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How can you earn United Airlines MileagePlus miles from UK credit cards?

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How can you earn United Airlines MileagePlus miles from UK credit cards?

United Airlines no longer has its own UK credit card.

It used to have a UK card, issued by MBNA. The card was withdrawn in mid 2018 as it was no longer seen as economic when the Government capped the charges that Visa and Mastercard could levy on shops.

I want to run through the options if you still want to collect United Airlines MileagePlus miles from a UK credit card or want an interesting alternative from another airline.

How can you earn United Airlines MileagePlus miles from UK credit cards?

What is your best alternative as there is no United Airlines MileagePlus UK credit card?

There are a number of ways of looking at this.  Let’s run through them.

Scenario 1:  You want a card which lets you earn United Airlines miles at a decent rate

Via the Marriott Bonvoy American Express:

The good news is that there are still ways to earn United Airlines miles from a credit card in the UK.

The highest miles earning option is the Marriott Bonvoy American Express credit card.

You earn 2 Marriott Bonvoy points per £1 spent on the card. This page shows the rates to United MileagePlus from the Marriott Bonvoy programme:

  • 3 Marriott Bonvoy points gets you 1 United Airlines mile
  • You get a 10,000 mile bonus if you convert 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points in one transaction

This means, assuming you convert in chunks of 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points:

  • £1 spent = 2 Marriott Bonvoy points
  • 2 Marriott Bonvoy points = 0.66 United Airlines miles
  • Convert 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points at once for a 10,000 mile bonus and you are getting exactly 1.0 United Airlines miles per £1 spent

The annual fee on the Marriott card is £75 and you get a sign-up bonus of 20,000 Marriott Bonvoy points.  This makes the card well worth getting for the first year at least.

Marriott Bonvoy American Express

Bonus: 20,000 points

Read our full review

Other information:

  • 15 elite night credits per year to help you towards higher status
  • Free night, up to 25,000 points, when you spend £25,000 per year.
  • Upgrade to Gold Elite status when you spend £15,000 in a card year
  • Annual fee: £95

Representative 54.8% APR variable based on an assumed £1,200 credit limit and £95 annual fee. Interest rate on purchases 31.0% APR variable.

See if you qualify for the 20,000 points sign-up bonus: +

You will receive 20,000 points as a sign-up bonus on the Marriott Bonvoy American Express card if you spend £3,000 within 90 days of signing up.

To qualify for the bonus, you must NOT, currently or in the previous 24 months, have held any other personal American Express card.

You are OK if you had a supplementary card on someone else’s American Express account.

You are OK if, currently or in the previous 24 months, you have held a Business American Express card.

For clarity, you can still apply for the Marriott Bonvoy American Express card even if you do not qualify for the bonus.  You would still benefit from the 15 elite night credits per year, the free night (up to 25,000 points) for spending £25,000 and Gold Elite status for spending £15,000.

Learn more about the card benefits +

You will receive 15 elite night credits per year in Marriott Bonvoy.  The first batch will arrive within 60 days on applying and then in Spring in each subsequent year.

15 elite nights will automatically get you Silver Elite status in Marriott Bonvoy and put you nearer to Gold Elite and higher tiers.

If you spend £15,000 per card year, you will be upgraded to Gold Elite status in Marriott Bonvoy.

If you spend £25,000 per card year, you will receive a free night voucher, valid at any hotel where reward nights cost up to 25,000 points.

You need a minimum personal income of £20,000 to apply for the card.

Via cards earning American Express Membership Rewards points:

United Airlines is NOT an American Express Membership Rewards partner.  This means that you cannot earn miles directly from either American Express Preferred Rewards Gold or American Express Platinum.

What you can do is transfer your Amex points into Marriott Bonvoy and on to United MileagePlus via the route above.  The rate would be:

  • 1 Amex Membership Rewards point =
  • 1.5 Marriott Bonvoy points =
  • 0.5 United MileagePlus miles

This means you’re getting 0.5 United miles per £1 spent on Amex Gold or Amex Platinum with a 50% increase if you convert in chunks of 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points. Convert in chunks of 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points and you would be up at 0.75 United MileagePlus miles per £1.

These cards also come with excellent sign-up bonuses as you can see here. Even if it isn’t the best deal for day to day spending, you could consider taking out one of these cards for the sign-up bonus.

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Bonus: 20,000 points

Read our full review

Other information:

  • Amex Gold is our recommended ‘first card’ for a miles and points beginner
  • Get four free airport lounge passes when you sign up, and a further four each year
  • After your four free passes, you can visit further lounges for a small fee
  • You receive £120 of Deliveroo credit each year (24 x £5 credits)
  • Annual fee: Free for the first year, £195 from Year 2

Representative 88.8% APR variable.  Annual fee applies after the first year.

