United Award Travel: What You Need to Know

Flexibility is key to getting the best deals, but MileagePlus offers plenty of value.
Apr 28, 2022

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United Airlines’ loyalty program, MileagePlus, allows members to redeem United miles on award flights with both United and its partner airlines. Although there is no longer a United award chart, MileagePlus still offers some great ways to redeem miles for United award travel. Below, we dive into what you need to know for booking United award travel.

Does United have an award chart?

United ditched its award chart in November 2019, making it harder to predict how many miles you’ll need to book an award flight with the airline. According to United, award pricing can “fluctuate based on a variety of factors, including demand.”

How many miles do I need to book an award ticket?

Because United eliminated its award chart, you’ll need to search for a specific flight on United.com or through the United MileagePlus X app to determine how many miles are required for a given flight.

On United.com, make sure the “Book with award miles” option is selected before running your search.

Using a flight from Chicago-O’Hare to Munich as an example, you’ll get results that will show you a range of prices. These are often affected by the class of service and whether the flight is with United or a partner airline.

On the date selected, from Chicago to Munich, an economy seat ranges from 30,000 to 33,000 miles, while premium economy is 108,300 miles and business class is 175,000 miles.

How can I find the lowest-priced United award flights?

If you want to find the lowest-priced award flights on United and are flexible with travel dates, it would be wise to take advantage of the “View 30 day calendar” feature.

Searching for premium economy award tickets using the 30-day United award calendar shows that we can save thousands of points by adjusting travel dates by a few days.

Flexibility is your friend if you want to book the lowest-priced award ticket. For example, if you were set on flying on April 29th, you’d need to use 108,300 miles to fly. However, if you move your travel ahead or back by just a day or two, you would instead only need 45,000 miles.

Combining money and miles to book flights

If you’re running low on miles, United offers MileagePlus members a way to combine miles and money to book flights. This can easily be done on United’s website by following these steps:

  • First, search for your desired flight using money on United.com or the United app.

  • Choose your flight and select the “Money + Miles” option.

  • Select the flight portions you want to pay in money and miles.

  • Continue to check out.

The Money + Miles option on United can be helpful when you have a pile of United miles but not enough to fully cover the cost of your award ticket. When you pay for flights using Money + Miles, your United miles are valued at 1 cent per mile — right in line with our baseline value for United miles at 1 cent each (here's how we came to that number).

For example, you’d be able to save $24 off your flight by using 2,400 United miles. If you're trying to get out-sized value for your United miles, paying for your flight this way is not the strategy. You'd likely be better off saving those miles for a future business cabin booking, as NerdWallet determined miles redeemed for premium cabin tickets can be worth as much as 2.4 cents per mile — a much higher return than paying with Money + Miles.

Using the United Excursionist Perk to save more miles

United offers an Excursionist Perk feature that can save you miles on your United award travel booking. The Excursionist Perk can get you a one-way award ticket for award bookings on certain multi-city itineraries.

Here's an example of how it works: Let's say you want to fly economy class on a United award ticket from Chicago to London, then later fly from London to Paris before flying back home to Chicago from Paris. Your flight between London and Paris could be free with the Excursionist Perk.

According to United’s website, there are a few caveats to qualify for the Excursionist Perk:

  • The Excursionist Perk cannot be in the MileagePlus defined region where your travel originates (for example, if your journey begins in North America, you will only receive the Excursionist Perk if travel is within a region outside of North America).

  • Travel must end in the same MileagePlus defined region where travel originates.

  • The origin and destination of the Excursionist Perk must be within a single MileagePlus defined region.

  • The cabin of service and award inventory of the free one-way award is the same or lower than the one-way award preceding it.

  • Only the first occurrence will be free if two or more one-way awards qualify for this benefit.

The Excursionist Perk can be a great way to save miles on your United award travel booking if you can make it work.

The bottom line

Although United no longer offers an award chart and it’s harder to predict United award travel pricing, United’s MileagePlus program still provides a lot of value to its members (especially those who can be flexible with their travel dates).

United also allows MileagePlus members to pay for certain flights using a mixture of miles and money, which is a nice perk for casual and serious miles collectors alike. If you’re looking to save on a multi-city itinerary, you should try to see if your travel qualifies for the United Excursionist Perk to save even more miles.


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