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The United MileagePlus program is undergoing some significant changes. The airline has pulled its award chart for United-operated flights as of Nov. 15, 2019, so moving forward, Saver award space — award seats requiring fewer miles — will be even more valuable. Today, we’re going to examine a unique feature of United’s credit cards that allows you to unlock hidden Saver awards.
Finding Award Space
United tends to offer more Saver award space than most other frequent-flyer programs. But that’s not saying much these days, when most airlines offer few seats at the lowest mileage levels, even as they give out plenty of miles to travelers and those who use cobranded airline credit cards.
Meanwhile, United’s MileagePlus program has three things going for it. First, it has one of the best online award search engines, along with its intuitive mobile app. United generally shows every partner’s award space, but not always.
Second, it’s one of the only frequent-flyer programs that never imposes fuel surcharges on awards, allowing you to book award seats on any partner carrier and only pay government-imposed taxes and fees.
Third, the United Explorer Card, the United Explorer Business Card and the United Club Card (as well as its business version) offer the ability to “use miles for any seat, any time, on any United flight” at the Everyday award level. It’s higher than the Saver level, but the perk is that you can use miles on any flight with availability.
That benefit is no longer relevant for flights after Nov. 14 as blackout dates are going away, but United card holders will continue having access to another, potentially more valuable, benefit: better Saver-level availability. This is the same benefit it offers to its MileagePlus members with elite status, and it’s the primary reason why many people even have a MileagePlus credit card account.
Chase highlights the expanded standard (“Everyday”) award availability as a cardholder benefit, but it’s silent on the increased Saver award availability that cardholders can expect. However, United’s website makes sure to let you know.
An Example of Increased Saver Award Availability
Let’s look for an award seat from Orlando to Denver. Without logging in, we find seats for the first flight listed at 16,000 miles each.
But once you log in as a United cardholder, you see the same flight, but at the Saver level of 12,500 miles.
How Expanded Saver Ability Works
Once you’re logged in and have Expert Mode enabled, you can then see the fare codes, but only when searching for revenue fares (not awards).
The X fare class is the economy-class Saver award space open to everyone; the XN fare class is only accessible to United credit card holders and United elites. You can see that UA2364 departing Orlando at 6:10am has at least nine Saver award seats in the XN fare class offered to United credit card holders and elites, but zero seats in the X fare class offered to everyone else. You can imagine how critical this feature can be, especially for family travelers. If you have a United credit card, always be sure to log in to your MileagePlus account when searching for award space, otherwise it won’t return results in the XN class, reserved for cardholders and those with elite status.
Know before you go.
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