United Airlines Frequent Flyer Program Guide (MileagePlus Elite Levels) [2020]

The United Airlines frequent flyer program, known as MileagePlus, has a lot to offer. But it can be quite overwhelming when trying to understand everything this program has to offer the first time you take a peek at all of its features.

In this article, I will tell you everything you need to know about the MileagePlus program to get you started off on the right foot. I’ll cover how to sign-up and get your frequent flyer number and also some of the intricacies like how to earn elite status and what type of benefits you get with each level of elite status.

Signing up for a United frequent flyer number

It is very easy to sign up for a United frequent flyer number.

Simply go to the United homepage which you can find here. All you will need to do is input a bunch of your basic contact information, such as your name, address, email, and telephone number.

United does put you through a gauntlet of security questions so you will need to be prepared to set those up and remember your five different security questions. After agreeing to the terms and conditions, you will be on your way to receiving your frequent flyer number for United.

If you are trying to find your United frequent flyer number, all you have to do is log in and you should see it immediately under your name, as shown below.

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Earning United MileagePlus miles

There are lots of ways to earn United miles.

Earning by flying

As a standard elite member, you’ll earn 5 miles per $1 spent on United flights but you’ll receive a bonus earning rate as you continue to climb up the United elite level ranks.

Here are the earning rates for the different United elite tiers.

Premier levelMiles earned
Premier Silver7 miles per $1 spent
Premier Gold8 miles per $1 spent
Premier Platinum9 miles per $1 spent
Premier 1K®11 miles per $1 spent

Credit cards

In addition to flying, one of the most popular methods for racking up tons of United miles would be with the right type of credit cards. You could start by going with a Chase co-branded United card, such as the Chase United MileagePlus Explorer Card.

This is a great way to rack up a lot of points with a solid sign up bonus. But beyond the sign-up bonus, this card offers some really valuable perks for flying United. You’ll get things like free checked bags for you and a companion and also get priority boarding. Another nice benefit is that you will get two free day passes for United club lounges which you will get each year.

In addition to this card there are three other popular United co-branded cards:

  • United MileagePlus Club Card
  • United Airlines Mileage Plus Explorer Business Card
  • United MileagePlus Club Business Card 

You could also look into getting Chase Sapphire cards. These cards will earn you points that can be transferred out from Chase to not just United but also other airlines, such as Southwest Airlines and Singapore Airlines. You can also transfer your points out to hotel partners, such as Hyatt.

One of the best cards for earning Chase Ultimate Rewards is the Chase Sapphire Preferred card. That card earns 2X on dining and travel so if you spend a lot on those categories you will be earning additional United miles that day as well. Check out the full review here.

If you are more into airline benefits like lounge access then the Chase Sapphire Reserve is definitely a solid option. It has a high annual fee of $550 but it also comes with a $300 airline credit and Priority Pass Select lounge access.

If you are interested in learning more about United Airlines credit card then click here.


United has the MileagePlus Shopping portal, which is an online shopping portal that allows you to earn United miles when you make all sorts of different purchases online. You will be able to purchase the same type of products and pay the same prices as the public does, the only difference is that you will be earning additional United miles.

For example, you might be able to earn 3 United miles per $1 spent at Macy’s which is in addition to the points you earn with your credit card.

There is also an app called the MPX app that allows you to earn United miles when you make purchases in-store at that restaurant. Read more about the app here.  

Utilizing the MileagePlus Shopping portal and the MPX app are great ways to supplement your miles.


There is also the MileagePlus Dining portal that allows you to earn United miles when you go dining at various restaurants. All you have to do is link a credit card to the program and then go out to eat and leave a review for that restaurant. The more you eat out, the more United miles you will earn.

Spending United miles

United has a pretty decent award chart in terms of the amount of miles and fees required for awards.

There are Saver Awards and there are Everyday Awards that you can choose from. Saver Awards or going to be much cheaper but harder to find while Everyday Awards are going to be more expensive but easier to find.

Short-haul flights can be a great use of your United miles. United only requires 12,500 miles for a one-way economy ticket to most US destinations but if the distance of the flight is under 700 miles then all you need is 10,000 United miles.

The United Excursionist perk allows you to maximize the value of your United miles by incorporating open jaws and stopovers in the right regions. The perk provides you with a free segment within the region of the globe that you’re traveling so long as that region is different from where you are beginning your journey.

One of the best things about using to United miles for your awards is that you can often avoid high surcharges.

For example, Lufthansa has one of the top first class products out of any airline in the world but one of the major issues with booking Lufthansa awards is that you typically have to pay some very high surcharges for your awards. Luckily with United you can avoid surcharges on Lufthansa and book a first class one-way ticket between Europe and the US for only 110,000 United miles.

Their are many more types of awards that you can avoid surcharges with which makes United very attractive program at times.

United is a great program for booking Star Alliance partners.

Earning elite status with United

In order to earn elite status with United, you will need to earn premier qualifying miles (PQM) or fly premier qualifying segments (PQS). In addition, you will also have to meet the requirement for premier qualifying dollars (PQD).

Premier qualifying miles and segments

  • PQM are based on the number of paid flight miles traveled and the fare purchased.
  • PQS are based on the number of paid flown segments traveled and the fare class purchased.
Eligible purchased fare classes
Premier qualifying miles(PQM)
Premier qualifying segments(PQS)
C, D, Z200%1.5
P, O, A, R, Y, B150%1.5
M, E, U, H, Q, V, W, S, T, L, K, G100%1

Premier qualifying dollars

  • PQD are determined by the base fare and carrier-imposed surcharges.