See if you qualify for the 20,000 points sign-up bonus +

You will receive 20,000 American Express Membership Rewards points as a sign-up bonus on the American Express Preferred Rewards Gold card if you spend £3,000 within 90 days of signing up.

Membership Rewards points are hugely flexible, which is why we recommend this as the best choice for your first miles and points card.  You can transfer them into Avios, Virgin Flying Club or other airlines (at 1:1) or into various hotels schemes, into Club Eurostar or use them for shopping vouchers.

To qualify for the bonus, you must NOT, currently or in the previous 24 months, have held any other personal American Express card.

You are OK if you had a supplementary card on someone else’s American Express account.

You are OK if, currently or in the previous 24 months, you have held a Business American Express card.

For clarity, you can still apply for the American Express Preferred Rewards Gold card even if you do not qualify for the bonus.  You would still benefit from the four free airport lounge passes and the ‘no fee in Year 1’ offer.

Learn more about the card benefits +

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold comes with four free airport lounge passes.  These allow either you and up to three friends, or yourself four times, to visit any of the 1,400 lounges in the Priority Pass network.  You make additional lounge visits for £24 per person.  You receive an additional four free passes each year.

You earn double Membership Rewards points on all airline spend (made directly on an airline website) and all spend made outside the UK.

You will receive up to 12,500 bonus Membership Rewards points each year, based on how much you spend.

You receive £120 of Deliveroo credit each year.  Amex will repay you £5 for the first two Deliveroo orders charged to your Gold card each month.

Other benefits include a 10% discount on Hertz car rentals, Avis Preferred Plus car rental status and special deals at 350 selected hotels worldwide, where Preferred Rewards Gold cardholders receive a $75 in-hotel credit per stay.

You need a minimum personal income of £20,000 to apply for the card.

The Platinum Card from American Express

Bonus: 40,000 points

Read our full review

Other information:

  • Two Priority Pass cards, each allowing two people into 1,400 airport lounges
  • Elite status in four major hotel loyalty programmes
  • Comprehensive travel insurance
  • £300 per year of restaurant credit
  • £100 per year to spend at Harvey Nichols
  • Annual fee: £650

Representative 704.6% APR variable based on an assumed £1,200 credit limit and £650 annual fee. Interest rate on purchases 31.0% APR variable.

See if you qualify for the 40,000 points sign-up bonus +

You will receive 40,000 American Express Membership Rewards points as a sign-up bonus on The Platinum Card if you spend £6,000 within three months of signing up.

Membership Rewards points are hugely flexible.  You can transfer them into Avios, Virgin Flying Club or other airlines (at 1:1) or into various hotels schemes, into Club Eurostar or use them for shopping vouchers.

This is the ONLY personal American Express card where you still qualify for the bonus if you already hold a British Airways American Express card.

To qualify for the bonus, you must NOT, currently or in the previous 24 months, have held any other personal American Express card which earns Membership Rewards points.  This includes The Platinum Card and Preferred Rewards Gold.

You are OK if you had a supplementary card on someone else’s American Express account.

You are OK if, currently or in the previous 24 months, you have held any other American Express card, including the British Airways, Marriott and Nectar cards.

For clarity, you can still apply for The Platinum Card even if you do not qualify for the bonus.  You would still benefit from the long list of other benefits.

Learn more about the card benefits +

The Platinum Card from American Express comes with an unrivalled list of benefits for the keen traveller.

Your personal travel patterns will determine which of these is the most valuable.  The key benefits are:

Full comprehensive travel insurance for you, your family and the family of your supplementary cardholder, subject to enrolment

Two Priority Pass cards, each of which allows the holder and a guest unlimited free access to 1,400 airport lounges

Elite status in four major hotel loyalty schemes: Marriott Bonvoy (Gold), Hilton Honors (Gold), Radisson Rewards (Premium), MeliaRewards (Gold)

Access to Eurostar lounges, irrespective of travel class

£150 per year to spend in over 160 UK restaurants

£150 per year to spend in over 1,200 international restaurants

£100 per year to spend at Harvey Nichols, instore or online (no minimum spend required)

£300 per year of dining credit – £150 to be spent at 150+ UK restaurants and £150 to be spent at 1,200+ restaurants outside the UK

You need a minimum personal income of £35,000 to apply for the card.

Scenario 2:  You specifically want a Visa or Mastercard to collect United Airlines miles

Earning MileagePlus miles from a Mastercard or Visa credit card is no longer possible.

The only half-decent Visa / Mastercard option was via the IHG One Rewards Mastercard but this is now closed to new applicants.

Scenario 3:  You want a high-earning Visa or Mastercard and are willing to move away from United

There are attractive Visa or Mastercard options available for earning Avios or Virgin Points if you are willing to look beyond MileagePlus. This would get you access to all airlines in the oneworld (Avios) or SkyTeam (Virgin Points) alliances.

