11 ways to earn United Airlines miles

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Many MMS readers love the United Mileage Plus program (myself included) not only because they’re easy to earn, but also because, compared to other frequent flyer programs, they seem to have really consistent award availability. Plus, they’re part of the Star Alliance, so you can use United Airlines miles for flights on partner airlines like Air Canada and Lufthansa.

There are multiple ways to earn United Airlines miles without taking a flight. You can earn them with United Airlines credit cards, like the United Explorer Card (which currently comes with up to 70,000 miles. Earn 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. Plus, earn an additional 10,000 miles after you spend $6,000 total on purchases in the first six months your account is open. ), or indirectly with travel credit cards that earn flexible points like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.

Here’s our guide for how to earn United miles:

Need to know how to earn United miles for your next Caribbean escape? Here’s our full guide. (Photo by Aerial-motion/Shutterstock)

How to earn United Miles

Here’s how to get more United Airlines miles into your account.

Use United Airlines credit cards

You’ll earn United Airlines miles when you open and use a Chase United Airlines credit card, including:

  • United℠ Explorer Card – Earn up to 70,000 miles. Earn 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. Plus, earn an additional 10,000 miles after you spend $6,000 total on purchases in the first six months your account is open.
  • United Business Card – Earn 75,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open.
  • United Club℠ Infinite Card – 100,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
  • United Club℠ Business Card – Earn 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open.
  • United Gateway℠ Card –Earn 30,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open.

All of the cobranded United cards are Chase credit cards and are subject to the Chase 5/24 rule, which means if you’ve opened five or more cards (from any bank, except Chase business cards and certain other business credit cards) in the past 24 months, you won’t be approved.

The information for the United Club Business Card ahas been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

United Explorer and Club cards get you perks when you fly United, like priority boarding, so you can settle in faster and get overhead bin space. (Photo by Benson Truong/Shutterstock)

Add an authorized user to your United card

Authorized users will earn miles just like the main cardholder will. So, if you have someone you can trust, like a spouse or child, consider adding them as an authorized user to maximize the rewards you earn.

Just remember, Chase does include authorized user cards in 5/24 counts. So take that into consideration when you’re deciding who to add to your account.

Get your loved one to sign up for a United card

Ever heard of “two-player mode?” If you can get your spouse or loved one to apply for travel rewards cards too, you can potentially double your miles and points earnings. That’s the power of two-player mode. And it’s a method you should most definitely employ if you have a trusted partner (with a good credit score!) you can work with.

Fly United Airlines

You’ll earn United Airlines miles any time you take a United Airlines or United Express flight and add your MileagePlus number to the reservation. The number of miles you’ll earn is tied to the cash price of the ticket’s base fare, not including taxes and government fees.

Depending on your elite status level, you’ll earn:

  • 5 miles per dollar – Basic member
  • 7 miles per dollar – Premier Silver member
  • 8 miles per dollar – Premier Gold member
  • 9 miles per dollar – Premier Platinum member
  • 11 miles per dollar – Premier 1K member

Here’s our United Airlines status review with more information.

Fly United Airlines partners

When you use your MileagePlus number on partner airlines, you’ll earn United Airlines miles. How many you’ll earn varies by airline, fare type and cabin of travel.

United Airlines’ Star Alliance partners are:

  • Aegean
  • Air Canada
  • Air China
  • Air India
  • Air New Zealand
  • ANA
  • Asiana Airlines
  • Austrian
  • Avianca
  • Brussels Airlines
  • Copa Airlines
  • Croatia Airlines
  • Egyptair
  • Ethiopian
  • EVA Air
  • LOT Polish Airlines
  • Lufthansa
  • SAS
  • Shenzhen Airlines
  • Singapore Airlines
  • South African Airways
  • TAP Air Portugal
  • Thai
  • Turkish Airlines

You can also earn United Airlines miles on airline partners outside the Star Alliance, including:

  • Aer Lingus
  • Aeromar
  • Air Dolomiti
  • Azul
  • Boutique Air
  • Cape Air
  • Edelweiss
  • Eurowings
  • Hawaiian Airlines (inter-island flights only)
  • Olympic Air
  • Silver Airways
  • Vistara

In total, that gives you 37 other airlines where you can earn and redeem United Airlines miles. You can check how many miles you’ll earn when you fly each partner on this page.

