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United Airlines is back with what appears to be another targeted mileage sale in which it’s offering select MileagePlus members a 100% bonus when they purchase a minimum of 50,000 miles. This sale sees United selling its miles from approximately 1.88 cents each so if you have a need to top up an account, that may not be a bad price point at which to do that.
This is the offer that I can see in my account:
- Buy 2,000 – 4,000 miles and get no bonus
- Buy 5,000 – 19,000 miles and get a 40% bonus
- Buy 20,000 – 49,000 and get a 70% bonus
- Buy 50,000 – 87,500 miles and get a 100% bonus
Note: As mentioned earlier, this may be a targeted promotion so the offer you see in your account could differ from what you see above.
- Promotional offer valid between 8:00 a.m. CT on December 5, 2022 and 11:59 p.m. CT on December 22, 2022.
- Bonus miles count toward the 175,000-mile annual limit per account.
- You may purchase up to 175,000 miles per account per calendar year.
- Miles will generally be credited to the recipient’s MileagePlus account when the transaction is complete; provided that certain transactions may take up to 72 hours.
- Bonuses will be calculated on a per transaction basis only.
- The bonus amount applicable to a transaction is shown in the chart.
- Transactions may not be aggregated to calculate the bonus.
- The credit card used in the transaction will be billed immediately upon purchase.
- Mileage rates and other fees and offer terms are subject to change.
- Miles purchased are nonrefundable.
- Purchased miles do not count toward MileagePlus Premier status.
- GST/HST is charged to Canadian residents. QST is charged to Quebec residents.
- If you use Powered by Points to purchase United MileagePlus miles. Transaction will appear as ‘Points United Miles’.
- Buying miles counts as a United purchase when made with your United MileagePlus card. You’ll get the miles you buy, plus miles for every $1 spent.
- Pricing is only available for purchases made through buymiles.mileageplus.com.
The full terms and conditions can be found on the promotion page.
United doesn’t play around with the price of its miles within each of the promotional bands that it offers so if you buy 40,000 or 87,500 miles, you’ll still be buying miles at the best rate offered in this sale.
Here’s the proof:
If you were to buy just 50,000 miles in this sale, you would net 100,000 miles (after bonus) and that would cost you $1,881 or ~1.88 cents/mile.
If you were to buy the full 87,500 miles permitted in this sale, you would net 175,000 miles (after bonus) and that would cost you $3,292,19 or ~1.88 cents/mile.
This is good news for anyone who doesn’t need the full permitted amount but needs 100,000 miles or more.
Is this a good deal?
As usual, let’s get this important point out of the way before I go any further – If you have no immediate use for any miles that you buy, you shouldn’t be taking part in this sale. It’s usually a bad idea to stockpile miles so no one should be buying miles that they don’t plan to use in the short term (my golden rule applies).
I value United MileagePlus miles higher than I value the miles issued by either Delta or American, but I still value them at lower than the 1.88 cents selling price we’re seeing here.
What this means is that unless I can see a very specific and immediate use for the miles (which would save me money) I wouldn’t buy miles in this sale.
As I always say when writing about these types of sale, my situation isn’t always the situation that a lot of people find themselves in. My schedule usually allows me to be extremely flexible so because I’m often free to choose between a variety of dates on which I can fly, I don’t usually find myself in a position where I’m forced to purchase fares that cost considerably more than I’m comfortable paying.
A fact of life is that outside of sales and the occasional amazing deal that we see, premium cabin fares for departures from the US are usually expensive (often very expensive) so, if you have no choice but to fly when fares are not in your favor, miles may help you save a considerable amount of money if award seats are available.
United Airlines no longer publishes award charts and award bookings are now priced more dynamically (in line with cash fares) but on a good day, you may still be able to snag an international roundtrip Business Class saver award for between 120,000 and 130,000 miles.
If you were to purchase miles at the cheapest rate this promotion offers (1.88 cents), that award would cost between $2,256 and $2,444 (taxes should be immaterial). That’s not a bad price for a Business Class fare but it’s also not fantastic, especially as awards at that price won’t be easy to find. Partner awards cost a little more but, based on my experiences with United, are also more likely to be available.
In general, you’ll probably get a lot more value out of any miles purchased in this sale by booking awards for transpacific travel than transatlantic travel (transpacific Business Class cash fares tend to be considerably higher) but when prices are high, miles from this sale can work well for transatlantic routes too.
Something to keep in mind
When it comes to award travel, there are a number of other factors that need to be considered other than just the cost of purchasing miles for an award:
- You’re restricted to flights on which United and its partners decide to open up for awards so it’s very possible that you may not be able to fly when it’s most convenient for you;
- By booking an award you’re passing up on the redeemable miles you would earn if you paid cash for your ticket;
- By booking an award you’re passing up on the miles/points that contribute to Elite qualification;
- Convenience, redeemable miles, and elite qualifying points all have a value that you’re not getting when booking an award, so you need to consider all of this when working out the value proposition of an award booking vs. a cash booking.
Booking an award flight can be a fantastic deal, but you need to weigh up the pros and cons thoroughly before you decide to buy miles in a sale like this one.
Buy miles with a United co-branded credit card
United’s terms and conditions confirm that it continues to sell its miles through Points.com so, based on all the other mileage sales that are processed by Points.com, we would expect any purchases here to code as Points.com purchases and therefore not earn buyers any bonus points that their credit card may offer for airline/travel purchases.
United’s mileage sales are, however, an anomaly because although the transactions are processed by Points.com, the terms and conditions of the sale also say the following:
“Buying miles counts as a United® purchase when made with your United MileagePlus card. You’ll get the miles you buy, plus miles for every $1 spent.”
I’m not sure how they got around the issue of getting a Points.com purchase to be treated as a United Airlines purchase, but this continues to be great news… especially for anyone who holds the Chase United Club℠ Infinite Card (review) which earns 4 miles/dollar spent on purchases made directly with United Airlines.
As always, I can think of two scenarios in which buying miles in this promotion may be a good idea:
- You need to top up a MileagePlus account to give yourself enough miles to book an award that you know is available to be booked.
- You need to book an award to save money over a cash fare that you would otherwise have to buy.
If you find yourself in either of these three scenarios, then buying miles in this sale is probably a good idea. If not, this sale is almost certainly not one that you should be considering.
Most importantly: Do your research before you buy any miles and make sure the award you want to book is actually available before you add any miles to your account.