HomeAirline LoyaltyUnited MileagePlusPurchases of United Airlines miles will now code as United Airlines purchases...

Purchases of United Airlines miles will now code as United Airlines purchases (apparently)


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Earlier, I reported that United’s latest mileage sale ends later today but it was something that I noticed in the terms and conditions that stuck out a lot more than the sale itself. According to United, purchases of Mileage Plus miles will now be recognized as United Airlines purchases and code as such with the credit card companies.

What United’s terms & conditions say

The latest set of the terms and conditions for United’s mileage sale look pretty standard until you get down towards the last few points. Here, this is the wording that you’ll find:

If you use Powered by Points to purchase United MileagePlus miles. Transaction will appear as ‘Points United Miles’.

Buying miles counts as a United® purchase when made with your United MileagePlus card. You’ll get the miles you buy, plus miles for every $1 spent.

For those who need further proof, here’s an image of the latest terms and conditions with the relevant lines highlighted.

a screenshot of a white and black text
Click or tap to enlarge

I’m pretty sure that these two lines were not in the terms and conditions for the sale that ended on 26 October so this would appear to be a new development…unless anyone reading this has seen this wording before?

You’ll find these terms on the United mileage sale page.

This seems a little strange

There are two reasons why these lines appear a little strange:

Firstly, the first highlighted term starts off by saying “If you use Powered by Points…” and that implies that there’s another way of buying Mileage Plus miles other than by using  Powered by Points. How?

Is United saying that purchases made through its website are no longer processed using Powered by Points but that purchases of its miles can still also be made via the Points.com website (the site that runs Powered by Points)? Or should the word “if” really be replaced by the word “when”?

Secondly, the second term clearly states that buying Mileage Plus miles will now be recognized as a United Airlines purchase, but it doesn’t caveat this by saying that purchases processed by Powered by Points will not code as United purchases which, historically, has been the case.

Taking United’s terms and conditions at face value (which we have no option but to do), it would appear as if all purchases of United miles will now be seen as United Airlines spending regardless of how the purchase is made. Assuming this to be true, this is very good news.

Why this is good news

Miles and points purchases are often some of the bigger purchases that people put on their credit cards, but with most miles & points sales being processed by Points.com (including those from United Airlines), transactions have, historically, seen cardholders unable to earn any bonuses that their cards offer for spending with airlines and on general travel.

When you consider the fact that multiple credit cards offer good bonuses for spending with airlines or on travel…

  • card_name offers 5 points/dollar on up to $500,000 of flights booked directly with airlines or through Amex Travel and 1 point/dollar thereafter (terms apply).
  • The card_name offers 3 points/dollar on most travel spending
  • The card_name offers 3 points/dollar on spending made directly with airlines
  • The card_name offers 4 miles/dollar on spending made with United Airlines

… anyone buying miles in these sales has been missing out on a bounty of points because of the way these transactions have previously been viewed.

Now, however, we’re told that a purchase of United Miles will be viewed as a United Airlines purchase and not a Points.com purchase and this should make them eligible for all the airline/travel spending bonuses that credit cards offer.

Note: I’m assuming that United hasn’t found a way to only reward holders of United Airlines co-branded credit cards and not holders of cards that offer bonuses for all airline/travel spending. 

You could now make the argument that buying United Miles got a little cheaper.

Previously, the best you could do when buying United Miles would be to earn 2 Membership Rewards points per dollar by using the card_name (terms apply) which by my valuation, equates to a 3% rebate.

Now, you should be able to earn 5 Membership Rewards points per dollar by using card_name (terms apply) for a 7.5% effective rebate, or 4 miles/dollar by using the card_name which I equate to a 5% rebate.

That’s a lot better, and it means that anyone buying a lot of United Miles can now also earn a lot more valuable miles/points through the credit card they use for the purchase – buying 175,000 miles in the current sale using card_name would see a cardholder earn almost 16,500 Membership Rewards points.

I’m not suggesting that this is a reason that anyone should now go out and load up on United Miles – credit card bonuses alone are never a good reason to spend money – but it’s nice that United now (apparently) allows us to earn airline/travel spending bonuses when we buy its currency.

Bottom line

Historically, purchases of United Airlines miles were recognized as spending with Points.com and so were not eligible for any category spending bonuses that various credit cards offer. However, the latest terms and conditions appended to United’s current mileage sale appear to show that Mileage Plus mileage purchases will now be recognized as spending made with United Airlines (and not Points.com), and that opens up the door to flyers earning a lot of bonus miles when purchasing United Miles with the right credit card.

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