Discover how you can earn and redeem frequent flyer miles with United Airlines when you're a member of the United MileagePlus loyalty program.
MileagePlus is the frequent flyer program of United Airlines. With a rich history dating back to 1981 (when it was launched as "Mileage Plus"), it's one of the longest-running frequent flyer programs in the world. MileagePlus offers many ways for members to earn and spend reward miles, as well as some of the most generous rewards available among frequent flyer programs.
What you'll find in this guide
How to join the United MileagePlus frequent flyer program
To sign up as a MileagePlus member, simply fill out an online form on the United Airlines website. There are no fees involved, and anyone 18 or older may join. Under 18s can also be enrolled by their parents or legal guardians. When signing up, you will need to include the following details:
- Your name, date of birth and gender as listed on your passport
- Your contact details, including a valid email address
- A security password and answers to five security questions for verification purposes
Once you have completed the form, you will receive an email with confirmation of your request and activation details. Make sure you check your junk mail folder in case the email ends up there, then follow the prompts to complete the signup process.
MileagePlus membership status levels
Once you’re a MileagePlus member, you will be able to earn award miles for flights and everyday expenses, and then use those miles to redeem flights, hotel accommodation, car rentals and other rewards.
The more you fly and acquire award miles, the sooner you will unlock other benefits through the program’s Premier status levels. Here is an overview of the different membership status levels in the program, and what benefits you can unlock at each level:
|Benefit||Premier Silver||Premier Gold||Premier Platinum||Premier 1K|
|Complimentary Premier upgrades on select United flights||✔||✔||✔||✔|
|Complimentary Premier companion upgrades on select United flights||✔||✔||✔||✔|
|Complimentary Premier upgrades confirmation (before departure)||24 hours||48 hours||72 hours||96 hours|
|Instant upgrades Economy tickets||Y- and B-class full-fare||Y- and B-class full-fare||Y- and B-class full-fare||Y- and B-class full-fare, and M-class|
|Regional Premier upgrades on select United and Copa flights||✔||✔|
|Global Premier upgrades on select United Copa, ANA and Lufthansa flights||✔|
|Bonus award miles accrual||7 x fare||8 x fare||9 x fare||11 x fare|
|Priority award waitlisting||✔||✔||✔||✔|
|Priority check-in and boarding||✔||✔||✔||✔|
|Priority baggage handling||✔||✔||✔||✔|
|Priority phone line||✔||✔||✔||Dedicated 1K line|
|Priority security screening||✔||✔||✔||✔|
|Access to sold-out flights||✔||✔||✔||✔|
|International lounge access||✔||✔||✔|
|Complimentary checked baggage allowance||One 23kg bag||Two 32kg bags||Three 32kg bags||Three 32kg bags|
|Discounted or waived same-day flight changes||✔||✔||✔|
|Discounted United Club membership||✔||✔|
|Discounted or waived phone service charges||✔||✔|
|10% discount on inflight duty free purchases||✔||✔|
|Star Alliance benefits||Star Alliance Silver benefits||Star Alliance Gold benefits||Star Alliance Gold benefits||Star Alliance Gold benefits|
How to earn MileagePlus membership status
In essence, the more you fly and spend, the higher your status level will be. In practice, it’s slightly more complicated than that, but we’ll try to explain it simply. To advance in Premier status, you have to earn a required number of Premier Qualifying Miles (PQM) or Premier Qualifying Segments (PQS). If you live in the United States, you also have to meet a minimum spending each year, which is quantified in Premier Qualifying Dollars (PQD). Basically, PQM is awarded based on the number of paid flight miles travelled and the fare purchased, PQS is awarded based on the number of paid flown segments travelled and the fare purchased, and PQD is awarded based on the base fare and carrier-imposed surcharges. PQM or PQS can be earned for flights with United and United Express, as well as other MileagePlus partner airlines and Star Alliance airlines including Air Canada, Air New Zealand and Singapore Airlines. The number of PQM and PQS earned per flight depends on the airline, fare class, segment and flight distance. These are the PQM and PQS qualification requirements for each Premier level:
|Premier Silver||Premier Gold||Premier Platinum||Premier 1K|
|25,000 PQM or 30 PQS (and $3,000 PQD for US residents)||50,000 PQM or 60 PQS (and $6,000 PQD for US residents)||75,000 PQM or 90 PQS (and $9,000 PQD for US residents)||100,000 PQM or 120 PQS (and $12,000 PQD for US residents)|
To give you an idea of how much it would take to make Premier Silver membership, flying non-stop on United Airlines from Sydney to San Francisco earns you 7,417 PQM in flexible Economy class. Flying this route four times, or back and forth twice, would put you at nearly 30,000 PQM, which is more than enough for Premier Silver status.Back to top
Earning MileagePlus award mile
There are many ways to earn MileagePlus award miles both in the air and on the ground. We outline these in detail below.
