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United has been running a mileage sale since the middle of August but the offer finally closes tonight and it’s one you may want to take a closer look at. The current promotion is offering miles from 1.88 cents each (the lowest rate we’ve seen so far this year) and at that price there’s definitely value to be had.
Headline Terms & Conditions
- The offer valid until 11:59 p.m. CT on September 6, 2018 (Tonight!)
- The promotion is open to MileagePlus members in the US, Canada, United Kingdom and Australia.
- MileagePlus members can purchase up to 150,000 miles per account per calendar year.
- Bonus miles count towards the 150,000 mile annual limit per account.
- Your credit card will be billed immediately upon purchase.
- Pricing is only available for purchases made through buymiles.mileageplus.com
- Miles are nonrefundable.
- Purchased miles do not count toward MileagePlus Premier® status.
- All MileagePlus Program Rules and terms and conditions apply.
- GST/HST is charged to Canadian residents.
Note: United sells its miles via Points.com so there’s isn’t an opportunity to earn a credit card category bonus here – use whatever credit card earns you the points you value highest (or a credit card on which you have a minimum spend target to hit).
Full Terms & Conditions can be found on the promotion page (HERE)
The Promotion Structure
- Buy 5,000 – 10,000 miles and get a 30% bonus
- Buy 15,000 – 25,000 miles and get a 70% bonus
- Buy 30,000 – 40,000 miles and get a 85% bonus
- Buy 45,000 – 75,000 miles and get a 100% bonus
I have no idea why there are gaps between each band in this promotion but that’s what I’m seeing on United.com.
Here’s what that looks like in terms of cost/mile
If you buy…
- 5,000 – 10,000 miles the cost is ~2.89 cents/mile
- 15,000 – 25,000 miles the cost is ~2.21 cents/mile
- 30,000 – 40,000 miles the cost is ~2.02 cents/mile
- 45,000 – 75,000 miles the cost is ~1.88 cents/mile
These figures represent the cost of purchasing miles if your account is based in the United States. MileagePlus members in the UK, Canada and Australia may have their own pricing and should be careful to work out the cost/mile before they buy.
Is This Promotion Worth It?
At 1.88 cents/mile a round trip Business Class saver award between the 48 contiguous state and Europe would cost around $2,258 and that’s not a bad price for a Business Class fare.
There will be taxes to pay on top of this figure but, as long as you avoid flying out of high tax cities like London, they shouldn’t be too bad.
How good this promotion actually is will depend on what your plans are and how you intend to use the miles.
Here’s what I suggest you do:
- Decide where you would like to fly
- Decide which Star Alliance airline(s) you’d like to use to fly to your destination
- Check award availability and, if awards are available for dates that work for you, check the full cost of the award (including taxes)
- Compare the cost of the award to the cash fares available on the same dates
- If the award is cheaper than the cash fare then it’s probably safe to buy miles in this promotion to use to book the award – otherwise you should pass and move on.
It should be noted that if the cost of the award and the cost of the cash fare are close then there are other things to consider:
- By booking an award you’re passing up on the redeemable miles you would earn if you paid cash for your ticket – they have a value
- By booking an award you’re passing up on the miles that contribute to Elite qualification – they have a value
- By booking an award you’re passing up on the Premier Qualifying Dollars that contribute to Elite qualification – they have a value
If you add up the value of the miles and elite qualifying dollars you’re passing up just to book the award then, if the cost of the award and the cost of the cash fare are similar, it’s almost certainly going to be a better deal to pay cash….and that makes buying miles in this promotion uneconomical.
There is definitely value to be had here especially if you’re looking to book a flight in the not too distant future (the closer you are to your departure date the higher the cash fare is likely to be).
The important thing to remember is that you shouldn’t be buying miles in the hope of being able to use them down the line – miles can devalue when you least expect them too so buying them to hold is a bad idea.
Check award availability, do the math and only consider buying miles if everything lines up – it’s simple!