40% Discount on Buying United Miles: A Good Deal?

by on April 24, 2012 · 31 comments

in Buy Miles Promotions, Social Media, United

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United miles are currently my favorite airline currency. MileagePlus offers one-ways (at half the price of roundtrip), low fees, a robust website for award booking, flexible routing rules and access to Star Alliance partner awards. In fact, when I ranked airline frequent flyer programs last fall, United came in at #1.

However, United miles aren’t as easy to accrue as others – like British Airways miles which are being thrown around like rice at a wedding and Delta, which offers tons of ways to bank boatloads of SkyMiles.

However, today United announced a 40% off sale via Twitter and Facebook that lasts for only a day (through April 25 at 11:59 Central time), though anyone can get in on it. So is it a good deal? Generally not in my opinion, but it can be if you value premium cabin travel.

Buy United miles at 2.3 cents a piece

The maximum amount of miles you can buy is 100,000 and for that amount it’ll cost you $2,259, or roughly 2.3 cents per mile. With 100,000 United miles you can get a roundtrip business class ticket from North America to Europe. So, would you pay more than $2,259 + $100 in taxes for that trip? If so, then buying these miles could save you money- depending on the route and timing, business class trips to Europe can easily cost over $4,000, so this could be a good way to save money- though if you were never going to pay that amount, the real value is much less.

As a transcontinental flyer, I really like United’s business class availability between JFK/Newark and San Francisco and Los Angeles. I just did a search for NYC to San Francisco and there are saver level awards on 28 of the next 38 days. It’s 50,000 miles roundtrip in business class (which I reviewed here), which you can buy with this promotion for $1,128.50. That’s a fantastic price for premium transcontinental business class and with coach prices soaring this summer, it makes these deals more attractive.

Good availability for saver flights NYC to San Francisco

I ran the numbers for coach and I don’t see too many opportunities. A 25,000 mile saver coach award within the US would cost $564.38 with this promotion, so unless you are flying on super-expensive routes, it probably doesn’t make that much sense. Same for economy to Europe at 60,000 miles at $1,354.50 – you are probably better off just buying a ticket that earns miles/status.

However, as with all things miles and points, do the math to see if it makes sense for your situation. If you need to top up for that dream award, this promotion might make a lot of sense since United very rarely runs mileage promotions so I don’t expect something more lucrative coming up anytime soon (though I’d love to be surprised!)

Offer details:

  • Offer expires April 25 at 11:59pm CDT
  • Buy Personal Miles or Give Miles for $21 per 1,000 miles plus a 7.5% excise tax
  • Purchase up to 100,000 MileagePlus Personal miles or Give Miles per account per calendar year
  • Credit card will be billed immediately for purchase
  • Mileage rates and other applicable fees are subject to change
  • Miles are available in increments of 1,000
  • Minimum purchase 2,000 miles
  • Allow 48 hours for miles to post to MileagePlus account
  • Personal Miles and GiveMiles are non-refundable
  • Purchased miles do not count toward elite qualification

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Supervike68

    Do you think this would be a creative way to meet a spending requirement for a Sapphire card? Would you earn the 2 to 1 on travel expense on this deal? You could, in theory, get a little more bang for your buck.

  • 77w

    Or better yet, earn 3x MR points on a BRG card. So 100K purchase gets you 100K UA miles AND 6771 MR points.

  • Larry

    Or the UA visa itself… double miles to sweeten the deal a bit. I used most of my 50 dollar premium credit to buy 2000 miles…why not. This way Chase sees I’m using the card.

  • joe

    UA Visa only awards 2 miles/$1 spent on TICKETS. All other United purchases earn the standard 1 mile/$1

  • mattolo

    Like most airlines/hotels, the points are probably sold by and will appear on your credit card as such. Thus no travel/airline bonuses for this purchase unless someone can confirm that gets coded as a travel expense.

  • Courtney

    This was excellent timing! If it all works out (I have a farelock for the ticket, waiting for the miles I purchased to post), I will pay $260 for enough miles to replace a ticket (thankfully refundable) I bought 2 weeks ago for $461.

    And The Points Guy – I completely owe you a beer (or two) if you ever come to Boston. I took advantage of that SpanAir mistake fare and went to Madrid for the first time last fall for $350. Now, thanks to a few of your posts, I got a AA credit card with 75k miles, which, in addition to my own miles, I used on a direct Japan Airlines BOS-NRT flight (which you posted about after the oneworld megado) for 65k RT in coach. I am taking a nice weekend in Tokyo before my 20k AA miles on Japan Airlines to Guam. Then, I have a 12,500 miles flight to Palau from Guam, and a second 12,500 flight from Palau to Tokyo with a 12 hr stop in Guam on United. That last flight was the one I was able to just grab today. Total 110,000 miles, $160 in taxes and fees, and $260 to purchase miles for flights that were total coming to about $2,800.

