Targeted United buy-miles promotion: Get up to an 85% bonus
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United is offering two targeted buy miles promotions — one offering up to 85% bonus miles and another offering up to 70% bonus miles. You can see if you’re targeted for 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?
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 we’ve seen things start to improve – and some people are considering resuming travel this summer – you’ll likely be using miles purchased with this promotion for travel in late 2020 or early 2021 at the earliest.
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 an 85% bonus
United is targeting different accounts for different bonuses. In our research, we’ve found that the airline is offering two different promotions with different bonus amounts and expiration dates. The author of this article — a lifetime Premier Gold member — was targeted for up to an 85% bonus, with the highest bonus being offered when buying 35,000 miles or more (for a total of 64,750 with the bonus).
This lowers the price of United miles to 1.89 cents apiece, which is still 0.59 cents per mile more than TPG’s most recent valuation. You’ll get a smaller bonus if you purchase fewer than 35,000 miles — here’s a look at all the bonus levels:
- Purchase 5,000-14,000 miles and get a 30% bonus
- Purchase 15,000-34,000 miles and get a 50% bonus
- Purchase 35,000 or more miles and get an 85% bonus
This offer ends on June 21 at 11:59 p.m. Central Time, and we found that it’s been offered to a mix of different United members. In addition to a lifetime Premier Gold member, TPG’s Zach Griff was also offered this same bonus with Premier 1K status. On the other hand, TPG’s Victoria Walker was offered this 85% bonus with no United status whatsoever.
Buying United Miles with up to a 70% bonus
The other targeted offer is offering a 70% bonus through July 2 at 11:59 p.m. Central Time— we found that this deal was primarily offered to TPG staffers without United elite status. You’ll earn the full 70% bonus when you purchase at least 25,000 miles (for a total of 42,500 miles with the bonus), bringing the cent per mile price to 2.0 cents. This is a tiered bonus, with lower purchase amounts will yield a smaller bonus — here’s a look:
- Purchase up to 24,000 miles and get a 35% bonus
- Purchase 25,000 or more miles and get a 70% bonus
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
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 — 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening
- Chase Sapphire Preferred Card — 60,000 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) The information for the Ink Business Preferred 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.
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.
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 per 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 Victoria Walker and JT Genter.
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.
- 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
- 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.