5 Sweet Spots to Get the Most Value From Your United Miles

These award flights on United Airlines are relatively "cheap" considering how many miles it'll cost.

Keith M. RossoAugust 6, 2020
On a similar note...
On a similar note...

Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This may influence which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own.

There’s no right or wrong way to use your United MileagePlus miles. But some award flights can get you more value or unlock travel opportunities you might miss out on if you’re paying cash, like flying in premium class.

To get the most value for your hard-earned MileagePlus miles, remember that you’re not limited to United flights. You can book award flights on more than three dozen partner airlines at united.com.

United is a Chase Ultimate Rewards® transfer partner, so you can convert your points to miles if you have an eligible card. Or you can earn MileagePlus miles directly with a card like the United℠ Explorer Card.

Use MileagePlus miles on United or partner airlines

United no longer has an award chart for flights it operates. Instead, the cost varies based on demand, similar to pricing when you’re paying cash.

To confirm a Saver Award is available on your desired travel dates, you’ll have to search for an award flight. If you’re flexible with your travel dates, you’ll increase the likelihood of finding reasonably priced award flights.

You can use MileagePlus miles to book award flights on any Star Alliance member airline or United non-alliance partners.

  • Aegean.

  • Air Canada.

  • Air China.

  • Air India.

  • Air New Zealand.

  • All Nippon Airways (ANA).

  • Asiana Airlines.

  • Austrian Airlines.

  • Avianca.

  • Brussels Airlines.

  • COPA.

  • Croatia Airlines.

  • EgyptAir.

  • Ethiopian Airlines.

  • EVA Air.

  • LOT Polish Airlines.

  • Lufthansa.

  • SAS.

  • Shenzhen Airlines.

  • Singapore Airlines.

  • South African Airways.

  • Swiss International Airlines.

  • TAP Portugal.

  • Thai Airways International.

  • Turkish Airlines.

  • Aer Lingus.

  • Aeromar.

  • Air Dolomiti.

  • Azul.

  • Boutique Air.

  • Cape Air.

  • Edelweiss.

  • Eurowings.

  • Hawaiian Airlines (only for inter-island flights).

  • Olympic Air.

  • Silver Airways.

  • Vistara.

With so many flights offered by United and its partners, it’s hard to know where you can get the most value out of your United MileagePlus miles. So here are some sweet spots you should be aware of:

1. Short-haul economy flights

If you’re booking a short-haul flight within the U.S. or internationally, it’s worth looking into booking the flight with MileagePlus miles. Depending on your travel dates, you can book a Saver Award for as little as 5,000 to 8,000 United miles each way.

For example, it’s possible to fly from Los Angeles to San Francisco for 5,000 miles. For 8,000 miles you can book direct flights on routes such as Newark to Orlando on United, Dublin to London on Aer Lingus or Frankfurt to Munich on Lufthansa.

2. Business class to Europe

Using miles to fly across the Atlantic in a lie-flat seat can be a great way to get the most value for your miles, especially because the cash fare for these business class seats can run into the thousands of dollars.

It’s possible to book a business class seat on a direct flight to Europe for 60,000 miles each way on United Airlines or 70,000 miles on a partner airline.

One of the nice features of United’s partner award pricing is you’ll pay the same number of miles to a particular region regardless of your departure city. For example, you can fly to Europe from any United departure city in the continental U.S., Alaska or Canada for 70,000 miles, subject to Saver Award availability. This means it’s possible to use 70,000 MileagePlus miles to book a flight from Los Angeles to London or Newark to London.

3. Round-trip to the Caribbean

Planning a warm weather getaway to a Caribbean destination like Aruba, Puerto Rico or Turks and Caicos? You can book a round-trip flight for as few as 28,000 miles on United or 35,000 miles on a partner airline.

Taxes and fees on award flights to and from the Caribbean can be more expensive than other destinations. So compare the cash cost of a flight to the out-of-pocket expense when using miles.

4. U.S. to Tahiti

There aren’t many flight options to Tahiti, which is a gateway to other islands in French Polynesia, like Bora Bora.  In 2018, United launched year-round direct flights from San Francisco to Tahiti.

Award availability can be limited on this route, especially during peak travel times. However, it’s possible to book a Saver Award in economy for 35,000 MileagePlus miles each way. If you’re not in San Francisco, it’s possible to use the same number of miles to fly from another United departure city and stopover in San Francisco on the way to Tahiti.

5. Travel to Peru in economy or business class

United offers direct flights to Peru, which you can book for 20,000 miles in economy or 35,000 miles in business class. You’ll pay the same amount if you’re flying to Peru on a United partner like Copa Airlines.

The bottom line

Your United MileagePlus miles can take you all over the world, but some destinations are better than others for squeezing the most value out of every mile. Keeping this in mind can help you know when it’s best to redeem your United miles for your next flight and when it’s best to save them for a dream trip that lets you make the most of them.

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 2020, including those best for:

We want to hear from you and encourage a lively discussion among our users. Please help us keep our site clean and safe by following our posting guidelines, and avoid disclosing personal or sensitive information such as bank account or phone numbers. Any comments posted under NerdWallet’s official account are not reviewed or endorsed by representatives of financial institutions affiliated with the reviewed products, unless explicitly stated otherwise.