Learning how to maximize your credit card rewards is an important skill, and it’s no different with United MileagePlus miles. You can earn the loyalty program’s currency with a co-branded United credit card or transfer from certain credit cards in the Chase Ultimate Rewards program.
But how much are United miles worth? That depends on a number of factors. But with the airline eliminating its award chart, it’s more important now than ever to know how to value the points you’ve earned.
Here’s what you need to know about how much United MileagePlus miles are worth, as well as what you can do to maximize the value you gain from the frequent-flyer program.
How much are United miles worth?
There’s no set value for United miles, and their dynamic pricing structure is common among airline and hotel rewards programs.
Based on several reports, you can generally expect to get an average of 1.3 cents per mile in value. But your actual redemption rate can vary based on your airport of origin and destination, fare class, travel dates, and the cash price of the fare.
For example, a domestic flight will typically cost you fewer award miles than a flight to Europe or Southeast Asia, and the number of miles it requires doesn’t always increase at the same rate as the cash price of the different fares.
Also, you’ll often get a better redemption rate when booking business class or first class tickets over the main cabin — although there’s never a guarantee.
To find out how much value you’re getting from a specific redemption, simply divide the cash price of the fare by the number of miles required to book it. Here are a few examples:
New York City to Los Angeles
Let’s say you live in New York City and want to book a flight to Los Angeles. We found a nonstop flight from Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in the main cabin for $333 or 25,000 miles.
To find your redemption value, you’d divide the $333 cash price by 25,000 to get 1.33 cents per mile, which is about average. Note that this doesn’t include the taxes and fees you’d pay on the award ticket, but we’re leaving that out to avoid overcomplicating the calculation.
If you were to book a first-class flight on the same dates, it would cost you $1,317 or 100,000 miles, giving you a value of 1.32 cents per mile.
In this scenario, your points get about the same value with each cabin, so choosing first-class over economy wouldn’t give you much of an advantage other than the actual experience. And if you can get four round-trip, main-cabin flights for the price of one first-class fare, trading that for a few extra amenities on a six-hour flight likely won’t make sense.
San Francisco to Bangkok
If you’re planning on making a trip to Thailand, we found a main-cabin ticket from San Francisco via United-partner All Nippon Airways (ANA) that would run you $1,380 or 80,000 miles. This redemption would give you 1.73 cents per mile in value, which is much higher than the average of 1.3 cents.
But if you’re looking for a business-class experience, the cash price would be $4,793 with ANA versus 180,000 miles with Asiana Airlines and Thai Airways. With this redemption, you’d get a whopping 2.67 cents per mile, which is roughly double the average.
If you have enough miles in this scenario, it’s almost a no-brainer to take the business-class ticket over economy. Even if it costs more than double the amount of miles, you’ll get a much higher rewards rate and better amenities for a trip that will have you in the air for 16 to 19 hours.
How to maximize your redemptions
Maximizing the value of your United miles can take a lot of time and research. But if you’re planning a big trip, the savings could be well worth the effort. As you try to squeeze as much value out of your rewards as possible, here are some helpful tips.
Use your miles with an airline partner
If you’re planning a domestic trip, it’s likely that you’ll be flying on a United-operated flight. But international trips are often provided by one of the airline’s 35-plus airline partners.
But as you can see from our second scenario above, booking a business-class trip with Asiana Airlines and Thai Airways — both of which are members of the Star Alliance with United — is much more lucrative than paying cash.
Keep in mind that you typically don’t need to transfer your miles to one of United’s partners to book flights. Instead, you can usually book partner flights directly through the United website. With so many partners, this opens up a lot of opportunities to shop around to make sure you get the best redemption value possible.
It's also worth noting that United doesn't add fuel surcharges to its award tickets or award flights with Star Alliance partners, while other major carriers often do. While this doesn't impact the value of your miles per se, it can end up being a huge money-saver, especially on international flights.
Use United’s Excursionist Perk
The Excursionist Perk is one of the United MileagePlus program’s most valuable features. The idea is that if you book an award itinerary with three or more one-way trips, you can get one of them for free.
For example, let’s say you live near Chicago and want to visit London and Paris. By booking three one-way tickets — one from Chicago to London, one from London to Paris, and one from Paris back to Chicago — you’d only have to pay for two of those tickets.
There are, of course, some limitations to this perk. For example, you can only use the perk in a different region from your airport of origin. So if you’re flying from Chicago, you need to travel outside of North America to get it. Also, your origin and final destination need to be in the same region.
Check United’s award page for more details on the Excursionist Perk.
Transfer credit card points to United
You don’t need a United credit card to rack up rewards in the airline’s loyalty program. If you’re looking to boost your MileagePlus balance, you can also transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to United at a 1:1 ratio if you have an eligible card, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve, or a business card like the Chase Ink Business Preferred.
