The best ways to redeem 100,000 United MileagePlus miles
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100,000 miles is enough to make anyone feel rich, opening the door to beautiful business- or first-class cabins, or letting you potentially take dozens of shorter domestic trips. For most people, it takes a lot of actual flying or a ton of spending on travel rewards credit cards to reach that elusive mark, but for a limited time, United customers have a much faster path to take.
Back in January, Chase launched an all-new United Business Card. To celebrate this refresh, you can earn a limited-time welcome bonus of 100,000 miles after spending $10,000 on purchases in the first three months, for applicants who sign up by April 2, 2020. Other United cobranded cards (including the United Explorer Card) are also offering limited-time increased welcome bonuses through the same date.
The information for the United Business has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Today though, we’re going to focus solely on the massive 100,000-mile welcome bonus. TPG values United miles at 1.3 cents each, making this bonus worth $1,300. It’s important to note that this valuation dropped late last year when United removed its award chart and switched to dynamic pricing for its own flights (though for now at least, United’s partner award chart remains intact). That means that for any examples below that include flights on United metal, you’ll need to double check the pricing for your own date. You might find tickets are more expensive, but you also might find that they’re cheaper.
Let’s dive in and take a look at some of your best options for redeeming this bonus.
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Premium-cabin flights to Asia with ANA or EVA Air
If you’re looking for a dependable fixed value (i.e. not dynamic pricing), you can find it in United’s Star Alliance partners. Specifically, if you turn your focus west to Asia, you’ll find two Skytrax five-star airlines and two of the world’s best business-class products, which you can book for under 100,000 United miles.
I’m talking about Taiwanese carrier EVA Air, which flies of a fleet of Boeing 777-300ERs to a handful of destinations in the U.S. including New York-JFK, Chicago (ORD), Houston (IAH), Seattle (SEA), Los Angeles (LAX) and San Francisco (SFO). You’ll find comfortable though fairly standard reverse herringbone seats in business class, but it’s EVA’s A+ food and drink and incredibly detail-oriented service that make the entire experience feel like flying first class at a business-class price.
The other best option is Japanese airline ANA, which also flies to the U.S. exclusively using Boeing 777-300ERs from its two hubs at Tokyo Haneda (HND) and Tokyo Narita (NRT). ANA’s standard business class is good, but if you’re lucky enough to score a seat on either of ANA’s New York-JFK routes, you’ll get to experience “The Room,” ANA’s brand-new unbelievably spacious business class that TPG’s Zach Griff calls “the new gold standard” for the industry.
The good news is, anyone who earns the bonus on the United Business Card will have enough miles to experience either of these products. United charges the following rates for one-way business-class awards between the U.S. and Asia, and you can of course include a connection from Taipei or Tokyo on to another destination:
- U.S. to Japan: 80,000 miles
- U.S. to North Asia (mainland China, South Korea and Taiwan): 80,000 miles
- U.S. to South Asia: 90,000 miles
Generally speaking, EVA offers the best award space on its Seattle, Chicago and Houston routes. ANA award space on the New York route has been even harder to come by since The Room launched, but you might fare better searching from other U.S. gateways like Chicago or Washington, D.C. (IAD).
Fly round-trip to Europe: One-way in business, one-way in economy (or three one-way economy tickets)
There’s a fine line between stretching your miles as far as they can possibly go and enjoying a bit of luxury when you travel, and booking awards from the U.S. to Europe is the best way to straddle it. Again, you’ll want to stick to Star Alliance partner airlines to avoid United’s dynamic award pricing and make sure the numbers line up evenly, but you have plenty of options flying to Europe to consider including the following:
Your (generally mild) taxes will vary slightly based on which partners you choose to fly with and how you route, but the award cost will be the same: 30,000 miles for a one-way economy award and 70,000 for a one-way business-class award. This means you can turn your 100,000 miles into a full round-trip from the U.S. to Europe, with a lie-flat bed in one direction.
If you decide to follow this route, you might also want to look into the United Excursionist Perk. This valuable United-specific perk gives you a free one-way flight on eligible round-trip itineraries when you’re traveling between two different award zones.
In the case of a flight to Europe, you could fly from Chicago to Istanbul (IST) in Turkish Airlines business class, then hop a free flight to Frankfurt (FRA) on either Turkish or Lufthansa, using the Excursionist Perk, before paying for your economy flight back to Chicago. In this case you’d want to make sure to do your outbound segment in business class, since the free flight you get with the Excursionist Perk can be in the same cabin as the flight preceding it.
Of course if you decide you’d rather stretch your miles into more trips, you can forgo the business class experience and book three one-way economy tickets and still have 10,000 miles left over. If you book one of those tickets as a round-trip you’d still be able to take advantage of the Excursionist Perk, giving you an extra flight for free.
18 or more domestic economy flights
While award travelers tend to see dynamic pricing as an unmitigated disaster, from the perspective of the airline what’s really going on is an attempt to tie the cost of an award ticket to the cash price of the same flight. This means that when cash fares are very low, especially on shorter domestic routes, award prices can drop below their old fixed levels.
One of the routes I fly most frequently within the U.S. is from Washington, D.C. to New York. If you’re traveling with United, that means you’re most likely flying between the carrier’s hubs at Washington Dulles and Newark (EWR). There are plenty of days on the calendar where you can book nonstop flights on this route for just 5,500 miles each way, meaning you could parlay your 100,000 mile welcome bonus into more than 18 flights, or nine round-trips on this route.
Booking a non-basic economy ticket on these flights would require a minimum of $134, giving you a respectable redemption value of about 2.4 cents per mile.
Fly United Polaris across the U.S.
United’s Polaris business class isn’t the best product in the world, but it’s a huge improvement over United’s old offerings and arguably the best seat you’ll find operating regularly scheduled service on domestic flights. United is still working through the process of retrofitting much of its long-haul fleet with the shiny blue new Polaris seats, so for now the only planes where you’re guaranteed to find the new product are United’s 777-300ERs and 787-10 Dreamliners.
Related: The ultimate guide to United Polaris
You’ll find a 787-10 operating a few daily flights between Newark and both Los Angeles and San Francisco. These are United’s most premium domestic routes, so don’t expect to find much if any low-level (saver) award space. Instead, nearly every day on the calendar prices out at 50,000 miles each way. While that’s a lot to pay for a flight that barely stretches six hours, cash prices often approach $2,000 in business class on these routes giving you a pretty respectable redemption value.
As I mentioned at the beginning, it’s very hard to predict how many free flights you’ll be able to take if you use your 100,000-mile bonus to fly exclusively on United-operated flights. It’s easy to say that ~18 short hops is probably the upper end, but beyond that so much depends on your home airport, the routes you frequent, and the cabin you choose to fly in.
United’s dynamic pricing makes it hard to speak about this in general and useful terms, so if you’re on the fence about applying for the new United Business Card, I’d suggest playing around with a few searches on the United website so you can see exactly how far these miles will take you. You can rest assured that no matter what, you’ll have the choice between flying longer flights on some incredibly luxurious airlines or enjoying a lot more domestic travel.
Featured photo courtesy of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.
WELCOME OFFER: 60,000 Points
TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,200
CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners
*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.
- Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
- Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on orders over $12 for a minimum of one year on qualifying food purchases with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
- Earn 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022. That’s 3X points in addition to the 2X points you already earn on travel.