United Mileage Plus members can now redeem miles for hotel stays and car rental awards online. Members can book hotel awards at locations around the world but car rentals can only be reserved in the U.S. and Canada.
Keep in mind that hotel and car rental awards cannot be canceled or refunded so once you make your reservations, your miles will not be redeposited if you need to cancel. You may make changes, but be prepared to pay a fee. Changes to a car rental or hotel award reservation may incur a $35 change fee and a combined hotel and car award reservation is subject to a $75 change fee. Plus, the hotel property or rental company may charge an additional change fee based on their policies. You must book hotel and car rental awards through the Web site, http://hotelandcarawards.mileageplus.com
When searching for hotel awards, you can search by star rating, amenities and neighborhoods. For example, you can search for four star hotels that allow dogs in Times Square and the search will pull up two of the 178 hotel options in New York City and show you the average number of miles needed for a night's stay--70,654 miles for the Renaissance New York Hotel Times Square and 65,000 miles for the W Times Square. You can also sort by price, rating or hotel name and view TripAdvisor ratings for the hotels. The number of miles needed for a night varies greatly and we found hotels for 10,000 miles per night and 184,000 miles per night. While you can't redeem miles for stays at every hotel, the selection of hotels was rather impressive. A search for properties in Paris, France brought up 686 hotels, including four and five star hotels.
Car rental award partners include Dollar, Alamo and Budget and you can search for awards by car class, company and price. Cars can be rented for 10,000 miles to 42,000 miles per day depending on car type, location and car rental company.
Bottom line: Mileage Plus Visa cardholders have been able to use Choices credit for hotel stays and car rentals since 2006 but now, all members can use their redeemable miles for hotel and car rental awards. With the addition of these awards, members who don't have enough miles for a flight award can opt to book a hotel stay or car rental. Members who have accrued many miles now have the flexibility to book a flight, hotel and car rental with miles for (almost) free travel arrangements. You will probably get a better value with flight awards, but the added flexibility is definitely a plus for Mileage Plus members.