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Most people gravitate towards domestic airline loyalty programs. After all, it is easier to stick with programs that you’re familiar with rather than learn the ins and outs of another program. That’s why it is so important to know the best ways to earn United Miles.

Although United doesn’t have the most competitive award rates, one big benefit of booking with United is that it doesn’t pass on fuel surcharges on award tickets. This can save you hundreds of dollars compared to booking with other airline award programs.

If United miles are calling to you, it’s important to earn your United points in the most effective way possible. You should try to maximize every dollar spent to earn United miles as fast as possible.

Let’s take a look at some of the best ways to earn United miles.

Open a United MileagePlus Account

Before making any moves, you should be sure to open a United MileagePlus account. Be sure to take note of your United MileagePlus number, as you’ll use it for all of these ways to earn United miles.

Whether you’re opening a new card, utilizing a shopping portal or transferring from a partner loyalty program, having your United MileagePlus number handy is key.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had someone ask me “where are my United miles?” after finishing the minimum spend on a new United card. Often, the answer is they didn’t put their MileagePlus number on their credit card application, and the bank just created one for them.

When this happens, it can be a lot of work to get the points combined into the correct account. Be sure you write down and use the same MileagePlus number for all of the strategies mentioned below.

Earn United Miles with United Credit Cards

One of the easiest ways to earn United miles is by opening a United co-branded card. There are three personal cards and one business card to choose from. All United co-branded cards are offered by Chase, so all are limited by the Chase 5/24 rule.

Thankfully, there aren’t rules limiting you from getting the bonus on each United card. If you’re looking to get as many United miles as possible, you can open one of each kind to really build up your balance.

One huge benefit of having a United credit card is that United opens up more award availability on their own flights to card holders. This means more opportunities to redeem miles for the flights that you want.

United Explorer Card

The United Explorer Card is the classic United co-branded credit card. The bonus varies over time, but you can expect to earn between 40,000 and 65,000 United miles depending on the offer available at the time. The annual fee is $95, but often waived for the first year.

In addition to the bonus, the card offers the following bonus categories:

  • 2X miles per dollar at restaurants
  • 2X miles per dollar on hotel stays
  • 2X miles per dollar on United purchases
  • 2X miles per dollar on restaurants and delivery services
  • 1X mile per dollar on all other purchases

You’ll also get two United Club passes every year and enjoy priority boarding privileges just for holding the card. Card holders will also receive their first checked bag free when you pay for your ticket with your United Explorer Card.

United Quest Card

Chase recently introduced the United Quest Card which is a mid-tier card. Coming in with an annual fee of $250, it does cost more than the United Explorer Card, but the United Quest Card helps you earn even more United miles along with some more premium benefits.

Currently, you can earn 100,000 bonus miles through a tiered bonus. You’ll earn 80,000 miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months of account opening, and an additional 20,000 miles after spending a total of $10,000 in the first six months. 

In addition to the bonus miles, you’ll receive a $125 United purchase credit every year and two 5,000 mile award flight credits on the anniversary of having the card.

The United Quest Card is a great way to earn United miles on everyday spend with some higher bonus categories than what you’ll find on the United Explorer Card.

  • 3X miles per dollar on all United purchases
  • 2X miles per dollar on all other travel including hotels, airfare, car rentals and more
  • 2X miles per dollar on dining, including takeout
  • 2X miles per dollar on select streaming services
  • 1X mile per dollar on all other purchases

Additionally, you’ll get your first and second checked bag free on United flights when you use your United Quest Card to purchase your flight.

United Club Infinite Card

At the top end of the United personal cards is the United Club Infinite Card. The United Club Infinite Card is a premium card meant to elevate your travel experience. 

The United Club Infinite Card’s bonus isn’t the highest among the three personal cards, coming in at 75,000 United miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months of account opening.

What really sets the United Club Infinite Card apart from the others is that it comes with a United Club membership. If you’re already paying for a United Club membership, you should absolutely open this card. United Club memberships start at $650, so it will always be cheaper with the United Club Infinite Card.

If you are a frequent United flyer, you’ll get the most value from the bonus categories with the United Club Infinite Card.

  • 4X miles per dollar on United purchases
  • 2X miles per dollar on dining, including delivery
  • 2X miles per dollar on all other travel
  • 1X mile per dollar on all other purchases 

You’ll also get your first and second checked bag free when you pay for your flight with your United Club Infinite Card.

United Business Card

If you’re a small business owner looking to open a credit card for your business, the United Business Card is a good option to earn United miles. You’ll earn 75,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months of account opening. The annual fee of $95 is waived the first year.

The United Business Card reflects many of the same benefits as the United Explorer Card. You’ll get two United Club passes every year and get your first checked bag free when you pay with your United Business Card.

With some good bonus categories, you can easily earn United miles.

  • 2X miles per dollar on United purchases
  • 2X miles per dollar at restaurants, gas stations, office supply stores, and on local transit and commuting
  • 1X mile per dollar on all other purchases

Transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards to United MileagePlus

Earning United points with a United bo-branded card isn’t the only way to earn United miles. Another one of the best ways to earn them without opening a United co-branded card is to transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards to United MileagePlus.

Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer to United 1:1, meaning you’ll receive one United mile for every Ultimate Reward point you transfer. 

Whether you’re taking advantage of the elevated bonus of 80,000 points on the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, or 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points on the Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card, you’ll be able to earn United points in no time.

