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Transferring Ultimate Rewards Points to United

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All award travelers should earn transferable points, as they give you great flexibility in your redemptions. They also shield you from any potential devaluations, since the ability to transfer to other programs means you’re not locked into one currency. Chase Ultimate Rewards are some of the best transferable points out there, and TPG Senior Points & Miles Contributor Nick Ewen explains how you can transfer them to United for flight redemptions.

In order to even think about redeeming these points for maximum value, you first need to know the actual process for transferring them to partners. Today I’ll continue our series that looks closely at the process for transferring points to each Ultimate Rewards partner. Our first subject was Hyatt Gold Passport, and today I’ll take a look at one of the program’s premier airline partners: United MileagePlus.

United's dreamliner will fly between San Francisco and Xi'an.
United can be one of the more valuable airline transfer partners of Ultimate Rewards.

General Set-Up

Before you even think about transferring Ultimate Rewards points to United, you’ll need to complete a few basic steps. For starters, you need to set up online access for your Ultimate Rewards-accruing credit card (like the Ink Plus Business Card or Chase Sapphire Preferred). To do this, simply go to and look for the “Not enrolled? Sign-up now” link at the right-hand side:

Chase online access enrollment

Then simply enter in the required information to complete your online enrollment.

If you already have an online credit card account with Chase, you can add a new card to it by clicking Manage Accounts in the Customer Center and then selecting Add Accounts at the top.

The other important thing to do is to sign up for United MileagePlus (though if you’ve read my points and miles mistakes post, hopefully you’ve already done this!). To do this, just visit the page to enroll in the program and enter your information.

Once these two things are complete, you’re ready to start transferring!

Transferring to United

The actual process for transferring Ultimate Rewards points to all partners starts the exact same way:

1. Log in to your Chase account and click on the Go to Ultimate Rewards link at the top right.

Ultimate Rewards balance

(1a. If you have more than one card account, choose your desired one from the next page.)

Ultimate Rewards select account

2. Hover over the Use Points drop-down menu and select Transfer to Travel Partners.

UR transfer

3. Scroll down the list of airline partners and click Transfer Points next to United MileagePlus.

Ultimate Rewards to United

4. Enter the required information and click Add Member ID to add a new account.

Ultimate Rewards add United account

5. Enter the number of points you want to transfer (must be in increments of 1,000) and click Continue.

Ultimate Rewards to United

6. Review your details on the next page and then click Confirm & Submit.

Ultimate Rewards to United review

The next screen should confirm that the transfer was successful.

We recently tested how long Ultimate Rewards transfers take for each of the program’s 11 partners, and fortunately United is one of 7 partners that show up instantaneously.

Program Transfer Time
British Airways Instantaneous
Hyatt Instantaneous
IHG 1 day
Korean Air Instantaneous
Marriott 2 days
Ritz-Carlton 2 days
Singapore Airlines Same Day
Southwest Instantaneous
United Instantaneous
Virgin Atlantic Instantaneous

There are a few important things to keep in mind with these transfers:

  • The transfers are nonrefundable, so be certain you want to make the transfer before you click Submit.
  • You can only transfer to yourself or an authorized user.
  • You can combine points from your different cards or transfer points between your account and that of your spouse/domestic partner. For complete details, check out my post on combining Ultimate Rewards points.
United’s first- and business-class products may not be cutting-edge, but they’ll save you some miles over booking premium-class award tickets on partners!

Booking with United

Now that you’ve made the transfer, it’s time to actually book with United! Unfortunately, the MileagePlus program underwent a huge devaluation last year, but TPG nevertheless pegs United miles at 1.5 cents apiece in his most recent valuations, and there are still some sweet spots in the program’s award chart. And in some cases, it even makes sense to redeem a large number of miles, such as TPG Special Contributor Eric Rosen’s recent redemption for Lufthansa A380 first class from Frankfurt to Los Angeles.

The other really nice thing about United is that its online award search engine displays almost all partner award availability, and the new website allows you to put award tickets on hold so you can then transfer your Ultimate Rewards points. For partners that don’t appear online, be sure to check out Richard Kerr’s post on booking Star Alliance awards that aren’t on Jason Steele wrote a great synopsis of how to book awards with United MileagePlus miles earlier in the year, but here’s a quick reminder of the key takeaways:

  • United now charges more miles for most premium-class redemptions on partner airlines. If you fly from the US to destinations outside North and South America, you’ll pay anywhere from 10,000 to 50,000 more miles for each one-way award ticket.
  • United has a very user-friendly interactive award chart. Simply select your origin and destination and the chart will indicate how many miles you’ll need for the specific redemption (both one-way and round-trip).
  • United allows one stopover and two open jaws on round-trip award tickets, and the carrier also has some generous routing rules.
  • isn’t great at piecing together multi-segment awards, so you may need to resort to the tried-and-true method of searching one leg at a time.

Here’s a step-by-step process of what this process actually looks like on

1. Start by visiting United’s homepage. Type in your search parameters, check the box Search for award travel and then click Search: award search

NOTE: If you aren’t a fan of the new United website, you may still be able to display the old website. I just tried loading the site in an Incognito Window through Google Chrome and the old site came up, so you may still have success!

2. The results page will include an award calendar that highlights availability across all saver awards for a two-month window: award calendar

3. Choose a new date (with better availability) or keep the date as selected and then scroll down to see the specific flights with availability.

Personally, I like how the new site displays the results. You’re given separate columns for economy, business saver, business standard, first saver and first award results

You also can sort the results on the side based on class of service, number of stops, miles, departure and arrival times and many others.

You can also click Details on any flight to see the specifics on the connection:

Business class on Lufthansa's 747-8i? Sounds like a plan!
Business class on Lufthansa’s 747-8i? Sounds like a plan!

4. Once you’ve found the flight(s) and class of service you want, hover your mouse over the award and click to select: award ticket select

5. Sign in to your MileagePlus account (if you haven’t already done so, the site will prompt you): sign-in

6. Verify the flight(s) you’ve selected and complete the booking process.

Of course, there are many other elements that go into finding award seat availability and actually locking in the award you want. While is a great site for searching Star Alliance award inventory, it isn’t infallible! You can also use a tool like ExpertFlyer, which allows you to set alerts for award availability across many different airlines. If United’s website isn’t displaying space that you know to be there (through a site like ExpertFlyer or Aeroplan’s award search), you may need to call to lock in the redemption.

In addition, you may want to consider opening the United MileagePlus Explorer Card, which is currently offering 30,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months. In addition to the sign-up bonus, this also opens up expanded award inventory on United flights, giving you more options to get to your desired destination using miles.

Lufthansa first class will set you back a ton of United miles, but it may be worth it for a long-haul flight to or from Europe.

Bottom Line

Ultimate Rewards points regularly appear near the top of TPG’s monthly valuations (and for good reason). With a number of valuable transfer partners, you can get a ton of value and flexibility by collecting these points and then putting them toward a variety of different redemptions. I’ve transferred a decent amount of Ultimate Rewards points to United for redemptions that weren’t annihilated by last year’s devaluation, and you too can still get some solid value out of the program.

For additional information about Ultimate Rewards and redeeming United miles, check out the following posts:

What are your experiences transferring Ultimate Rewards points to United?

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