend your United miles is through several short haul flights. Short haul flights are local or regional flights that typically take three hours or less. These types of flights may or may not be cheaper paying cash, but you can usually find short haul flights on the cheap using points.
Using your MileagePlus miles for short haul flights allows you to make multiple trips instead of using all of your points for a longer flight. For example, United flights from Los Angeles to San Francisco (and vice cersa) typically cost 15,000 miles plus $5.60 in taxes and fees. If you earned a large sign-up bonus through one of your United co-branded credit cards, you could use it for weekend trips up he California coast.
Other Mileage Plus Redemptions
Using your miles towards free flights is almost always the best way to redeem your United miles. With that said, other MileagePlus redemptions may be a better fit depending on your needs. Other United MileagePlus redemptions include:
- Flight upgrades
- Hotels and resorts
- Rental cars
- Online shopping
- Apple products
- Gift cards
- Exclusive experiences
- United Club membership
- TSA Pre✓® fees
- United WiFi
- Airport dining
- Magazine and newspaper subscriptions
There are also options to transfer your miles to other travelers or donate them to charity. Redemption possibilities are nearly limitless within the United MileagePlus program.
Make the Most Your United MileagePlus Points
People often get wrapped up in trying to squeeze the most value out of their rewards. The travel rewards game is only worth it if you actually use your points and miles.
If you’ve been saving up your miles for a while, now is the time to use them. The longer you hold on to them, the more likely they will lose value due to inflation and loyalty program changes. Do yourself a favor and start booking some travel adventures using your United miles soon.