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40% Discount on Buying United Miles: A Good Deal?

April 24, 2012
4 min read
40% Discount on Buying United Miles: A Good Deal?
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United miles are currently my favorite airline currency. MileagePlus offers one-ways (at half the price of roundtrip), low fees, a robust website for award booking, flexible routing rules and access to Star Alliance partner awards. In fact, when I ranked airline frequent flyer programs last fall, United came in at #1.

However, United miles aren't as easy to accrue as others - like British Airways miles which are being thrown around like rice at a wedding and Delta, which offers tons of ways to bank boatloads of SkyMiles.

However, today United announced a 40% off sale via Twitter and Facebook that lasts for only a day (through April 25 at 11:59 Central time), though anyone can get in on it. So is it a good deal? Generally not in my opinion, but it can be if you value premium cabin travel.

The maximum amount of miles you can buy is 100,000 and for that amount it'll cost you $2,259, or roughly 2.3 cents per mile. With 100,000 United miles you can get a roundtrip business class ticket from North America to Europe. So, would you pay more than $2,259 + $100 in taxes for that trip? If so, then buying these miles could save you money- depending on the route and timing, business class trips to Europe can easily cost over $4,000, so this could be a good way to save money- though if you were never going to pay that amount, the real value is much less.

As a transcontinental flyer, I really like United's business class availability between JFK/Newark and San Francisco and Los Angeles. I just did a search for NYC to San Francisco and there are saver level awards on 28 of the next 38 days. It's 50,000 miles roundtrip in business class (which I reviewed here), which you can buy with this promotion for $1,128.50. That's a fantastic price for premium transcontinental business class and with coach prices soaring this summer, it makes these deals more attractive.

I ran the numbers for coach and I don't see too many opportunities. A 25,000 mile saver coach award within the US would cost $564.38 with this promotion, so unless you are flying on super-expensive routes, it probably doesn't make that much sense. Same for economy to Europe at 60,000 miles at $1,354.50 - you are probably better off just buying a ticket that earns miles/status.

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However, as with all things miles and points, do the math to see if it makes sense for your situation. If you need to top up for that dream award, this promotion might make a lot of sense since United very rarely runs mileage promotions so I don't expect something more lucrative coming up anytime soon (though I'd love to be surprised!)

Offer details:

  • Offer expires April 25 at 11:59pm CDT
  • Buy Personal Miles or Give Miles for $21 per 1,000 miles plus a 7.5% excise tax
  • Purchase up to 100,000 MileagePlus Personal miles or Give Miles per account per calendar year
  • Credit card will be billed immediately for purchase
  • Mileage rates and other applicable fees are subject to change
  • Miles are available in increments of 1,000
  • Minimum purchase 2,000 miles
  • Allow 48 hours for miles to post to MileagePlus account
  • Personal Miles and GiveMiles are non-refundable
  • Purchased miles do not count toward elite qualification

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