Only book Saver Awards, never Standard Awards!

For example, you have accumulated United MileagePlus miles through a combination of:

  1. Actual paid flights on United Airlines.
  2. Paid flights on Star Alliance (United’s alliance) airlines. You can and should credit these miles to MileagePlus.
  3. Credit card bonuses from United Airlines credit cards by Chase, most likely the United Explorer Card. The bonus varies from 30,000 to 55,000 points, depending on the current promotion.
  4. Transfer from Chase Ultimate Rewards. United MileagePlus is one of the six (6) transfers partners for Chase Ultimate Rewards. The 40,000- and 50,000-point sign-up bonuses can be had from Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Ink Bold, and Chase Ink Plus credit cards.

Of course, my favorite ways to capture these miles are #3 and #4, credit card gaming!

Once you have earned these miles, do not waste this valuable currency with inefficient spending. Many frequent flyer programs offer different prices for each flight, depending on availability and class of service. For example, a round-trip U.S. flight usually costs 25k miles for economy class and 70k for first class. Paying either of these prices is good value. What you should always avoid is paying higher offered amounts for your desired redemption. For example, these redemptions may also be offered at 50k and 140k, respectively. Do NOT do this! Airlines release only so much award space for each redemption price. If you reserve a few months ahead of schedule and are flexible with dates, then you should have little problem booking at the Saver levels.

Remember, you are seeking to extract at least $0.01 per mile in a redemption. Just like cash fares, mileage redemptions punish those flyers who do not book sufficiently in advance.