How to Use United Miles: A Comprehensive Guide

Last updated
Fact Checked By
How to Use United Miles

United Airlines holds a strong position in the U.S. travel market, with a 16 percent share as of early 2023. This dominance is apparent in their MileagePlus program, which offers various ways to use your miles. However, not all redemption options provide equal value.

This article will discuss the best ways to use your United miles, ensuring you get the most out of every point. Whether upgrading to business class on partner flights or accessing United Club perks, we’ll guide you on making your miles work for you.

How to Use United Miles?

You can use your United MileagePlus miles to improve your travel experience. The most common method is booking award flights. It allows you to fly on United Airlines or Star Alliance partners, which cover a vast global network.

If you don’t have enough miles for a full award ticket, the Money & Miles option lets you pay for tickets with a combination of miles and cash. You can also upgrade economy tickets to business or first class, turning a basic journey into a luxurious travel experience.

Beyond flights, your miles can provide benefits like hotel stays, car rentals, and unique travel experiences through the MileagePlus travel portal.

While United Express flights might sound like an excellent way to spend those miles, it is far from the truth. The best value for United Airlines is miles per dollar. You can sell them to trusted Platforms like Top Dollar Payouts.

Here’s a more detailed explanation of ways you can use your United MileagePlus miles.

Booking Award Flights

One of the direct ways to use United MileagePlus miles is by booking award flights. You can use your miles to book seats on flights handled by United Airlines.

They also have an extensive network of Star Alliance partners. This allows you to travel almost anywhere worldwide, making it a highly flexible redemption option.

Money & Miles

For those who may not have enough miles for a full award ticket, the Money & Miles option is a great solution.

This feature allows you to pay for your ticket with a combination of miles and cash, reducing the overall cash cost of your ticket while still making good use of your miles.

Upgrading to Business or First Class

Using miles to upgrade from economy to business or first class is a fantastic option.

It can change a standard flight into a much more comfortable and luxurious journey, with access to premium amenities.

Generally, pricing can vary for award flights based on the exact flight, location, dates, and time of year. Here are the rough prices you can expect:

  • Economy Class: Expect a range between 10,500 miles (short domestic hops) to 90,000+ miles (long-haul international flights)
  • Business Class: This can range from 62,000 miles (short domestic routes) to 180,000+ miles (long-haul international flights)
  • First Class: This is the most expensive class, typically starting around 100,000 miles and reaching 375,000+ miles for long-haul international flights.

Seat Selection and Baggage Upgrades

You can use your Miles at the airport for practical purposes, such as selecting preferred seats or upgrading checked baggage allowances. These upgrades generally cost a minimum of 4000 to 6000 miles.

Whether you want more legroom or need extra bags, miles can provide a more customized travel experience. Options include lounge access or even premier qualifying flights.

In-flight Facilities

Miles can sometimes be used to purchase in-flight amenities such as meals, snacks, or beverages. It can make your flight more enjoyable.

They can be especially great on longer journeys where comfort and convenience are important. Depending on the facilities, in-flight expenses can be 4000-7000 miles.

Hotels And Car Rentals

United MileagePlus miles extend beyond flights, offering redeeming opportunities for hotel stays and car rentals.

This makes it easy to plan entire trips using miles, from when you land to your accommodations and local transportation.

Here is what you can expect in terms of hotel pricing only car rentals are more time-sensitive:

  • Budget Bunkhouse Bounty: 10,000 to 20,000 Miles (A cozy night at a local inn for a mere ten thousand miles!)
  • Luxury Lair Loot: 100,000 Miles (A presidential suite for a staggering hundred thousand miles!)

Activities And Experiences

For a more profound travel experience, you can use miles to book tours, attractions, and other unique activities through the MileagePlus travel portal.

It allows you to explore your destination in depth, often with exclusive access or added conveniences.

Other Redemption Options

Although less common, miles can be used for statement credits towards United flights, to gift MileagePlus memberships, or even to purchase merchandise.

However, these options generally provide less value per mile spent than travel-related redemptions. They should be considered carefully. Cash still beats out any redemption option vastly in cents per mile values.

How to Use United Miles for Travel?

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to use your miles for United purchases:

Log in to Your MileagePlus Account

Start by accessing your MileagePlus account on the United website. Here, you can manage your miles and account details.

