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There’s nothing quite like riding a train across Europe or sailing the Mediterranean, especially when you can fly into one city and out of another for about 60,000 United MileagePlus miles. The United Airlines MileagePlus rewards program is one of the best options for redeeming one-way flights to and from Europe, making it a particularly useful program for pairing with cruise and rail itineraries.
NerdWallet values United miles at 1 cent each. This is a baseline value, drawn from real-world data on hundreds of economy routes, not a maximized value. In other words, you should aim for award redemptions that offer 1 cent or more in value from your United miles.
Saver Awards between the U.S. and Europe start at 30,000 miles each way, plus $5.60 in security fees, and can be redeemed on routes that United, United Express and United’s partners fly. Saver Award fares are United’s lowest level award ticket, and availability is dictated by demand. Award bookings made within 21 days of departure will incur an extra fee.
Best of all, United flies into several cities that also are cruise or rail hubs including Rome; Barcelona, Spain; Paris; Amsterdam; and Athens, Greece.
It may sound like a big number, but earning 60,000 miles can be easier than you think. Here are four ways you can build enough miles to fly to Europe on travel rewards.
1. Sign up for the United℠ Explorer Card
The United℠ Explorer Card’s current sign-up bonus is: Earn 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
» Learn More: Find the best airline credit card for you
The card carries an annual fee of $0 intro for the first year, then $95. Cardholders receive a free checked bag for themselves and a companion, priority boarding, two one-time United Club passes each year and up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck. Earn 2 miles for every $1 spent at restaurants, hotel stays and United purchases, and 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases.
The card is particularly good for international travelers because it doesn’t charge fees on foreign transactions.
2. Sign up for a Chase Sapphire card
Chase Ultimate Rewards® points convert to MileagePlus miles at a one-to-one rate, making Chase Sapphire cards good options for redeeming United miles.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card has the following sign-up bonus: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve® has the following sign-up bonus: Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3. Convert your Marriott or Hyatt points to MileagePlus miles
Marriott Bonvoy points may be transferred at the rate of 3 Marriott Bonvoy points for 1.1 United MileagePlus mile.
World of Hyatt points convert at a ratio of 2.5 World of Hyatt points for every 1 United MileagePlus mile, and a minimum of 5,000 points is required for each conversion request. Over 5,000 points, points must be transferred to miles in increments of 1,000 points.
4. Earn and redeem miles through Star Alliance travel
You don’t have to fly United to earn MileagePlus points. United is a member of the Star Alliance, which means MileagePlus members can earn miles and redeem miles on a number of airlines including Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways, Swiss, Brussels Airlines and more.
» Learn more: 4 things the United MileagePlus program gets right
United’s partners in the Star Alliance award MileagePlus miles based on a calculation involving the price and class of the ticket and the flight distance. Additionally, United Saver Awards may not be available on high demand flights, and certain United partners may impose date restrictions.
How to maximize your rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card
Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice: Pros and Cons of United’s Huge Premier Status Changes 6 Things to Know About United Lounges Why the United Explorer Card is great for practical travelers