Have thousands of airline miles saved up, but don’t foresee a trip in the near future? Not a problem, says United Airlines. The Chicago-based carrier, which offers one of the most competitive loyalty programs in the industry, doesn’t want to let all your hard-earned MileagePlus miles simply go to waste. In fact, the airline offers myriad ways to spend miles that have absolutely nothing to do with flying.
If you’re trying to determine the best way to make use of your accumulated MileagePlus miles, here are a few answers to your burning questions:
How much are MileagePlus miles worth in dollars?
United MileagePlus miles are basically like cash. The “awards” that are available to members range from car rentals to gift cards to hotel stays — for 500 miles, you can purchase Wi-Fi on select flights. The idea is to provide an opportunity to use miles at a variety of price points. Since "value" is subjective, the airline strives to offer different types of awards to appeal to a wide spectrum of tastes.
Can you shop for non travel-related items with United MileagePlus miles?
Absolutely. United’s loyalty program, which launched in 2008 and features partnerships with major retail brands like Apple, Tumi, Bose, and others, allows members to shop for a vast number of products in an array of categories. Whether it’s that new Shinola watch you’ve been eyeing or a must-have piece of smart luggage, you can treat your United MileagePlus loyalty account like your own personal shopper.
Do you have to qualify for a certain tier to buy things?
Not at all. According to Praveen Sharma, United Airlines' vice president, loyalty: “Our members want awards that create value for them. We continuously improve our redemption offerings so members can use the miles they earn for what best fits their needs.” That’s why, in addition to regular household items, you can use miles to shop for things like magazine subscriptions, and even have a bouquet of flowers delivered.
What if I don’t need any more "stuff?" What else can I buy?
If you’ve already exhausted your wish list of electronics, jewelry, and home accessories, fear not. The options for curated travel experiences — which is frequently updated here — are just as extensive. On this page, United MileagePlus miles can be used to purchase (or, in some cases, bid on) tickets to once-in-a-lifetime events, like watching a Chicago Bulls game from a 300-level VIP Suite, or going on a ski trip to Telluride, C.O.