United offering up to a 40% bonus on the purchase of MileagePlus miles through Thursday, March 14

Through 11:59PM CDT on Thursday, March 14, 2013, United is offering up to a 40% bonus on the purchase of MileagePlus miles. If you buy fewer than 50,000 miles you get a 25% bonus, while if you buy 50,000 or more miles you get a 40% bonus.

If you purchase at least 50,000 miles you’re looking at a cost of about 2.25 cents per mile including all taxes.

That’s about as cheap as you’ll ever see United miles for sale. Ultimate Rewards points, which can be transferred to United MileagePlus, can be purchased in small quantities (less than 5,000 points per month) for 2.5 cents each, so this is an even lower rate than that.

So is it worth taking advantage of this promotion, especially when US Airways frequently sells miles for 1.88 cents each?

My usual answer is “yes, if you have a specific use in mind, probably not if you don’t.” But I’ll take a slightly different approach today, because I’m feeling a bit cheeky. I’ll say yes if you have a specific use in mind and the numbers work out, yes if you have a semi-near term use in mind and wouldn’t otherwise have enough miles, and no just speculatively.

You can redeem 70,000 MileagePlus miles for first class from Los Angeles to Bangkok via Frankfurt and Tokyo, and there’s just not really any other award value out there that’s quite as lucrative. US Airways will be leaving the Star Alliance soon and blocks Lufthansa first class anyway, so this is about the more economical way to book Lufthansa first class without fuel surcharges.

It’s also worth noting that United processes points purchases directly and not through points.com. This means if you use a credit card that earns bonus points on airfare, you’d earn the associated bonus points with this purchase as well. For example the American Express Premier Rewards Gold card earns triple points on airfare, so this purchase would be eligible.

Comments

  1. “70,000 MileagePlus miles for first class from Los Angeles to Bangkok via Frankfurt and Tokyo, and there’s just not really any other award value out there that’s quite as lucrative” – couldn’t agree more with this as we traveled last month LAX-ORD-FRA-NRT-BKK-SGN in F with LH and TG for 70k miles and $53 each

  2. Are we fooling ourselves if we do not believe that a UA devaluation is now imminent? Is it not the trend to pump and dump miles on the public then pull out the rug on decently priced awards?

  3. Lucky
    i dont understand when you said flying first from los angeles via Frankfurt and Tokyo????does it mean you are allowed 2 stopover???as it doesnt make sense stretching the miles to Tokyo for a shorter trip to Bangckok???

  4. @ AdamH — I totally agree a devaluation is coming, though the major US airlines almost always give at least some advance notice of major changes. That’s why I’d feel safe purchasing points if you have a semi-near term use for them.

  5. @ mohamed b — Those would just be connections in Frankfurt and Tokyo. I was just pointing to the amount of flying you can do. You can do one stopover on a roundtrip ticket, though.

  6. Sounds tempting. Any good ideas for routes starting in Europe? I need to get to the US and South America during the year, flying from a major Euro hub. Also need to get to South Africa, any ideas for that?

  7. @mohammed b

    i guess they just wanted to fly NRT-BKK as it has the most availability on A380 in Thai first.

  8. If the purchase is directly from United, that means AMEX plat. Cards should get the first $200 back for this purchase, no?

  9. @ Steelsnow — This isn’t technically a fee and it’s a very large purchase, so I doubt it would qualify for the reimbursement. You never know, though.

  10. @ Lucky – I hear you, was just thinking outside the box (as you know, GCs technically are not fees either). Knocking the $200 off of 50k miles would put the cost around $0.0185 per mile if it worked, for someone who was thinking of buying into this offer anyways.

  11. United saver F award is pathetic these days. I have been looking for EWR-CDG-BKK-KUL-EWR next Jan (10 months from now!) for almost 2 months but couldn’t get a real deal. First, it is hard to find a saver F award, then even when it is available there is always mixed cabin with Y class (c’mon, I’ll bite I could just get J)…

  12. @ Newman So — Lufthansa starts opening up first class award space about 15 days out, at which point they’re an option, and they have among the best first class products out there. Yes, it requires some tweaking at times, but if you maximize a United award there’s no better value out there.

    @ jeff — Sometimes yes, if you’re actually flying United.

  13. Any idea if I were to use the Sapphire Preferred Visa to purchase the points if they would qualify for the for the 2x UR points?

    How many UAL miles would it take to fly First Class or Business Class from LAX to the Cook Islands via Air New Zealand?

  14. @ RayB — It sure would. Technically the South Pacific is 135,000 miles roundtrip in business class, though availability can be very tough to come by.

  15. Since I’ve only had experience (though Lucky and Points Pro; great job!) of using US Airways miles to fly United, I had kind of given up on the chance of booking Lufthansa First Class using Dividend Miles. But from this article it seems I could use United miles to book, with a better chance of success?

  16. @ Andy — Absolutely, with United you can book Lufthansa first class within 15 days of departure. Availability isn’t perfect, though there’s definitely some space available. Unlike US Airways they don’t block partner space.

  17. Wow, interesting stuff. Okay, let me see if I understand this correctly. Say I want to go from Europe to Southern Africa, it is telling me that a Round Trip Saver award is available for First/Business for as low as 90,000 miles. What sort of availability is there actually likely to be here – I have zero United miles, but for me coming from Trondheim if I am paying myself I have to generally buy flights from TRD to OSL, then OSL to FRA (for example) before going on to South Africa. This ends up being very expensive. If I buy all the miles needed it costs USD 2031.75 but I get to go at least Business, potentially First. This sounds like a real deal, even with fees, no? We get screwed here in Europe (especially Norway) as we don’t have credit cards with mega bonuses but this kind of deal, rare though it is, can actually be great for us. Unless I am missing something, newbie that I am 🙂

  18. @ Andy — That’s correct, it’s 90,000 miles for roundtrip business class or 120,000 miles for roundtrip first class. First class is virtually impossible to get more than 14 days out, given that Lufthansa no longer releases first class award space more than 15 days out to their partner airlines, and Swiss never releases first class award space to their partners.

    That being said, for business class this can indeed be an amazing value. It’s quite easy to search award availability on united.com by selecting the “award travel” button, which should give you a good idea of availability.

  19. So, if I use my Chase Sapphire Preferred to purchase 100,000 miles at 2257.5, does that mean I am not only getting 2.25 cents/mile, but taking the Chase benefits into consideration, I will be getting 100,000 miles + 4515 miles (2257.5×2 for travel) for $2257.5, essentially at 2.16¢/miles?

    sounds like a great deal!

  20. I just now registered for United but can’t find the offer when logging in. Is it only available for users registered for a certain time, á la Lifemiles?

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