As long as you spend at least $25,000 on a Chase MileagePlus co-branded credit card, your minimum spending requirement will be waived (except for Premier 1K elite status).

United elite status levels

Here are the requirements for each tier.

Premier levelPQM and PQS requirement (and PQD requirement for U.S. residents)
Premier Silver25,000 PQM or 30 PQS (and $3,000)
Premier Gold50,000 PQM or 60 PQS (and $6,000)
Premier Platinum75,000 PQM or 90 PQS (and $9,000)
Premier 1K®100,000 PQM or 120 PQS (and $15,000)

You should note that there is also an invitation only elite status called United Global Services. To obtain Global Services, you typically need to spend a lot on United airfare. You can find out more about that status below.

Elite status benefits

Once you obtain elite status with United, you will be able to enjoy all of the following benefits:

  • Priority check-in
  • Priority security screening, where offered
  • Priority boarding privileges
  • Priority baggage handling
  • Premier Priority Desk phone line
  • Access to most sold-out flights

Some of these benefits can be obtained with the United MileagePlus Explore Card mentioned above. Also, it is possible to purchase United Premier Access for a modest amount of money. Thus, you may always want to think about alternative methods for getting these benefits.

United Premier Silver

  • Complimentary access to Economy Plus
  • Complimentary Premier Upgrades
  • Complimentary Premier Upgrades confirmation
  • Instant upgrades on Y- or B-class full-fare economy tickets

The most notable benefit from United Premier Silver is probably the complementary upgrades to economy plus. In many instances, those are virtually guaranteed which means that most of the time when you fly economy on United you will be able to enjoy more legroom.

You can also get premier upgrades to business class on occasion but those are much more rare as a silver member. Typically, you will need to be flying on a mostly leisure route to expect an upgrade to business class.

United Premier Gold

  • Complimentary access to Economy Plus
  • Complimentary Premier Upgrades
  • Complimentary Premier Upgrades confirmation
  • Instant upgrades on Y- or B-class full-fare economy tickets
  • Lounge access when traveling internationally

United Premier Gold offers a lot of the same benefits that United Premier Silver offers but it comes with the addition of granting lounge access when traveling internationally. You can read more about the status here.

United Premier Platinum

  • Complimentary access to Economy Plus
  • Complimentary Premier Upgrades
  • Complimentary Premier Upgrades confirmation
  • Instant upgrades on Y- or B-class full-fare economy tickets
  • Lounge access when traveling internationally

United Premier Platinum offers economy plus upgrades for up to eight individuals which is a big step up from the only one additional companion offered by the lower tiers. You can also receive confirmation about your Premier upgrades as early as 72 hours before departure. This tier also offers Regional Premier Upgrades eligibility and the ability to check three bags in for free even when flying economy.

United Premier 1K

  • Complimentary access to Economy Plus
  • Complimentary Premier Upgrades
  • Complimentary Premier Upgrades confirmation (as early as:
  • Instant upgrades on Y- or B-class full-fare economy tickets
  • Lounge access when traveling internationally

United Premier 1K offers the same benefits that Platinum receives but allows you to receive confirmation about your Premier upgrades as early as 96 hours before departure. Additional perks include: instant upgrades on M-class economy tickets and Global Premier Upgrades eligibility. 1K members also have a dedicated call line.

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United Global Services

Global Services is a little bit mysterious because United does not publish a whole lot about it. Here’s what United has to say about Global Services:

Global Services recognizes the extraordinary dedication of our top flyers. We consider a number of factors beyond the usual Premier-qualifying criteria. We look at your travel spend on United-operated flights relative to that of other top Premier flyers over recent consecutive years. Usually, members invited to Global Services tend to consistently purchase premium cabins or fully refundable tickets.

There are a lot of special perks for United Global Services members but here is a rundown of some of the key benefits:

  • Welcome Kit
  • Dedicated phone number
  • Dedicated email address
  • Dedicated check-in at airports
  • Earlier cleared upgrades
  • Waitlist priority
  • Priority Boarding
  • Get served meals first
  • Priority treatment
  • Mercedes-Benz Tarmac Transfer
  • Marriott Platinum Status
  • Special lounge access
  • Upgrade privileges
  • Award ticket privileges

If you want to read in more detail about all of these special benefits for Global Services then click here.

Star Alliance Frequent flyer partners

United is a member of the Star Alliance. This means that you can earn miles for United even when you are flying on different airline partners. For example, if you were to fly on Air Canada you could attribute those miles to United and vice versa.

Here is a full list of the United frequent flyer partners.

United also has some additional partners which include the following airlines (some of which are just regional).

  • Aer Lingus
  • Aeromar
  • Air Dolomiti
  • Azul Brazilian Airlines
  • Cape Air
  • Edelweiss
  • Eurowings
  • Great Lakes Airlines
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Silver Airways

After you obtain status with United, you will be granted status with the Star Alliance. For example, when you earn United Premier Gold, you will also be granted Star Alliance Gold status. With Star Alliance Gold status you are able to receive priority services and better baggage allowances with all Star Alliance airlines saving you from luggage fees with certain airlines like Lufthansa.

Final word

There is a lot to unpack for the United frequent flyer program and this article could easily exceed 10,000 words. But hopefully after reviewing this article you have a general idea of how the program works and what some of the benefits are within the program.

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