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United Offers up to 50% Bonus on Purchased Miles

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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.

United 50 percent bonus
This bonus could be worthwhile, but run the numbers for yourself to see it it makes sense.

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.

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For these flights, buying and redeeming miles would be cheaper (assuming there’s award availability).

If you’re looking for ways to boost your MileagePlus account further, The United MileagPlus Explorer Business card is currently offering a sign-up bonus of 50,000 miles after you spend $2,000 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.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

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  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Named Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption - Kiplinger's Personal Finance, July 2016
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards
Intro APR Regular APR Annual Fee Foreign Transaction Fee Credit Rating
N/A 16.24%-23.24% Variable Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95 0% Excellent Credit