Airline Rewards Programs

United Airlines – MileagePlus Rewards Overview

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United Airlines MileagePlus rewards program offers members the opportunity to earn and use miles on United flights, United Express® carrier partner flights, and other select partners. United Airlines MileagePlus members can earn miles on flights, hotel stays, car rentals and other purchases with United’s retail partners. With United Airlines MileagePlus rewards, members can also enjoy exclusive benefits such as complimentary upgrades and United Club access. United Airlines offers several tiers of membership with varying levels of rewards and benefits.

As a member of Star Alliance, United has an array of partners with whom their members can travel and earn and redeem miles.

When you sign up for the MileagePlus, you’ll to gain the ability to earn miles when traveling with United and its 39 airline partners.  Key things to know about MileagePlus:

  • Miles don’t expire
  • Earn 5 miles per dollar spent (more at higher levels of status)
  • Begin earning PQPs & PQFs (Premier Qualifying Points & Flights) towards elite status.
  • Book rewards tickets (including miles + money tickets) without blackout dates.
  • Excursionist Perk on multi-city itinerary reward redemptions.

What United Says About Sustainability

“We’re embracing a new goal to be 100% green by 2050 by reducing our greenhouse gas emissions 100%. And we’ll get there not with flashy, empty gestures, but by taking the harder, better path of actually reducing the emissions from flying. We (also) realize there’s a limit to what a single company can do alone. That’s why we are continuing to seek opportunities to collaborate with other industries. We must reach across industries to develop coordinated efforts to accomplish what must be our collective goal of carbon neutrality.”
— Scott Kirby, Chief Executive Officer

Read more about this here

You will earn miles based on how much you spend on your airline ticket booked directly with United. The average is 5 miles per dollar spent, however if you achieve higher status levels, you will earn additional miles based on your fare. You can earn miles with United airline partners as well, and the miles earned will be based on the price, class of the ticket and/or the flight distance.

A feature that’s unique to United MileagePlus is the Excursionist Perk. It’s a benefit offered to members that allows you to add an extra flight segment to an itinerary for no additional miles or points. The Excursionist Perk is designed to encourage travelers to explore more destinations within a region by providing them with a free flight within that region. To be eligible for the perk, you must book a multi-city itinerary that includes three or more one-way flights and meets certain criteria, including starting and ending in the same region (say, North America for example), and the free one way must be in a different region (like Europe). For example, you could redeem miles for a flight from Chicago to London, then London to Paris (which would be free) and then use miles to purchase a ticket from Paris to Chicago. This perk is one way for travelers to maximize their miles and explore more destinations.

Credit Card Partners

You will also earn additional benefits using one of the United Airlines branded credit cards listed below. Click on each link to see all current benefits and promotions.

United Club Infinite Card United Business Card
United Gateway Card United Explorer Card
United Quest Card
United Airlines Branded Credit Cards

United’s US-Based Hub Cities

Chicago O’Hare (ORD), Denver (DEN), Houston (IAD), Los Angeles (LAX), Newark (EWR), San Francisco (SFO), and Washington Dulles (IAD).

Choosing an airline that has its hub near you can save you time and money. Flying out of a hub drastically reduces the need for layovers, saving you time due to the increased availability of direct flights. Furthermore, you may find lower fares on both the hub airline and rival airlines who sometimes try to woo your business away from the main hub airline. Due to the higher concentration of routes served, it’s often convenient to consider hubs in your airline choice. You’ll also want to consider an airline’s alliance and partners if you often travel internationally. United is a member of the Star Alliance.

MileagePlus Premier Status Levels

United Airlines MileagePlus has four elite tier levels called “MileagePlus Premier Status”. To qualify for Premier status, customers must fly a certain number of segments on United or United Express (PQF), and/or earn a minimum amount of points (PQP). Customers can earn PQPs by flying with United or United Express, as well as through other means such as seat upgrades and purchasing tickets. The four levels are:

  • Premier Silver – 8 PQF + 3,000 PQP -or- 3,500 PQP
  • Premier Gold – 16 PQF plus 6,000 PQP -or- 7,000 PQP
  • Premier Platinum – 24 PQF plus 9,000 PQP -or- 10,000 PQP
  • Premier 1K – 36 PQF plus 13,500 PQP or a total of 15,000 PQP

As a member you will get extra benefits and perks on your travels that will elevate your travel experience. Some of the benefits include complimentary access to economy plus, preferred seating, waived fees, upgrades, and priority travel services.