You can also transfer Marriott Bonvoy points to United MileagePlus at a 3:1.1 ratio, plus a 10% bonus. This is one of the best travel credit cards for grabbing United miles through a transfer.
Before you transfer your points from another program, though, consider what you may be leaving on the table. For example, the Ultimate Rewards program also has many other international airline partners. If you can get a better rewards rate on a trip to Southeast Asia by transferring your points to Singapore Airlines instead, for instance, moving them to United may cause you to lose value.
Figuring out how to maximize rewards when there are multiple transfer partners available can require a higher level of savviness. But if your priority is to get the best value, it’s worth taking the time to research all your options.
Sometimes, maximizing the value of your rewards includes not using them at all. United often runs special flight deals on certain routes, which can make it worth paying cash instead of using your miles.
As with any flight, be sure to check the price in both cash and miles to find out what the redemption rate would be. If it’s below the average of 1.3 cents, consider paying out of pocket instead of spending your hard-earned rewards.
Also, keep in mind that the lowest price shown is typically for United’s basic economy fare, which doesn’t allow you to choose or upgrade your seat, bring a full-size carry-on bag, or request a ticket change or refund.
How many miles do you need for a free flight on United Airlines?
United Airlines doesn’t have a published award chart, so the number of airline miles needed for a free flight can vary by route, distance, and other factors. However, it’s possible to find one-way award flights for as few as 5,000 miles.
If you can take advantage of sign-up bonuses from United Airlines credit cards, it’s often easy to earn tens of thousands of miles after meeting a minimum spend requirement within a few months of your account opening.
What airline and hotel partners does United have?
United partners with many hotels and airlines, including all airlines in the Star Alliance. Star Alliance partner airlines include:
- Aegean Airlines
- Air Canada
- Air China
- Air India
- Air New Zealand
- All Nippon Airways (ANA)
- Asiana Airlines
- Austrian Airlines
- Avianca Airlines
- Brussels Airlines
- Copa Airlines
- Croatia Airlines
- Ethiopian Airlines
- EVA Air
- LOT Polish Airlines
- Lufthansa Airlines
- Scandinavian Airlines (SAS)
- Shenzhen Airlines
- Singapore Airlines
- South African Airways
- Swiss Airlines
- TAP Air Portugal
- Thai Airways
- Turkish Airlines
United hotel partners include:
- Accor Live Limitless
- Choice Privileges
- Golden Circle
- IHG Rewards Club
- Marriott Bonvoy
- Radisson Rewards
- World of Hyatt
- Wyndham Rewards
Which credit card is best for United?
If you want to earn bonus miles and take advantage of useful United benefits, consider credit card offers from Chase. This credit card issuer partners with United to provide multiple credit cards that earn United miles, which can be helpful if you want to pad your MileagePlus account.
But the best United credit card depends on what you’re looking for. For example, the United Explorer Card offers a free first checked bag and up to $100 in TSA PreCheck or Global Entry fee credit. If you want more benefits, the United Quest Card also offers the TSA PreCheck or Global Entry fee credit, as well as $125 in annual United purchase credits, two free checked bags, and two 5,000-mile anniversary award flight credits.
How much are 25,000 United miles worth?
The value of 25,000 United miles depends on how you’re using them. Redeeming miles for airfare is typically the best option for travel rewards because it often offers the most value. Travel experts say United miles are worth about 1.3 cents per point, which would make 25,000 United miles worth $325 in United flights.
Are United miles worth more than Delta and American Airlines miles?
According to travel experts, United miles are generally worth around the same as Delta and American Airlines miles, though Delta SkyMiles may have slightly less value and American AAdvantage miles slightly more.
But the actual value of any points or miles will vary depending on how you use them and whether you can find a good deal. Typically, the best redemption option for miles is using them on travel, especially for award flights.
Use United credit cards to get even more value
Understanding how to maximize your United miles for free flights is an essential skill for any MileagePlus member. But getting free flights isn’t enough if you want to get the best experience possible. Your next step should be to decide which is the best airline credit card from United for your needs. Card options include:
By applying for a United credit card, you’ll not only have the chance to rack up rewards with the program, but you’ll also get a suite of other valuable perks whenever you fly with United.
That includes things like priority boarding, statement credits on inflight purchases, free checked bags, and complimentary access to the airline’s airport lounge network. Depending on how often you fly with United, compare credit cards to determine which one will provide you with the most value relative to their annual fees.
Best Rewards for United
up to 2X miles
- Up to 70,000 mile sign-up bonus
- 2X miles on United purchases, dining, and hotel stays
- Free first checked bag
- 2 United Club Passes annually
- Has annual fee after year one
- Best usage limited to United flyers
- Earn 60,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months (plus an additional 10,000 bonus miles after spending $6,000 in the first 6 months)
- 2X miles on dining, hotel stays, and United purchases and 1X miles on everything else