United Miles Value: How Much They’re Worth

Sam KemmisJun 27, 2021
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The United MileagePlus program is one of the largest, and most complicated, airline rewards systems in the world. Learning how to navigate it starts with knowing how much its currency — miles — are worth.

Here’s the short answer: The value of United MileagePlus miles is roughly 1 cent each. You can get more or less value from each mile depending on when and how you use them, but this is a good estimate for comparing your own redemptions.

What does this value mean?

We estimate that each United mile is worth 1 cent, but this is a baseline value, not a maximized value based on comparing real-world cash and award fares in main cabin. You can get considerably more bang from your miles by researching carefully, targeting partner airlines, leveraging the Excursionist Perk and booking business class (see below). You can also get considerably less value by using your United miles carelessly. Just like real money, there are better and worse ways to use award miles.

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What’s the value when using United miles for business class tickets?

For our main valuation, we only compare main cabin fares. Yet United miles can also be used to book premium cabin travel — often for significantly higher value.

Main cabin value (cents)

Business class value (cents)

United MileagePlus miles

1 cent

2.4 cents

Does this mean you should always use United miles to book business class tickets, to get the maximum value? Not necessarily. The cash prices for these tickets can cost literally tens of thousands of dollars, so while you might get the most raw value by using them in this way, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get the most personal value.

What’s the best time to use United miles?

We compared the value when booking at three different time frames:

  • 180 days before departure.

  • 15 days before departure.

  • Peak holiday travel (Dec. 22-29).

There’s not a huge difference, except the relatively low values when booking business class travel during the holidays. This is mostly good news, as it means you don’t have to worry too much about the time frame when using United miles.

How flexible are United miles?

In a word: Very.

United miles can be used to book flights on United, of course. They can also be used to book flights on dozens of partner airlines (through the United search tool, not by transferring to partners), upgrade to premium cabin seats and even upgrade Star Alliance partner flights.

You can also use these miles for unusual purchases such as magazine subscriptions and rental cars, but in general these redemption options don’t offer great value.

How do United miles compare with other airlines?

United falls near the middle of the airline pack with its mile value.

Program

Mile value

1.1 cents.

1.2 cents.

1.3 cents.

0.7 cent.

1 cent.

1.5 cents.

1.4 cents.

1 cent.

How did we determine the value of United miles?

We collected hundreds of data points comparing the cash value with award (mile) value for the same routes and dates. That is, we compared the cost of a given ticket in either cash or miles, across many tickets.

This method differs from others in that it looks at actual redemptions rather than hypothetical, maximized redemptions. The advantage of this approach is that it provides a real-world indication of how much these miles are worth, on average. That said, it doesn’t take into account the upper range of potential values.

Wondering what you can do with those miles? Check out our guide to booking award flights with United.

Frequently asked questions

According to NerdWallet’s analysis, 10,000 United miles are worth about $100.

According to NerdWallet’s analysis, 25,000 United miles are worth about $250.

According to NerdWallet’s analysis, 50,000 United miles are worth about $500.

According to NerdWallet’s analysis, 80,000 United miles are worth about $800.

According to NerdWallet’s analysis, 100,000 United miles are worth about $1,000.


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