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What Is The United Miles Value And How To Maximize Your Redemptions

United Miles Value
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updated: May 26, 2024

Miles earned in the United MileagePlus program are worth approximately 1.2 cents each, although the value you actually get will depend on how you redeem them. This average value per mile was calculated based on the costs of multiple award flights booked in different cabins, with different itineraries, and on a range of travel dates.

It may be possible to get outsized value for awards (a lot more than 1.2 cents per mile) if you book an international award in a premium cabin and snag a good deal. On the flip side, it's more difficult to get better-than-average value for domestic United flights—particularly when you can't be flexible with your departure airport, destination, and travel dates.

Unfortunately, it can be hard to know the United miles value until you have a trip in mind and are ready to book. The United MileagePlus program uses a fully dynamic award chart that bases award cost on factors such as demand. This means that even though prices for flights tend to start at around the same thresholds for economy and premium awards, United no longer uses an award chart (it stopped in 2019).

Comparing United Airline miles with the competition

While the exact award value you'll get from each United mile varies, it's still good to know an average value, as it helps you compare with other rewards currencies on the market today. This knowledge can help you figure out which frequent-flyer programs you want to put to maximum use and which airline credit card is best for you.

With that in mind, consider how the value of United miles compares with other frequent-flyer programs offered through U.S. carriers, such as SouthWest Rapid Rewards. While the exact award value you'll get from each United mile varies, it's still good to know an average value, as it helps you compare with other rewards currencies on the market today. This knowledge can help you figure out which frequent-flyer programs you want to put to maximum use and which airline credit card is best for you.

With that in mind, consider how the value of United miles compares with other frequent-flyer programs offered through U.S. carriers.>).

Rewards ProgramValue of Average Mile (cents)
United MileagePlus
1.2
Alaska MileagePlan
1.5
American AAdvantage
1.5
Delta SkyMiles
1.16
JetBlue TrueBlue
1.5
Southwest Rapid Rewards
1.35

How to maximize Your United Airline redemptions

You can earn United miles through flights with the airline or its partners, through spending with United partners, or through a co-branded credit card from the airline. Also note that United MileagePlus is a Chase transfer partner, so you can use a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred to earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points that transfer to your United account at a 1:1 ratio.

No matter how you earn United miles, here's a list of ways you can get more bang for your buck.

Excursionist Perk

If you're a United MileagePlus member who has a stash of miles to burn, you can use the program's Excursionist Perk to build a free flight into your itinerary. This benefit is worth a free one-way award within select multiple-city itineraries that are outside of where the trip originates.

Essentially, you'll use the Excursionist Perk to add a free one-way flight within three or more one-way awards if: (1) the travel ends in the same MileagePlus defined region in which the trip originates, (2) the origin and destination of the Excursionist Perk are within a single MileagePlus- defined region, and (3) the cabin of service and inventory for awards of the free one-way flight is the same or lower than the one before it. United also notes that this perk can only be used for one free one-way flight, even if two or more one-way awards qualify for this benefit.

Here’s an example of how the Excursionist Perk can be used:

Award itineraryMiles required (in economy class)
Chicago (ORD) to London (LHR)
30,000
London (LHR) to Frankfurt (FRA)
0
Frankfurt (FRA) to Chicago (ORD)
30,000
Total miles
60,000

As you can see in this example, all criteria for the Excursion Perk have been met. First, the free one-way award is part of a multiple-city itinerary that is outside of where the trip originates. Also, the trip ends where it originates, the origin and destination of the Excursionist Perk are within a single MileagePlus-defined region, and the cabin of service and inventory for awards of the free one-way flight is the same as the one before it.

United flights to Europe

United award flights to Europe can be a great deal or an awful one; it all depends on the award availability and costs for the destinations and dates you want to book. Generally speaking, the lowest award cost you'll find for one-way economy flights from North America to Europe is around 30,000 miles, which translates to 60,000 miles round trip. As the cash price for this type of flight is typically at least $1,000 and sometimes more, you can get good value for your miles here.

Consider the example below, which shows that round-trip economy flights from Indianapolis to Rome in main cabin economy start at over $1,600 in October of 2023.

