United Airlines MileagePlus miles offer tremendous flexibility because you can use miles to book award flights on most of its 37 partner airlines.
In some cases, you might use fewer United miles booking a partner flight than you would booking a United flight to the same destination. When United Airlines did away with its award chart in late 2019, it began pricing award flights more like cash fares, with low-demand seats offered at lower redemption rates and high-demand flights costing more miles. When cash prices push up award prices for United flights, sometimes you can find better deals using your United miles on a partner airline.
United MileagePlus miles are easy to earn, even if you never fly on the airline. United offers co-branded credit cards through Chase. In addition, United is a Chase Ultimate Rewards® transfer partner, so you can trade your Chase points for UnitedMiles.
» Learn more: United Airlines MileagePlus program: The complete guide
United Star Alliance and nonalliance partners
United Airlines is part of the Star Alliance, the world’s largest airline alliance with 26 member airlines. In addition, United has partner airlines beyond the alliance.
You can earn and redeem MileagePlus miles on any of these Star Alliance member airlines:
Outside of the Star Alliance, United has 12 nonalliance partners. With these partners, your ability to earn and/or redeem miles is more limited. Depending on the partner, you might be able to earn miles, but not redeem them. Or you may only be able to redeem miles for select flights only.
Search flights on united.com to see how many miles you need for a flight on a partner airline. United’s website makes it simple. In addition to the possibility you’ll find better rates on a partner airline, you might also find a more convenient itinerary.
As an example of the well-priced partner flights, you can fly direct from Los Angeles to Zurich on Swiss International Airlines for 30,000 United MileagePlus miles each way.
That same itinerary on flights operated by United costs 66,000 United MileagePlus miles and requires a stopover.
» Learn more: United’s switch to dynamic award pricing
You can also earn United MileagePlus miles flying on a partner airline. The number of miles earned depends on how you book. If you book through United and your ticket is issued by United, you’ll earn miles based on the cost of the fare, which is the same as if you book and fly directly on United. However, if your ticket is issued by an airline other than United, you’ll earn miles based on flight distance and the purchased fare class.
Link your MileagePlus number to your reservation to ensure you’re earning miles for your flights.
Earn United MileagePlus miles
Besides booking a paid flight on United Airlines or a partner, you can earn MileagePlus miles directly with a co-branded card issued by Chase, including:
2 miles per dollar on eligible United Airlines purchases, hotel stays and restaurants.
1 mile per dollar spent on other purchases.
Annual fee: $0 intro for the first year, then $95.
4 miles on every dollar spent on eligible United Airlines purchases.
2 miles per dollar on most other travel and dining.
1 mile per dollar on most other purchases.
United Club membership.
Annual fee: $525.
Earn 2 miles per dollar spent on restaurants, gas stations, office supplies stores and United purchases.
Earn 1 mile per dollar spent on all other purchases.
Annual fee: $0 intro for the first year, then $99.
Earn 1.5 miles per dollar on every purchase.
Earn 2 miles per dollar on United ticket purchases.
United Club membership.
Annual fee: $450.
United is also a Chase Ultimate Rewards® transfer partner, which means you can earn points with cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card then transfer points directly to your MileagePlus account.
» Learn more: Chase Ultimate Rewards: How to earn and use them
The bottom line
United MileagePlus members aren’t limited to redeeming their miles for flights on United. You can book partner award flights on any of the 26 Star Alliance member airlines or United’s nonalliance partners. Depending on your destination, it’s possible you can save miles by booking a partner award instead of flying United directly. Don’t forget to link your MileagePlus number to your itinerary the next time you fly on a United partner to avoid missing out on earning miles.
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:
Airline miles and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card
Flat-rate rewards with no annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Premium travel rewards: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card