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You can now redeem United miles for onboard food and drinks — but it's a bad deal

Jan. 26, 2022
4 min read
You can now redeem United miles for onboard food and drinks — but it's a bad deal
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"That bottle of wine will cost you either $18 or 2,130 miles." That might be the phrase you hear the next time you're feeling peckish or looking for an alcoholic beverage on a United flight.

Whether you're craving a can of Pringles or a beer, United on Thursday will begin offering the ability to redeem miles for all inflight food and beverage purchases.

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United has already updated its online menu to reflect the prices for those redeeming miles for nosh — and it's far from a worthwhile redemption.

For reference, I've listed some of the items available in the table below.

ItemCost in USDCost in miles 
Tapas snackbox $101,180
Takeoff snackbox $101,180
Recline snackbox $8950
Pringles $4480
Tru Fru banana bites $5590
Anthem Peppered beef jerky $5590
GourmetNut trail mix $5590
Beer $8950
Spirits $91,070
Wine $91,070
Specialty wine $182,130
Premium spirits $101,180
Bistro on board breakfast $8950
Bistro on board lunch/dinner$101,180

In fact, the redemption rate is stable across all of the offerings — United is offering its food and beverage selections at a valuation of 0.8 cents per mile. Here at TPG, we value United's MileagePlus miles at 1.13 cents each, meaning that you'd be losing over 40% of the value from your miles if you choose to redeem them for food.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Of course, some travelers might have just a few orphaned miles in their accounts, in which case a redemption like this could make sense. But for the vast majority of travelers, it'd pay to use cash for inflight food purchases, and save the miles for flight rewards.

You can take a look at some of the best uses of United miles in our comprehensive guide.

Offering the ability to redeem miles for inflight purchases builds on the carrier's contactless payment technology that first rolled out in late 2020. Until now, flyers needed to store their payment information in the United mobile app or website before boarding in order to take advantage of contactless technology. (Those flyers who are PayPal members could alternatively pay using the financial company's mobile app.)

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(Photo courtesy of United)

While we wouldn't recommend redeeming your hard-earned miles for a snack item, it is interesting to see United expanding the uses for MileagePlus miles.

For instance, the carrier unveiled a new Money + Miles feature late last year, which allows flyers to use miles to offset the cost of a cash ticket, without outright redeeming for an award seat. (At 1 cent per mile, we'd recommend using Money + Miles before you consider using miles for snacks.)

As United continues to shift away from the historical model of redeeming miles exclusively for award seats, the airline seems to be taking a page from Delta's playbook.

Delta is unquestionably the leader when it comes to turning miles into a currency that can be used throughout the travel journey. Nowadays, you can redeem SkyMiles for a portion of your flight, an upgraded seat and even a premium beverage from the Sky Club.

In fact, one of the best uses of Delta miles continues to be purchasing a bottle of Dom Perignon in the Sky Club for 13,000 miles. Even though the Atlanta-based carrier recently devalued the redemption from 2 cents per mile to 1.5 cents each, it still remains a lucrative offer for those looking for some bubbly.

Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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TPG featured card

Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

2 - 10X points
10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day

Intro offer

75,000 bonus miles
Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

Annual Fee

$395

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023
Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

    75,000 bonus miles
  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023