How to Earn United Miles on Everyday Purchases

Earning United Miles from shopping isn’t complicated and can offer bonus rewards for purchases you already make.
Last updated April 20, 2022 | By Ben Walker, CEPF | Edited By Michael Kurko
African American woman with credit card and phone

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United Airlines is one of the largest and most well-known airlines worldwide, offering flights to more than 300 destinations and employing a workforce of about 70,000 employees. United MileagePlus, United’s loyalty program, provides its more than 100 million members opportunities to earn United miles by booking United flights, using certain credit cards, and taking advantage of partner offers.

Savvy members can also earn miles through everyday shopping trips and can redeem award miles toward flights, hotel stays, and more. Here’s how the United Airlines MileagePlus program works and how you can reduce your travel expenses with everyday purchases.

In this article

What is United MileagePlus?

United MileagePlus is the loyalty program, sometimes called a frequent flyer program, for United Airlines. It’s free to join and offers opportunities for members to both earn and redeem United MileagePlus miles. This can be beneficial to frequent United travelers who can earn and redeem more rewards the more they fly with United and its partner airlines.

But because it doesn’t cost anything to join the United MileagePlus program and only takes a few minutes or less to sign up, you might as well join. Even if you don’t travel frequently, there are ways to boost your earnings that aren’t flying-related. This could include using certain credit cards, dining, staying at hotels, and making everyday shopping trips.

United MileagePlus has over 100 million global members and is considered one of the most valuable loyalty programs in the world. You can access your MileagePlus account through a web browser or the United Airlines mobile app, which is available on both the App Store and Google Play.

How does United MileagePlus work?

To earn and use miles with the MileagePlus program, you need to create a free MileagePlus account. Then decide which of the following strategies you want to use to earn United miles.

  • Fly with United or United Express
  • Fly with Star Alliance and other airline partners
  • Stay with hotel and vacation rental partners (including Marriott and IHG)
  • Earn miles with other travel-related activities (renting cars with Avis and Budget, booking a cruise through United Cruises, or booking Vrbo rentals)
  • Use certain credit cards
  • Shop through the MileagePlus Shopping program
  • Dine at participating restaurants using the MileagePlus Dining program
  • Buy eGift cards
  • Buy vacation packages
  • Earn miles through partnerships (including with Rocket Mortgage and LifeLock)

United miles never expire, so you don’t have to worry about qualifying activities every year or 18 months. If you want to use your miles, here are some of your redemption options:

  • Award airfare
  • Fare class upgrades
  • Hotel stays
  • Car rental bookings
  • Cruises
  • Merchandise
  • eGift cards
  • Experiences
  • TSA PreCheck membership
  • United Club membership
  • United Wi-Fi subscription
  • Charitable donations
  • Airport dining experiences
  • Magazine and newspaper subscriptions

Although you might find a combination of different earning strategies works for you, the most valuable redemption options for United miles are typically for award flights.

How to earn United miles by shopping

You have a few options for earning United miles by shopping, including using the MileagePlus Shopping program, the MileagePlus X app, and credit cards. You aren’t limited to using only one or two of these options, and in some cases, you might consider using all three strategies to maximize your earning potential.

MileagePlus Shopping

The MileagePlus Shopping portal is similar to other popular shopping portals, including Rakuten and TopCashBack. This means you have to visit the shopping portal first and then click on a link to the online store where you want to shop and complete your purchase there.

The shopping portal should track your purchases and reward you accordingly. In some instances, you might be able to earn up to 3X miles or more on a purchase you were already planning on making.

Tip: Install the MileagePlus Shopping button on your Chrome browser to start earning with MileagePlus from more than 850 online stores.

MileagePlus X

MileagePlus X is a mobile app that offers users United miles for purchasing digital gift cards. For example, you might be able to buy an Apple gift card to use toward a new iPhone.

You can also use the MileagePlus X app to access the MileagePlus Shopping and MileagePlus Dining programs. You can make virtual shopping trips within the app and view nearby stores with deals for earning United miles.