Search for Flights Using Miles

Once logged in, plan your trip by entering your travel destinations and dates. Make sure to select the option to pay with miles.

It will allow you to review available flights that can be booked using miles and choose one that best fits your travel needs.

Money + Miles Option

If you do not have enough miles for the full fare, you can opt for the Money + Miles option. It allows you to specify how many miles you want to use and pay the remaining balance in cash.

It’s an excellent way to stretch your miles further while saving on out-of-pocket expenses.

Ideal Trips to Take Using Miles

United miles can take you almost anywhere, but some trips offer excellent value.

Consider using your miles to travel to major United hubs like San Francisco. You could also take international flights to destinations like Tokyo or Frankfurt, where long-haul flights can maximize the value of your miles.

These destinations offer exciting travel experiences and allow you to make the most out of every mile spent.

How do You Book Hotels and Cars With Miles?

Using your United MileagePlus miles to book hotels and rent cars is a convenient way to plan your trip. Here’s how to do it:

Booking Hotels

  1. Access the United Hotels Section: Log into your MileagePlus account and visit the United Hotels section.
  2. Search for Hotels: Input your destination and travel dates to find available hotels.
  3. Book Using Miles: Once you’ve chosen a hotel, select the option to pay with your miles.

Renting Cars

  1. Visit the Car Rental Section: From your MileagePlus account, go to the travel tab and select the car rental section.
  2. Choose a Rental Partner: Select from United’s partner rental agencies, such as Avis or Budget.
  3. Rent with Miles: Enter your rental details and choose to pay with miles at checkout.

This straightforward process lets you efficiently manage your travel expenses by utilizing the earned miles in your MileagePlus account.

How to Redeem United Miles for Upgrades?

Here are the steps to take whether you are booking a new flight or looking to upgrade an existing reservation.

Request an Upgrade When Booking

  1. Select Your Flight: After choosing your United flight or flights with partner airlines such as South African Airways or Croatia Airlines, proceed to the booking options.
  2. Choose the Upgrade Option: If available, you can select the upgrade you desire, such as moving from economy class to business class.
  3. Pay with Miles: Complete your upgrade by paying the required miles and any applicable fees. It might include dynamic pricing adjustments depending on the fare class and destination.

Upgrade After Booking

  1. Access Your Reservation: Log into your United MileagePlus account and reset your reservation.
  2. Check for Available Upgrades: If upgrade options are available, select the upgrade you prefer and redeem using miles. It could be for flights on United Express or international routes operated by Star Alliance partner airlines like Air China or LOT Polish Airlines.

How to Use Miles for In-Flight and Airport Services?

Using United MileagePlus miles isn’t just limited to booking flights and upgrades; you can also use them for airport and in-flight services.

Airport Services

Before your flight, simply log into your United MileagePlus account to use your miles for airport services. It includes paying for TSA PreCheck to speed up your security clearance or covering baggage fees to reduce out-of-pocket expenses.

In-Flight Services

While onboard, you can use your miles to improve your flying experience. You can purchase Wi-Fi access to stay connected or choose from a selection of meals and beverages available for mile redemption.

Access the in-flight service menu to see all available options and use your miles directly for purchases.

Prices may vary, but Wifi and other services can generally be bought for under 5000 miles.

How to Shop with United Miles?

The MileagePlus program also lets you shop using miles through its dedicated shopping portal. Here’s how you can shop using miles:

  1. Log into your MileagePlus Account: Start by signing into your account.
  2. Go to the Shopping Section: Go to the shopping area to browse various products and services.
  3. Redeem Miles for Products: Select items you wish to purchase. Confirm your selection and complete the transaction by deducting the needed miles from your balance.

How to Participate in MileagePlus Exclusive Experiences?

For those looking for unique adventures or luxurious escapes, the MileagePlus Exclusives offer a chance to bid on or buy one-of-a-kind experiences.

Browse Available Experiences

Log in to your MileagePlus account and access the MileagePlus Exclusives section to see the available experiences, which range from sports events to celebrity meet-and-greets.

Bid on or Buy Experiences

Choose an experience that interests you. If the immediate purchase option is available, you can place a bid using your miles or buy it outright.

It is a great way to use your miles for memorable experiences beyond the usual travel and other options. However, using United Miles anywhere requires having a MileagePlus program account and the appropriate number of miles. Alternatively, you can use the miles + cash option.

