United is the third largest airline in the United States, and it boasts about 40 airline partners as well. This means that anywhere you want to go, chances are United has got you covered. Consequentially, hoarding United miles is a pretty safe bet—you won’t have any trouble finding meaningful redemption opportunities.
There is also no shortage of ways to earn United miles. You can earn miles by flying, staying at hotels, dining, shopping, filling up on gas, taking surveys, and spending your money in quite a few other ways. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves—below is an extensive list of ways to accrue United miles, each discussed in just enough detail.
Earn miles by flying
Book United flights
MileagePlus members who don’t have Premier status earn five miles per dollar when booking a flight on either United or United Express. Members who do have Premier status may earn as much as eleven miles per dollar. MileagePlus has four membership levels above basic, and each of them comes with a slight increase in miles earned.
*Miles earned at each membership level
Book partner flights
When booking a partner flight through United, you earn miles the same way you would on a United flight—based on fare and membership level. When booking a partner flight directly with a partner, you earn miles based on distance flown and cabin class.
On top of having a dozen of its own partners, United is also a part of Star Alliance, bringing the total number of airline partners close to 40.
Earn miles with a credit card
Apply for a Chase card
Chase credit cards earn Ultimate Rewards points, which can be converted to United miles at a 1:1 rate. The main benefit of using a Chase card is that you have the freedom to transfer the points to a number of loyalty programs, not just United, which means you have incredible redemption flexibility.
Chase Sapphire cards come with sizeable sign-up bonuses, some travel perks, and bonus points on flight bookings.
Chase Sapphire Reserve
The card comes with a 50,000-point welcome bonus and earns three points per dollar on travel and dining expenses. Members also receive a $300 annual travel credit, airport lounge access, and a couple of minor travel perks. One downside is the annual fee of $450, but the benefits outweigh the costs. Read full review.
Chase Sapphire Preferred
The card comes with a 50,000-point welcome bonus, and members earn two points on dining and travel. There are barely any perks, travel or otherwise, but the annual fee is only $95 and it’s waived the first year. Read full review.
While these cards are marketed as cash-back, they actually earn Ultimate Rewards points, which can be converted to cash, but don’t have to be. If you also have one of the Sapphire cards in addition to your Freedom card, then you can take Ultimate Rewards earned as cashback and convert them to United miles.
This card has a welcome bonus of 15,000 points and earns an incredible rate of 5 points per dollar in rotating bonus categories. There is no annual fee.
Chase Freedom Unlimited
This card comes with a 15,000-point welcome bonus and earns a flat rate of 1.5 points per dollar on all purchases. There is no annual fee.
Business cards are differentiated by the amounts of their impressive sign-up bonuses and the number of extra points you can earn in business-related categories.
Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card
This card offers an 80,000-point welcome bonus and earns three points per dollar spent on travel and business-related categories. The annual fee is $95. Read full review.
Ink Business CashSM Credit Card
This card comes with a 50,000-point sign-up bonus and earns five points per dollar spent in business-related categories and two points on all other purchases. There is no annual fee.
Apply for a co-branded card
United has partnered with Chase to deliver a couple of co-branded credit cards. The cards earn miles, which are credited to your MileagePlus account directly—no transfer is necessary.
United MileagePlus® Club Card
This card comes with a 50,000-mile welcome bonus and earns two miles per dollar spent at United and 1.5 miles on all other purchases. Members also enjoy a complimentary United Club membership, two free checked bags, and a few travel-related perks. The annual fee is $450. Read full review.
UnitedSM Explorer Card
The card comes with a welcome bonus of 40,000 miles and earns two miles per dollar spent on dining, hotel stays, and United purchases. Additional benefits include one free checked bag per flight and two United Club passes per year. The annual fee is $95, waived the first year. Read full review.
Earn miles through partners
Book partner hotels
United is partners with about 60 hotel brands, giving you an incredible range of properties to work with. The number of miles earned will depend on the brand and the booking method.
Book directly with a hotel
The number of miles you earn when booking your stay directly with a hotel depends on the brand. Some hotel brands offer miles per dollar spent, while others offer a fixed amount per stay.
Book through United Hotels
United Hotels is powered by hotels.com, and there is no limit on destinations or accommodation types. Anything you book there will earn a flat rate of two miles per dollar.
Book through hotel aggregators
United is partners with Rocketmiles and PointsHound—hotel booking services that promise between 1,000 and 10,000 miles per booking.
Use transportation partners
United has a number of travel partners, including car rental services, shuttle and car sharing services, and even Amtrak—national railroad service. Depending on the service and the company, the points can be earned per dollar, per ride, or per day.
Use everyday partners
United MileagePlus program has an “everyday activity” segment, which is a diverse assortment of mile-earning opportunities. There you can find anything from a shopping portal, to a shopping app, to a British Petroleum partnership, to earning miles by taking surveys, to flower deliveries and wine club memberships.
Buy & transfer miles
Register for MileagePlus DiningSM
To register for the program you can use either a credit or a debit card. Once registered, you’ll start earning between one and five miles per dollar spent at any of 10,000 participating restaurants. The number of miles earned depends on your membership level, and your membership level depends on whether you opt in for promotional emails and on how many transactions you have completed.
Buy miles from United
The price to purchase miles starts at $35 per 1,000 miles and the minimum purchase is 2,000 miles. It’s hard to think of a case when such a purchase would be justified—the redemption value of United miles is way below the asking price. So, if you are short, consider booking your tickets with cash until you’ve collected enough miles for a miles-only redemption.
Transfer miles from another member
Another option that makes barely any sense is transferring miles from one member to another. On top of paying $7.50 per each 500 miles transferred, you also have to pay $30 per transaction, which is too high a cost compared to what those miles are actually worth.
The bottom line
The quickest way to create a sizeable reserve of United miles is to apply for one of the Chase Sapphire credit cards and earn the welcome bonus. Then, supplement it with one of the Chase Freedom cards to earn more miles on everyday purchase categories. You’ll get most of your miles from using these two cards and flying United. Beyond that, registering for the dining program is a good idea, as is using the United website whenever you have to book a non-United flight—there’s no reason to earn any other miles when United is your primary airline.