Both are equally generous. Importantly, nothing else on the market comes close, even if you are willing to look at Mastercard or Visa cards which offer shopping vouchers instead of travel rewards.

The two Barclaycard Avios Mastercards are the best option. Pick from the free Barclaycard Avios Mastercard (usually 5,000 Avios bonus) or the Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard (£20 per month, usually 25,000 Avios bonus).

You get 1 Avios per £1 on the free card and 1.5 Avios per £1 on the paid card. You also get an annual upgrade voucher for an Avios flight for hitting a spending target.

Because of the large British Airways short haul network, which has relatively low Avios requirements, these cards should work for you irrespective of whether you will earn additional Avios from flying.

Barclaycard Avios Plus card

Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard

Bonus: 25,000 Avios

Read our full review

Other information:

  • Receive an Avios upgrade voucher when you spend £10,000 in a card year
  • Upgrade a return BA flight for one person or two one-way flights for a couple
  • Annual fee: £240, charged at £20 per month

Representative 80.1% APR variable based on an assumed £1,200 credit limit and £20 monthly fee.  Interest rate on purchases 29.9% APR variable.

See if you qualify for the 25,000 Avios sign-up bonus +

You will receive 25,000 Avios as a sign-up bonus on the Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard credit card if you spend £3,000 within 90 days of signing up.

To qualify for the bonus, you must NOT, currently or in the previous six months, have held any other Barclaycard credit card.

You are OK if you had a supplementary card on someone else’s Barclaycard account.

You are OK if, currently or in the previous six months, you have had a British Airways American Express credit card.

For clarity, you can still apply for the Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard even if you do not qualify for the bonus.  You would still benefit from the upgrade voucher and the other card benefits.

Learn more about the card benefits +

When you spend £10,000 on the Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard, you receive a voucher entitling you to:

  • book a return Avios flight for one person, paying the Avios of the next lowest cabin (ie book Club World but only pay the World Traveller Plus Avios requirement)
  • book a one-way Avios flight, or one leg of a return flight, for two people, paying the Avios of the next lowest cabin

The voucher is valid for two years.  Full taxes and charges need to be paid on both tickets, based on the cabin you fly.

The voucher cannot be used to fly in First Class.

The voucher can be used for anyone, as long as the booking is made from the Avios account of the cardholder.

You receive your voucher within five days of reaching the spending target.

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

Bonus: 5,000 Avios

Read our full review

Other information:

  • Receive an Avios upgrade voucher when you spend £20,000 in a card year
  • Upgrade a return BA flight for one person or two one-way flights for a couple
  • Annual fee: Free

Representative 29.9% APR variable

See if you qualify for the 5,000 Avios sign-up bonus +

You will receive 5,000 Avios as a sign-up bonus on the free Barclaycard Avios Mastercard credit card if you spend £1,000 within 90 days of signing up.

To qualify for the bonus, you must NOT, currently or in the previous six months, have held any other Barclaycard credit card.

You are OK if you had a supplementary card on someone else’s Barclaycard account.

You are OK if, currently or in the previous six months, you have had a British Airways American Express credit card.

For clarity, you can still apply for the Barclaycard Avios Mastercard even if you do not qualify for the bonus.  You would still benefit from the upgrade voucher and the other card benefits.

Learn more about the card benefits +

When you spend £20,000 on the Barclaycard Avios Mastercard, you receive a voucher entitling you to:

  • book a return Avios flight for one person, paying the Avios of the next lowest cabin (ie book Club World but only pay the World Traveller Plus Avios requirement)
  • book a one-way Avios flight, or one leg of a return flight, for two people, paying the Avios of the next lowest cabin

The voucher is valid for two years.  Full taxes and charges need to be paid on both tickets, based on the cabin you fly.

The voucher can be used for anyone, as long as the booking is made from the Avios account of the cardholder.

The voucher cannot be used to fly in First Class.

You receive your voucher within five days of reaching the spending target.

The two Virgin Atlantic Mastercards are almost as generous – either the Virgin Atlantic Reward Mastercard (free, usually no bonus) or Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard (£160, usually 15,000 points bonus).

You get 0.75 Virgin Points per £1 on the free card and 1.5 Virgin Points per £1 on the paid card.  You also get a 2-4-1 or upgrade voucher for hitting spending targets.

The only downside is that, with no short haul routes, you are unlikely to earn enough points purely from the credit card to get a good redemption. The cards are best suited to regular Virgin Atlantic flyers.

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard

Bonus: 15,000 points and 3 points per £1 spent until 14th April
SPECIAL OFFER

Read our full review

Other information:

  • Get a ‘2 for 1’ voucher, valid on cash or points tickets, when you spend £10,000 in a year
  • Alternatively, claim an upgrade voucher or Clubhouse lounge passes
  • Annual fee: £160

Representative 69.7% APR variable based on an assumed £1,200 credit limit and £160 annual fee.  Interest rate on purchases 26.9% APR variable.

