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United gets into the mobile payment business

United Airlines is launching a test of mobile payment for some members of its MileagePlus program.

The Chicago-based airline is letting some MileagePlus users get a preview of the company’s new MileagePlus X mobile app. With the app, users can make in-store purchases at national retailers including Lowe’s, Sears, Gap and AMC Theaters. Users will earn up to 24 award miles per dollar spent via the app.

“The new MileagePlus X app builds on the increasing popularity of mobile purchasing, enabling members to make in-store purchases and earn miles without having to pull out a credit card,” said Praveen Sharma, United’s vice president of loyalty.

The airline says at check-out, customers will enter the total dollar amount of their purchase via the app, creating a digital merchant gift card. The cashier then scans the barcode to complete the digital gift card purchase.

United plans to expand MileagePlus X to all members and offer more retailers soon. The airline plans add features, including the option of redeeming miles for in-store purchases.