Earning miles for flights
You can earn award miles for eligible flights with United, United Express and its airline partners by providing your MileagePlus number when making your reservation. Make sure your number appears on your boarding pass at check-in too, and save your boarding pass in case you need to request missing mileage.
- United and United Express. Each time you fly United or United Express, you earn award miles that are deposited into your MileagePlus account 48 hours after your flight has been completed. The number of miles you earn depends on your ticket class, the ticketing airline and operating airline, as well as your ticket fare.
- Partner airlines. When you fly with any of United’s 39 partner airlines (including Star Alliance members), the award miles earned are determined by the flight distance and fare. When you purchase tickets in Australian dollars, for example, the fare will be converted into US dollars using an industry-standard exchange rate in order to calculate the mileage earned. Miles earned on partner airline flights can take up to 15 days to be credited to your account. If they haven’t been credit after 15 days, you can request a credit by logging into your MileagePlus account and submitting the “Requesting credit to your MileagePlus account” form.
What about missing miles?For flights with United and United Express:
- If your miles have not been credited after five days, sign in to your MileagePlus account online and fill out the form under “Requesting credit to your MileagePlus account”. New members can also make retroactive mileage requests for United and United Express flights flown up to 30 days before their membership enrolment date. For US$50, you can also claim retroactive mileage on flights flown up to six months before your enrolment date.
For flights with partner airlines:
- If miles haven’t been credited after 15 days, you can request a credit by logging into your MileagePlus account and submitting the “Requesting credit to your MileagePlus account” form.
Earn award miles for hotel stays in more than 15,000 hotels worldwide when you book your stay through a United partner booking service via their website. Program partners include Marriott, Hilton HHonors, Hyatt, Starwood Hotels & Resorts, Best Western, Wyndham, Choice Hotels, Intercontinental Hotels Group and more. To view current offers, visit the “Hotel partners” page on the MileagePlus website.
Car rental, limo and shuttle
Earn award miles when you rent vehicles with program partners including Hertz, Dollar and Thrifty. To view current offers, visit the “Car rental partners” page on the MileagePlus website. Remember to quote your MileagePlus number when making your reservation, and the miles will be credited to your account within six to eight weeks.
In the United States, if you’re travelling by train with Amtrak, you can also earn award miles on qualifying class fares. Amtrak travels to more than 500 destinations within the country, connecting coast to coast and border to border. For specific details, visit the “Rail service” page on the MileagePlus website.
Cruise and vacation partners
United also has its own vacation and cruise management arms, “United Vacations” and “United Cruise” respectively. Customise your vacation via United Vacations and earn bonus miles while enjoying discounted airfares. Unfortunately, only US residents can earn miles on United Cruises. For more details, visit the “Cruise and vacation partners” page on the MileagePlus website and follow the links.
Other ways to earn points
Other options for earning points may be limited when you live in Australia, but the program does include the following partners and categories:
- Credit cards. United and Chase have partnered to offer several United-branded credit card that directly earn MileagePlus miles when you spend. While other MileagePlus-partnered credit cards are issued in several parts of the world, there are currently no Australian credit cards tied to MileagePlus.
- MileagePlus Shopping. The MileagePlus Shopping website currently has stores serving customers in the US and Japan, and unfortunately does not offer international shipping.
- Retail and lifestyle. If you live in or visit the United States often, downloading the MileagePlus X app will help you earn miles as you shop or dine. Partners extend across retail, food and wine, and finance industries.
- Dining and entertainment. You can earn miles as you dine via MileagePlus Dining at a rate of up to 5 award miles per $1 spent. Learn more by visiting the “Dining and entertainment” page on the MileagePlus website.
- Financial partners. You can earn miles when refinancing a loan or opening an account with a United financial partner, although these are generally limited to the US market.
- Home, auto and energy. If you live in America, you can also clock up some extra miles on money spent at your car dealer or energy provider.
- Buy miles. When you’re booking an award flight and lack the required points, you may buy miles to top up where necessary. The following conditions apply: your award flight must require more than 5,000 miles, and you must have at least 50% of the required miles. If both conditions are satisfied, you may top up your miles at US$35 per 1,000 mile increments. This purchase is non-refundable and subject to taxes.
