Do You Earn 2x Points for Buying Miles from United?
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I often purchase airline miles, especially when they're offered at a good rate during a promotion. I never purchase them from the airline kiosk, because those rates can be up to $0.05 per mile, which is highway robbery. Usually when airlines do run specials, they're processed through a third party called Points.com. The purchase isn't billed through the airlines, so you generally won’t get that juicy 2x or 3x bonus like you would for buying airfare with a co-branded credit card, but there are some exceptions to the rule. TPG reader Huy tweeted
“I want to get in on a targeted United buy-miles bonus; will I earn 2X for using my Explorer card?
The answer is yes, United does process their own miles transactions, so your purchase should show up on your United Explorer card just like buying airfare. Alaska Airlines also does this, so those of you using the Bank of America Alaska Airlines Visa Signature can also cash in when buying miles. I personally use my American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card for its 3x points on airfare and 15,000 point bonus when you hit $30,000 in spend a year, which makes it my #1 card for airfare. Once I hit that bonus, I usually do move on to other cards.
The United co-branded cards earn 2x points on United purchases, as does the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card (which earns the extra points for all travel charges). However, the Sapphire Preferred offers a 7% annual dividend, which brings the earning to 2.14 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on United purchases. You can transfer Ultimate Rewards directly back to United (or to any of its 11 travel partners), so you're better off using the Sapphire Preferred to earn flexible points (and more of them) than simply earning 2x points on United.