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United MileagePlus has been running its current sale for a couple of weeks and today is the last day to take advantage of the offer if it’s one that makes sense for you. In short, the airline is offering MileagePlus members the chance to buy up to ~174,500 miles at 2.25 cents per mile.
United’s Latest Sale – Headline Rules
- Promotional offer valid until 11:59 p.m. CT on March 25, 2019.
- Miles are available in increments of 1,000 up to a maximum of 104,478 miles.
- Bonuses will be calculated on a per transaction basis only. The bonus amount applicable to a transaction is shown in the chart. Transactions may not be aggregated to calculate the bonus.
- Bonus Miles will generally be credited to the recipient’s MileagePlus account when the transaction is complete; provided that certain transactions may take up to 48 hours.
- Purchase up to 175,000 miles per account per calendar year.
- Bonus miles count towards the 175,000 mile annual limit per account.
- Credit card will be billed immediately upon purchase.
- Mileage rates and other fees and offer terms are subject to change.
- 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.
- Powered by Points to purchase United MileagePlus miles. Transaction will appear as ‘Points United Miles’.
- Points.com processes all of United’s mileage sales so you won’t earn an airline/travel bonus though your credit cards – make sure to use the card whose points you value most or a credit card on which you have yet to hit a sign-up bonus target.
Buying Miles – The Math
Here’s the promotion as it currently shows in my Mileage Plus account:
- Buy 5,000 – 14,000 miles and get 1,000 – 2,800 bonus miles
- Buy 15,000 – 29,000 miles and get 6,000 – 11,600 bonus miles
- Buy 30,000+ miles and get 20,100 – 70,000 bonus miles
Essentially MileagePlus is offering a bonus of up to 67%.
What all this means in more useful terms is this:
- Buy 5,000 – 14,000 miles at a cost of ~3.14 cents/mile
- Buy 15,000 – 29,000 miles at a cost of ~2.69 cents/mile
- Buy 30,000 – 88,000 miles at a cost of ~2.25 cents/mile
Put simply, to buy United MileagePlus miles at the best rate this sale is offering you would need to buy a minimum of 30,000 miles.
If you were to buy the full 104,478 miles allowed in this sale it would cost $3,930.98….
…and you would net 174,478 miles after accounting for the bonus.
That comes out to approximately 2.25 cents per mile.
Buying just 30,000 miles would still qualify you for an effective 67% bonus so the cost/mile remains the same – you don’t need to buy the maximum allowable number of miles to get the best rate.
Should You Buy Miles In This Sale?
If you’re planning on stockpiling the miles the answer to that question is simple – no. Never, ever hoard miles.
So, assuming you’re not planning on buying miles just to sit on them, here are a few things to note:
- At 2.25 cents/mile this is one of the weaker promotions United runs (the last promotion offered miles at 2.03 cents each)
- There’s no scope for earning any extra credit card points here (from bonus category spending) as the transactions are processed by Points.com and will earn just 1 point or mile per dollar.
- I value United MileagePlus miles higher than I value the miles issued by either Delta or American but I still value them considerably lower than the 2.25 cents selling price that’s on offer right now.
What this means is that unless I can see a very specific and immediate use for the miles (which would save me money) I wouldn’t buy miles in this sale.
My situation isn’t the situation a lot of people find themselves in as I can be more flexible than most when it comes to booking flights. This means that I don’t often find myself in a position where I’m forced to purchase fares that cost considerably more than I’m generally happy to pay.
A fact of life is that premium cabin fares are usually expensive (often very expensive) so, if you absolutely have to fly when fares are not in your favor, miles may help you save a considerable amount of money (as long as you can find award availability that works for you).
Here’s what I mean:
Roundtrip non-stop Business Class fares between San Francisco and Paris for June (on any airline) are currently starting at around $3,900 and are mostly well over $4,000:
…..but, if you can find a Business Class United Saver award for dates that work for you, it would set you back just 120,000 miles + taxes.
120,000 miles in this promotion will cost approximately $2,700 so, even when you add in the taxes that you’ll have to pay out of Paris, you should still be able to make some serious savings.
Business Class fares on United’s Star Alliance partners are more expensive (140,000 miles for a roundtrip booking) so to book one of those with miles bought in this sale would cost ~$3,150….but that can still represent a very nice saving if you can find award availability.
This doesn’t just work for transatlantic routes, the savings across the Pacific can be even better.
If you take the example of a roundtrip non-stop Business Class fare between San Francisco
and Tokyo in June the fares start at over $7,000!
If you’re lucky enough to find a saver award on United it will cost you 140,000 miles + taxes and, in this sale, the miles would cost ~$3,150.
A Star Alliance award would cost 160,000 miles on this route so an award on one of Untied’s partners would cost you around $3,600.
Taxes on this route would be minimal so the savings could be fantastic….as long as you can find award availability in the first place – that’s key!
I can think of only two scenarios in which buying miles in this promotion may be good idea:
- To top up a MileagePlus account with a small number of points to get you enough miles to book an award.
- To book an award to save money over a cash fare that you would otherwise have to buy.
If you fall into one of those two categories then here’s a link to buy some miles, if you don’t then this promotion is probably not for you.
Remember that this sale ends tonight (25 March 2019) at 11:59pm CT
Most importantly: Do your research before you buy any miles and make sure the award you want to book is actually available.