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Just a couple of weeks after United closed its Black Friday sale in which it was offering a 100% bonus on the purchases of miles, the airline is back with another 100% offer for MileagePlus members looking to top up accounts. This sale, however, is slightly different from the Black Friday sale as the number of miles on offer is less.
Headline Terms & Conditions
- Promotional offer valid until 11:59 p.m. CT on December 11, 2020 (TOMORROW)
- You may purchase up to 175,000 miles per account per calendar year.
- Bonus miles count toward the 175,000-mile annual limit per account.
- 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.
- The credit card used in the transaction will be billed immediately upon purchase.
- Miles purchased are nonrefundable.
- Purchased miles do not count toward MileagePlus Premier status.
- GST/HST is charged to Canadian residents.
- Powered by Points to purchase United MileagePlus miles. Transaction will appear as ‘Points United Miles’.
- Full terms and conditions can be found on the promotion page.
The Bonus Tiers
There are four tiers in this flash sale:
- Buy 2,000 miles – Get no bonus
- Buy 4,000 – 14,000 miles – Get a 30% bonus
- Buy 15,000 – 39,000 miles – Get a 60% bonus
- Buy 40,000 – 87,000 miles – Get a 100% bonus
Within each bonus band, the price per MileagePlus mile remains the same which means that whether you buy 40,000 miles…
…or the full 87,000 miles…
…you’ll be buying miles at the lowest cost available which, in this sale, is 1.75 cents/mile.
Should You Buy United Miles In This Sale?
The first thing to note is that although this sale sees miles being sold at the same rate as they were last time around (1.75 cents), this sale is only allowing MileagePlus members to buy up to 174,000 miles while the last sale saw that cap raised to 225,000. That may be a small difference but it may also be a key one for some people.
The fact is that 1.75 cents/mile is just about as low as we ever see United selling its currency, but that still doesn’t necessarily mean that this is a fantastic deal.
How good or bad this sale is will vary based on what each person’s needs are and, more importantly, if awards are actually available to book and if you’re allowed to fly to wherever it is that you’d like to visit.
Before I go any further, here’s the usual disclaimer: If you have no immediate use for United Miles you shouldn’t be taking part in this sale. It’s a bad idea to stockpile miles at the best of times so a full-blown travel crisis isn’t a great time to be stocking up on miles you don’t plan to use short-term (my golden rule applies).
United no longer publishes award charts and awards are now pricing dynamically but, on a good day, you may still be able to snag a roundtrip Business Class saver award for travel between the 48 contiguous States and Europe for around 120,000 miles. If you were to purchase miles at the cheapest rate this promotion offers (1.75 cents), that award would cost ~ $2,100.
That’s not a bad price for a Business Class fare but it’s also not fantastic considering we’ve seen a few transatlantic cash Business Class fares that are cheaper than this.
Better value may be found when buying miles for transpacific travel (routes which are usually considerably more expensive in Business Class than transatlantic routes) or, considering how few international options are open to US travelers right now, when booking domestic premium cabin fares on traditionally expensive routes (e.g. to/from Hawaii).
United sells its miles through Points.com so there’s no scope to earn a travel/flight/airline bonus by using a credit card that offers bonus points for shopping in one of those categories. What this means is that this is a good opportunity to use a credit card on which you’re working towards a welcome bonus (e.g. the greatly improved bonus on the Amex Platinum Card)…
…or to use the excellent Blue Business Plus Credit Card from American Express which will earn you 2 points/dollar (up to $50,000 in spending per year).
If miles and points aren’t what you’re looking to earn right now and cash back is more appealing, the new and fantastic Chase Freedom Flex Card would be a good option to use.
If you only purchase miles when you have a solid plan for what you’re going to do with them you’ll rarely go wrong – you can check awards are available, you can check the cost of flights and, by comparing the two, you can make an informed decision. At 1.75 cents/mile, there will be some good deals on offer…you’ll just have to have the patience to look for them.
If, on the other hand, you purchase miles thinking that you’ll find a good use for them in the future you’re going to lose money in the long run. That’s as close to a certainty as you can get in the miles & points world.