Use the MileagePlus X App

You can buy gift cards for dozens of merchants through the MileagePlus X app and earn United Airlines miles at the same time.

Plus, if you have a Chase United Airlines card, like the United℠ Explorer Card, you’ll earn 25% bonus miles automatically – and you do not have to use the card to pay through the app.

Your miles post immediately, so you can redeem them right away.

MileagePlus shopping 

Do a fair amount of online shopping? Don’t forget to maximize your rewards with these purchases!

When you start your shopping through the United MileagePlus portal, you’ll earn even more United Airlines miles. These miles are a bonus on top of any other miles or points you earn. Plus, there are often limited-time promotions to earn extra bonus miles, so it’s worth checking if there’s anything going on.

MileagePlus dining

Similar to United’s shopping portal, you can earn extra United miles by dining with participating restaurants when you link a credit or debit card to your account. This is another great way to earn extra miles without even thinking about it. And given that most people tend to spend a lot on dining, the bonus points could really add up. 

Spend with MileagePlus partners

United Airlines has partnerships with all types of merchants and travel providers, and you can opt to earn United Airlines miles when you shop with them. Partners include:

  • Hertz
  • Teleflora
  • Vacation packages
  • Quicken Loans
  • LifeLock
  • United Cruises

Here’s the full list of partners.

Note that with travel partners, like the rental car companies, earning United Airlines miles means forfeiting the rental car company’s own loyalty points. And if you book a hotel or a cruise, always shop around to make sure you’re getting a good deal.

Transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to United

If you need more United Airlines miles, you can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points instantly to United Airlines at a 1:1 ratio if you have one of these cards:

  • Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve

If you have any of the Chase Ultimate Rewards cards mentioned above, you can combine points from the no-annual-fee Chase Ultimate Rewards cards below and move them to United Airlines as well:

  • Ink Business Cash® Credit Card 
  • Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card
  • Chase Freedom Flex℠
  • Chase Freedom Unlimited®
  • Chase Freedom (no longer available to new applicants)

This is an easy way to get an award ticket if you find a route and time that works and need more miles. While transfers are free, you must transfer in increments of 1,000 points.

Don’t let the cost of a trip hold you back from traveling the world. Earning Chase Ultimate Rewards points can take you (almost) anywhere. (Photo by Drone Thailand/Shutterstock)

Transfer Marriott Bonvoy points

United Airlines has a deal with Marriott Bonvoy that gets you 10% more miles when you convert Marriott Bonvoy points to United Airlines miles.

That’s on top of the 5,000-mile bonus you’ll get for every 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points you transfer, so it can work out to be an especially great deal if you stack the two. Keep in mind you must transfer at least 3,000 Marriott Bonvoy points, with a maximum of 240,000 points per day. Here’s our step-by-step guide to transferring Marriott points to airlines.

The easiest way to collect Marriott points is with welcome offers from cards that earn Marriott points, including:

  • Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card – Earn 5 Free Nights (each night valued up to 50,000 points) after you spend $5,000 in the first three months from account opening.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card – Earn 75,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points after you use your new card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first three months.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card – Earn 75,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points after you use your new card to make $3,000 in eligible purchases within the first three months of card membership.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card – Earn 60,000 Bonus Points after spending $2,000 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.

Just remember, you can only earn the welcome bonus on personal American Express card and business Amex cards once per person, per lifetime.

Bottom line

There are a variety of ways to earn United Airlines miles, including the top credit card welcome bonuses and ongoing spending.

You can earn them directly from United Airlines co-branded cards, like the United Explorer Card, or indirectly by transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards points from a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred or transferring Marriott points to United Airlines miles. With all of these ways to earn United Airlines miles, you can be on your way to free flights in no time at all.

Deborah Atchison is a contributor to Million Mile Secrets, she covers topics on points and miles, credit cards, airlines, hotels, and general travel.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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