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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available – United MileagePlus Explorer Card
Earlier this month, United offered its most generous buy-miles promo of the year, giving you up to a 100% bonus on larger mileage purchases. Now, the airline is offering a similar opportunity to purchase miles at a discount, this time offering a discount of up to 50% when you buy or gift miles.
Here’s how this works: For the next few days (through December 30), you’ll earn a discount of up to 50% when you buy or gift United miles. The discount percentage will vary depending on the number of miles you purchase, though you’ll obviously be best off with the 50% discount. If you purchase enough miles to earn the full discount, your cost per mile will drop to 1.88 cents, a solid discount off the regular buy miles price of ~3.76 cents per mile ($35 per 1,000 miles plus a 7.5% tax recovery fee).
Here’s how to take advantage of the promotion:
- Visit United’s Buy Miles page.
- Click on Buy Personal Miles or Give Miles (both are eligible for the discount).
- Log in to your United MileagePlus account.
- Select the number of miles you want to buy/give and click Continue.
- Fill in the required information to finalize your purchase.
Here are the discount levels offered as part of this promo:
- Buy 5,000 – 19,000 miles, save 15%
- Buy 20,000 – 49,000 miles, save 25%
- Buy 50,000 – 149,000 miles, save 35%
- Buy 150,000 miles, save 50%
Keep in mind that the usual restrictions for purchasing United miles apply to this promotion, including the following:
- You must purchase at least 2,000 miles, but can only purchase 150,000 miles per account per calendar year.
- Miles may be purchased in increments of 1,000 miles up to a maximum of 100,000 miles and in increments of 5,000 miles up to a maximum of 150,000 miles.
- Miles may take up to 48 hours to post to your account.
- Purchased or gifted miles do not count toward MileagePlus Premier status.
Is This Worth It?
In TPG’s most recent valuations, he pegs United miles at 1.5 cents apiece, but there are definitely ways to get significantly more value out of the program. If you max out the promotion by purchasing 150,000 miles with a 50% discount, it’ll set you back $2,821.88, which again drops your cost per mile down to ~1.88 cents apiece. This is obviously a lot of cash to spend, but if you have specific redemptions in mind, it could make sense to purchase specific amounts to top off your account.
For example, TPG Special Contributor Eric Rosen recently flew Lufthansa A380 first class from Frankfurt to Los Angeles and used 110,000 United miles for the award ticket. If your MileagePlus account balance is zeroed out and you want to purchase miles to replicate this redemption, you’d need to buy 110,000 miles at a cost of $2,069.38. A one-way ticket in first class on this route typically costs much more than that, so depending on your situation, this could represent a good use of the promotion.
Keep in mind too that award flights on United metal require fewer miles in many cases, so that could be a better use of the discount.
Remember too that United MileagePlus is a transfer partner of Ultimate Rewards, so you could use points earned on cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or Ink Plus Business Card in conjunction with this offer to open up your ideal redemption. You also could consider opening the United MileagePlus Explorer Card, which is currently offering 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open. The card can also open up additional award inventory, which can be a big help for booking free flights.
This promotion likely isn’t for everyone, but if you’re cash-rich and miles-poor or have a specific redemption in mind, it could make sense to take advantage of it. Just remember that United underwent a massive devaluation in early 2014, so you should definitely check the program’s interactive award chart to make sure you know how many miles you’ll need for your redemption.
Will you be taking advantage of this new promotion?
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