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United MileagePlus program (the loyalty program for United Airlines) is an extremely useful program with a lot of perks. For example, they don’t pass on fuel surcharges (aka those pesky fees when you book award tickets) and you can use United miles to book award flights on their Star Alliance partners to amazing destinations around the world.
In this post, I want to focus on a 5 redemptions and strategies that will offer amazing value when redeeming your United miles.
STAR ALLIANCE MEMBERS
Let’s start with the basics. United Airlines is in the Star Alliance, a partnership among 26 airlines that includes Aegean Airlines, Air Canada, Air China, Air India, Air New Zealand, ANA, Asiana Airlines, Austrian, Avianca, Brussels Airlines, Copa Airlines, Croatia Airlines, EgyptAir, Ethiopian Airlines, EVA Air, LOT Polish Airlines, Lufthansa, Scandinavian Airlines, Shenzhen Airlines, Singapore Airlines, South African Airways, SWISS, TAP Portugal, THAI, and Turkish Airlines.
HOW TO EARN UNITED MILES
Although Chase and United have a few co-branded credit cards, I recommend earning United miles by collecting Chase Ultimate Rewards points. Earning Chase Ultimate Reward points is an excellent strategy because these points are flexible and can be transferred to many different airline and hotel partners, including United.
Chase Ultimate Reward points are easy to earn and you can transfer them to United points at a 1:1 ratio.
Using United MileagePlus Miles With Airline Partners
Once you have earned enough United miles, you can use your miles for finding award tickets on United.com.
Again, because United is a part of the Star Alliance, and they also partner with a few other airlines outside of any alliances, this means you have lots of options for turning your United miles into great flights around the world.
5 GREAT REDEMPTIONS
Now that’s we’ve talked about the basics, let’s get into the ‘meat and potatoes’ (or tasty salad if you’re a vegetarian)…
Option #1: Lufthansa First Class From the U.S. (113.5K United Miles)
Lufthansa’s first class product has long been one of the coveted seats in the sky but similar to most business class products, it’s expensive!
Fortunately, United miles provide an opportunity to take part in this amazing experience. For 113,500 miles you can book a one-way first class award flight on Lufthansa.
This is not the cheapest mileage cost to get to Europe, or even to fly Lufthansa first class, but United DOES NOT pass on fuel surcharges. As a point of contrast, if you booked this flight with Lufthansa’s frequent flyer program, Miles and More, you can expect to pay over $400 in fuel surcharges.
One important point to remember when using United miles to book this flight is that Lufthansa only releases first class award space to the partners in Star Alliance 14 days before departure.
While this leaves booking until later than most of us are accustomed, there is often open award space.
Pro-Tip: If you want to take your Lufthansa experience to the next level, make sure you have a connection in their hub of Frankfurt. The First Class Terminal experience is worth the 113,500 points by itself.
Option #2: Turkish Airlines in Business From the U.S. (Starting at 73.5K United Miles)
Turkish Airlines flies to more destinations than any other airline in the world. This gives you ample opportunity to use MileagePlus award miles for a great business class product.
You really have your choice of where you want to fly to try their great business class product. Getting to Europe will cost 73,500 miles, or you could use 83,500 to see Africa. For 80,000 miles, you could also visit Japan.
Alternatively, you could just fly to Istanbul and enjoy an amazing city! However, if you have a connection, you can experience Turkish Airlines’ amazing business class lounge.
I recently flew to Atlanta on Turkish Airlines’ 787-9, so read my review.
Option #3: Business Class on a Star Alliance Partner to Africa (83.5K United Miles)
I mentioned this above but for 83,500 United miles, you can fly from the U.S. to any African country in business class on a Star Alliance partner.
Your initial thought might be to check out partners Ethiopian Airlines or South African Airways. While these might be solid choices for your needs, I’d suggest routing through Europe for an even better experience.
Swiss Air has a great business class product that you can utilize by routing through Switzerland. Additionally, Austrian Airlines have a solid business class and really shine with their fantastic catering service. If you’re a coffee drinker, you’ll definitely want to try that too.
While they might not be your first instinct, give Swiss Air and Austrian Airlines a try if you’re looking for a fun experience in the sky on your way to Africa.
Option #4: Cheap Flights to Europe (30K United Miles)
If you’re just interested in getting to Europe and sitting in economy is ok, United miles can be an easy way to keep costs low.
For 30,000 United miles, you can fly one-way in economy class on United or a Star Alliance partner airline like Turkish, Lufthansa, or Austrian.
Since award flights booked with United miles do not incur fuel surcharges, this can be a great way to keep your out-of-pocket costs down.
Option #5: Fly From the U.S. to Northern South America (Starting at 22.5K United Miles)
Staying the spirit of cheap economy seats, United’s award chart splits South America into northern and southern regions. For 20,000 United miles, you can fly in economy on United or one of their Star Alliance partners from the U.S. to the northern part of the continent.
If you’d prefer to lay flat in the front of the plane, you can use 38,000 United miles to fly in business class.
Here are some great example routes you can take:
- Houston (IAH) – Lima (LIM)
- Los Angeles (LAX) – Bogota (BOG)
- Houston (IAH) – Quito (UIO)
- Houston (IAH) – Panama City (PTY) – Georgetown (GEO)
THE BEST CARDS THAT EARN UNITED MILES
It’s way to accumulate United miles, and here are the best cards to do it…
BEST PERSONAL CREDIT CARDS
|Chase Sapphire Preferred Card – This is my favorite beginners travel rewards card which has a welcome bonus of 60,000 points (highest ever) after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.|
|Chase Sapphire Reserve Card – You can earn the 50,000 point welcome bonus after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. You’ll also receive a $300 travel credit per year which wipes away a big chunk of the $550 annual fee. I would consider this premium card if your desire it to access a lot of airport lounges.|
|Chase Freedom Unlimited – You can earn a $150 (or 15,000 points in conjunction with one of the 2 cards above) welcome bonus after you spend $500 in your first 3 months. Additionally, this simple no annual fee card earns 1.5% back on all purchases.|
BEST BUSINESS CREDIT CARDS
|Ink Business Preferred Credit Card – You can earn the whopping 80,000 welcome bonus after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months after account opening. A major perk of this card is if you pay your cell phone bill with this card, you can get up to $600 in cell phone insurance coverage per year. This is my #1 recommended business card as it comes with some great benefits.|
|Ink Business Cash Credit Card – You will earn a $500 cash back welcome bonus on this card after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months after account opening. This is one of the best no annual fee business cards on the market as you are able to earn up to 5% cash back on a variety of business expenses such as office supply stores, internet, cable, and phone services.|
HOW TO TRANSFER CHASE POINTS TO UNITED AIRLINES
To transfer your Chase Ultimate Rewards to United, log into your Ultimate Rewards account, click “Use Points,” and finally click on “Transfer to Travel Partners”. If you need additional help, READ THIS POST.
In the above examples, we discussed many great premium cabin redemption options on both United and its partner airlines to get you around the world. These are some of the best ways to use United miles at this time.
With United moving to dynamic pricing you may see a range of prices but experiment, run your own searches, and see what you can find.
In conclusion, the first class and business class experiences on partner airlines (with low fuel surcharges) make United MileagePlus miles some of the best redemptions out there.
Has anyone redeemed miles for any of the routes mentioned above? What was your experience?