Combine Miles and Elite Qualifying Acitivity Between United and Continental Mileage Accounts

United and Continental will now let you move miles back and forth between your own accounts in the two frequent flyer programs.

This is great to combine balances towards an award. It also means that effectively, Starnet blocking is dead, at least until the programs are actually combined. Because unless they’ve imported the architecture to do it over onto the Continental Onepass side, you could always just move your United miles over to Continental to book an award ticket. So at least for those in the know, if not for everyone, we’ve got full access to Star Alliance partner award inventory with United miles through the end of the year.

You can transfer miles once per 24 hours, in 1000 mile increments and up to 200,000 miles per transaction.

You can also combine your account activity. So if you’re an elite member of one program, you can be an elite member of both. (Great for flying Continental if you have United status and vice versa.) And your elite qualifying miles and segments will be pooled towards higher status and more earned upgrades. They have thought this through, though — you have to designate one account as ‘primary’ for earning upgrades, you cannot just be a top tier elite with both and have your flown miles count towards international upgrades in both programs, effectively double dipping. That’s more than fair…

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Besides the different partners, are there any award redemption opportunities that are more favorable with United or Continental?

  2. Note that registration for either service requires your name to match *exactly* on both systems. Mine did not, but I guessed at the problem and asked OnePass phone support to add my middle initial. After that change, I was able to register for both services.

  3. @David redemption rules vary slightly (United offers one-way awards, United does not). Continental lets you combine Star and non-STar partners in a single award (eg Virgin or Emirates, the latter through the end of March only, on an award with say Lufthansa). United allows Emirates FIRST CLASS redemption while Continental does not..

  4. I read the FAQs, and I guess there is no downside to doing this, but there’s one odd answer there, that’s confusing me.


    How will combining my elite activity affect my Regional and Systemwide upgrade privileges?
    When you register, you’ll need to designate one account – Mileage Plus or OnePass – where future unlimited Regional Upgrades and Systemwide Upgrades earned in 2011 should be deposited. If you already received Systemwide Upgrades for your 2010 activity, you will not be eligible for additional upgrades due to combining your activity. At this time, Regional Upgrades and Systemwide Upgrades may only be used on the carrier of the issuing program (United for Mileage Plus and Continental for OnePass).

  5. ok, I think I get it, “due to combining activity” is the key phrase.

    ok, nvr mind. seems like there is no downside to doing this.


  6. Gary, you said United does and does not offer 1 ways, Which is it? I have miles in both programs and no status, but noticed that Amex Plat offers Cont lounge entry and not United. Trying to decide which way to transfer. I do want to go to the south pacific sometime, maybe Cont is the way to go?

  7. The real bonus to this situation is the ability to fly United using Amex Membership Rewards points..! I just transferred 150k MemRew points into my linked Continental account, and then did the merge above to move them from Continental into United Mileage Plus. Chase Bank (United’s card partner) cannot be happy about this, so I’m sure it’s a limited window of opportunity to do this, but I’m sure glad it was available now!

  8. @Bob Chase is exactly the reason that Amex and Continental will no longer be partners come September 1. But I wonder, why did you need to transfer the points to United? You can redeem for the same flights through your Continental account. Of course, Continental doesn’t get one-way awards until June so that is ONE advantage of redeeming with United, if that’s what you need…

  9. @Gary – good point, in my case I needed to arrange travel for 5, so needed the combined pool of both miles accounts to cover the arrangements. Really, just having all miles in one place made online booking way easier, and I believe saved me a ‘live agent’ fee necessary when pulling from multiple miles accounts to pay for one itinerary? Either way, just thrilled to finally book a United route using Amex points.

  10. Actually any amount of miles can be transferred, not just in minimum chunks of 1000. I just transferred 56 miles only, just to see if the transfer system worked. It transferred this amount, so clearly any amount can be transferred.

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