How to Join the MileagePlus Program?

To start enjoying the benefits of the United MileagePlus program, follow these steps:

  1. Visit the United Airlines Website: Access the MileagePlus section to begin your registration process.
  2. Complete the Registration Form: Please complete the form with the required details, such as your name, email, and address.
  3. Submit the Form: Accept the terms and conditions and complete your registration to start accumulating miles with one of the world’s most extensive airline networks.

How to Earn United Miles?

There are several avenues through which you can earn miles in the United MileagePlus program:

Book Flights with United Airlines

Ensure you use your MileagePlus number when booking flights on United or any of its partner airlines, such as Copa Airlines, Brussels Airlines, or Asiana Airlines.

It applies to United-operated flights and flights with Star Alliance partners like Singapore Airlines and Ethiopian Airlines.

The miles you earn depend on what kind of ticket you buy. Economy tickets usually earn the least, around 1-2 miles for every dollar you spend. Business and first-class tickets can earn more, up to 4-5 miles per dollar.

Use United Credit Cards

Applying for and utilizing United credit cards can help you earn miles on every purchase.

These cards are helpful for daily expenses and travel-related transactions, such as hotel bookings and car rentals, allowing you to accumulate miles steadily.

Different United credit cards give you different amounts of miles. Some give you bonus miles just for signing up, while others give you miles when you use the card to buy stuff. Usually, you’ll get 1-2 miles for every dollar you spend.

Partner Services

Take advantage of United Club membership and their partnership network, which includes various services from hotels and car rentals to dining.

Partners like Air India, Tap Air Portugal, and Chase Ultimate Rewards enable you to earn miles on activities other than flying, widening the ways you can grow your miles balance.

Booking Hotel Stays And Renting Cars

When you book hotels or rent cars through the MileagePlus portal, you can earn miles too.

The exact number of miles depends on the hotel or car rental company and the cost of your reservation. You can usually expect to get 2-10 miles per dollar spent.

Shopping with MileagePlus Partners

You can also earn miles when you shop with certain partners that work with MileagePlus. This includes online shopping and other everyday things.

The miles you get can be 1-5 miles per dollar spent, depending on the partner.

Other Ways to Earn Miles

There are a few other ways to earn miles, too:

  • Dining Programs: If you connect your MileagePlus account to certain dining programs, you can earn miles when you eat at participating restaurants.
  • Online Surveys and Activities: Some websites will give you a small number of miles for completing surveys or doing other online activities.

These are just general ranges, and the actual number of miles you earn can be different depending on specific programs and promotions that are currently in effect.

It’s important to remember that the value of miles can fluctuate for those looking to ensure the most straightforward value from their miles, selling them to a dedicated buyer like Top Dollar Payouts.

It could be a more advantageous option. This approach guarantees an immediate return on your miles without the complexities of redemption options.

8 Reasons Why You Should Avoid Redeeming Your United Miles?

While United MileagePlus miles offer various ways to redeem for travel and services, there are convincing reasons why their value may not be as favorable as receiving cash. Here are some considerations:

1. Limited Availability

Securing award flights for sought-after destinations or during peak travel seasons often proves challenging due to limited seat availability.

It can make you settle for less viable travel times or routes, reducing the practical value of your miles.

2. Inconsistent Award Charts

United’s redemption rates can fluctuate based on your travel dates, destination, and even the timing of your booking.

This variability can make it difficult to establish whether you’re maximizing the value of your miles, particularly when comparing international versus domestic flights.

3. Fuel Surcharges

United may impose additional fuel tariffs for award flights, especially long-haul routes. These fees can significantly lower the value you get from your miles, making cash more attractive.

4. Blackout Dates

Like many airlines, United enforces blackout dates where award flights are unavailable, regardless of mile availability. This limitation can severely restrict your flexibility in planning travel with miles.

5. Change and Cancellation Fees

If you need to change or cancel an award ticket, United might charge fees that drain your miles balance, adding frustration and reducing the utility of your miles.

6. Limited Transferability

Miles in the MileagePlus program are generally non-transferrable unless during specific promotions. This restriction limits your ability to use your miles for friends or family, denying their use.

7. Slow Accumulation

Collecting a significant number of miles through day-to-day spending can be lengthy. This slow earning rate can be impractical for those looking to travel soon or with a specific goal.

