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How to Use Amex Membership Rewards Points for United Flights

by on Fri May 6, 2016 • 2 Comments


If you want to fly on an award ticket with United Airlines, but don’t have the miles, several U.S. credit card rewards programs offer you this opportunity.

If you have American Express Membership Rewards points, for example, you can transfer them to a number of partner airline programs that are also partners with United, so you can use to redeem an award flight on United.

These are your options:

Strictly speaking, AMEX Membership Rewards points are not the best currency for United flights.

Chase Ultimate Rewards points are much more straightforward in this regard, as you can transfer them directly to your United MileagePlus account. However, if you do have MR points that you would like to use, you can sometimes get a better deal than by booking directly with United MileagePlus.

Remember, though, your points are easy to transfer out of the MR program, but impossible to get back in, should your travel plans fall through.

Booking United flights with Air Canada Aeroplan

Since Air Canada, just like United, is a Star Alliance member airline, you can use its Aeroplan miles to book United flights.

And since Air Canada is a member of the AMEX Membership Rewards program, you can transfer Membership Rewards points to Aeroplan.

The prices for awards with Aeroplan miles are generally pretty close to what you’d pay if you used United MileagePlus miles to book a United flight, although there are some deviations. For example, since Air Canada divides Europe into two zones (United does not), flights to Eastern Europe are more expensive – 75,000 vs. 60,000 United miles.

While Aeroplan is rarely the absolute cheapest option for an award on United flights, the best feature of the Aeroplan program is two free stopovers and an open jaw on a round-trip award ticket.

What it means is that with generous Air Canada routing rules, you can visit three cities for the price of one (or four if you’re willing to pay for an open jaw). You can even book a mini round-the-world trip on United and other Star Alliance partners for the price of one award.

Here’s a link to the full Aeroplan award chart, and below are the roundtrip prices for flights departing the Continental U.S.


There are some great deals you can have with Aeroplan miles. Arguably, the best feature of the Aeroplan program is two free stopovers and an open jaw on a round-trip award ticket.

What it means is that with generous Air Canada routing rules, you can visit three cities for the price of one (or four if you’re willing to pay for an open jaw). You can even book a mini round-the-world trip on United and other Star Alliance partners for the price of one award.

Here’s how to search and book United flights with Aeroplan miles by transferring your points to Aeroplan.

1. Create a free Aeroplan account here. You’ll need to log in to search and book award flights.

2. Go to the Aeroplan home page, hover your mouse on “Using Your Miles,” and click on “Travel.”


3. Log in, then click on “Use Your Miles” – Flights.

Aeroplan 3_700

4. Enter your destination, travel dates, and class of service and check “My dates are flexible” (if they are). Try to use the most direct route possible and the exact airport used by United, or there is a chance the search engine won’t see it. Click on “Search.”

Aeroplan 4_700
5. You’ll get a calendar of dates with awards available and their prices. If the date you want is unavailable, you will have an option to choose another one. Click on “Search with new dates.”

Aeroplan EWR-LAX Date Change Results_700

6. The next screen will give you a list of flights to choose from. Click on “Select.”

Aeroplan EWR-LAX Final Results_700

Don’t transfer the points to your Aeroplan account until you have found availability.

Your transfer is usually instant, so it’s not very likely (albeit not impossible) that you’re going to lose your seat. But if you do transfer your points, and your flight is unavailable, they won’t take them back.
Once you’re ready, go to this page on to transfer your points.


Keep in mind:

  • Air Canada doesn’t add fuel surcharges to United flights.
  • You can book one-way flights for half the price of a round trip.
  • Aeroplan doesn’t allow you to hold an award.
  • If you want two free stopovers and an open jaw, you can’t book online. Call: 800-361-5373.

Booking United flights with ANA Mileage Club

In many cases, you’re better off redeeming ANA miles on United than United’s own miles. Just like it is the case with all partner award redemptions, you can only book United with ANA Mileage Club miles if there is a Saver or low-level award availability on United. This is why you’re better off checking first to ensure there is availability.

There are plenty of good deals you can have on United, but they’re not all good. One of the major drawbacks is that you can’t book a one-way flight – it’s round-trip only.

> Here’s a link to ANA’s award chart for United and other Star Alliance partners

Award levels for domestic travel are not great across the board.

It’s 30,000 miles vs. 25,000 United miles in economy, 55,000 vs. 50,000 in business, and 90,000 vs. 70,000 in first.

