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5 reasons we prefer United Airlines miles for credit card earning

by on Sat December 22, 2012 • 4 Comments

Among the mile programs of the big global U.S. carriers, United Airlines Mileage Plus is our favorite for earning and using miles via credit cards. Here are 5 reasons why…

1. Better reward availability

Independent studies show that United has the best mile reward availability among the global U.S. based carriers. You can find a seat at the lowest mileage requirement about 70% of the time on the dates you want. No airline is perfect, and certain destinations at certain times of the year (read: Hawaii during Christmas) will be challenging, but United is consistent.

2. A dead simple award search tool

Even if reward seats are available, they’re of no use to you if you can’t find them. We get frustrated with the online award search tools offered by most airlines. You have to fumble with a login, don’t get to see most partner choices, and be patient as they run very slowly. United has one of the easiest and most transparent websites for award seat searches.

Trust us, it’s the best in the business. You don’t have to log in to use it, it shows nearly all available partners, and has an accurate calendar that shows availability over several months.

United mile search results

Then view the comprehensive results. That’s it!


3. More partners than any other

United is the world’s largest airline. That in itself gives you lots of options. But you also get to use your miles for travel on all of their Star Alliance partners. These include Adria Airways, Aegean Airlines, Air Canada, Air China, Air New Zealand, ANA, Asiana Airlines, Austrian, Blue1 , bmi, Brussels Airlines, Croatia Airlines , EGYPTAIR, LOT Polish Airlines, Lufthansa, Scandinavian Airlines, Singapore Airlines, South African Airways, Spanair, SWISS, TAM Airlines, TAP Portugal, THAI, Turkish Airlines, and US Airways. This maximizes the chances there will be a flight with award seats available when and where you want to travel.

4. A generous reward rule

United charges no fee for changing the dates on a reward ticket as many times as you want up to 21 days prior to departure. The only catch is you must keep the origin and destination the same. This is great for times you can’t get the precise date you want upfront, but want to lock in something ‘good enough.’ If you see seats open up on the date you really want — regardless of the route to get there — you can change it for free up to 21 days in advance.

5. A powerful credit card for earning miles

While the base United Explorer credit card offers helpful perks like no checked bag fee, if you want to maximize mile earning potential we recommend the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. It earns double points on all travel and dining purchases with no caps, and points instantly transfer 1:1 into United miles. And it has a generous sign on bonus. You can read the pros and cons of each card here (or just apply for both).

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Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Miles dont expireas long as card is open
Learn more

Partner Offer

50,000 bonus points

Intro Offer

$0 introductory annual fee, then $95

Annual Fee


Foreign Transaction Fee Waived


Points Can Transfer to Airline Miles ?

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4 thoughts on 5 reasons we prefer United Airlines miles for credit card earning

  1. Very Confused

    I currently have a Chase Visa Signature Mileage Plus Card. Is there any reason not to change over to a United Explorer Card? What features would I lose in the process?



    1. MileCards

      @Very Confused- Your current card has a $60 annual fee and basic 1 mile per dollar spent earning. The United Explorer has a $95 annual fee, but gets you the checked bag fee waiver and priority boarding. Earning is 1 mile per dollar, but 2 miles per dollar on United purchases. Basically, if you plan to check at least 2 bags per year, and are not elite (which would get them free anyway), then the extra $35 annual fee may be worth it. Otherwise, they’ll let you stick with your current card as long as you’d like. The comparison on their site is here

        1. MileCards

          @ Very confused. No the Explorer doesn’t offer elite miles. If you value that best to retain your existing card.


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