Tip: Buy an eGift card from the MileagePlus X app for an online store where you’re about to make a purchase. Then use the MileagePlus Shopping portal or Chrome extension to activate earning miles at the online store’s site. This could let you earn more United miles by offering rewards for purchasing a gift card through MileagePlus X and for making a purchase.

Credit cards

If you compare credit cards, it’s often easy to see how everyday spending with rewards cards can help you earn points, miles, or cash back. You simply use the right credit card for purchases you were already planning on making and earn rewards.

In order to earn United miles, you typically need to use one of the United credit cards or a credit card that earns rewards that can be transferred to your MileagePlus account. To help increase your earning potential, combine using credit cards with both the MileagePlus Shopping program and the MileagePlus X app.

Tip: For even more earning, follow the tip in the MileagePlus X section above, but use a rewards credit card to make your gift card purchase. This could net you combined rewards for making a purchase with a credit card, buying a gift card through MileagePlus X, and using the MileagePlus Shopping portal.

The best credit cards to earn more MileagePlus miles

Credit cards are often one of the simplest ways to earn points or miles with your preferred loyalty program. You typically use a specific card for purchases you already make — such as gas, groceries, or travel — and reap the rewards. If you want to earn airline miles, it makes sense to choose the best airline credit cards.

If you want to earn even more MileagePlus miles, consider combining United Airlines credit cards with general travel cards. This could allow you to earn multiple rewards you can use for travel redemptions.

Here are some cards that will earn United miles:

Card name Sign-up bonus Rewards rate Travel benefits Annual fee
Chase Sapphire Preferred Earn 80,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months 5X points on Lyft rides and travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards; 3X points on eligible dining, select streaming services, and online grocery purchases; 2X points on travel; and 1X points per $1 on all other eligible purchases
  • $50 annual hotel credit
  • 25% bonus travel redemptions
  • Transfer points to travel partners
$95
Chase Sapphire Reserve Earn 50,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months 10X points on Lyft rides, Chase Dining purchases, hotels and cars booked via Ultimate Rewards, and Peloton Bike and Tread purchases; 5X points on air travel booked via Ultimate Rewards; 3X points on travel and dining; and 1X points on everything else
  • $300 annual travel credit
  • 50% bonus travel redemptions
  • Airport lounge access with Priority Pass membership
  • Transfer points to travel partners
$550
United Explorer Card Earn 60,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months (earn an additional 10,000 bonus miles after spending $6,000 on purchases in the first 6 months) 2X miles on dining (including eligible delivery services), hotel stays, and United purchases and 1X miles on everything else
  • Free first checked bag
  • Two annual United Club passes
  • Priority boarding and upgrades
$95 (waived first year)
United Club Infinite Card Earn 100,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months 4X miles on United purchases; 2X miles on other travel and dining (including eligible delivery services), 1X miles on all other purchases
  • Two free checked bags
  • United Club membership
  • IHG Rewards Platinum Elite status
  • Premier Access benefits
$525
United Business Card Earn 75,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months 2X miles on United purchases and dining (including eligible delivery services), at gas stations, office supply stores, and on local transit and commuting; and 1X miles on everything else
  • Free first checked bag
  • Two annual United Club passes
  • Priority boarding and upgrades
$99 (waived first year)

All the listed United cards offer ways to earn miles through everyday spending, whether it’s on dining, gas, or other purchases. You can put miles into your MileagePlus account and earn rewards directly.

However, using the Chase Sapphire cards for certain purchases could net you bonus points, such as on streaming services or eating out. In these situations, it might make sense to use different cards where you can maximize their earning potential. If you use a Chase Sapphire card, you can transfer your Ultimate Rewards points to your MileagePlus account because Chase is a United travel partner.

FAQs about United MileagePlus

How do I use United miles for merchandise?

Visit the MileagePlusAwards site and log into your MileagePlus account. Here, you can search for different products and filter by the number of United miles you want to use. Available merchandise includes travel products, electronics, and even wine. When you’re ready to make a purchase, simply select the item(s) you want and go through the checkout process. You’ll need the required number of miles in your account to finish the transaction.

