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Earlier this week I wrote about a great way to generate “cheap” miles with which you can then book American Airlines premium awards at a very good rate (assuming you can find the awards you need), and now it looks like it’s possible to do something similar with United MileagePlus.
How To Generate “Cheap” United Miles
The key to generating cheap United Miles is to combine a current MileagePlus promotion and a Marriott Bonvoy benefit that’s a relic of the old Starwood Preferred Guest program.
The Marriott Bonvoy Transfer Benefit
A great aspect of the old Starwood Preferred Guest program that Marriott took onboard when SPG was folded into Marriott Rewards (now Marriott Bonvoy) was the benefit that allows its loyalty program members to transfer points over to numerous airline partners and that allows them to earn a bonus on the transfer too.
In the case of United MileagePlus, this is how Marriott Bonvoy Points convert to miles:
- 3,000 Bonvoy Points convert to 1,000 MileagePlus Miles
- For every 60,000 Bonvoy Points converted a further bonus of 5,000 miles is added
- United’s unique partnership with Marriott adds a 10% bonus to all Marriott transfers
- A maximum of 240,000 Bonvoy Points can be converted to United Miles per day
The net result of all this is that 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy Points convert to 27,500 United Miles.
United MileagePlus Hotel Transfer Promotion
Through 30 November 2019 United MileagePlus is offering 30% bonus miles when you register and convert hotel points into United Miles with a maximum earnable bonus of 25,000 miles.
Combining this bonus with the existing Marriott transfer bonuses will see you generate United Miles at a very low cost.
To earn the maximum 25,000 bonus points that United is offering, a minimum of 84,000 United Miles must be created.
- 180,000 Marriott Bonvoy Points convert to 82,500 Miles (pre 30% bonus)
- 4,090 Marriot Bonvoy Points convert to 1,500 Miles (pre 30% bonus)
184,090 Marriott Bonvoy Points = 84,000 miles + 25,000 (30% bonus) = 109,000 miles
I value Marriott Bonvoy Points at 0.6 cents each which means…
- 184,090 Marriott Bonvoy Points are worth $1,014.54
- 109,000 United Miles have been created from $1,014.54 worth of Bonvoy Points
- Each United Mile has cost ~1.01 cents to create.
Note: Even if you disagree with my Marriott Bonvoy valuation and value Bonvoy Points at a very loose 0.8 cents each (the valuation one website known for overvaluing points uses) the cost per United Mile generated is still only ~1.35 cents each.
There’s nothing to stop you from generating more than 109,000 United Miles during this promotion but the cost/mile generated will increase after you convert 184,090 Bonvoy Points thanks to the cap on the United bonus.
The Marriott Points Sale
The discussion so far has assumed that you have a stash of Marriott Bonvoy Points ready to convert, but if you don’t have enough Marriott Bonvoy Points in your account to make a worthwhile transfer to United MileagePlus the current Marriott Bonvoy Points sale may be of help.
Through 18 October 2019 Marriott is selling Bonvoy points at a discount which sees them on offer at 0.875 cents each.
60,000 Bonvoy Points purchased in this sale would cost $525 and would convert to a total of 35,750 United Miles which would see you generating miles at a cost of ~1.47 cents each.
Using points purchased in this sale to generate United Miles is clearly a more expensive proposition than converting existing Marriott Bonvoy points, and the fact that you can only buy up to 100,000 Bonvoy Points in a year is a hindrance too…but this sale can still be useful if you need to top up a Bonvoy account before you convert points to United Miles.
If you’re a few thousand points short of being able to transfer Bonvoy Points to MileagePlus in a multiple of 60,000, buying points in this sale may make a lot of sense.
Is This Worth It?
United MileagePlus is in the process of transitioning to dynamic award pricing so the cost of premium cabin awards (the best use of United Miles most of the time) is almost certainly going to rise….but that’s not going to be the case for partner awards (or so United has said).
Personally, I wouldn’t convert a significant number of Marriott Bonvoy Points over to MileagePlus unless I could see that an award I want to book is available immediately as I don’t want to find myself stuck with a devaluing currency that I then struggle to use economically.
I would, however, be happy to top up my MileagePlus account using this set of deals if it meant only transferring a reasonable number of Marriott Bonvoy Points (e.g. 100,000) with a view to getting my MileagePlus balance to a level equal to the cost of the next award I’d like to book.
This really is a situation where you have to decide what works best for you.
The United hotel transfer promotion is running through 30 November so there’s no big hurry to enact any transfers if you can’t yet find any awards you’d like to book.
If, on the other hand, you need to buy Marriott Bonvoy Points before you enact a transfer to MileagePlus, be aware that the points sale is only on for another 9 days (including today) so a bit more urgency is required if you’re going to top up your Bonvoy account.