United flights to Europe

The same flight in miles starts at around 33,000 miles plus $23 one way and 30,000 miles plus $74.25 for the flight home on the same dates—or 63,000 miles round trip in economy plus $97.25 in airline taxes and fees. If you subtract the airline taxes from the lowest cash price of $1,637 to get $1,539.75 and divide that number by 63,000 miles, you will see you're getting a value for your United miles of around 2.4 cents each.

United flights to Europe

($1,637 - $97.25) ÷ 63,000 miles = 0.024

Awards with Star Alliance partners

Also remember that United MileagePlus is a part of the Star Alliance, comprising26 member airlines with which you can earn and redeem rewards. This airline alliance makes it possible to use your miles for travel to more than 1,000 destinations in almost 200 countries, so it dramatically expands the footprint of this frequent-flyer program..

While some of the alliance partners are a bit obscure, you can use your United miles to book award fares with such popular carriers as Air Canada, Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines, TAP AirPortugal, Turkish Airlines, and more.

As you can see in the example below, you could fly one way from Chicago (ORD) to Istanbu (IST) in Turkish Airlines business class for 77,000 United miles plus $5.60. You could also save some miles and fly one way in economy for 33,000 miles plus $5.60.

Awards with Star Alliance partners

You could fly one way from Newark, N.J. (EWR) to Lisbon (LIS) for 66,000 miles plus $27.60 in TAP Air Portugal business class.

1-way Newark United Airlines

While United typically charges a higher redemption rate for many of its awards, especially awards in its premium cabins, you'll notice in these examples that the frequent-flyer program does not tack on exorbitant fuel surcharges as some other airlines do. This can make partner awards in particular an especially good deal—in many cases, better than redeeming fewer miles with a different program.

Flexible travel dates

Another way to boost your United miles value is being flexible with the travel you want to book. This can mean considering different airports for your departure and alternate travel destinations. Also, be as flexible with dates for your flights as you can. Booking an award one day earlier or one day later can have a dramatic impact on how many miles you need to use.

The screenshot below shows exactly what we mean. We searched for business class flights from Indianapolis (IND) to Rome (FCO) over dates in August 2023, and we found business-class awards that range in cost from 66,000 to 155,000 miles for a one-way flight.

United Airlines Points Value

Flight award deals

Finally, make sure you check out United's flight award deals, which it updates regularly. These deals are basically sale fares you can book with fewer miles than usual, although they change all the time.

As of this writing, for example, you could use United miles to book any of the following economy cabin itineraries:

  • Cancun, Mexico (CUN) to Newark, N.J. (EWR) for 10,000 miles plus $59
  • Chicago (ORD) to London (LHR) for 31,900 miles plus $6
  • Chicago (ORD) to Zurich (ZRH) for 32,300 miles plus $6
  • Los Angeles (LAX) to San Francisco (SFO) for 7,300 miles plus $6

You can also search for award flight deals in a premium cabin with the United flight award tool. As of this writing, some of the premium cabin deals include the following:

  • Cancun, Mexico (CUN) to Newark, N.J. (EWR) for 30,000 miles plus $59
  • Denver (DEN) to Frankfurt (FRA) for 73,500 miles plus $12
  • Denver (DEN) to London (LHR) for 62,800 miles plus $6
  • Newark, N.J (EWR) to Johannesburg (JNB) for 72,800 miles plus $6

When is the best time to use United miles?

The best time to use United miles is any time you're getting at least 1.2 cents per mile in value for a redemption. If you're getting less than that, you should consider paying cash for your flight and saving your miles for another day or perhaps even booking an award with a different rewards currency altogether.

That said, we compared United mile redemptions for a few itineraries at three different booking thresholds:

  • 15 days out
  • 60 days out
  • 180 days out

When we did, we found that the cost of an award flight varied dramatically depending on when you booked. However, there were no hard-and-fast rules that showed the best time to book with United miles. For example, a few itineraries we looked at showed lower redemption rates booking two weeks in advance compared to further ahead. However, the most expensive award flights for all the itineraries we looked at were at 60 days out.

The chart below shows how much several different awards cost when booked at these different timing thresholds.

