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When it comes to domestic airline frequent flyer programs, it’s hard to argue with the value presented by United’s MileagePlus program. With United’s number of credit cards and the ability to transfer both Chase Ultimate Rewards and Marriott Bonvoy points, you can really build up your MileagePlus balance fast. 

But what should you do once you’ve got a stash of United miles? Although United doesn’t always have the cheapest award rates, there are quite a few great ways to use United miles.

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

Fly to Europe Without Surcharges

One of the best ways to use United miles is to avoid surcharges on award tickets. Many European based Star Alliance carriers attach surcharges to their award tickets. This results in paying higher taxes and fees to book an award ticket. 

The following Star Alliance airlines are known for their high surcharges:

  • Lufthansa
  • Swiss
  • Austrian
  • Air Canada
  • SAS

What does this mean for you? Booking with another airline program might cost you a lot more in taxes and fees. 

Use United miles to fly to destinations like Berlin, Germany.

United doesn’t pass on taxes and fees on award tickets, meaning you’ll save before booking with another program. However, you’ll likely spend a few more points. It is a balancing act between paying more points and less taxes and fees. 

If you’re truly trying to save as much money as possible, and you have a stash of United miles, you’ll be happy to know you’re likely paying the lowest taxes and fees to fly to Europe. However, if you have lots of transferable points check Air Canada and LifeMiles before committing to United. Air Canada and LifeMiles pass on some of their own fees, but you’ll need fewer miles and taxes and fees will typically only be about $50 more than booking with United.

Book Economy Flights to Asia

At just 35,000 United miles, United offers some of the lowest award rates for economy flights to Asia. Very few programs offer lower award prices for economy flights to Asia.

Keep in mind, the 35,000 mile rate is only for United operated flights. United started charging more miles to book a partner award flight. If you want to book an award flight on a partner airline expect to pay 44,000 miles.

United miles can help you get to destinations in Asia like Shanghai, China

But if you’re planning to book a United flight, you can’t do better than 35,000 miles. United doesn’t charge per segment, so even if you need a domestic connection for the flight, it will all be included for just 35,000 United miles.

For those travelers looking to stretch their points further for more travel, you’ll struggle to do better if you’re wanting to travel to Asia.

Use the Excursionist Perk To Book Multi-City Itineraries

United is easily one of the best programs if you’re wanting to book a multi-city itinerary. How many times have you been trying to decide where to go in Europe and you can’t decide between two cities? You look up cash prices, and yet you can’t find yourself too excited to fly on Ryan Air.

Enter the United Excursionist Perk. 

The United Excursionist Perk allows you to book a multi-city itinerary at no extra cost when you book a round trip ticket. This is a great way to visit two cities in one trip, so long as you have enough United miles to book the round-trip to begin with. 

Some great examples include flying to Germany, then an excursionist flight to Paris before flying back to the U.S. Other popular examples are flying to Taiwan, then adding an excursionist flight to Japan before returning back to the U.S. Both of these trips wouldn’t require any additional miles beyond what the round-trip would cost.

Venture Around Africa For Less

United’s award rates around Africa are a steal, and what United considers as Africa is fairly broad.

Flights around Africa typically cost 30,000 points in economy and 55,000 points in business class. If you’re booking close in, they may be a bit higher, but these are the standard saver rates for award tickets.

Use United miles to get to destinations such as Cape Town, South Africa

What does United consider to be Africa? You can go as far south as South America and all the way up to Turkey. Turkish Airlines operates a flight from Istanbul (IST), Turkey to Johannesburg (JNB), South Africa. This flight clocks in at almost 10 hours, longer than flights from the East Coast to Europe. 

You can really build an adventurous trip by booking these flights to visit two distant countries for little more. Even better, if you are booking a round-trip ticket then you could use this opportunity to take advantage of the Excursionist perk.

Fly from Europe to Africa

Following a similar trend to traveling within Africa, you can fly from Europe to Africa for a reasonable award rate. Using United miles to fly from Europe to Africa is a great way to visit two countries in one trip.

Flights from Europe all the way to South Africa cost 33,000 points in economy or 60,500 points in business class. Shorter flights, such as flights from Lisbon, Portugal (LIS) to Casablanca, Morocco (CMN) will cost a bit less but may not provide as much value.

If you’re looking to take a very diverse vacation, United miles are a great way to visit two continents in one trip.

Flights Around the United States

United is often overlooked as one of the best ways to book flights around America. But if you need a good positioning flight to set up for an international flight, or if you’re seeking a domestic getaway, United is a great option to book short flights around the U.S.

Short domestic flights cost as low as 5,000 miles in economy. You can expect to find some great routes, like Houston (IAH) to Miami (MIA), that price at this level.

United miles aren’t just for international use. Some great domestic options can help you get to places like Miami, Florida

Longer flights can be quite reasonable as well. You can book some of the longest routes in the continental U.S. for just a bit more. Flights between Newark (EWR) and San Francisco (SFO) are around 6 hours long, but you’ll only pay 8,700 miles in economy. 

Keep in mind, United has a somewhat dynamic pricing model. This means that not every flight will be this cheap. However, it often isn’t hard to find domestic flights this low.

Visit Micronesia and the Marshall Islands With the United Island Hopper

If you haven’t heard about the Federated States of Micronesia or the Marshall Islands, I’d highly recommend putting them on your travel radar. The Federated States of Micronesia and the Marshall Islands are a collection of islands in the Pacific Ocean. While many travelers are often traveling to Fiji or French Polynesia, SCUBA enthusiasts are all too familiar with some of these islands known for their spectacular diving.

The remoteness of these islands makes them a challenge to get to, but one of the most unique routes operated by any island is operated by none other than United Airlines.

Insert the United Island Hopper. Originating in Honolulu (HNL) and finishing in Guam (GUM), the island hopper is a critical route providing supplies and transportation between six different islands. You’ll take off from Honolulu and travel to the Marshall Islands (MAJ), from there the route continues to Bucholz Army Airport (KWA). That’s not the last stop, as the island hopper continues to Kosrae (KSA), to Pohnpei (PNI), to Chuuk (TKK), and finally to Guam (GUM) before turning around and doing it all over.

If you’re wanting to get off the grid to one of these remote islands, or simply experience one of the most interesting flights out there, United miles are one of the best ways to book the United Island Hopper.

Cash tickets on the full route can be quite expensive. Expect to pay over $1,000 for economy tickets and $3,000 for business class tickets. The high price is why booking the United Island Hopper is one of the best ways to use United Miles. 

Economy flights start at 27,500 United miles. Business class flights will be a bit more, but it is very rare to find business class availability. In fact, at the time of writing there’s no availability through the end of the schedule. Everyday awards cost 110,000 miles, so if you’re interested in taking this unique flight in business class and you’re lucky enough to find saver business class availability, expect it to be between 60,000 and 110,000 miles.

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Final Thoughts

Whether you’re looking to travel to Europe, take advantage of the United Excursionist Perk, or venture along the United Island Hopper, there’s plenty of great ways to use United miles.

Although these are some of the best ways to use United miles, there’s plenty of other ways to put them to use. However you choose to use your United miles, I’m sure you’ll be glad to get in the sky and on your way to your next destination.

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