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Major Enhancement: United and Continental Miles and Status Now Combinable

by on March 7, 2011 · 46 comments

in American Express, Continental, Credit Cards, United

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If you’ve been waiting to merge your United and Continental miles, your time has come. Starting today, you can link your Continental and United accounts and transfer miles (both redeemable and elite qualifying) between the airlines. Note: You’ll need to designate one account that will be the primary elite status earning account (you can’t keep switching back and forth). I suggest choosing the carrier you fly the most, because your upgrade priority may be higher (although if you have Global Services/1K on United, I recommend staying with that program).

Transfer redeemable miles (note: use your Continental 4 digit pin, not your online password): Continental, United
Transfer elite miles: Continental, United

Why this is a big deal:

1) Combining your Continental and United miles allows you to redeem for better awards. If you have 12,000 United and 13,000 Continental, you can combine to have enough miles to book a domestic round-trip coach award.
2) United allows one way awards (even on Star Alliance partners), while Continental does not. If you need to book a one way award and you have Continental miles, simply transfer them to your United account.
3) Continental is a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards, so until September of this year, you can transfer Amex -> Continental -> United, allowing you to book one way awards, even on Star Alliance partners
4) Emirates is a partner of United and they allow first class awards for 210,000 miles, business class for 150,000 and coach for 90,000. While Continental is also a partner, they don’t allow first class redemptions and their partnership with Emirates ends on March 26, 2011. However, Continental only charges 75,000 miles for economy and 115,000 for business, so book through them until March 26 if you want coach/business awards.
5) United blocks some partner awards (Starnet Blocking), while Continental does not. While United has gotten better about this recently, award availability and routing rules are generally more lenient with Continental.
6) Continental.com allows more Star Alliance partners to be booked online, thus saving you time and money from having to call United (who may charge $25 per ticket for booking with a phone rep). Continental’s online engine is a better booking engine with more Star Alliance partners. While it doesn’t show international first class (only economy and domestic first/ international business), it does load a lot of Star Alliance partners like Lufthansa, ANA, Thai, TAP, US Airways, United, Air Canada, bmi, Spanair, SAS, Brussels Air, EgyptAir, and Aegean (let me know if I’m missing any).
7) Take advantage of double the amount of partners and promotions. For the time being, Continental and United have different credit cards, though they are both issued by Chase, so you should wait at least 6 months after applying for the first. Their current offers are pretty generous- 50,000 miles and no fee for the Continental card and 30,000 miles and no fee for the United card. Add in a 50,000 point sign-up bonus for the American Express Platinum card and you’ve got more than enough miles for that business class trip on Emirates (or first class on Star Alliance to Europe) – all without stepping on a plane and for only $450 in fees (for the Platinum card).
8 ) Take advantage of other airline partners. United’s are Aer Lingus, Emirates, Hawaiian, Island Air, Jet, Qatar and Taca.
Continental’s non-Star Alliance partners are: Copa, Virgin Atlantic, Emirates, EvaAmtrak, Cape Air, Hawaiian, Aeromar and Island Air.
9) United members can take advantage of Mileathon.

I’m sure there are more benefits, but I thought I’d get those out right now so you can start thinking about how to take advantage of this new enhancement.

From the Flyertalk announcement:

“Hi Everyone, as most of you know, United Mileage Plus and Continental OnePass will continue to operate separately until we until they’re combined in 2012. As a result, we’ve received requests from members to be able to transfer miles and combine Elite earnings between accounts. Today, we’re pleased to give you, our power-users, a sneak preview of our new self-service tools that do just that.

Specifically, you can:

  1. Transfer redeemable miles between your OnePass and Mileage Plus accounts. Give it a spin at united.com/transfermymiles or continental.com/transfermymiles (both take you to the same place).
  2. Match Elite status and combine Elite earnings for your OnePass and Mileage Plus accounts. For those of you who have Elite Qualification miles and segments/points in both OnePass and Mileage Plus, you can now combine these earnings to earn Elite status, Regional Upgrades and Systemwide Upgrades. Go to united.com/combinemyactivity or continental.com/combinemyactivity for all the details. “

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Athan

    Good stuff, but no worky. Anyone have success linking?

  • The Points Guy

    Athan- Use your 4 digit Continental pin and not your password- it should work.

  • Athan

    Funny enough – did do that; however, there was a space at the end of my UA # from copying and pasting that glitched it…

  • Eric

    An International Frequent Flyer Ticket costs a minimum of 55,000 miles (Coach) to Europe. I have about that many miles in the Continental “Bank” plus 25,000 United Miles. My wife has a little over 30,000 miles in her United Account. Is there any way to combine the residual United miles into one 55,000 mile ticket?

  • The Points Guy

    Eric-
    You can’t combine your miles and your wifes (without a fee), but you can book a ticket for her. So I’d recommend getting your United account to 27,500 (one way award) and then use her United miles for the other half of the award.

    I posted today about getting 4,000 miles for Netflix http://thepointsguy.com/2011/03/up-to-4000-united-miles-for-netflix-subscription/

    You can also do United Mileageplus dining http://mpdining.rewardsnetwork.com/bonus.htm

  • Weien

    On a semi-related note, I tried to get the platinum american express 50k bonus but was told it wasn’t active anymore., unfortunately. Let me know if you hear otherwise…

  • The Points Guy

    Weien- Definitely still active http://thepointsguy.com/go/AmexPlatinum/

  • GARY

    WHEN COMBING CONTINENTAL WITH UNITED MILEAGE WILL THEY HAVE A EXPIRATION DATE?

