United Airlines

United Airlines has overhauled its MileagePlus rewards program. (Richard Derk / June 10, 2014)

United Airlines joined several of its competitors by revamping its loyalty points program to base its rewards system on total dollars spent, not on miles traveled.

Other carriers such as Delta, Southwest and JetBlue have announced similar changes recently. United's change in its MileagePlus program takes effect March 1, 2015.

The switch allows the airlines to reward their biggest spenders and reduces the number of travelers who fly long distances on the cheapest fares to collect points.

“These changes are designed to more directly recognize the value of our members when they fly United,” said Thomas F. O’Toole, United’s senior vice president of marketing and loyalty and president of MileagePlus.

Brian Karimzad, director of the loyalty rewards comparison website MileCards.com, said the biggest losers in the overhaul are leisure travelers and long-haul coach travelers who typically fly on the cheapest seats.

"A lot of business travelers spend weeks out of the year, flying on long trips, either across the U.S. or to international destinations, and their employer will only pay for the basic coach fare," he said on his website. "These are the biggest losers."

The new system also gives more mileage points per dollar spent to fliers with a higher airline status. For example, general passengers can earn five miles for every dollar spent while Premier Platinum members can earn nine miles per dollar. Premier 1K members can earn 11 miles per dollar.

For more details on the change, go to the MileagePlus update website.

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