United buy-miles promotion: Get up to a 100% bonus

Dec 26, 2020

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Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with the latest promotion.


United is offering its last buy miles promotion of the year: up to 100% bonus miles. You can take advantage of this promotion by heading to United’s buy miles page and logging into your MileagePlus account. But before you do that, let’s take a closer look at the promotion and see if it’s a good deal.

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Should you buy United miles now?

DENVER, COLORADO - JUNE 12, 2019: A passenger waiting for her flight to board stands in the airport terminal as a United Airlines plane is loaded at a gate at Denver International Airport in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images)
(Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images)

Here at TPG, we only recommend buying miles if you have an immediate plan to use them. At the time of writing this article, the world is in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic. While some people are considering travel right now, you’ll likely be using miles purchased with this promotion for travel in 2021.

Regardless, there’s no guarantee that travel will be deemed safe by this time. So, make sure you’re familiar with United’s change and cancellation policies before you buy miles as you may be forced to change your plans if things don’t go back to normal.

Keep in mind that United isn’t in the best place financially either. Over the past few months, the Chicago-based airline has announced massive temporary route cuts, cut 737 MAX orders and requested government money to stay afloat. We’re confident that United will survive the coronavirus downturn, but United miles could be deemed worthless if the airline ended up insolvent in a worst-case scenario.

Finally, United miles have been massively devalued over the past few months. The airline recently put an end to low-cost domestic tickets and pulled its partner award charts, raising many award prices by 10% in the process. This means that United miles are less valuable than in years past, making them less attractive to purchase during a promotion like this.

Buying United Miles with up to a 100% bonus

This time around, United is offering targeted accounts a 100% bonus. This lowers the price of United miles to 1.75 cents apiece, which is still 0.45 cents per mile more than TPG’s most recent valuation. You’ll get a smaller bonus if you purchase fewer than 40,000 miles — here’s a look at all the bonus levels:

  • Purchase 5,000 to 14,000 miles and get a 30% bonus
  • Purchase 15,000 to 39,000 miles and  get a 60% bonus
  • Purchase 40,000 or more miles and get a 100% bonus

This offer ends on Dec. 31, 2020, at 11:59 p.m. Central Time.

To purchase miles, head to the United Airlines Buy Miles page and enter your United loyalty number and password. Just remember United’s restrictions for purchasing miles:

  • You can only purchase up to 175,000 miles per account per calendar year (including bonus miles)
  • Miles may take up to 48 hours to post to your account
  • Purchased or gifted miles don’t count toward United elite status

Related: How to redeem miles with the United MileagePlus program

Other ways to earn United miles?

Also, keep in mind that United miles are some of the easiest to earn. You can earn them with a United cobranded credit card or by transferring miles from Chase Ultimate Rewards. Here are some of the best credit cards to use if you want to quickly earn United miles:

  • United Explorer Card — Earn 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred Card — Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening (transfers to United at a 1 to 1 ratio)
  • Ink Business Preferred Credit Card — Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. (transfers to United at a 1 to 1 ratio)

When should you consider buying United miles?

You should only purchase miles through this promotion if you’re confident that United’s financial situation will improve and you have already found a flight you’d like to book for 2021 with open award space.

If you’re ineligible for a welcome bonus or have an immediate need for United miles, though, you may just find that you can travel for cheaper by purchasing miles. TPG currently values United miles at 1.3 cents each — that is significantly lower than the price you’ll pay with this sale, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad deal.

For example, you can book a round-trip ticket from Newark (EWR) to London (LHR) in United Polaris business class for 120,000 United miles on most dates with saver award space. A business-class seat on this route usually costs around $3,500 round-trip on United, but if you were to buy 120,000 miles with this promotion, you’d spend $2,100. This gives you a savings of more than $1,000 when purchasing miles.

So, while it’s not a great idea to buy United miles speculatively, it can make sense if you’re going to otherwise pay for a ticket out of pocket for a high-end award ticket or need to top up your United mileage balance for a specific redemption. Just keep in mind that you won’t earn redeemable miles or status qualifying points when you fly on an award ticket.

Related: Best sweet spots with United MileagePlus

Use a travel credit card for your purchase

Note that when you buy United miles, you’re actually making a purchase with Points.com. Transactions through this merchant don’t code as travel, so you won’t earn bonus points with most cards. However, some United cobranded credit cards — such as the United Explorer Card — earned 2 miles per dollar in TPG tests.

You should also consider The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express (2x Membership Rewards points per dollar on the first $50,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1 point per dollar, terms apply) or the Chase Freedom Unlimited, with 1.5% cashback — which you can also transfer to an Ultimate Rewards-earning card, effectively earning 1.5 Chase Ultimate Rewards points per dollar.

Featured photo by Alberto Riva/The Points Guy.

Additional reporting by Benji Stawski, Victoria Walker and JT Genter.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 60,000 Points

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,200

CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 2X points on dining at restaurants including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel.
Regular APR
15.99%-22.99% Variable
Annual Fee
$95
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good

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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