EXTENDED – 100% Bonus When You Buy United Miles


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United Airlines MileagePlus has launched a one two day flash sale on its miles and is offering a bonus of up to 100% of the miles you purchase through 11:59pm CT 29 November 2017.

As usual the bonuses on offer vary depending on how many miles you buy (the more you buy the bigger the bonus) but, on this occasion, the banding is quite generous so you don’t have to buy all that many miles to get the full 100% bonus.

United Mileage Plus Flash Sale

What you need to know:

Link to the promotion page

  • Promotional offer valid until 11:59 p.m. CT on November 29, 2017.
  • Miles are available in increments of 1,000 up to a maximum of 75,000 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.
  • Bonus miles count towards the 150,000 mile annual limit per account.
  • Purchase up to 150,000 miles per account per calendar year.
  • 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’.

The Bonus Tiers

  • Buy 5,000 – 19,000 miles – Get a 25% bonus
  • Buy 20,000 – 39,000 miles – Get a 50% bonus
  • Buy 40,000 – 75,000 miles – Get a 100% bonus

Pricing

Within each bonus band the price per MileagePlus mile remains the same:

  • 5,000 – 9,000 miles – 40% Bonus
  • 20,000 – 39,000 miles – 60% Bonus
  • 40,000 – 75,000 miles – 100% Bonus

The Math

The good news here is that within each pricing band the cost per point stays the same – it doesn’t matter if you buy 20,000 or 75,000 United Miles you’ll still pay the same per mile.

If you were to purchase miles with a 100% bonus you would end up paying ~1.88 cents /mile…and here’s the math to prove it:

Buying the maximum number of miles (75,000) would see you net 150,000 miles after the bonus at a cost of $2,821.88:

150,000 miles at a cost of $2,821.88 is ~ 1.88 cents per mile.

Should You Buy United Miles In This Sale?

1.88 cents/mile is a low price for United to be selling miles but that still doesn’t necessarily mean that this is a good deal….this still takes a little thought.

A Mileage Plus Business Class Saver award for flights between the 48 contiguous States and Europe costs 120,000 miles (for a round trip fare) so, if you were to purchase miles at the cheapest rate this promotion offers (1.88 cents), that award would cost ~ $2,258.

Link to United Airlines Award Charts

That’s not a terrible price for a Business Class fare but price based purely on the cost of miles isn’t the only thing that should be taken into consideration.

With award travel (as opposed to travel where you pay cash for a ticket) there are a number of other factors that need to be considered:

  • There will be taxes and surcharges to add to the total cost of the award…especially if you’re flying back out of somewhere like the UK.
  • You’re restricted to flights on which United decides to open up for awards so it’s very possible that you may not be able to fly when its most convenient for you.
  • By booking an award you’re passing up on the redeemable miles you would earn if you paid cash for your ticket
  • By booking an award you’re passing up on the miles that contribute to Elite qualification (PQM)
  • By booking an award you’re passing up on the Premier Qualifying Dollars (PQD) that contribute to Elite qualification

Convenience, redeemable miles, PQM and PQD all have a value that you’re not getting when booking an award so you need to consider this when working out the value proposition of an award booking vs a cash booking.

Getting Value

Having read all of the above you may be thinking that this promotion isn’t very good…but that’s not actually the case. I was just making sure that you’re fully informed 🙂

The promotion is only a dud if you’re just looking to buy miles in the hope that you’ll find a good use for them at some point in the future – that’s a very poor miles & points strategy.

If you have a specific need for the miles – like for a close-in booking or to top up an account – then a promotion like this can save you quite a bit of cash.

Let’s take an example of a traveler who wants/needs to fly San Francisco to London in Business Class at reasonably short notice.

According to the ITA Matrix search the cheapest non-stop flights available on United in December are for $3,805 (round trip)…..

….and in January the best fares are only marginally lower at $3,608:

As it happens these also happen to be the cheapest Business Class fares on this route.

You can however book a roundtrip Business Class award on the same route for 120,000 Miles & $282.16:

120,000 miles would cost $2,258 (in the promotion) and, when you add on the fees and taxes for the award, that brings the total spend to ~ $2,540.

That’s well over 1,000 less than the cheapest cash option.

That’s pretty good value!

Bottom Line

If you only purchase miles when you have a set plan for what you’re going to do with them you’ll rarely go wrong.

If you purchase miles in the hope that you’ll find an economical use for them somewhere down the line you’re going to lose money in the long run. That’s as close to a certainly as you can get in the miles & points world.

Check award availability, do the math and only then buy miles – it’s simple! 🙂

Link to buy United Miles