However, there are destinations where ANA has very strong values – for example, Hawaii.

A round-trip flight between the Continental U.S. and Hawaii in economy/business costs only 40,000 ANA Mileage Club miles in economy and 68,000 miles in business vs. 45,000/80,000 United MileagePlus miles.

Europe and southern South America would be excellent redemptions, too, especially in business class. You get 55,000/88,000 ANA Mileage Club miles vs. 60,000/115,000 United MileagePlus miles.

Add liberal ANA routing rules (free stopover and two open jaws) that somewhat mitigate one-way travel restrictions, and you’re in business.

Here’s how to book United flights by transferring your points to ANA Mileage Club.

1. If you don’t have an ANA account, go here and click on “Join ANA Mileage Club.”

ANA 1_700

2. Go back to the top page. On the left, you’ll see the booking form. Don’t fill it up yet; click on the blue button that says “Award Booking.”

ANA 2_700
3. Log on to your account.

4. The next page will present you with a few options. If you are interested in a simple round trip, just fill out your travel information, choose the class of service, and click on “Search.” Note: If you are interested in a more complex itinerary, click on “Multiple cities/mixed classes.”

ANA 4_700

If your dates are available, click on “Next;” if not, choose other dates if you are flexible.

ANA SEA-MIA Results_700
The next page gives you several options for your flight. Choose the schedule that suits you and click on “Next.”
ANA SEA-MIA Results 2
The next page gives you the final screen with the summary of your mileage and cash outlay. If you are fine with the results, click on “Next” to complete your booking.

Keep in mind:

  • You can only book round-trip tickets – but you can get one stopover and two open jaws for free.
  • You are allowed to mix United flights with other flights from the Star Alliance.
  • ANA does not add fuel surcharges to United, but it does add surcharges to most of its partner airlines.
  • You are not allowed to hold an award.
  • If you’d rather call, the number is: 800-235-9262. In general, the ANA agents are knowledgeable and eager to help.

Booking United flights with Singapore KrisFlyer

Aside from being able to book United flights with the Air Canada Aeroplan and ANA Mileage Club miles, you can also use your Membership Rewards points to book with Singapore KrisFlyer. Sometimes, you might think that there is such a thing as too much choice.

Not in this case, however. Every frequent flyer program has its own pros and cons. Both Aeroplan and Mileage Club are good for some things and not as good for others. Using Singapore miles may sometimes offer a better solution to getting your United award flight.

Don’t transfer your MR points to KrisFlyer if you want to book a long-haul United award.

There is ANA Mileage Club for that.

Don’t transfer to KrisFlyer if you think you could use two free stopovers – there is Air Canada Aeroplan for that.

Do transfer to Singapore if you could use a cheap business class flight in the U.S. or economy/business to Hawaii.

This is where KrisFlyer miles will work better than anyone else’s, including United’s.

You can fly in a new, retrofitted lie-flat seat between New York and Los Angeles for 20,000 miles one-way or 40,000 miles round-trip. You would spend 25,000/50,000 United miles for the same flight.

Hawaii from the Continental U.S. would cost you 35,000/60,000 KrisFlyer miles vs. 40,000/80,000 MileagePlus miles in economy/business. If you are craving some shuteye in comfort, KrisFlyer miles are priceless.

If you aren’t interested in a business class seat, booking United domestic flights with KrisFlyer is still OK, since the award levels are on a par with United.


Always make sure to call Singapore to confirm they can see your award before transferring miles even if you can find a Saver rate on the website.

There are still risks, however, since transfers to Singapore aren’t instant, and Singapore doesn’t allow you to hold an award.
Since you can’t book Star partners award flights online, research United availability on When you find the lowest Saver availability, call Singapore to book at 312-843-5333.

Keep in mind:

  • Transfers usually take under 24 hours.
  • You are not allowed to hold an award.
  • Singapore does not add a fuel surcharge to United.
  • One-way tickets are available for 50% round trip.

Booking on the AMEX Membership Rewards website

Booking travel on the AMEX Membership Rewards website is rarely a good deal. It would be a much better idea to book your flight for cash if transferring miles into one of the above programs doesn’t work for your travel plans, and save points for another time.

If you are a Business Platinum credit card holder, though, you can do a little better since Business Platinum card holders receive a 50% points refund. That would get you $400 worth of flights for 20,000 points or $800 for 40,000 points, which might be a good deal. Everyone else would be better off sticking to transfer options for all but the cheapest fares.

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