United Elite Maximizer – Worth It?

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Like the American Airlines Miles Multiplier option and Delta’s Mileage Booster United offers the ability to buy miles as well as elite qualifying miles through their Award Accelerator program. But don’t get too excited yet, because the prices can be astronomical.

I have an upcoming award ticket from Europe to the US in business class and it offered me the chance to purchase either an additional 5,002 miles for $116 or 10,004 miles for $231. That includes a 7.5% excise tax. All in all, these extra miles would cost me about 2.3 cents each. Not great, but less than the 3.5 cents plus 7.5% tax they normally cost.

Curious, I followed up and entered my Mileage Plus number just to see what the final tally would be, and the price actually jumped drastically to about twice as much! I’m not sure if this is just a United glitch (wouldn’t be the first time that happened), but it was shocking to see the price skyrocket.

In this case, it looked like if I wanted to buy the extra miles, it would cost me $276 for 5,002 miles, and $414 for 10,004 miles. That would break down to either 5.5 cents a mile, or 4.1 cents a mile. In other words, the 25,000 miles it would cost me to redeem for a roundtrip domestic award ticket would be valued at $1,025. Buying Chase Ultimate Rewards Points at 2.5 cents each (5,000 maximum a month) and then transferring them to United, or even directly from United at 3.5 cents a piece would be better deals.

Even worse, look at the little box in the corner. If I wanted to make those miles elite qualifying miles, it would cost an out-of-this-world $1,800 more! That would bring my total cost for 10,004 EQM’s to $2,214, or 22 cents each! No thank you, United.

Understandably, elite qualifying miles are more valuable to many who value elite status, but 22 cents each is just lunacy- you might as well just buy business class tickets to Europe and get value out of that cash outlay.

As usual, these options are rarely if ever worth the price airlines demand for them, and the only reason I would ever consider such a purchase would be if I was absolutely desperate for EQM’s in an extreme hurry and had absolutely no time to fly or earn them through a promo. Personally, I’d much rather garner miles through a few well-placed credit card applications, like the 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points I could earn and then transfer to United with a Chase Ink Bold  or the 40,000 I’d earn with the Sapphire Preferred if I didn’t already have the cards, or scoring 4,000 United miles by signing up for a Netflix subscription. The bottom line is, there are much better options out there, so beware the United Elite Maximizer.

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