See if you qualify for the 15,000 points sign-up bonus +

You receive a bonus of 15,000 Virgin Points after your first purchase, however small.

Apply by 4th March and you will receive double Virgin Points on all spending until 14th April, up to a maximum of £5,000.

There are no restrictions on earning the bonus if you are accepted.  However, you cannot apply for a card if you currently have, or in the previous six months have had, a Virgin Atlantic credit card.  You are free to apply if you have any other Virgin Money credit card.

Learn more about the card benefits +

When you spend £10,000 per year on the Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard, you can choose a benefit.  This is what you can pick from:

A 2-4-1 voucher, valid for two years, for a Virgin Atlantic cash flight or Virgin Flying Club redemption, in Upper Class, Premium or Economy

A return upgrade – on either a cash or points ticket – from Premium to Upper Class, or from Economy Delight/Classic to Premium.  You can either upgrade 1 x return flight if travelling alone or 2 x one-way legs of two return flights if travelling with someone else.

For elite members, Virgin Clubhouse lounge passes (require a same-day Virgin Atlantic or Delta Air Lines flight) – one pass if you are Silver, two passes if you are Gold

Here’s the small print:

If you are a Red (no status) member, you need to pay 50% of the points for your 2nd ticket if you redeem your 2-4-1 voucher in Upper Class.  This means that, for Upper Class redemptions for Red members, it is effectively a ‘2 for 1.5’ voucher. For Economy or Premium redemptions, it is a genuine ‘2 for 1’.

Taxes and charges need to be paid on the ‘free’ ticket as part of your 2-4-1 booking

Vouchers are valid for two years and you must fly the outbound leg of your trip before the expiry date

Virgin Atlantic Reward Mastercard

Bonus: None

Read our full review

Other information:

  • Get a ‘2 for 1’ voucher, valid on cash or points tickets, when you spend £20,000 in a year
  • Alternatively, claim an upgrade voucher or Clubhouse lounge passes
  • Annual fee: Free

Representative 26.9% APR variable

See if you qualify for the sign-up bonus +

There is no sign-up bonus on the free Virgin Atlantic Reward Mastercard.

You may want to consider applying for the Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard instead.  This comes with a £160 annual fee but has a sign-up bonus of 15,000 Virgin Points.  You also receive a higher earning rate of 1.5 miles per £1 spent.

Learn more about the card benefits +

When you spend £20,000 per year on the Virgin Atlantic Reward Mastercard, you can choose a benefit.  This is what you can pick from:

A 2-4-1 voucher, valid for two years, for a Virgin Atlantic cash flight or Virgin Flying Club redemption, in Upper Class, Premium or Economy

A return upgrade – on either a cash or points ticket – from Premium to Upper Class, or from Economy Delight/Classic to Premium.  You can either upgrade 1 x return flight if travelling alone or 2 x one-way legs of two return flights if travelling with someone else.

For elite members, Virgin Clubhouse lounge passes (require a same-day Virgin Atlantic or Delta Air Lines flight) – one pass if you are Silver, two passes if you are Gold

Here’s the small print:

If you are a Red (no status) member, you need to pay 50% of the points for your 2nd ticket if you redeem your 2-4-1 voucher in Upper Class.  This means that, for Upper Class redemptions for Red members, it is effectively a ‘2 for 1.5’ voucher. For Economy or Premium redemptions, it is a genuine ‘2 for 1’.

Taxes and charges need to be paid on the ‘free’ ticket as part of your 2-4-1 booking

Vouchers are valid for two years and you must fly the outbound leg of your trip before the expiry date

Other Visa and Mastercard options:

The HSBC Premier Mastercard and HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard allow you to convert into the following airlines. However, you need a HSBC Premier current account to take out these credit cards which requires a £75,000+ salary. For most people, the Barclaycard Avios or Virgin Atlantic cards will be a better option.

  • Asia Miles
  • British Airways Executive Club
  • Emirates Skywards
  • Etihad Guest
  • EVA Air MileageLands
  • Finnair Plus
  • Flying Blue (Air France KLM)
  • Qantas Frequent Flyer
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • TAP Miles&Go

(Want to earn more miles and points from credit cards?  Click here to visit our dedicated airline and hotel travel credit cards page or use the ‘Credit Cards’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

Disclaimer: Head for Points is a journalistic website. Nothing here should be construed as financial advice, and it is your own responsibility to ensure that any product is right for your circumstances. Recommendations are based primarily on the ability to earn miles and points. The site discusses products offered by lenders but is not a lender itself. Robert Burgess, trading as Head for Points, is regulated and authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority to act as an independent credit broker.

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