    Long story short, thanks, and I’m so glad the Frugal Traveler (NYT) recommended your site a year ago!

  • arcticbull

    Last year in October I needed to top off an award (I was shy like 2000 miles) and I purchased them from Continental’s website. This was before my Sapphire Preferred ;) The purchase did NOT go through as but rather as a Continental transaction.

    Ticket Number: nnnnnnnn
    Passenger Name: BULL /MILEAGE PURCHA
    Document Type: Special Services Ticket
    Doing Business As: United Airlines
    Category: Travel – Airline

    This was put on my Premier Rewards Gold and it showed up in my Membership Rewards bonus summary as UNITED AIRLINES and the purchase was eligible for the 3x bonus points. Is this still true today? I don’t know, but I doubt it changed.

  • arcticbull

    See above, if it hasn’t changed since last October, I think it will still go through as a Special Services Ticket :D

  • matt greco

    for those of us that don’t yet have a chase relationship but want to start maximizing points/rewards with them, would you recommend getting in on the 65k miles united explorer offer first now that the sapphire preferred offer is down to 40k and freedom down to 10k? or do you expect the 65k offer to be around a while?

  • Christian

    Maybe I’m missing something, but you can buy United miles for ~2.01 cents using the award accelerator when you have an existing ticket (miles are cheaper on intl. itineraries). You can use the award accelerator anytime and you keep bought miles even after you cancel a (refundable) ticket.

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  • PJ

    Is the all mighty Chase still gifting away 60K ( 50K after first purchase) to Mileage Plus members?

  • PJ

    DONT see why it does not qualify as eligible

  • PJ

    65K now? GET IT NOW AS I JUST commented . my body is traving in South America ; my points radar not turned on:)

  • Austin Watkins

    65k to elites.

  • Robert Grunnah

    Another way to look at this promotion is to forget Europe and domestic, and think Asia Business Class. Let’s say you already have 20,000 United miles banked. 120,000 miles buys an extravagant Roundtrip business class ticket to Asia and/or Australia on one of the world’s best carriers (ANA, Singapore, or Asiana). For example, in May I am flying from AUS – LAX – NRT – Ho Chi Minh – Hanoi – Singapore – Sydney – LAX – AUS (one of these legs I did need to buy separately) for 120,000 miles on ANA and Singapore internationally (US Scareways and UA metal domestically). This same ticket would have cost me close to $15,000. So with this $2200 for 100,000 mile promotion, I would have technically covered 83% of the mileage cost of the trip with $.2/mile. That is a killer deal.

  • Yi

    Not exactly. The award accelerator costs 35 dollars per 1000 miles, that is, 3. 5 cents/mile

  • Yi

    Well, you are actually right. On my mobile phone, the webpage says 35 per 1000 miles, but when I logged into my account on the computer, it says 168 dollars for 8356 miels, which is 2.01 cents/mile.

    Forget about my previous comment.

  • Michael

    I took your advice and topped off my United account with 12K mile purchase so I can fly Lufthansa FIRST CLASS one way — figured it was worth the $270 to fly first instead of business. What are United’s stop over requirements? Can I fly LAX-Munich (stop for a couple of days) and then on to Paris?

  • Christian

    Yi — Excellent, thanks for checking/confirming!

    If you add the 3 miles per dollar, which you get with the old United MP Visa Select card (or presumably 3 MR with the Amex PRG), the rate actually drops to 1.896 cents/mile.

  • Kilman

    I just purchased miles three days ago at the regular price. Has anyone managed to get United to refund the difference or award the extra miles?

    How does United respond if you contest the credit card charge? Could I cancel the previous transaction and simply repurchase?

  • JustinDC

    What are creative ways to earn DL miles that you’re referring to?

  • JustinDC

    I wonder if that means it would qualify for $200 reimbursement w/ Amex Plat

  • matt greco

    yep…50k after first purchase, 5k after first use and adding AU within first two months, and 10k for spending $25k in a year.

  • Tomekcairns
  • Nim0

    Hi i have United Airlines Mileage to sell but its only 7,402. if you are interested please email me at nimrodsarita@gmailcom.

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  • juda

    check out this company flip my miles – u can sell, trade, trade or broker your miles for cash! You’ll get cash the same day just by filling out their form and letting a broker walk you through the 1,2,3 process!

  • Kumar

    Christian is factually correct for the benefit of everyone that’s reading these comments.

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