United Airlines Is Selling Miles With A 100% Bonus

a large rock formation with a river

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United Airlines has launched its latest “buy points & get a bonus” promotion and, on this occasion, it’s offering MilagePlus members the opportunity to earn a 100% bonus if they buy enough miles. The question is, however, just how good of a promotion is this and should you be looking to buy?

The Promotion

  • The promotional is valid until 11:59 p.m. CT on 12 September 2017.
  • Maximum allowable purchase (excluding bonus) is 75,000 miles.
  • Bonus Miles will generally be credited to your MileagePlus account when the transaction is complete
  • Maximum number of miles that can be purchased in a calendar year is 150,000 and bonus miles count towards this total.
  • Miles are non-refundable.
  • Purchased miles do not count toward MileagePlus Premier® status.
  • GST/HST is charged to Canadian residents.

For the full T&Cs please use this link and have your MileagePlus number to hand.

There a number of variants to this promotion but the differences are subtle and don’t really change the overall proposition – if you buy 50,000 miles or more United will give you a 100% bonus.

This is the promotion I see when I log in:

a number of miles

The Math

To purchase miles at the best rate per mile you will need to buy between 50,000 and 75,000 miles.

In this example, if I was to purchase 75,000 miles, it would cost me $2,821.88….

a screenshot of a number of miles

…which would net me a total of 150,000 miles (after applying the bonus) at a cost of 1.88 cents per mile.

Interestingly, if you live in the UK you get slightly screwed over as the cost is higher.

Here’s how much it would cost if you’re based in the UK:

a screenshot of a number of miles

150,000 miles at a cost of £2,335.71 comes to 1.556 pence per mile and, at the current exchange rate (approx. 1.3 $/£) that equals around 2.02 cents/mile – almost 7.5% more.

Should You Buy United Miles In This Promotion?

I value United miles higher than I value miles from the other two legacy carriers but I still don’t value them as high as 1.88 cents.

On that basis this isn’t a great deal….but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be a buyer. This is just about as good an offer as we see from United so it shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand – it deserves a bit of thought.

a river running through a canyon

Firstly, if you don’t really know what you’d do with any miles you’d buy please stop reading and go find something more productive to do (preferably read another of my posts!) – you should not be buying miles speculatively.

Right, moving on from that….

I’m growing to like United Miles more and more because, unlike the AAdvantage Miles I’m more used to, these miles can actually be used with relative ease.

Yes, you need more United Miles than AAdvantage miles for a number of awards and, yes, United is going to be devaluing its award chart from 1 November 2017…..but these are still miles you can actually use. and there are still good deals to be had.

It’s all very well for American’s award chart to show cheaper awards but if the airline doesn’t release any inventory those award costs don’t mean very much.

With United’s MilagePlus you can get some pretty good awards to/from Europe (for example) on excellent carriers like SWISS….and with minimal surcharges to pay too.

Outbound awards incur just $5.60 in taxes…..

a screenshot of a computer

…while, inbound, it’s pretty easy to keep taxes well under $100:

a screenshot of a screenshot of a computer

To buy enough miles for such an award would cost around $2,800 in this promotion so you’re not getting a super-cheap deal here (not by any stretch of the imagination)…..but it can still be very good value.

Outside of good fare sales the cost of Business Class flights from the US to Europe can easily exceed $3,000 dollars (or even $4,000) so, if you happen to need to travel at a time when those are the going rates, using points from this promotion can be a money saver.

If you can find Saver tickets on United’s own aircraft (a lot easier than finding saver tickets on American!) then those will cost considerably less (57,500 each way between the US and Europe for example) so those awards are even better value.

Bottom Line

  • Don’t by miles speculatively
  • Don’t buy miles just to do a trip you hadn’t been planning on doing – that’s just allowing a promotion to dictate when you travel and that’s no way to travel economically.
  • Check if awards are available for the time of year you’re planning to travel, check the cost of cash fares for the same dates and, only then and if buying miles would save you money, pull the trigger on a miles purchase.
  • If you have a United MilagePlus balance that’s in danger of expiring you can use this promotion to buy a small number of miles to get some activity in your account and to extend the life of your miles.

Follow this link to buy United Miles if it makes sense in your circumstances.