Why you may want to buy future United flight credits to earn a 5x miles bonus

Sep 18, 2020

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Airlines are doing some interesting things to raise cash, while many would-be travelers are still on the ground. And while many of these sales and offers won’t be a great deal for travelers who aren’t sure when they’ll fly next, there are exceptions to every rule. Sometimes these offers can make sense in the right situation.

United has brought back the opportunity to deposit future flight credits into a TravelBank account. The airline has offered this type of account at various times in the past. Now, it’s incentivizing travelers to put money in by Sept. 23 by awarding five bonus United miles per dollar spent as a special offer. You are limited to $1,000 (5,000 bonus miles) per promotion, per MileagePlus account.

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Screenshot courtesy of United
Screenshot courtesy of United

Once you have funds in your account, they’re available for use on United flights for five years. You can make deposits in the following denominations: $50, $100, $250 or $750.

In my tests, United TravelBank funds are available for immediate use — which is different than some other airline gift cards that have a waiting period before you can use them. However, there are some potential downsides to consider before taking advantage of this offer.

Related: What it’s like to fly in the U.S. right now

First, you can’t stack TravelBank funds and credit from a previously canceled flight in the same transaction. You also can’t use the funds on flights that aren’t operated by United or United Express. Additionally, if you want built-in travel protections that may come from purchasing the trip with your credit card, you won’t have those if you are using TravelBank funds to pay for the ticket. (Though you could likely still use a purchased trip insurance plan to cover your trip if you do go that route.)

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

I bought a little bit of United TravelBank credit to earn a bonus 5x redeemable United miles per dollar because I fly United frequently enough that I know it’ll go to good use well before its five-year expiration date. I also paid with a credit card that has some unused 2020 airline fee credits … just in case that happens to kick in.

Related: Guide to the United MileagePlus program

It won’t make sense for everyone to stock up on United TravelBank credit to earn 5x miles on the purchase, but in my case, I was happy to buy a little bit of United credit — and earn bonus miles in the process — that I know I’ll use in the coming months and years.

Featured image by Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images

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