A benefit of earning Ultimate Rewards points rather than United miles directly is the flexibility. You can transfer Ultimate Rewards to United when you need, or to other award programs. Your United miles are locked into your United account after you earn them, so you’ll only be able to use them for award flights. 

Flexibility is a huge value in the points and miles world, which is why choosing to earn Chase Ultimate Rewards instead of United MileagePlus miles directly is one of the smartest ways to earn United miles.

Transfer Marriott Points to United

The ability to transfer Marriott points to virtually every airline program out there is a great opportunity to top off your account.

I say top off, because it rarely makes sense to transfer to book your entire ticket. Marriott points transfer to most airlines 3:1, meaning that for every three Marriott points you transfer you’ll earn only one airline mile. When you transfer 60,000 points, you’ll get a 5,000 extra airline miles equating to a total of 25,000 airline miles earned.

Marriott and United have some special reciprocal benefits. For example, if you are Titanium Elite with Marriott, you’re also eligible to automatically receive United Silver status. 

The benefits of the partnership extend to point transfers as well. You’ll earn 10% more points when you transfer Marriott points to United. If you transfer 12,000 Marriott points, instead of receiving only 4,000 United miles, you’ll earn 4,400 United miles. 

Unfortunately, this doesn’t multiply the 5,000 extra points you’ll earn when transferring 60,000 Marriott Bonvoys. If you transfer 60,000 Marriott points to United, you’ll earn 20,000 United Miles, plus an extra 2,000 for the 10% bonus, plus an additional 5,000 points for a total of 27,000 United miles. 

This makes it almost a 2:1 transfer, but not quite. Still, if you’re just a few miles short of having enough points for your award flight it makes sense to transfer some Marriott points if you have some extra lying around.

Utilize Shopping Portals

If you’re not already checking a shopping portal whenever purchasing something online, now’s the time to start.

Shopping portals are a great way to earn a few extra points on your online purchases you’re making anyway. Most major airlines offer a shopping portal. Rather than going directly to a retailer’s website, you go to the shopping portal first to see if they offer bonus points before shopping. You can then click through the shopping portal link, and you’ll eventually see the points show up in your account. 

The United Shopping Portal is a great way to earn extra United points, but you can easily compare how many points you’ll get from a shopping portal using Cash Back Monitor or EV Rewards

Keep in mind that Chase also offers a shopping portal that earns Ultimate Rewards, and Chase points can transfer to United 1:1. So if the Chase shopping portal earns at a higher rate than the United portal, you would be better off earning the Chase points.

Airline shopping portals will also often offer bonuses, especially around the holidays. These bonuses typically present themselves as bonus miles after spending a certain amount, like “earn 1,000 bonus United miles after spending $500 in purchases.” This can be a great way to boost the amount of United miles you’re earning through a shopping portal.

United MileagePlus X App

United offers a unique way to earn extra points through their United MileagePlus X app. 

The MileagePlus X app allows you to buy gift cards to many popular retailers and earn United miles in the process. Simply download the app and check for your store before purchasing.

Even better, you can stack this with shopping portals. You can use your credit card to purchase a gift card and then go through a shopping portal to make your purchase. There’s no excuse to not earn tons of United miles this way.

Here’s an example of how powerful stacking can be.

Let’s say you’re trying to make a purchase at Under Armor and you’re going to use your Chase Freedom Unlimited credit card to earn 1.5X Ultimate Rewards on the purchase. You’re planning to spend about $100.

If you just went to Under Armor to make the purchase, you’d earn 150 Ultimate Rewards (which you could later transfer to United).

Instead, you could first go to the United MileagePlus X App and purchase a $100 Under Armor gift card. You’d earn two times here. First, you’d earn the same 150 Ultimate Rewards points with your Chase Freedom Unlimited. United is offering 3 miles per dollar spent on Under Armor gift cards in the MilagePlus X app, meaning you’d get an additional 300 United miles.

Then, if you went to the United shopping portal, you could go to Under Armor through there for extra points. Normally, you’d earn 2X United miles per dollar, but there’s currently a bonus for 12X United miles per dollar spent. Click through to Under Armor’s website to make your purchase, and use your gift card. You’d earn an additional 1,200 United miles on your $100 purchase.

So in total, you’d earn 150 Chase Ultimate Rewards plus 1,500 United miles for the exact same purchase just by adding a few extra steps. If you transfer those Chase points to United, that’s a total of 1,650 United miles for the same purchase that you’d otherwise only earn 150 on.

You’ll get your next award flight even faster when you earn United miles by stacking with the United MileagePlus X app and the United shopping portal.

Earn United MileagePlus Points with Other Partners

Another way to earn United miles is with exclusive offers United has with some specific partners. This is different than using the shopping portal, and are curated partnerships that United has with other vendors.

Other partners include

  • Quicken Loans
  • Lifelock
  • Hertz
  • Dollar Rent A Car
  • Thrifty Car Rental

Final Thoughts

Whether you’re seeking to avoid fuel surcharges or to take advantage of some unique perks United has like the United Excursionist Perk, there’s a number of great reasons to earn United miles.

United miles can be easy to come by, whether you’re opening a United co-branded card, transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards, or stacking the United MileagePlus X app with the United shopping portal. 

Whatever method you choose, you’ll surely be racking up the United miles and be ready for your next award flight in no time.

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