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

Sep 9, 2020

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

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

United is offering a new buy miles promotion offering 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.

For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

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)

But whether you should buy miles with this promotion is a different story. 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 global coronavirus pandemic. While some are considering resuming travel this year, you’ll likely be using miles purchased with this promotion for travel in early 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 all accounts the same 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 5,000-14,000 miles and get a 30% bonus
  • Purchase 15,000-39,000 miles and  get a 50% bonus
  • Purchase 40,000 or more miles and get a 100% bonus

This offer ends on September 16 at 11:59 p.m. Central Time.

United September Buy Miles Promotion
(Image courtesy of United Airlines)

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 225,000 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 — 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred Card — 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening (transfers 1:1 to United)
  • Ink Business Preferred Credit Card — 100,000 bonus points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. (also transfers 1:1 to United)

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 late 2020 or early 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 still a bad 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.

The information for the Chase Freedom Unlimited has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Featured photo by Alberto Riva/The Points Guy.

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

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,600

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 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide, eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out & 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, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on orders over $12 for a minimum of one year on qualifying food purchases with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • 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
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.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.