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Earning airline miles using the traditional method (actually flying) is just one option for growing your account balance. While it’s increasingly harder to earn miles from flying, airlines make it relatively easy to accrue miles without flying — 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.

In the wake of United’s MileagePlus devaluation on November 1, the airline is letting you stock up on miles with a buy-miles bonus. Now through November 20 you can purchase United MileagePlus miles with up to a 100% bonus. The regular price for buying United miles is 3.76 cents per mile ($35 per 1,000 miles plus a 7.5% Federal Excise Tax). If you’re targeted for the 100% bonus, this will drop the price down to 1.88 cents per mile.

Here’s the offer I received:

  • Buy 5,000 – 9,000 miles, get a 25% bonus (3.01 cents apiece)
  • Buy 10,000 – 29,000 miles, get a 50% bonus (2.51 cents apiece)
  • Buy 30,000 – 75,000 miles, get a 100% bonus (1.88 cents apiece)

Is It Worth It?

Even after this month’s premium cabin devaluation, TPG still values United miles at 1.5 cents each. If you’re targeted for the 100% promotion, this drops the price per mile down to 1.88 cents each. So, you should have your eyes on one of United’s better-value redemptions in order to justify purchasing miles. Speculatively buying miles isn’t recommended, as miles are a bad long-term investment.

If you’re planning to utilize this promotion, here’s how to do so:

  1. Visit United’s Buy Miles page.
  2. Click on Buy Personal Miles.
  3. Enter your United MileagePlus account number and last name.
  4. Select the number of miles you want to buy and 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. Miles may be purchased in increments of 1,000 miles.
  • Members can only purchase 150,000 miles per account per calendar year, and bonus miles count toward the 150,000 mile annual limit.
  • 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 valuations, the Blue Business℠ Plus Credit Card from American Express’s 2x Membership Rewards on the first $50,000 per year; then 1x thereafter or Chase Freedom Unlimited’s 1.5x Ultimate Rewards points would be the most rewarding choice.

Are you going to buy miles during this promotion?

American Express® Gold Card

With some great bonus categories, the American Express Gold Card has a lot going for it. The card offers 4x points at US restaurants, at US supermarkets (up to $25,000; then 1x), and 3x points on flights booked directly with airlines or through amextravel.com. It is currently offering a welcome bonus of 35,000 bonus points after you spend $2,000 in the first three months.

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More Things to Know
  • Earn 35,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $2,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 3 months.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. restaurants. Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • Earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with The Gold Card at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Shake Shack, and Ruth's Chris Steak House. This is an annual savings of up to $120. Enrollment required.
  • $100 Airline Fee Credit: up to $100 in statement credits per calendar year for incidental fees at one selected qualifying airline.
  • Choose to carry a balance with interest on eligible charges of $100 or more.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
See Rates & Fees
Annual Fee
$250
Balance Transfer Fee
See Terms
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

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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