Let’s take a look at what benefits are offered with each status level of the Premier status ladder:

Premier Silver Status

Premier Silver status benefits include:

  • Eligible for complimentary Premier upgrades beginning on the day of departure.
  • Complimentary access to preferred seating at booking (up to 8 companions)
  • Complimentary access to Economy Plus at check in for you plus one companion.
  • 1 complimentary checked bag of up to 50 pounds on economy tickets.
  • Priority check-in and boarding (Group 2).
  • Priority baggage handling.
  • Better award availability in economy and no fees for award ticket change / cancellation.
  • Avis Preferred Plus car rental status.
  • An instant upgrade to the premium cabin when booking economy Y or B class fares.
  • 7 united miles per dollar earned on fare price (compared to 5 miles / dollar for general members).

Premier Gold

Premier Gold benefits include Silver benefits plus:

  • Eligible for complimentary Premier upgrades beginning 48hrs before departure.
  • 2 complimentary checked bags at 70 pounds each.
  • Priority boarding in Group 1.
  • Complimentary access to Economy Plus at booking for you and one companion.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status in addition to Avis Preferred Plus status.
  • 8 miles earned per dollar spent on base fares on flights.

Premier Platinum

Premier Platinum benefits include all Silver and Gold plus:

  • Eligible for complimentary Premier upgrades beginning 72hrs before departure.
  • Complimentary access to Economy Plus at booking for you and up to 8 companions.
  • 3 complimentary 70 pound checked bags.
  • Better award available in both economy and premium cabins.
  • $50 discount on United Club annual membership fee.
  • Waived phone booking fees.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Gold, and Avis President’s Club status.
  • 40 Plus Points – which are available only to Platinum & 1K (and Global Services) members to upgrade their flights at any time – even before the complimentary upgrade window.
  • 9 miles earned per dollar spent on base fares on flights.

Premier 1K

Premier 1K benefits include all the benefits of lower tiers plus:

  • Eligible for complimentary Premier upgrades beginning 96hrs before departure.
  • 280 plus points upon meeting requirements for premier 1K status.
  • Priority boarding during Pre-boarding.
  • $100 discount on annual United Club membership.
  • Waived Clear membership fee.
  • 1 free drink and snack when seated in economy.
  • An instant upgrade to the premium cabin when booking economy Y, B or M class fares.
  • 11X miles earned on every flight.

Global Services

Global Services is United’s invite only elite service level. And while the requirements for access to this ultra-elite program are unpublished, you can bet that members are spending $50K+ and earning many more PQP’s than the run of the mill 1K member each year.

The benefits of this level of status are also unpublished, but you receive priority over 1K members for things like upgrades, phone assistance (which can be huge when things go wrong) and direct transfers in a Jaguar during a tight connection. But since the benefits are unpublished, United doesn’t actually have to provide any consistency when it comes to Global Services, so the program seems to pick and choose what services it provides year to year.

And that said, there are other invite-only airline status levels out there — like Delta 360, and American’s Concierge Key, so check those out too if you (or your company) are planning on spending tens of thousands on air travel each year. Bottom line, being at the highest elite status tier is going to make your travel experience better than most others — so it doesn’t hurt to have Global Services after your name in the system, just don’t expect a huge bump up in perks above those of Premier 1K.

Final Thoughts

United MileagePlus offers a variety of benefits and perks for frequent flyers, such as free checked bags, priority boarding, and lounge access – depending on what level of status you achieve. The program also provides ways to earn and redeem miles for flights – including the somewhat complicated, but potentially valuable Excursionist perk. However, the program has some drawbacks, such as fees for award changes and cancellations and lower mileage earn rates if you don’t reach the high tiers of elite status. Therefore, it’s important to understand the program’s rules and policies before joining. Overall, United MileagePlus is a valuable loyalty program for travelers who fly frequently with United and its partners and who plan ahead to maximize their rewards.

Editorial Note: Information and opinions articulated in this article are solely those of the author’s, not those of a credit card company, bank, airline or hotel chain. This article has not been reviewed or approved by or otherwise endorsed by any of these companies or organizations.

Travis is a Senior Editor at Miles Junkie. An avid outdoorsman, you'll see him shredding the slopes of Colorado in the winter and cutting rounds to heat his home in the national forests during the summer. He lives with his wife and three dogs in southwest Colorado.

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