October 17th, 2012

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Apart from truly lucrative buy and share miles promos like the current US Airways 100% Share Miles promotion, buying miles promos – even with bonuses – tend not to be a great value proposition. Case in point: United’s current “Power to the People” promo where folks who buy miles *might* earn up to a 60% bonus if enough people purchase miles by Friday, October 19. It’s kind of like a Groupon-style promo where if enough people buy in, everyone gets the bonus.

Before I get to the terms and conditions, I’ll just say that the very best value you can hope to get is around 2.4 cents per mile, which is likely not a great deal. You might be able to wring that value back out of your purchased miles if you redeem for some high-priced business or first class awards, but certainly not if you’re interested in coach travel. Combined with the fact that you have no control over how much of a bonus you’ll end up getting since it all depends on whether enough people buy miles, I’d suggest steering clear of this promo.

Everyone starts at a 30% bonus. After 500 people buy miles, that bonus goes up to 35%. Here’s how it breaks down:

Number of purchasers                     Bonus %

0-500                                                           30%
500-999                                                      35%
1,000-1,499                                                40%
1,500-1,999                                                45%
2,000-2,999                                               50%
3,000-3,999                                               55%
4,000+                                                        60%

So the airline is hoping to incentivize possible purchasers into encouraging other members to purchase and drive that bonus higher. As of Tuesday night, the bonus was still at just 30%, so not many people have bitten, though who knows, maybe a lot of people will jump on the bandwagon.

Here are the rest of the offer details:

  • To take advantage of this offer, you must use the order links on this page.
  • Promotional offer valid until 11:59 p.m. CDT on October 19, 2012
  • For a limited time, get a minimum of 30% bonus award miles and a maximum of 60% bonus award miles when you purchase miles via the above links
  • Personal Miles or Give Miles cost $35 per 1,000 miles plus a 7.5% excise tax
  • 5,000 mile minimum purchase required and then miles are available in increments of 1,000
  • Purchase up to 100,000 MileagePlus Personal miles or Give Miles per account per calendar year
  • For Give miles transactions, both purchased miles and bonus miles will post to the recipients MileagePlus account
  • Credit card will be billed immediately for purchase
  • Program fees and mileage rates subject to change
  • Initial purchased base award miles post to MileagePlus account (up to 48 hours from when purchase is made) and bonus miles post up to 7 days after promotion ends.
  • Personal Miles and Give Miles are non-refundable
  • These miles can only be used for awards and do not count toward Premier® status
  • If you have questions or concerns about this offer, please email custserv@ualmiles.com for assistance
  • All MileagePlus Program Rules and terms and conditions apply

It doesn’t say so, but it looks like the minimum purchase is 5,000 miles, so no just topping up your account with a 1,000-mile purchase for $35. Miles are normally sold for 3.5 cents each plus a 7.5% excise tax. Even with the full possible 60% bonus, the per-mile cost breaks down to 2.4 cents, which is by no means amazing, and you’d need to find some very expensive tickets on which there was award availability to compensate for it.

I’m personally going to stay away from this promo and unless you’re in a bind for miles for an imminent award booking, I’d wait to see what other buy and share miles bonuses United might have up its sleeve in the future, and to take advantage of ones instead that are truly lucrative in the 100% range.

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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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