Earn up to 5x miles with United MileagePlus Dining
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Dining out is a big spending category for consumers, which is one of the reasons that so many credit cards offer bonus points at restaurants. Aside from using credit cards, there are lots of opportunities to stack multiple earning sources together and turbocharge your returns. Just like you can use a shopping portal to earn bonus points when shopping online, many airlines offer dining programs that let you double dip when eating out. Today we’re going to take a look at everything you need to know about United’s MileagePlus Dining program.
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United MileagePlus Dining overview
United MileagePlus Dining lets you earn additional bonus miles when visiting participating bars, restaurants and clubs. These rewards are in addition to the miles you’d normally earn from spending on your credit card.
You’ll need to register and link at least one credit card before you can start earning miles. When you pay your bill at these participating establishments with a linked credit card, you’ll earn bonus miles. You’re allowed to link up to 12 cards, but you can only link each card to one dining program. For example, you can register your Chase Sapphire Reserve® with MileagePlus Dining or AAdvantage Dining, but not both.
How to join United MileagePlus Dining
As long as you have a United MileagePlus frequent flyer account, you can register for MileagePlus Dining at this link. As an incentive, you’ll be able to earn 500 bonus miles on your first three dining trips where you spend $25 or more within 30 days of joining. TPG values United miles at 1.3 cents each, meaning this new member bonus amounts to ~$6.50 back.
In order to register, simply login to the MileagePlus Dining website with your United MileagePlus login info and fill out a bit of basic personal information (name, contact information, etc.). Remember to link at least one credit card and you’re good to go.
It’s very important that you opt-in to receive email communications during the registration process. If you forget, you’ll see a prompt on individual restaurant pages reminding you that doing so will boost your earning rate by a whopping 6x. No one likes getting unnecessary marketing emails, but when there’s such a good return for doing so, it’s a no brainer.
How to use United MileagePlus Dining
There are two different approaches you can take when it comes to dining programs like this one. The first is to “set it and forget it.” Register for your airline or hotel dining program of choice, link your credit cards and simply wait for the miles to appear if and when you dine at participating venues.
The other approach is to actively seek out eligible restaurants near you to maximize your earnings. You can search for restaurants near your city or zip code, and even use the built-in map view to find the ones closest to you. You can also search for specific types of cuisine, like sushi or pizza and filter by price.
Once you select a restaurant, you can read reviews and ratings, check hours and also confirm that the restaurant offers benefits every day of the week. Not all locations do, so be sure to double-check this!
MileagePlus Dining earn rates
There are three different earn rates available depending on your status in the MileagePlus Dining program. “Basic” members earn just 1 mile for every $2 spent, a rather poor return. However, all you need to do to upgrade from basic to Select is to opt-in to receive email communications. Doing so boosts your return to 3 miles for every $1 spent, a 3.9% return based on TPG’s valuations.
If you dine out more frequently and are able to complete 11 qualifying transactions in a calendar year (and opt-in to receive email communications), you’ll become a VIP member. VIP members earn 5 miles per $1 spent beginning on their 12th transaction, which works out to a very solid 6.5% rate of return.
Which cards to use with United MileagePlus Dining
One of the best things about dining rewards programs is that they don’t change the way your transactions are billed, meaning you can stack these bonus United miles with the points you’d normally earn from your credit card spending. This means you’ll want to use a card that offers strong rewards on dining – the same cards you’d use if you were eating at a restaurant that didn’t participate in a dining rewards program. Here are some of the best current offers:
- Citi Prestige® Card – 5x Citi ThankYou points for an 8.5% return based on TPG’s valuations
- American Express® Gold Card – 4x Amex Membership Rewards points for an 8% return
- American Express® Green Card – 3x Amex Membership Rewards points for a 6% return
- Chase Sapphire Reserve – 3x Ultimate Rewards points for a 6% return
The information for the Citi Prestige Card and the Amex Green Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
While you might assume that it’s a good idea to use a United cobranded card with the United MileagePlus Dining program, there’s no incentive to do so, as it won’t earn you any type of bonus. If your end goal is earning the most United miles possible, you should be using a Chase Sapphire Reserve for all your dining purchases, as Chase Ultimate Rewards points transfer to United at a 1:1 ratio. If your goal is simply to get the highest total return, you’d be better off using the Citi Prestige or Amex Gold Card.
I personally switch back and forth between using my Amex Gold and Chase Sapphire Reserve for dining, depending on whether I’m trying to earn more Membership Rewards or Ultimate Rewards at the time.
I’ve made sure to link both cards to my MileagePlus Dining profile so I won’t miss out on bonus miles just because I switched cards.
United offers its customers a lot of additional ways to earn miles beyond flying, including an online shopping portal, the United MileagePlus X app which awards miles when you buy gift cards at popular retailers, and MileagePlus Dining.
If United is your primary airline it’s worth setting up an account with MileagePlan Dining now so you can automatically earn bonus miles any time you dine at a participating restaurant.
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