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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – United MileagePlus Explorer Card
United is offering up to a 50% bonus on purchased miles for select MileagePlus members. Unlike past promotions, this bonus is not tiered, and instead is a targeted offer that varies from one member to another. Log in to your MileagePlus account to find out whether you’ve been targeted for the promotion, and to see your specific bonus. Offers are reportedly varying from 20% all the way up to 50%, and are available through March 23, 2015.
United miles normally cost 3.5 cents apiece, but the price goes down to 2.33 cents per mile if you’re targeted for the maximum 50% discount. I value United miles at 1.5 cents apiece, so with this promo you’re paying at best 0.83 cents per mile over that value. I wouldn’t use this promotion to buy miles speculatively, but if you have a specific redemption in mind and the numbers work out, go for it. Beware that miles can take up to 48 hours to process, which might complicate your redemption plans if availability is limited.
Unlike many other mileage purchases, these ones are processed directly by United, so they should count as airfare purchases and qualify for category spending bonuses if you use a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred card or American Express Premier Rewards Gold card.
If you were to buy 50,000 miles for a round-trip domestic business class award, you’d pay about $1,165 for the points including all fees. Depending on the route this may be worthwhile, especially on transcontinental flights such as JFK-LAX. If you’re looking to try out United’s premium product, the airline will also debut its enhanced premium product United p.s. on a daily 757 round-trip from Los Angeles to Boston starting in July. However, if you bought miles for a round-trip domestic economy award, it would be like paying $583 for that ticket, which I think is less likely to be worthwhile. I highly recommend you crunch the numbers and make a decision based on your specific travel plans.
If you’re looking for ways to boost your MileagePlus account further, The United MileagePlus Explorer Business card is currently offering a sign-up bonus of 50,000 miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months. The regular United MileagePlus Explorer is offering 30,000 miles after you spend $1,000 in the first three months, but Chase frequently offers the higher sign-up bonus for this card as well, so I would go for the Business version first if you can. With great travel benefits, 2x points on travel & dining and a 50,000 point sign up bonus, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great card for those looking to get into the points and miles game.
With great travel benefits, 2x points on travel & dining and a 50,000 point sign up bonus, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great card for those looking to get into the points and miles game.