How to Maximize Your Miles with the MileagePlus Dining Program [2020]

Want to earn extra rewards for travel when you dine out? Find out how you could earn up to five miles per dollar.
Last updated Sep 21, 2020 | By Lindsay Frankel
Friends dining at restaurant

FinanceBuzz is reader-supported. We may receive compensation from the products and services mentioned in this story, but the opinions are the author's own. Compensation may impact where offers appear. We have not included all available products or offers. Learn more about how we make money and our editorial policies.

If you love the idea of traveling for nearly free, then it’s time to get serious about maximizing your rewards. In addition to using your credit cards strategically, that means taking advantage of programs that allow you to double up on miles. United Airlines’ MileagePlus Dining program is one such option, offering free membership and rewards for dining out.

Read on to learn more about the MileagePlus Dining program and how to maximize your rewards.

Jump To

What is MileagePlus Dining?

MileagePlus Dining is a membership program that provides United miles to members when they spend money at participating restaurants. You earn miles by registering your credit and debit cards, then using those cards to pay for your meal or drinks.

MileagePlus Dining offers 10,000 participating restaurants and bars, so you can be rewarded with United miles for eating out or grabbing drinks at places you’d visit anyway. And you’ll earn miles for every dollar you spend, including tax and tip.

It’s a great program for anyone who dines out frequently and likes to fly United. The best part is that you can earn miles on top of your credit card rewards, so you’ll be doubling up.

How does MileagePlus Dining work?

You’ll need a MileagePlus account to get started, but it’s free to sign up. From there, you can register any credit or debit cards you plan to use when dining out. All you have to do is use these cards at participating restaurants to earn miles. You can earn up to five miles per dollar spent, depending on your membership level.

You’ll also have plenty of opportunities to earn bonuses. For example, new members can earn up to 2,500 bonus miles in the first 30 days. That’s 1,000 miles for your first visit totaling $25 or more, then 500 miles for up to three visits after that.

You’ll also get bonus offers emailed to you. You can earn miles for doing things like:

  • Opting into emails
  • Taking a survey
  • Visiting more restaurants
  • Spending a minimum amount when you dine out
  • Adding a credit or debit card

Your membership will expire after 36 months of inactivity, so you only have to dine out occasionally to keep earning miles. But the more you spend, the more you’ll earn. And the miles you earn will never expire.

What are the benefits of enrolling in the MileagePlus Dining program?

With the MileagePlus Dining program, you can quickly rack up United miles for frequenting eligible restaurants. And if you spend on a rewards credit card, you’ll also score points, miles, or cash back in addition to United miles.

You can easily earn 6% back or more, depending on the credit card you use and your membership level. For example, you could earn 3X miles from the MileagePlus Dining program and up to 3X points from a rewards card, like the Wells Fargo Propel American Express Card. And with opportunities to score bonus miles, you can take your rewards to the next level.

How many miles can you earn with MileagePlus Dining?

The miles you earn will depend on your membership level. If you choose to receive promotional emails from United, you’ll be a Select member, which means you’ll earn three miles per dollar spent. If you also complete 11 qualifying transactions in a calendar year, you’ll be upgraded to a VIP member, which means you’ll get five miles per dollar going forward.

If you elect not to receive email communication, you’ll only get one mile per two dollars spent, so we definitely recommend opting in.

How to find participating restaurants

Finding restaurants that participate in the MileagePlus Dining program is quick and easy. Just enter your ZIP code in the search bar at the top of the MileagePlus Dining website You can also input the name of the restaurant or bar you want to visit to see if it’s eligible.

Alternatively, use the advanced search function; this is a helpful tool if you want to narrow down your choices, especially while traveling.

How to Maximize Your Miles with the MileagePlus Dining Program

With the advanced search function, you can find restaurants within a certain radius of your ZIP code or address, in a specific neighborhood, or even near a landmark. This can be a really useful tool if you’re visiting a museum while traveling and want to find someplace close by to eat, for example.

You can also narrow down your choices by the kind of cuisine, type of establishment, open hours, price, and other features. From there, just click “Search” to see your options!

How to use your credit card to earn more MileagePlus Dining miles

One of the best parts about joining the MileagePlus Dining program is that you’ll earn United miles on top of your credit card rewards. Choose your credit card wisely, and you’ll be able to stack up the miles from both sources to put toward your next trip.

