Last promotion of the year: Score up to 85% bonus United miles

Dec 27, 2019

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

If you’re looking for extra United MileagePlus miles for an award, you’re in luck. United is running its last buy miles promotion of the year. Through 11:59 p.m. Central Time on Dec. 31, MileagePlus members have the opportunity to get up to 85% bonus miles when buying miles. You can buy United miles for as low as 2.03 cents each through this promotion.

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When should you consider buying United miles?

(Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy.)

Let’s get one thing out of the way: Buying miles makes sense only for certain travelers. Instead, it’s much better to earn United MileagePlus miles through credit card sign-up bonuses.

If you’re looking for good options, the United Explorer Card is offering a limited-time bonus of up to 65,000 bonus miles; 40,000 miles after you spend $2,000 in purchases in the first three months and an additional 25,000 bonus miles after you spend $10,000 total on purchases in the first six months your account is open. This offer ends Jan. 22, 2020.

Or business owners can earn up to 100,000 bonus United miles through the United Explorer Business Card — broken up as 50,000 bonus miles for spending $5,000 in purchases in the first three months plus another 50,000 bonus miles for spending a total of $25,000 in purchases in the first six months.

As with most airlines, buying United miles at full price never makes sense. United’s standard rate for buying miles is 3.76 cents each after factoring in taxes. There’s no reason to buy miles at that rate when you can generate United miles for as little as 2 cents each through this technique.

If you’re just short of a redemption, remember that you can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to United at a 1:1 ratio.

However, with a big enough buy-miles bonus, buying United miles can make sense for the right redemptions. That’s generally going to be for international first- or business-class flights or when you can maximize the Excursionist Perk.

Note that this sale is coming just after United eliminated its award chart. While this is limiting the incredible value you can get on United flights, there’s still value to be found on United’s partners. Just make sure that you have a plan to redeem miles for a high value before you buy them through a promotion like this.

To check out United deal highlights, check out the airline deal page that features the best and most recent deals.

Details of this promotion

United often runs varying buy mile bonuses, so there may be different versions of this flash sale. However, here’s the purchase structure that my wife Katie and I are both getting:

  • Buy 5,000 – 29,000 miles, get a 40% bonus (2.69 cents per mile)
  • Buy 30,000 – 94,000 miles, get an 85% bonus (2.03 cents per mile)

How to buy United miles

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

  1. Visit United’s Buy Miles page.
  2. Click on Buy Miles Now.
  3. Enter your United MileagePlus account number and password.
  4. Select the number of miles you want to buy.
  5. 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:

  • Miles may be purchased in increments of 1,000 miles
  • Members can only purchase 175,000 miles per account per calendar year, and bonus miles count toward the 175,000-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 elite status.

Which credit card should you use?

We put this exact question to the test. Since the purchase is processed by Points.com, you won’t earn a travel category bonus for it on most cards. However, some United co-branded credit cards — such as the United Explorer Card and the United Club Card — earned 2x United miles on the purchase. The information for the United Club card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

At the time of our tests, the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card earned 3x Ultimate Rewards points (on the first $150,000 in combined purchases each account anniversary year). However, recent purchases have only earned 1x point per dollar.

As a result, you’ll want to use a card like The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express (2x Membership Rewards points on the first $50,000 per year; then 1x) or the Chase Freedom Unlimited‘s 1.5% cash back — which can be transferred to an Ultimate Rewards-earning card for an effective 1.5x UR point earning.

Featured photo by Shutterstock.com

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 travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  • No delivery fees for a minimum of one year on qualifying food purchases with a DashPass subscription from DoorDash -over a $100 value. Activate with your Chase Sapphire card by December 31, 2021.
  • Earn 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022. That’s 3X points in addition to the 2X points you already earn on travel.
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
17.49% - 24.49% Variable
Annual Fee
$95
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good

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