How to Get United Airline Miles

by Karen Farnen ; Updated July 27, 2017
Earn United miles on your choice of 4,500 flights each day.

You can earn MileagePlus miles by flying on United and its associated airlines, but rich mileage rewards are also available for purchasing goods or using services through partners. Once you're a member of MileagePlus, you can receive miles for many of your everyday activities, such as opening a credit card, eating out, renting a car or buying flowers. If you're still short on miles for a ticket, you can buy them.

Flight Miles

"U.S. News" gives MileagePlus high ratings because of United's large number of daily flights and the ease of booking mileage tickets. The mileage award for most United and United Express flights depends on how much you pay for a ticket rather than on the distance. To compute miles, United multiplies the price by a number based on your frequent-flyer status. As a result of the multiplier, premier members earn more. For example, a UnitedPlus member without status receives five times the dollar cost in miles, while a Premier Silver member receives seven times the cost. The multiplier is eight for gold members, nine for platinum and 11 for Premier 1K members. For flights on other Star Alliance members, the mileage award depends on the fare class and distance.

Credit Card Rewards

Opening a new credit card with a MileagePlus partner can add thousands of miles to your account. The terms change from time to time, but a typical promotion awards 30,000 miles when you open a new United MileagePlus Explorer card and make $1,000 in purchases during the first three months. Business credit cards with a 50,000 bonus for spending $2,000 within three months are also frequently available. Once you have a United Explorer card, you'll generally earn two miles for every dollar you spend on United tickets and one mile for other uses of the card. Find credit cards and other United mileage offers on the United Airlines website

Travel Partners

You can earn United miles by providing your MileagePlus number and booking directly at participating hotels, such as Marriott and Wyndham, or through approved booking partners. Similarly, you earn miles when you reserve a car through rental partners such as Thrifty, Hertz and Dollar. Some Amtrak segments connecting to United flights qualify for miles, as do bookings on a United cruise or vacation.

Miscellaneous Purchases and Special Offers

Major retailers such as Sears and other businesses, including florists and wine merchants, offer bonus miles when you use the United credit card. In addition, you can earn miles by enrolling in MileagePlus Dining, signing up for entertainment services, opening an investment account, buying gasoline or purchasing energy services from partners. The United website provides information on new and limited-time mileage offers, including awards for taking surveys or shopping online.

Purchase Miles

If you're short of miles when booking a ticket, you can purchase up to half of the miles you need. You must purchase 5,000 miles at a minimum, and you can purchase more in increments of 1,000. As of 2015, the price is $35 plus 7.5 percent excise tax for each 1,000 miles. You may have to pay additional taxes on the purchase. You can also purchase miles when you're not booking a flight. The regular price is $70 for the first 2,000 miles and $35 for each additional 1,000 miles as of 2015, but United sometimes offers promotional discounts.

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