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United is offering up to a 50% discount on purchased miles for select MileagePlus members. This promotion is tiered and also targeted. The discount that each member receives is different, and there doesn’t appear to be any particular criteria that qualifies a member for a better offer.
Log in to your MileagePlus account to find out what your specific bonus is under the End-of-Summer Sale. The sale will last until August 31, 2015.
If you’re targeted for the maximum 50% discount, the total cost to buy 150,000 United MileagePlus miles is $2,822, including all fees. United miles normally cost 3.5 cents apiece, but the price goes down to 1.88 cents per mile with a 50% discount, which you’ll receive if you’ve been targeted and purchase at the highest tier. TPG values United miles at 1.5 cents apiece, so with this promo you’re still paying more than that value.
Since the cost is still higher than the 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 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 the American Express Premier Rewards Gold card.
Based on the maximum discount outlined above, the 50,000 miles required for a round-trip domestic business-class award would cost about $940, including all fees. Depending on the route, this may be worthwhile, especially on last-minute transcontinental flights such as JFK-LAX, though advanced purchase rates are quite reasonable these days, at $1,200 round-trip. I highly recommend that you crunch the numbers and make a decision based on your specific travel plans and award availability.
If you’re looking for ways to boost your MileagePlus account further, the Chase United MileagePlus Explorer card currently offers a 30,000 mile bonus.
Even after the introduction of the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is still a fantastic choice if you want to avoid the Reserve’s $450 annual fee, earn 2x on all travel & dining and earn a 50,000 point sign up bonus.
- 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