One way to do this is by using one of the best airline credit cards that is co-branded like the United Airlines credit card to earn MileagePlus rewards directly. You could potentially earn up to seven miles per dollar if you both use a credit card that offers two miles per dollar and become a VIP member in the MileagePlus Dining program. For example, the United Explorer Card offers up to 2X miles per dollar spent. Add that to the 5X miles you’ll get as a VIP, and you could earn 7X miles on certain purchases!

You could also link a credit card that offers significant rewards on dining purchases and allows you to transfer your points to your MileagePlus account. For example, the Chase Sapphire Reserve gets you up to 10x points per dollar, which can be transferred to your MileagePlus account at a 1:1 ratio.

Or you could use a card that offers 8% tickets purchased through Vivid Seats (through January 2022), like the Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card, and use that cash back in conjunction with your MileagePlus rewards to book a flight through United.

Let’s take a look at some of the best travel credit cards that can help you maximize your rewards when you dine out through the MileagePlus Dining program.

Card name Welcome bonus Rewards rate Travel benefits Annual fee
United Explorer Card Earn 40,000 bonus miles after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months 2X miles at restaurants and delivery services, hotel accommodations booked directly with the hotel, and eligible United purchases; and 1X miles on everything else Free first checked bag

Priority boarding

Two United Club one-time passes each year

No foreign transaction fees

$95 (waived first year)
Chase Sapphire Reserve Card Earn 50,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months 10X points on Lyft rides, 3X points on travel (excluding $300 travel credit), 3X points at restaurants, and 1X points per $1 spent on everything else $300 annual travel credit

Free airport lounge access

No foreign transaction fees

Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Card Earn $300 cash bonus after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months 8% cash back on tickets purchased through Vivid Seats (through January 2022), 4% unlimited cash back on dining and entertainment, 2% at grocery stores (excludes superstores like Walmart and Target), and 1% cash back on all other purchases Travel accident insurance

Complimentary concierge service

No foreign transaction fees

Uber Visa Card $100 back after spending $500 in the first 90 days 4% back on dining; 3% back on hotels and airfare; 2% back on online purchases (including Uber); 1% back on all other purchases No foreign transaction fees $0

Common questions about the MileagePlus Dining program

Are there bonuses for new members?

Yes. New members can earn up to 2,500 bonus miles for visiting four restaurants within 30 days. You’ll earn 1,000 miles for your first visit of $25 or more, then 500 miles for up to three visits thereafter.

How long does it take for MileagePlus Dining miles to post?

Miles will typically post to your MileagePlus Dining account within five days, but it can take six to eight weeks for them to appear in your MileagePlus account.

Is it free to join the MileagePlus Dining program?

Absolutely! It’s 100% free to join.

How can I earn more miles through MileagePlus Dining?

Aside from bonus opportunities, the MileagePlus Dining program frequently offers promotional opportunities to earn extra miles when you purchase certain products or services.

How to sign up for the MileagePlus Dining program

If those MileagePlus Dining program perks sound appealing to you, remember that the sign-up process is easy, and it’s totally free to join. There are only a few steps required:

  1. You’ll need a MileagePlus account to get started. If you don’t have one, you can enroll here. You’ll just need basic information like your name, contact information, and email address to join.
  2. Once you have your MileagePlus number and password, you can use it to sign into your MileagePlus Dining account. Enter that information here and click “Sign in.”
  3. To join the program, you’ll need to register one or more credit cards. To do this:
    1. Click the “Account Information” tab
    2. Find the “Registered Credit/Debit Cards” panel on the right-hand column
    3. Click “Add card”
    4. Enter your credit card information
    5. Click “Save”
  4. Use the cards you registered at participating restaurants to rack up extra miles.

Earn those miles

Between your trusty rewards card and your MileagePlus Dining account, you’ll be on your way to earning free United flights in no time. Just remember to choose the right credit card, dine at participating restaurants whenever possible, and keep an eye out for bonus opportunities.

Best Rewards for United


  • 40,000 mile sign-up bonus
  • 2X miles on United purchases, restaurants, and delivery services
  • Free first checked bag
  • 2 United Club Passes annually