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TPG Twitter follower @MrBanilla16 tweeted me @thepointsguy about a United buy miles promotion he was targeted with:

“Should I buy united miles? I just got an email about it – 30% discount after I buy more than 10,000. Is it worth the price?”

Long story short, no, you should avoid buying miles when possible. Especially because right now, US Airways – another Star Alliance carrier – has a super lucrative 100% bonus on shared miles, which essentially creates new miles for about 1.1 cents apiece – less than half of what you’ll pay to buy United miles (which will cost you 3.5 cents apiece plus a 7.5% excise tax).

US Airways also actually has a better award chart than United in many respects since certain redemptions provide an amazing value. Some examples include just 90,000 miles for roundtrip business class award tickets from North America to Asia, and 110,000 miles for roundrip business class award tickets from North America to the South Pacific (including Australia and New Zealand) and South Africa (which I actually took advantage of myself to fly South African Airways business class back in January), as well as some great off-peak award values.

United miles are expensive compared to US Airways
United miles are expensive compared to US Airways’ right now!

Now, US Airways miles are definitely not as flexible as United’s in many respects since you can only book roundtrip awards whereas you can book one-way awards with United, and once you start an award itinerary on US Airways you cannot make any changes to it, so you should have firm plans before you book your trip.

In general, if you can leverage those really lucrative buy or share miles promos, or even take advantage of the frequent 100% bonuses that another Star Alliance carrier, Avianca, has been offering over the past couple of years (though that can get a bit complicated in terms of redemptions), you can definitely get some better values than a mere 30% discount on United miles.

So I would recommend against this for you unless you have a very high-priced redemption that you know you can use these miles for or you just need a few to top up for a specific upcoming redemption – and remember, if you have one of the premium Chase cards that earn Ultimate Rewards points – including the Sapphire Preferred, Ink Plus and Ink Bold – you can always transfer those points to your United account instantly at a 1:1 ratio to top it up for an award.

The Platinum Card® from American Express

The American Express Platinum card has some of the best perks out there: cardholders enjoy the best domestic lounge access (Delta SkyClubs, Centurion Lounges, and Priority Pass), a $200 annual airline fee credit as well as up to $200 in Uber credits, and mid-tier elite status at SPG, Marriott, and Hilton. Combined with the 60,000 point welcome offer -- worth $1,140 based on TPG's valuations -- this card is a no-brainer for frequent travelers. Here are 5 reasons you should consider this card, as well as how you can figure out if the $550 annual fee makes sense for you.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
  • Enjoy Uber VIP status and free rides in the U.S. up to $15 each month, plus a bonus $20 in December. That can be up to $200 in annual Uber savings.
  • 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
  • 5X Membership Rewards points on prepaid hotels booked on
  • Enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
  • Receive complimentary benefits with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts. Learn More.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline.
  • Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue on your Platinum Card®. Enrollment required.
  • $550 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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