Missing mileage for non-airline partnersMileage credits may take up to eight weeks to process for non-airline partners, so keep receipts and other relevant documentation in case you need to submit a request for missing mileage. If your mileage is still not showing after eight weeks, you may submit a missing mileage request online. To do so, sign into your MileagePlus account, go to “Requesting credit to your MileagePlus account”, select “Non-airline partners”, then select the applicable option and follow the prompts.
How to redeem MileagePlus award miles
There are nearly as many ways to use MileagePlus miles as there are ways to earn them. When you’re ready to shop for rewards, log into the MileagePlus website and go to “Use award miles” and follow the appropriate links. These are your options for redeeming miles:
Flights and flight upgrades
The mainstay of any frequent flyer program is its flight redemption possibilities. With MileagePlus, you may use your award miles on flights with United, United Express and its partners where available. The most economical flight award is called the “Saver Award”, which can be used for travelling almost anywhere via United, United Express and it airline partners. However, Saver Awards are limited and may not be available on certain flights. “Standard Awards” offer greater availability on United, United Express and Copa Airlines, and are guaranteed to MileagePlus Premier members where seats are available. Flight upgrades are also available for certain flights and fare classes. Visit the MileagePlus website to view the award charts for more information on flight routes and redemption fares. Fees may apply.
Apart from flights, you can also spend your miles on these travel extras:
- United Club membership. United Club members have access to more than 45 United Club lounges worldwide. This means complimentary snacks, beverages and Wi-Fi in comfort as you wait for your flight. Some airline partner lounges are also open to United Club members.
- Inflight Wi-Fi. This function is now available on all domestic and long-haul international aircraft, and offers you the connectivity to email and surf the web during your flight. However, voice and video calls are prohibited
- Fast-tracked security screening. TSA Pre offers you fast-tracked screening when going through security checks. Practically, this means you will not need to remove your shoes, laptops, 3-1-1 liquids, belts or light jackets. TSA Pre is valid for five years and costs 10,000 miles.
- Hotels. You can also use your MileagePlus miles for booking hotel stays across the world. When shopping for hotel stays via the MileagePlus website, you will also enjoy preferred pricing. Simply key in your destination and dates using the search tool.
- Car hire. Car awards use the same search page as hotels, and you can even search “Hotel & Car” for a special package if desired. Simply select that tab and key in your destination and dates.
- Cruises. Use your miles to redeem a cruise holiday and receive special discounts and perks including an extra night free, cash to spend on board, or “mile back” (by receiving award miles back).
Other ways to use award miles
On top of straight-up travel redemptions, you can also use your miles to enhance your travel experience with these options:
- MileagePlus experiences. From Broadway shows to live NBA games, MileagePlus experiences offer periodic invitations to unique events. Rather than being for sale though, these events are up for bidding and you use your miles to bid for them.
- Shopping. The MileagePlus store offers a wide range of merchandise covering jewellery, home and living, style and beauty, sports, electronics, family and kids, and much more. You can also use your miles at Lufthansa Worldshop, or send flowers, gifts and gift cards with them.
- Dining. Your miles can be converted into eGift cards and certificates for thousands of restaurants, or be spent at certain Newark Airport restaurants.
- Subscriptions. Magazine and newspaper awards let you spend your miles on popular subscriptions.
- Transfer or donate miles. With MileagePlus, you can also transfer your miles to another MileagePlus member or give gift redemptions to your loved ones, such as United Club membership or TSA Pre. If you’re feeling charitable, you may also give your miles away to select American charities. Each minimum donation is 500 miles.
What to consider before joining United MileagePlus
As this frequent flyer program is based in the US, there may be limited ways to earn and use miles when you’re living in Australia. So before signing up, you may wish to consider the following questions:
- How often will I fly with United Airlines and its partners? If you frequently travel to America, it could make sense for you to fly United and be a MileagePlus member. Otherwise, joining the loyalty program of an airline that you use more frequently might prove more rewarding for you.
- How many points am I likely to earn each year? You can answer this question by making a simple calculation, based on the miles earned on your regular routes and the number of times you fly each year. What rewards do the resulting points translate into?
- Is there a partner airline with a frequent flyer program that may be better for me? United has many partners, including its 25 Star Alliance airline partners. If you also/already fly with one of them, note that you can earn frequent flyer points on United flights through that airline’s program. For example, if you’re already a member of the Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer program, you could earn points through that program when flying with United. This would allow you to accumulate more points in one program rather than spread your earnings over two programs.
Essentially, since the MileagePlus program is based in the US, it is most ideal for people who live there or frequently visit. Otherwise, you may wish to consider a frequent flyer program with more connections in Australia instead.Back to topPicture: Shutterstock