How to maximize your United Airlines rewards with United MileagePlus®

A couple sits in departure lounge with suitcase, smiling while looking at digital tabletImage: A couple sits in departure lounge with suitcase, smiling while looking at digital tablet

In a Nutshell

United MileagePlus® rewards you for flying with United Airlines and its partner airlines. You don’t need a credit card like the United℠ Explorer Card to join, but having one can help you maximize your rewards.
Editorial Note: Credit Karma receives compensation from third-party advertisers, but that doesn’t affect our editors’ opinions. Our third-party advertisers don’t review, approve or endorse our editorial content. It’s accurate to the best of our knowledge when posted.
Advertiser Disclosure

We think it's important for you to understand how we make money. It's pretty simple, actually. The offers for financial products you see on our platform come from companies who pay us. The money we make helps us give you access to free credit scores and reports and helps us create our other great tools and educational materials.

Compensation may factor into how and where products appear on our platform (and in what order). But since we generally make money when you find an offer you like and get, we try to show you offers we think are a good match for you. That's why we provide features like your Approval Odds and savings estimates.

Of course, the offers on our platform don't represent all financial products out there, but our goal is to show you as many great options as we can.

These offers are no longer available on our site: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve®

United Airlines flies to more than 300 cities spread across five continents. That translates to plenty of opportunities to earn United Airlines rewards with United MileagePlus®.

But you don’t need to fly United on a weekly or even a monthly basis to earn MileagePlus® miles. With cards like the United℠ Explorer Card , you can earn miles on everyday purchases at home or abroad.

Signing up for one of these co-branded credit cards can certainly boost your United Airlines rewards earnings, but it’s not a requirement. As long as you enroll in the MileagePlus program and spend on purchases with United or one of its many partners, you can earn and redeem miles.

In this article, we’ll take a look at the best ways to make use of United Airlines rewards, including how to book and redeem travel through the MileagePlus program. We’ll also compare the various United Airlines credit card rewards and explore how they can help you score cheaper flights, take advantage of upgrades and more.


The best ways to earn United Airlines rewards with United MileagePlus®

If you’re serious about maximizing your United Airlines rewards, applying for a United MileagePlus credit card like the United℠ Explorer Card is one of the best and easiest ways to get started. This card earns two miles per $1 spent at restaurants and eligible delivery services, on hotels (when you spend directly with the hotel) and on United purchases, including tickets, and one mile per $1 spent on all other eligible purchases.

From our partner

United℠ Explorer Card

4.2 out of 5

From cardholders in the last year

See details, rates & fees

If you don’t have a United credit card but happen to have a United MileagePlus partner card, you may be able to transfer your miles or points over to your United MileagePlus account.

Here are three great ways to add more miles to your account.

1. Transfer miles from your Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is one of our favorite travel credit cards, and we’ve written about how to maximize that card’s value, too.

From our partner

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

4.6 out of 5

From cardholders in the last year

The same goes for Chase Sapphire Reserve® , the ultra-premium Chase credit card with a host of benefits.

From our partner

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

4.6 out of 5

From cardholders in the last year

If you have either of these Chase cards in your wallet, you’ll be able to transfer points from that card on a 1:1 basis to United MileagePlus, which might give you more value for your points if the flight you need isn’t available through the Chase Ultimate Rewards program.

2. Take advantage of United MileagePlus credit card sign-up bonuses

One of the fastest way to earn miles from a travel credit card is by qualifying for that card’s sign-up bonus.

Here’s the current sign-up bonus for the United℠ Explorer Card: 60,000 bonus miles after you spend at least $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.

A quick note on sign-up bonuses: Meeting the minimum spend should be done mindfully. While a sign-up bonus can net you a ton of points or miles at once, we don’t recommend overspending and exceeding your budget just to qualify for one. After all, you don’t want interest charges to suck up any money you saved on flights.

3. Use the MileagePlus shopping portal

The MileagePlus online portal offers more than 900 stores and merchants for you to choose from.

Each store offers a different number of miles you can earn per $1 spent, and the portal offers an easy way for you to filter your search by stores with the highest possible earn on miles.


About the author: Claire Tak has a background in editorial content marketing and strategy and writes about credit cards, paying off debt and saving money. She’s obsessed with travel and audiobooks. Read more.