What can you buy with United Airlines miles?

The United MileagePlus awards portal offers opportunities to use your United miles on many types of merchandise. These include travel products, electronics, wine, jewelry, sports equipment, and more. However, using United miles for merchandise doesn’t typically offer as good a value as travel redemptions.

For example, an Amazon tablet that retails for $150 might cost 55,000 miles. That nets you about 27 cents per mile, which is much less than the accepted United miles valuation of about 1.2 cents per mile.

Can I redeem United miles for cash?

United doesn’t offer a cashback option for your miles, but you can redeem miles for flights, hotel stays, merchandise, gift cards, experiences, and more. You typically get the most value for your miles when you use them for award tickets, but redeeming them for gift cards is the closest option to a cash redemption.

How to sign up for the MileagePlus Shopping program

Signing up for the MileagePlus Shopping program is free, and it’s easy to get started. Any United MileagePlus member can participate and there’s no cost for creating a MileagePlus account.

1. Navigate to United.com or the United MileagePlus Shopping website and select “Sign In.”

United Airlines United MileagePlus Shopping website

2. Click on the “Join now” option to create a MileagePlus account.

United Airlines MileagePlus create account

3. Fill in the required information, including your full name and date of birth.

United Airlines MileagePlus name and date

4. Once you’ve created your account and logged in, use the MileagePlus Shopping portal to browse stores and deals. Select “Shop now” on a store to navigate to a store’s website and complete your online shopping trip like normal.

United Airlines MileagePlus Shopping portal

If you want to earn miles for in-store shopping trips, follow these steps after you’ve created a MileagePlus account:

1. Navigate to the in-store MileagePlus Shopping site to add offers to your account.

United Airlines MileagePlus earn miles

2. You must add an eligible Visa, Mastercard, or American Express card to your account to be able to add in-store shopping offers. You can add credit cards by selecting “Manage your in-store credit cards” in your account settings.

United Airlines MileagePlus manage cards

3. Once you’ve linked a credit card, you can link in-store offers to that card and then use your linked card to make eligible in-store purchases to earn miles.

United Airlines MileagePlus in-store offer

Bottom line

If you’re able to take advantage of the different ways you can earn United miles with the MileagePlus program, you could be well on your way to padding your United account balance. Using the MileagePlus Shopping program to earn miles isn’t likely to change your shopping routine, and taking another step or two could pay off in extra miles.

One of the best ways to earn travel rewards is to use credit cards designed for travelers. These typically offer perks and rewards that could reduce your travel expenses and enhance your travel experience.

For more details, check out our list of the best travel credit cards.

Our #1 Travel Card

Intro Offer

Earn 80,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months

Annual Fee

$95

Rewards Rate

5X points on Lyft rides and travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards; 3X points on eligible dining, select streaming services, and online grocery purchases; 2X points on travel; and 1X points per $1 on all other eligible purchases

Benefits and Drawbacks

Benefits

  • point sign-up bonus
  • points on
  • 25% more value when redeeming rewards for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • 10% anniversary point bonus each year
  • $50 annual credit on hotel stays booked through Ultimate Rewards
  • Premium travel protection benefits

Drawbacks

  • Has annual fee
  • Typically need to spend thousands to reap rewards
Card Details
  • Earn 80,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
  • 5X points on Lyft rides and travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards; 3X points on eligible dining, select streaming services, and online grocery purchases; 2X points on travel; and 1X points per $1 on all other eligible purchases

Author Details

Ben Walker, CEPF Ben Walker, CEPF, is a credit cards and travel writer at FinanceBuzz who loves helping others achieve their travel goals through financially sound decisions. For over a decade, he has been using credit card points and miles for the sole purpose of traveling the world. Ben is a Certified Educator of Personal Finance and has been featured in The Washington Post, MSN, Debt.com, and Finder.com.