8. High Cost of Buying Miles

Although United occasionally runs promotions that offer bonuses on purchased miles, the standard cost of buying miles is typically high.

It can undermine potential savings or value, making selling your miles for cash increasingly attractive.

Given these factors, the constraints and potential costs involved can often make the straightforward cash value obtained from selling your miles a more favorable and hassle-free alternative.

How to Sell Your United Miles?

When choosing Top Dollar Payouts, selling your United miles can be straightforward and better value. Here’s how you can convert your MileagePlus miles into cash:

topdollarpayouts signup form

Fill the Form: Visit the Top Dollar Payouts website and complete the submission form. You’ll need to provide the number of miles you wish to sell, your name, email address, the specific award program (in this case, United MileagePlus), and your contact number.

Remember that the minimum number of miles you can sell varies depending on the loyalty program.

Receiving Your Preliminary Quote: Expect a rapid response from us—typically within about 15 minutes after you submit your form. You will receive an email with a quote for your miles and a link to proceed to the next step.

Personalized Communication & Negotiation: A representative from Top Dollar Payouts will contact you to discuss the initial quote. We aim to conduct transparent negotiations to ensure you receive the best mile price. We maintain communication through automated reminder emails to keep the process on track.

Secure Account Information Submission: You will be directed to submit your account details using a secure link. This critical step allows us to verify and authenticate your account, ensuring a smooth and safe transaction.

Thorough Verification of Your Details: Our team will meticulously review the account for any irregularities or potential fraudulent activities, maintaining the integrity and security of the transaction.

Processing Your Payment: Once your account is verified, we quickly proceed to the payment phase.

If you choose PayPal, you may see the funds in your account within a day, though be aware of potential holds by PayPal. Alternatively, if you prefer a bank wire transfer, we will confirm a flight booking before initiating the transfer, ensuring everything goes seamlessly.

While United Miles offers various uses, the limitations and decreasing returns can make them less valuable.

Top Dollar Payouts provide a tangible, immediate financial return. Click here to bypass the complex and often less rewarding process of mile redemption.

Getting Better Value For Your United Miles

Throughout this article, we’ve analyzed how United miles can be redeemed—from flights and upgrades to hotels and car rentals.

However, using miles is often not worth the difficulties and limitations. Their perceived best value often does not measure up to the straightforward cash value offered by Top Dollar Payouts.

Doing so removes the uncertainty and inflexibility of mile redemption. So, don’t let your miles devalue over time. Click here to get a free quote with Top Dollar Payouts.


How do I redeem my United miles?

Log into your United MileagePlus account, search for flights using miles, select your flight, and complete the booking using your miles.

Can you use United Miles to book for someone else?

Yes, you can use United miles to book flights for someone else. When prompted, log in to your account, start the booking process, and enter the traveler’s details instead of your own.

How many miles do you need to fly for free on United?

To fly for free on United, you typically need at least 20,800 miles for a coach/economy ticket and 75,500 miles for a business class ticket, though the required miles can be higher depending on the flight’s value.

Can I redeem United miles for cash?

You cannot directly redeem United miles for cash. However, you can sell your miles for cash through platforms like Top Dollar Payouts, offering a practical alternative to redeeming miles for flights or services.

When do United miles expire?

United miles do not expire, providing flexibility in how and when you choose to use them. However, they do become less valuable each year.

How much is 50,000 United miles worth?

50,000 United miles are worth approximately $450 to $600.

How do I use my miles to pay for a flight?

To use your miles to pay for a flight on United, you can book an award ticket on the United Airlines website or app. You must log in to your MileagePlus account and select the “Book with miles” option. You can also use the United Airlines app to search for award flights and book them directly.

How much is 100k United miles worth?

Based on the common redemption value, 100,000 United miles are worth approximately $900 to $1,060.

How to Redeem United Miles for Maximum Value?

While using United miles for flights within the world’s largest airline alliance offers some value, selling your miles for cash often provides the best return. It avoids the limitations and complexities of flight redemptions and maximizes the financial value of your miles.

Earning United miles can be slow, whether through frequent flying or using a United credit card for purchases. Besides, using miles for United Express or other United Airlines flights is often expensive.

Want a more innovative way to benefit in a system that doesn’t always work in your favor? Convert your miles into cash with Top Dollar Payouts and begin a straightforward, rewarding process today!