How to Find and Book United Saver Awards Through Partners

Booking saver award flights through United's partners means you'll likely redeem fewer points for the same trip.
JT Genter
By JT Genter 
Edited by Meghan Coyle

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In spring 2023, United made several changes to its unpublished saver award chart, increasing award prices by up to 122%. Unfortunately, travelers with United MileagePlus miles must pay higher rates for the same awards as before. However, not all travelers are stuck paying these higher rates.

For those with Chase Ultimate Rewards or Bilt Rewards, rather than transferring points to United MileagePlus, they can transfer points to United's partner airlines to potentially book the same award for much cheaper.

First, you need to know how to find United saver award availability. Then, you'll need to know a bit about which partner programs are better alternatives. Here's what you need to know about how to search and book United saver awards through partners.

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When to book United awards through partner programs

Before we get into how to search, we'll review a few cases when you'll want to consider booking through a partner loyalty program.

Save on United award flights to Europe

United MileagePlus now charges at least 80,000 miles each way for United Polaris business class awards to Europe, up from the previous award price of 60,000 miles each way. With this 33% jump, United went from an appealing option to a mediocre one.

However, you can do much better through partners. For example, Turkish Miles&Smiles charges 45,000 miles each way for the same United business class award. If you don't have enough miles in your Miles&Smiles account, you can transfer in Citi ThankYou points, Capital One miles or Marriott Bonvoy points.

Or if you have Chase Ultimate Rewards points, transfer points to Air Canada’s Aeroplan program instead of United to book United award flights to Europe. Aeroplan charges 60,000 points for business class awards under 4,000 miles in distance each way. That's enough to cover many routes from the Northeast U.S. to Western Europe.

If you need to fly further, itineraries covering up to 6,000 miles in distance cost 70,000 Aeroplan points. That means you can fly from Houston to Amsterdam for 70,000 Aeroplan points instead of 80,000 United miles.

Save on United award flights to Hawaii

Flying to Hawaii is another time when it can make sense to book United awards through partner loyalty programs. Under its dynamic award pricing model, United can charge wildly varying rates for flights to Hawaii. However, if you can find saver award availability, you can book for a set price through partner mileage programs.

For example, Denver to Kona often prices no lower than 25,000 MileagePlus miles for economy.

However, you can book the same awards cheaper through United's Star Alliance partners. For example, use Turkish Miles&Smiles to save on United award flights to Hawaii.

Turkish's online award search tool is wonky; but, if you can find award space, you'll pay 7,500 miles each way for economy and 12,500 miles each way in business class.

Based on our most recent analysis, NerdWallet values Turkish Airlines miles at 1.1 cents each. But this sweet spot can often provide much higher value than that.

Air Canada Aeroplan can also be an appealing option for booking United award flights between the U.S. West Coast and Hawaii. For partner awards, Air Canada Aeroplan charges 12,500 points for economy flights from 1,501 to 2,750 miles each direction.

That means you can book the same United awards for a fraction of the mileage cost, depending on what United decides to charge that day. For example, the same award above costs more than 30,000 United miles one-way through MileagePlus.

Don't already have Aeroplan points? You can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards®, American Express Membership Rewards, Capital One miles or Marriott Bonvoy points to Air Canada Aeroplan to take advantage of this Aeroplan sweet spot.

How to search United saver award availability

Over the years, United has made it progressively more difficult to find saver award availability. Yet, the United website is still the easiest way to do so. Here are the steps we recommend.

1. Log out

First, make sure that you're logged out of your United MileagePlus account. United Premier elite status members and United co-branded cardholders have access to additional saver award space. That extra award space is great when you're booking an award using MileagePlus miles, but this additional saver award isn't available when booking through partners.

2. Start searching on a special website

You don't necessarily want to start your award search on United's homepage. Instead, use this link to start your award search. Select the "book a MileagePlus® award ticket" option and enter your origin, destination, number of travelers and class of service.

For the cleanest results, we recommend searching one-way flights and selecting the "My dates are flexible" option. Select the earliest month you'd like to travel, as it's easier to scroll forward through the results than backward. Then, click "search" to launch an award search.

United will prompt you to log into your account. You'll only want to log into your account if you're using United miles. If you want to book United saver awards through partners, click the "X" at the top right of the pop-up box — or just press the escape key.

3. Search again

United doesn't seem to want travelers to know about this trick. So it will initially return an error that "there are no award flights on the date you selected." That's incorrect. Ignore the error and simply click the "update" button to see award search results.

4. Browse the calendar

This will display a results page with search results for the specific date that you searched along with a flexible-date calendar.

To see more dates, click the link to "view 30 days calendar" to further expand your search results. If you prefer a nonstop flight, you can uncheck the "with stops" option to limit the results to nonstop flights.

5. Find the cheapest date

Unfortunately, United no longer makes it easy to see on a calendar where there's award availability. Instead, it simply lists a bunch of rates on the calendar. Particularly on international routes, it will be obvious which dates have saver space as they will be much cheaper.

To confirm that there's saver award space on that date, click on the date and review the flight results. United will note "Saver Award" above economy award options with saver award space.

However, United doesn't make it clear for premium cabin awards. Instead, you'll need to check the fare class code in the details. "X" is the code for saver economy awards and "I" is the key for saver business class awards.

6. Look up the same trip on your preferred partner's website

Finally, use this information to search and book United saver awards through your preferred partner loyalty program.

Other tips for booking saver awards on partner sites

Narrow results to nonstop options

You can narrow down the calendar results by unchecking the "With stops" option at the bottom left of the calendar. Depending on the route, this may drastically reduce the number of award results.

🤓Nerdy Tip

Use the special award search link above to filter the calendar search results by the number of stops. United's standard award calendar gives the option to filter results by number of stops, but the calendar isn't updated to reflect nonstop pricing.

Avoid mixed cabin awards

If you're searching for premium cabin awards, United may show "mixed cabin" results. That's where only part of the itinerary is in a premium cabin and other legs are in economy. However, you'll still be charged the business class award price for the whole trip.

That might be worth it if you're flying in economy on a short domestic hop to catch a long-haul flight in business class. But check the details to make sure you're happy with the option.

There are two ways to avoid mixed cabin awards. First, search using flexible dates and limit the calendar results to nonstop flights. If a date shows premium cabin saver availability, you'll know that the nonstop flight has premium cabin availability.

For itineraries that require a connection, search flights separately. So if you find award space on one flight (e.g., Newark to Los Angeles) and a second flight (e.g., Los Angeles to Honolulu), you'll know that you can book those two legs together as one award through a partner program.

If you're searching for United saver award availability

United's website is a great way to search for United award availability. However, if you're planning to book United saver awards through a partner loyalty program, you'll want to search in a different way than if you're using United miles.

Make sure to stay logged out of your United MileagePlus account. Use a special link to start your search. Then, use nonstop filters to limit your options and avoid mixed cabin awards.

Review the price-based calendar results to find saver award space. Once you find award availability, take advantage of the best partner loyalty program pricing to book the award.

Doing all of this is more difficult than booking through United MileagePlus. However, the hard work is worth it when you book the same awards for a fraction of the miles United charges.

How to maximize your rewards

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