You Can Buy United Miles With A 75% Bonus For A Limited Time…But It’s Not A Good Idea

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United Airlines has launched its latest “buy points & get a bonus” promotion and, this time around, it’s offering MilagePlus members the chance to earn a 75% bonus if they buy enough miles.

The Promotion

  • The promotional is valid until 11:59 p.m. CT on 29 September 2017.
  • Maximum allowable purchase (excluding bonus) is 75,000 miles.
  • Bonus Miles will generally be credited to your MileagePlus account when the transaction is complete
  • Maximum number of miles that can be purchased in a calendar year is 150,000 and bonus miles count towards this total.
  • Miles are non-refundable.
  • Purchased miles do not count toward MileagePlus Premier® status.
  • GST/HST is charged to Canadian residents.

[thirstylink linkid=”25169″ linktext=”For the full T&Cs please use this link and have your MileagePlus number to hand.” class=”thirstylink” title=”For the full T&Cs please use this link and have your MileagePlus number to hand.”]

This is the promotion I see when I log in:

  • Buy 5,000 – 19,000 miles and get a 25% bonus
  • Buy 20,000 – 29,000 miles and get a 50% bonus
  • Buy 30,000 – 85,000 miles and get a 75% bonus

The Math

To purchase miles at the best rate per mile you will need to buy between 30,000 and 85,000 miles.

In this example, if I was to purchase 85,000 miles, it would cost me $3,198.13:

a screenshot of a number of miles

…which would net me a total of 148,750 miles (after applying the bonus) at a cost of 2.15 cents per mile.

If you’re based in the UK the cost/mile is actually worse.

This is the best UK flyers will do in this promotion:

a screenshot of a number of miles

148,750 United miles at a cost of £2,647.13 comes to ~1.78 pence per mile and, at the current exchange rate (approx. 1.35 $/£) that equals around 2.40 cents/mile – almost 12% more!

Should You Buy United Miles In This Promotion?

I value United miles higher than I value miles from the other two legacy carriers but I still don’t value them as high as 2.15 cents.

a town on a cliff with a pool on the side

Sometimes there can be a reason to buy United Miles in one of these promotions even if the cost exceeds my valuation….but not this time.

Aside from buying an insignificant number of miles to top off an award or to keep an account active I can’t think of any reason why you should be buying miles at this rate.

United is going to be devaluing its award chart from 1 November 2017 and, although with United’s MilagePlus you can get some pretty good awards to/from Europe (for example) on excellent carriers like SWISS, the cost to buy miles and then use them for an award is just too high….even with the low taxes you’ll be changed.

Here’s an example to prove my point.

San Francisco to Zurich on SWISS will cost 70,000 miles and $5.60 in taxes on the outbound flight…

a screenshot of a computer

…while, on inbound, it’s another 70,000 miles & $53.46 in taxes:

a screenshot of a screenshot of a computer

To buy the 140,000 miles you’d need for this award you’d have to spend $3,010 in this promotion…..and then you’d have to find award availability that works for you.

Finding Business Class cash fares to Europe for under $3,000 is not difficult at all so why would you buy miles to book this fare?

If you can find Saver tickets on United’s own aircraft a round trip Business Class flight to Europe will considerably less (57,500 each way)….but that would still set you back $2,472.50.

Yes, that’s not a bad Business Class fare to Europe…but it’s still nowhere near good enough to warrant buying miles to book it.

Bottom Line

This is a poor promotion – don’t buy United miles for 2.15 cents each unless for some reason buying miles and booking an award online (which you can see is available right now) saves you money.

I can’t imagine too many people will find themselves in that situation so, for most, this is a promotion to pass on.


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