Itinerary15 days out (starting cost)60 days out (starting cost)180 days out (starting cost)
Cancun, Mexico (CUN) to Newark, N.J. (EWR) in economy
12,000 miles plus $58.63
20,000 miles plus $58.63
19,300 miles plus $64.81
Newark, N.J. (EWR) to Los Angeles (LAX) in economy
14,900 miles plus $5.60
22,700 miles plus $5.60
11,400 miles plus $5.60
Chicago (ORD) to Zurich (ZRH) in economy class
31,700 miles plus $5.60
70,000 miles plus $5.60
30,000 miles plus $5.60
Chicago (ORD) to Singapore (SIN) in economy class
43,500 miles plus $60.30
100,000 miles plus $60.30
40,000 miles plus $60.30

Can United miles be used on other airlines?

United MileagePlus miles can be earned and used with the 25 other member airlines of the Star Alliance, which makes them even more valuable and useful for frequent flyers who travel around the world. In addition to United Airlines, the Star Alliance partners are:

  • Aegean
  • Air Canada
  • Air China
  • Air Indiana
  • Air New Zealand
  • ANA
  • Asiana Airlines
  • Austrian
  • Avianca
  • Brussels Airlines
  • Copa Airlines
  • Croatia Airlines
  • Egyptair
  • Ethiopian
  • EVA Air
  • LOT Polish Airlines
  • Lufthansa
  • SAS
  • Shenzhen Airlines
  • Singapore Airlines
  • South African Airways
  • Swiss
  • TAP Air Portugal
  • Thai Airways
  • Turkish Airlines

Which United credit cards help you earn miles?

Like other frequent-flyer programs, United MileagePlus offers a handful of airline credit cards. These cards are available in addition to travel credit cards from Chase that let you transfer your points to United at a 1:1 ratio.

Some of the best credit cards with travel perks offered by United Airlines are:

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This credit card comes with annual_fees annual fee, and new cardholders bonus_miles_full.

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Choosing this card earns you a generous sign-up bonus and bonus miles on United purchases and dining and hotels. Perks include a first checked bag free, two United Club passes per year, a fee credit toward Global Entry or TSA PreCheck membership, and more. The card with a annual_fees. Read our full review to learn more.

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This card offers an even higher sign-up bonus, a $125 annual United purchase credit, two 5,000-mile anniversary flight credits, first and second checked bags free, a fee credit toward Global Entry or TSA PreCheck membership, and more. A annual_fees annual fee applies.

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If you want to get the biggest sign-up bonus out there, then this is the card for you. You also get first and second checked bags free, a United Club membership (valued at $650), a fee credit toward Global Entry or TSA PreCheck membership, and more. A annual_fees annual fee applies. Read our full review to learn more.

Methodology

To come up with the average value of a United mile, we compared a range of itineraries and their costs. We analyzed the cash price of various itineraries on United and its partners, and we compared it with the cost of booking with miles while subtracting airline taxes and fees from the cash fare to reach a basis of comparison.

While the value of miles can vary depending on how you redeem them, we found that the average point per mile value for United itineraries worked out to 1.2 cents each. However, our sampling of award flights led to finding redemption values as low as 0.8 cents per mile and as high as 2.5 cents per mile.

Conclusion

Miles in the United MileagePlus program are definitely worth earning, and that's true whether you want to book domestic flights or travel internationally. There are many ways to get more than the average value of 1.2 cents for each United mile, and it never hurts to have a rewards currency you can use on the other 25 airlines in the Star Alliance.

The fact that United doesn't tack on huge fuel surcharges can also make its miles a better value, as can its published flight award deals. Happily, signing up for the United MileagePlus program is free, so you have nothing to lose. Finally, you can earn some United miles in a hurry (and without even flying) with a number of United credit cards on the market today.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

How much are 10,000 United Airline miles worth?

Based on our analysis, 10,000 United miles are worth approximately $120. However, it's possible to get more or less value depending on how the miles are redeemed.

How much does it cost to transfer to United miles?

Transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards points to United is absolutely free, although you do have to transfer in increments of 1,000. Fortunately, some Chase credit cards offer point transferability to United MileagePlus and other airline and hotel programs.

Are United Airline miles worth more than Delta Airline miles?

We value Delta SkyMiles at 1.16 cents per mile, which means that United miles, at 1.2 cents each, are worth slightly more.

The information presented here is created independently from the TIME editorial staff. To learn more, see our About page.

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