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Earning airline miles using the traditional method (actually flying) is just one way to add to your account balance. While it’s increasingly harder to earn miles from flying, airlines make it relatively easy to accrue miles without stepping foot on a plane — whether through top credit card offers or by utilizing shopping portals and dining rewards programs. If these methods leave you short of your travel goals, you can also purchase miles directly from an airline.
United’s last buy-miles promotion ended over two months ago. Since then anyone who needed a few more miles for a redemption has had to pay the standard 3.76 cents-per-mile rate. But now through October 31, you can get up to a 75% bonus when buying United MileagePlus miles.
Compared to the very high typical cost to buy miles, even the lowest tier of this promotion can save you a bundle. Here’s how the effective cost breaks down by tier:
- Buy 5,000-14,000 miles (25% bonus): 3.01 cents per mile
- Buy 15,000-29,000 miles (50% bonus): 2.51 cents per mile
- Buy 30,000-75,000 miles (75% bonus): 2.15 cents per mile
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 bonus).
- 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.
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.
Note that the purchase is processed by Points.com, so you won’t get any travel category bonuses from this purchase. Make sure to use the best non-bonus category credit card for your situation. Based on TPG’s point and mile valuations, the Chase Freedom Unlimited‘s 1.5x Ultimate Reward points would be the most rewarding choice.
Is It Worth It?
In his latest valuations, TPG pegs United miles at 1.5 cents each. That said, depending on how you spend miles, you can definitely get more value than this out of these miles.
United prices business-class flights to Europe on its aircraft at just 57,500 one-way. Since there are no fuel surcharges added onto the cost, you just have to cover some minimal taxes and fees. That means you can purchase United miles and redeem them for a one-way flight to Europe for just less than $1,250 all in. This can be an incredible value — especially for a last-minute flight with award availability.
While everyone loves “bonus miles,” United’s starting point for selling miles is so high that it takes a significant bonus to make a mileage purchase even worth considering. This 75% promotion isn’t the best. After all, United ran a 100% bonus promotion pre-award changes.
The flip side is that United hasn’t had any promotion for months. So, this promo could make sense if you need a few more miles for an upcoming redemption and don’t have Chase Ultimate Rewards to cover the difference.
Are you planning on buying miles during this promotion? If so, where are these miles taking you?
- 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.99-25.74%. Balance transfer fee is 3% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
- Unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase - it's automatic
- Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
- No minimum to redeem for cash back
- Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
- Free credit score, updated weekly with Credit Journey℠
- No annual fee