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40% Bonus On Gift Card United Miles Exchange

by on October 3, 2012 · 10 comments

in Buy Miles Promotions, United

One little known feature of certain mileage programs is the ability to exchange unused gift cards for frequent flyer miles. United’s MileagePlus is one such program, and right now the program is running a 40% bonus on the miles you receive for these exchanges.

Your gift card must have at least $25 of value on it, and must come from an approved retailer. You can find the entire gift card retailer list on the promo page, but it includes merchants like Adidas, Barnes & Noble, Best Buy, Brooks Brothers, Chico’s, Disney, Dell, Gap, Home Depot, Kohl’s, Kroger, Lowe’s, Lord & Taylor, Office Max, Office Depot, Rite Aid, Saks Fifth Avenue, Sams Club, Staples, Starbucks and even Tiffany & Co.

According to the terms and conditions, you must transfer the whole value of the balance on the gift card over to United if you agree, the minimum is $25 and the airline might impose a maximum depending on the card. The gift card must also not be a paper certificate and cannot have an expiration date. The miles you receive are simply award miles, not elite-qualifying miles, which should appear in your account within 5 business days. There is no listed end date for the 40% bonus promotion.

The normal exchange rates are the following and include a 7.5% excise tax:

So basically with this 40% promotion you’re paying between 2.65-2.7 cents per mile. Ordinarily, United miles cost 3.7625 cents each – 3.5 cents plus a 7.5% excise tax and they frequently run promotions, like their current 40% discount which brings the price to less than 2.3 cents a mile. Check out this post for my detailed analysis of buying United miles at a 40% discount from September.

I generally value United miles at about 2 cents each, so in my opinion you are still paying a premium with this promo, but if you have gift cards to merchants you know you’re not going to use (or regift!), it might make sense to turn some of them over.

To make an exchange, from the promo page, click the Get Started button and then log in to your United Mileage Plus account where you will be taken to a page to choose the merchant, enter the gift card number and then enter the card’s PIN. I don’t have a gift card to exchange at the moment, but I believe the next page verifies the card number and the balance and displays the miles you will get in exchange.

Personally, I’m going to avoid this promotion because I’d rather buy Star Alliance miles via US Airways for a shockingly low price of only 1.1 cents a mile through the current Share Miles Promotion. While US Airways miles are less flexible than United miles in a number of ways (poor website for booking partner awards and no one-way awards), US is better in some ways, like more lax routing rules and lower redemptions on certain routes like Australia and North Asia in business class and off-peak awards.

Hat tip: TPG reader Pavel.

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author.s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program.

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  • http://twitter.com/Pointsandtravel Pointsandtravel

    This is definitely an unknown way to get points – the first I have heard of it!

  • Pingback: 40% Bonus On Gift Certificate U . s . Miles Exchange - Income.ly

  • MilesGator

    Would it be more valuable to purchase gift cards via Ultimate Rewards and then use those gift cards to redeem for United miles?

  • Grant Thomas

    If you get their United emails, you should have seen this offer. They always promote it there.

  • Matthew

    That link takes me to the page were I can pay my credit card annual fee with miles, not what the article talks about. Is this true for anyone else?

  • Eric

    Are you clicking on the correct link? It’s this one: https://secure.unitedmileageplus.com/cmhst/gcWelcome.html

  • Spiro

    First of all, isn’t that the standard award chart? So with a 40% bonus, a $100 card would yield 5222 miles or 1.9 cents per mile?

    If so, if you:
    A) Have an Ink card and get the 5 points per dollar at office supply stores
    B) Transfer all those points to United, and
    C) Use the gift card you purchased to buy miles,
    Then $100 spend would yield 5722 miles or 1.75 cents per mile, which isn’t too bad.

  • Matthew

    Err I should have been more clear. The landing page looks right and it says gift card for miles. But when I log in it shows me the pay my annual credit card fee with miles.

  • http://twitter.com/palmerlaw Mark C. Palmer

    Thanks for the reminder. Got rid of a bunch of 0fficeMax cards (from a gold card min. spend + 10% back) that I didn’t want to bother dealing with 81% from ABC Cards or the like.

  • al613

    This is a mistake: “The normal exchange rates are the following and include a 7.5% excise tax:” These are promo rates.

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