Top 10 Best Ways to Use United Miles
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Hilary Stockton

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What are the best ways to use United miles? TravelSort reader Pila writes "I have recently signed up for Chase credit cards...My question is where should I redeem my [United] miles?"

I recently covered my thoughts on the best ways to use AMEX points, so this post will focus on United miles, which in general are the best value transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards points.

10 Best Ways to Use United Miles

As in the AMEX points post, I've chosen this ranking based on the ability to fly first or business class, or to get better value from using United miles than another frequent flyer program.

1. Lufthansa First Class 

It's increasingly hard to fly first class to Europe without expensive fuel surcharges. One of the best ways, if you can book 15 days in advance or less, is using United miles to fly Lufthansa's New First Class. Taxes on the DC (IAD) to Munich (MUC) flight are $77.50, and you'll have access to the Lufthansa first class lounge, even as an arriving first class passenger, or First Class Terminal if you arrive in Frankfurt. Note that if you need to book Lufthansa first class in advance, you'll need to book via the Lufthansa Group Miles & More program, at much higher cost in both miles and surcharges.

Best Ways to Use United Miles - Lufthansa New First Class

2. First Class to Asia via Europe

You can book a first class award from the U.S. to Asia via Europe for 140,000 miles roundtrip, or 70,000 miles each way. You'll likely have to piece it together, since often gives mixed class awards with one of the legs in business or economy, but if you're booking shortly before departure you have a shot of getting Lufthansa First Class to Europe, then Thai First Class to Bangkok.

3. Thai First Class to Australia from Bangkok

Thai flies a 3-cabin product from Bangkok to Sydney, and is one of the best ways to get to Australia if you're routing via Asia. Note that Thai will be rolling out its new First Class on the A380 later this year, though currently it's the old Royal First Class on the BKK-SYD route.

Best Ways to Use United Miles - Thai First Class to Australia

4. Build in a United Free One Way

Don't forget that if you're booking a roundtrip international award ticket with United miles, you can book a free one way. See Use United Free One Ways to Maximize Your Award


5. Redeem for a One Way Award

A key reason why I prefer United and American miles to US Air Dividend Miles and Delta Skymiles is the ability to redeem for one way awards. Yes, you do give up the chance to build in a free one way, but the flexibility is key when working with limited award availability, especially when redeeming for more than one award ticket per flight.


6. Air New Zealand Business Class (777) to Auckland from Asia

It's become next to impossible to redeem for an Air New Zealand business class award from the U.S., but fortunately it is still possible to redeem for a business class award from Asia, particularly Shanghai and Tokyo. Aim for the full flat bed seats on the 777.

Best Ways to Use United Miles - Air New Zealand Business Class


7. Lufthansa New Business Class

While Lufthansa's new business class isn't as private as, say, Cathay Pacific Business Class, it's a lot better than Lufthansa's old recliner business class. Also see Lufthansa's New Business Class Rollout and Routes


8. Singapore Old Business Class to Australia from Singapore

While it's really only possible to book Singapore Airlines' new business class, first class and Singapore Suites using KrisFlyer miles transferred from SPG or AMEX points, you can still book Singapore Airlines old business class from Singapore to Australia using United miles. It's angled flat, so not as comfortable as Air Zealand's 777 business class, but of course the service is excellent and there are low surcharges compared to KrisFlyer.

Best Ways to Use United Miles - Singapore Old Business Class


9. Business Class to Africa via Europe

If you're going on safari in Africa, you can fly via Europe for 120,000 United miles roundtrip in business class, or 60,000 miles each way. While you're unlikely to find business class award availability on Swiss, other options are Lufthansa, South African, Turkish AIrlines, Brussels Airlines, Ethiopian and Egypt Air.


10. Intra-Europe Awards that Would be Expensive Revenue Tickets

I recently was planning a family vacation to Europe, and we needed a short intra-Europe nonstop flight that is served only by Lufthansa and retails at over $800. The United miles award was 12,500, and well worth it to us for the time saved and convenient flight time, even though there were far longer, less convenient flights with 1 or 2 stops that would have been cheaper.

What do you think are the best ways to use United miles?


Related Posts

Top 10 Ways to Use AMEX Membership Rewards Points

Use United Free One Ways to Maximize Your Award

Lufthansa New First Class Review

Review: Lufthansa First Class Lounge in Munich

Lufthansa First Class Award Space Booked 15 Days in Advance


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Picture?type=large Bill R. commented 12 Mar 2013
West Coast SFO/LAX to Europe on United First Class For West Coast residents , I also must say that using miles for United First Class for LAX/SFO to London or Paris is not a bad deal, especially if you can book in advance and get a saver award. United First Class from LAX or SFO to LHR is very good, and saver awards are around 70,000 miles one way (compared to business class at 60,000, this is no-brainer). It's now virtually impossible to use Lufthansa and Swiss because of their new 15 day window releasing First/Business Class seats, so United is often the best long-haul nonstop product from LAX or SFO. From LHR and CDG, you can fly almost anywhere within Europe or even Russia in economy on Lufthansa, Brussels, SAS, and Swiss, among many other Star Alliance options, and SAS, LOT. Brussels often have Business available for mileage tickets, too.
Avatar_60_hilary Hilary Stockton commented 12 Mar 2013
Bill, Thanks for your comment and adding a West Coast perspective! Agree that the small incremental number of United miles for a first class award is so worth it, if there's availability.
User_avatar_default Wei C. commented 13 Mar 2013
Loving this post and all other posts from you!
Avatar_60_hilary Hilary Stockton commented 13 Mar 2013
Thanks Wei!
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