  • The Points Guy

    Gary- as long as there is ANY activity in the account within 18 months, your miles won’t expire. I bet transferring miles counts as activitity, so do it again in a couple months if you think you might have trouble keeping them from expiring. But in general, all you need to do is buy 1 song from Itunes and it will reset the expiration for another 18 months

  • Lark

    PG:
    We know the AMEX / CO relationship ends 9/30….
    What do you think the odds are of CO / AMEX offering some kind of bonus miles transfer (a al Delta) ahead of CO leaving the program?
    I am definitely planning to either buy or borrow AMEX MR points to transfer to CO to then transfer to UA Mileage Plus. This is a great opportunity from my perspective!
    Lark

    PS Weien – At this very moment in time, the AMEX 50,000 point bonus offer is appearing on the right side of the PG’s website…

  • The Points Guy

    Lark- As much as I’d like a Continental transfer bonus , I just don’t see it happening. They haven’t had a transfer bonus in recent history and the mega bonuses are really because Delta still owes Amex tons of money and the more they can convince people to transfer, the less the quicker they pay back Amex.
    As for BA- they have ridiculously high surcharges and they actually view their FF program as a profit center (plus they are a new partner, so they are still promoting their transfer ability).

    However, I would LOVE to be proven wrong!

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  • Morpheus

    PG:

    Do paid flights on Emirates Airlines earn elite qualification miles for mileage plus?

    Morph

  • The Points Guy

    Nope- only redeemable miles http://www.united.com/page/article/0,,2152,00.html

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  • alexandra

    i have 6,767 miles in my united account that will expire on 3/31/2011, and i have over 13,000 in my continental account. do i want to transfer a few thousand over to united for it to stay active, or should i just transfer all of my united miles into my continental one pass account? which is a better deal/ has more benefits?

    i have several thousands of miles with us airways, and other airlines that are not star alliance members.

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  • Sparky

    @alexandra United’s mileage expiration date updates if you add or use any miles. If you haven’t yet, I would sign up for the free United Mileage dining program, and go to a restaurant that you normally go to before the miles expire. The day that the miles post will be the start of the new, I think it’s 1.5 years before your miles expire. Just to be on the safe side, also transfer over the 6K from United to Continental. Right now the rewards flights are cheaper on Continental.

  • Lo Bec

    It only let me transfer 1,000 miles at a time. Are they joking? And I have to wait 24hrs between each transfer of 1,000 miles. It will take me over a month of daily transfers. That is ridiculous!

  • The Points Guy

    Lo Bec- something must be wrong. I’d log out and back in and try again. It should definitely let you transfer more than 1k!

  • Lo Bec

    Thanks, you are right. It only lets you transfer miles in increments of 1,000. So that is why it declined to transfer my 22,944 miles. But when I tried again with an even number of 22,000 it went through (can’t transfer 944 miles). Thanks for much for your link to where we can combine our miles. I couldn’t find it on their site. Great job you do with getting the information out there to us.
    Thanks again.

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  • Ben

    I am looking to either add to exsisting miles I currently have with United with the Chase Continental offer or look to get the Chase BA 100k offer. Adding the 50k to my exsisting United miles would get me to just about 100k. I do not have a BA or AA hub within 2 hours of my location but do have a United hub in town. Who offers the better FF program for use in the states AA or United?

  • Gabby

    I’m flying Aer Lingus, which is a United partner. I have been enrolled with Continental for a few years now, but not United. Can I get those Aer Lingus miles on my Continental account now? Thank you!

  • Alex

    I’ve been stockpiling many Continental miles in advance of the joining of Continental and United. My question is this: Does anyone think that at some point United will provide a bonus to those Continental mile holders that transfer their miles into their United Mileage Plus accounts? When Northwest was folded into Delta a few years back Delta provided me a very nice bonus to bring the miles over to my Skymiles account.

    Many thanks for a great site!

  • The Points Guy

    I personally don’t think there will be a bonus for transferring, but there will be a lot of promotions this fall, especially as Continental leaves American Express. However, anything is possible, but considering you can move back and forth, I see no risk in transferring now, especially if you need to book an award. If you don’t need to book an award, might as well keep them where they are.

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  • Guitar guy

    I think the Chase continental one pass bonus may have changed — I just looked into signing up and it’s saying it’s a 30,000 bonus, not 50,000 (still good but was wondering if you knew of another card with 50,000 bonus). Also, is there any benefit to waiting to link my continental and united frequent flyer accounts until after the credit card bonus miles are transferred to my continental acct. (i.e. can you keep earning continental miles once the accounts are linked and you select united as your primary?) Thanks.

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  • wso

    I am wondering if the new united program will still expire their miles? The best part about OnePass is that the miles never expire. If I move my OnePass miles to United, will they now have an expiration date? Should I use my miles with Continental before I have to move them over to United?

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  • Terry

    Continental number of miles tends to be much lower than united with many more travel options. As of sept 30th will this change?

    Great site!

  • tfb

    Hello wso. Did you get an answer as to wether your OnePass miles will have an expiration date once they’re in the United program?

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  • Nina

    I’ve been on hold for 1 1/2 hours listening to the United message. The first thing their automated system told me that my miles (which were OnePass) expire in September 2013. Nice. I’ll never have enough miles to fly anywhere. And I have 230,000. With Saver flights NEVER available, it takes 125,000 EACH WAY to fly to Europe. I guess I could leave my husband home……

  • Mirna Lopez

    I wished I had been notified of the changes on the miles as United and continental merged; I just heared about Onepass and mileageplus had to be jointed, but I don’t know how to do it. Please help.

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