Earning United MileagePlus Miles to Travel for Less

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Our strategy when it comes to earning valuable United MileagePlus miles entails using as many Chase cards to our advantage as possible. We’ll then transfer points from Chase’ Ultimate Rewards portal to MileagePlus and fly for less, miles can make travel for less, especially business and first class tickets, but there are still taxes and fees when you redeem a mileage ticket that you need to pay for. Let’s start from the top down on the cards to maximize United mileage earning.

Chase Sapphire Reserve

Photo: Chase Sapphire Reserve

  • Earn 3 points per dollar spent on travel and restaurants; 1 point per dollar on spending else where
  • Receive up to $300 in statement credits annually for spend on travel
  • $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
  • Priority Pass™ Select membership*
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Access to the Visa Infinite Concierge
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $450 annual fee

Chase Sapphire Prefered

  • Earn 2 points per dollar on travel and dining; 1 point per dollar on spending elsewhere
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $95 annual fee, waived the first year

Chase Freedom Unlimited

  • Earn 1.5% on all purchases
  • $0 annual fee

Chase Freedom

  • Earn 5% cashback/points on quarterly rotating categories such as department stores, gas stations, grocery stores, etc.; 1% earn on all other categories
  • $0 annual fee

The goal is to earn points and utilize them at the Chase Ultimate Rewards Portal. You’ll be able to consolidate points as long as you own one of the of the Sapphire cards then transfer them to MileagePlus – we wouldn’t recommend holding both Sapphire cards for long term as they have quite a bit of overlap in their perks. If we’re shopping at Costco, we’ll use the Freedom card since it’ll earn 5% through the end of the year; if we’re dining out, we’re using the Sapphire Reserved Card with the 3% earn; if the purchase falls under the miscellaneous bucket then the Freedom Unlimited Card gets us at least 1.5%. You can even pool Ultimate Reward points with someone else in your household. (Even though we’re concentrating on MileagePlus transfers in this article, here are some other ideas on using Chase Ultimate Rewards.)

United also offers MileagePlus credit cards (with Chase) to help you accrue miles directly into your MileagePlus account. Besides the benefits mentioned below the owners of the cards can reveal additional award space at United.com.

United MileagePlus® Explorer card

Photo: Chase MileagePlus Explorer

  • Earn: Two miles per dollar spent on tickets purchased from United; One mile per dollar spent elsewhere.
  • Annual fee: $95, waived the first year.
  • Two United Club passes per year.
  • First checked bag is free.
  • Priority boarding.
  • No foreign transaction fee

MileagePlus Club Card

  • Earn: Two miles per dollar spent on tickets purchased from United; 1.5 miles per dollar spent elsewhere
  • Annual fee: $450
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • United Club Membership, First And Second Checked Bags Free, Any Seat, Any Time With Your Miles, Premier Upgrades On Award Tickets
  • Premier Access check-in: Use designated priority ticket counter check-in lines
  • Premier Access security screening: Access priority security lines (when available)
  • Premier Access priority boarding: Be among the first customers to board, or take your time and use the reserved blue carpet line at any time
  • Premier Access priority baggage handling: Your bags will always be among the first delivered at baggage claim, ensuring a quicker departure
  • Premier Priority Desk

If you want some to gain some “status” benefits, then add the Mileageplus Explorer card to your wallet as well. We feel that $95 for two years of this card is worth the bonus points, the Club passes, first free checked bag, priority boarding and unlocking access to some additional award space. The MileagePlus Club card is very much overkill unless you really want to pay for those benefits. If you are that vested in United, you’re probably already a Premier Platinum or 1K member.

Generally we think the best way to accrue points for use with United is with the non-MileagePlus Chase cards. Should you want to steer away from United, there are six other airline partners and four hotel partners you can transfer Ultimate Rewards points to. The added flexibility is worth it but you’re going to have to decide for yourself. Please visit our Top Credit Card Offers tab to find the right card for you.

Additional Mileage-earning Opportunities

MileagePlus Shopping

Photo: MileagePlus Shopping

If you shop online there are plenty of chances to earn extra miles through United MileagePlus Shopping portal. For instance, there’s currently a promo for holiday shopping that can earn you an extra 500 miles for $100 spend or 1,500 miles for $200 spend. This is a no-brainer if you’re going to be shopping online anyways.

MileagePlus X App

If you’re tend to do you shopping on your mobile device instead, you can earn on shopping on the MileagePlus App. Again, why not earn points for something you’re going to be doing anyways?

MileagePlus Dining

If you eat out, make sure you link your credit cards with the MileagePlus Dining program. The best use would be to link your Sapphire Reserved card to earn 3% on dining and the additional points through the dining program.

As you can see there are plenty of ways to bank and earn miles with MileagePlus. There isn’t a shortage of ways whether it’s through Chase credit cards or through United’s shopping and dining portals.


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Comments (4)

  • J 6 years ago Reply

    I have the MileagePlus Explorer card for the luggage perk…doesn’t it only get 1x non-flight purchases? I’d love for it to be the 1.5x in your article – how do I do that?? 🙂

    Niels 6 years ago Reply

    I think it is a misprint in the section on the Explorer Card. The Explorer card seems to only offer 1x, while the Club card offers 1.5x.

    At least that is what UA’s website says:

    jw 6 years ago

    Sorry about the typo, it’s been corrected.

    jw 6 years ago Reply

    Sorry this has been corrected; we’d use the Freedom Unlimited to get us 1.5x

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