United Elite Maximizer – Worth It?

by on July 26, 2012 · 20 comments

in Elite Status, United

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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.

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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  • Yi

    I believe the award accelerator price (the regular miles, not elite qualification miles) for domestic is different from that for international. For example, my round domestic trip gives the price at 148 dollars per 5920 miles, i.e. 2.5 cents/mile; while my one way international trip gives the price at 330 dollars per 15688 miles,i.e. 2.1 cents/mile.

  • Pete

    We have a international trip planned for next Feb. and UA has offered 23,471 miles for $499 or 47,482 miles for $998. Any thought on this deal?

  • Flyer Fun

    Right now I am seeing 2.5 cents a mile and 10 cents an elite maximizer. So for 14,000 miles (both elite and non-elite), I would have to spend $1,750. Right now too rich for my blood. By comparison, RT EWR-HKG about 16,000 elite and 32,000 (1K earning) miles costs about $1,200. In W class so that I can use my global upgrades, $1,400. Plus Hong Kong is nice.

  • Flyer Fun

    Correction, W EWR-HKG fare is about $1,500 right now.

  • thepointsguy

    2.1 cents a mile isn’t bad, but its not a steal really either. It all depends on how you will use those miles- if you get much more than 2.1 cents each in redemption value and you have the cash, then I say go for it.

  • MtRoot

    Actually the price goes back (to 2.3cpm in your case) if you hit the refresh button of your browser.

  • studd

    I think that the price rises as it gets closer to the end of the year, at least for the EQMs

  • Deirdre

    Actually, I think you may be looking at a website session bug. It turns out if you’re in one reservation and then look at another reservation, the pricing for the maximizer doesn’t always re-set — so you may see a price higher or lower than the real price (it’ll correct on the next screen). The price for the RDMs runs between 2 and 3 cents a mile depending on distance and itinerary, and I’ve never seen EQMs sell for more than ten cents a mile since 3/3.

    I’m not saying I’d recommend my approach (given that some of my itineraries cost over 50c a mile in coach), but my cost to gold this year worked out to be almost exactly 12 cents a mile. In other words, for 2c + 10c/mile, it’s a wash with my actual flying history this year.

  • Flyer708

    I thought the 5000pts/$125 is a one time thing? At least that’s what the Chase people told me. So, if this is for real, that’s music to my ears.

  • Flyer708

    How did you manage to get 22¢/eqm mile? That’s mind boggling. I have an itinery coming up, paid C fair from HKG-ORD-HKG (via NRT). And after the extra miles, including the EQMs, my offer is roughly 8.1¢/EQM. Although, the whole price will be another $2470usd, which, brings the entire ticket up to about $5900usd.. ouch!

  • joe

    I am flying SAt-LGA tomorrow and have the option of buying EQM’s at a cost of 9 cents/mile for roughly 3200 miles. Is this worth purchasing? It may get me into the next premier level.

  • Guest

    $288 to boost you to the next level? I can tell you it was worth it to me – I paid somewhere around there to get to 1k, just so I could get GPUs for an upcoming SFO -> TLV flight. Cleared the upgrade at around T-22, so it was *totally* worth it :)

  • Vrnaik

    I just booked a ticket on UA for SFO-EWR-BOM r/t. However, the booking system did not offer me the option to buy more EQM or PQM. Is it only offered on some routes?

  • Harold Cooper

    Does the UA mile maximizer still work? I may need 300 EQM to qualify for silver. I just booked a 300 mile RT flight, but it never gave me the maximizer option.

  • Guest

    Hi, I wanted to clarify one point about your statement:

    “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.”

    Do Ultimate Rewards points transfer to United as elite qualifying miles? I know they transfer 1:1 as regular award miles, but I wasn’t sure if they earned elite status as well…


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