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United often runs limited-time award sales, letting you redeem fewer miles than usual for round-trip flights to popular tourist destinations. The airline frequently offers discounted award rates on flights to Europe and Hawaii, but this time United is running a sale on award flights to Sydney, Australia, getting you there and back for just 60,000 miles in economy (down from the regular rate of 80,000 miles). Note that this sale is currently only open to elite members and customers with a United co-brand card, like the United MileagePlus Explorer Card, though United will likely offer the same rate to all members within the next few days.
Just last month, American Airlines launched its own nonstop flight from the US, so this United sale doesn’t come as much of a surprise. While AA has been especially stingy with Sydney award space, there’s much more capacity in the market now, which has likely resulted in more open seats on all the carriers flying between the US and Australia.
The 60,000 round-trip rate is available for flights departing on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. You can also leave on Friday or Saturday for 2,000 more miles each way. Flights must be booked by January 28 for travel between February 2 and June 22. Availability is quite good, as you can see in the calendar shot above. Flights must be booked as a round-trip and you must depart from the US or Canada (excluding Hawaii). Expect to pay around $100 in taxes and fees in addition to the miles you’ll need to redeem.
Is it worth it?
Well, it’s the 60,000-mile question — should you redeem or pay cash? TPG values United miles at 1.5 cents apiece, so you’ll be redeeming $900 worth of miles for this flight, plus around $100 in cash, bringing your total to $1,000 for the round-trip journey. Cash fares are running about $1,125 from LAX and $1,275 from SFO throughout the sale period, or a bit more if you’re starting your trip from other cities ($1,340 from Newark, $1,365 from Chicago, $1,480 from DC, $1,490 from Boston).
So, on the surface, you’re getting a much better deal by redeeming miles. Keep in mind that you won’t earn any miles on award flights, however, and if you’re working toward elite status, the PQMs and PQDs you’ll earn from a round-trip to Australia would definitely come in handy. Therefore, unless you don’t plan to earn status with United (or a partner this year), you may be better off paying cash than redeeming an award.
If you do want to book a redemption, keep in mind that you can transfer points instantly from Ultimate Rewards, earned with cards like Chase Sapphire Preferred. 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.
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.