Buy United Miles For Less Than Two Cents Each

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United has launched a two day mileage sale, whereby they’re offering up to an 80% bonus on purchased MileagePlus miles.

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The promotion is valid through 11:59PM CT tomorrow, Friday, October 23, 2015.

Through this promotion, United is offering tiered bonuses on the purchase of miles, as follows:

  • Buy 5,000 to 19,000 miles, get 25% bonus
  • Buy 20,000 to 29,000 miles, get 50% bonus
  • Buy 30,000 to 80,000 miles, get 80% bonus

If you max out the bonus and purchase 80,000 MileagePlus miles, you’d receive a total of 144,000 MileagePlus miles at a cost of $2,800. That’s a cost of ~1.95 cents per mile.

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Is this a good deal?

United isn’t especially aggressive about selling miles (not nearly as much as Alaska, American, or Avianca), so this is one of the better non-targeted promotions I’ve seen on the purchase of United miles.

I’d say before United’s terrible award chart devaluation of early 2014, picking up United miles at this rate could have been a great value. However, given their current award chart, it’s certainly not a rate at which I’d recommend speculatively picking up points.

For example, a one-way ticket in Lufthansa first class between the US and Europe will now cost you 110,000 miles.

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Lufthansa A380 first class

A one-way ticket in Asiana first class between the US and Asia will cost you 120,000 miles.

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Asiana A380 first class

Those are some pretty steep rates, especially when you consider that buying those miles would cost you nearly two cents each.

80% mileage bonus promotion terms

The full terms of the promotion are as follows:

  • Promotional offer valid until 11:59 p.m. CT (Chicago local time) on October 23, 2015
  • Miles are available in increments of 1,000 up to a maximum of 80,000 miles
  • Bonus Miles will be credited to the recipient’s account when the transaction is complete
  • Bonus miles count towards the 150,000 mile annual limit per account
  • Purchase up to 150,000 miles per account per calendar year
  • Credit card will be billed immediately upon purchase
  • Mileage rates and other fees and offer terms are subject to change
  • Allow 48 hours for miles to process and post to your MileagePlus account
  • Miles are nonrefundable
  • Purchased miles do not count toward MileagePlus Premier® status
  • All MileagePlus Program Rules and terms and conditions apply
  • GST/HST is charged to Canadian residents
  • Powered by Points to purchase United MileagePlus miles. Transaction will appear as ‘Points United Miles’

Bottom line

This is one of the better rates we’ve seen on the purchase of United miles, though in the grand scheme of things still isn’t an amazing deal. Taking advantage of this could make sense if you need to top off your account, given that you “just” have to purchase 30,000 miles in order to get the 80% bonus.

Do keep in mind that you can always transfer points from Chase Ultimate Rewards to United MileagePlus, which I’d recommend as a better value, assuming you have those points.

Of course everyone values miles differently, and can crunch the numbers for themselves.

Do you plan on buying United miles with an 80% bonus?

Comments

  1. If I purchase miles with my United Mileage Plus Explorer Card, will I get double the miles (via 2x miles on all United purchases benefit)? Thanks!

  2. I know Ben’s focus is primarily first class travel, because he flies for the sake of flying. But for most of us it’s still a means to an end–travel. And for me, business class is more than satisfactory. At UA’s Star Alliance award rates, a biz class roundtrip to Europe (140K miles) at this mileage sale is roughly $2700, higher than the recent sale pricing and not much off Z class biz advance purchase fares. A better value is Australia/New Zealand, if you can find award space. Dropping $3100 for 160K miles for a rt to those nations, where even premium economy tickets are $3K, and business class sales under $5K are unheard of, is a substantial discount. But you need to be flexible with travel dates, because awards to Australia are hard to come by and New Zealand is borderline a pipe dream.

  3. FYI: LH just announced a new direct flight from DEN to MUC five times per week. Great news for us in Denver using all those MileagePlus miles we’ve got.

  4. Hear hear, @Adam P — Australia in biz is where this shines, largely thanks to the ability to route via Asia, which AA doesn’t permit. And New Zealand isn’t impossible, either — Thai Airways is fairly good about last-minute award space. I recently attended a funeral in Auckland and had no trouble getting back to NYC using United miles. Sure, the trip took me 40 hours and I had to route through Bangkok and Tokyo, but there are worse ways to spend a coupla days than sitting in TG & OZ biz.

  5. Steve – Easiest/cheapest way to keep UA miles from expiring is by donating 500 to a charity on the UA website. It’s free.

  6. Hi Ben or others,

    I understand Sapphire and Explorer Card gets 2x points for the purchase. How about Chase MileagePlus Card?

  7. I don’t think this is a “two day sale”, but rather the same promo that has been on for about 10 days now. And it’s not 80% bonus for everybody – only 70% for me and other accounts I manage (no status).

  8. Also, your calculation for cpm is off: even if you do get 80%, that would be 144k miles for $3010 ($2800 you mention plus don’t forget the 7.5% tax) = 2.09 cents per mile.

  9. United bonus offer is 80% under my spouse’s account, with no elite status, but only 70% bonus under my Gold status account.

  10. Hi Ben,

    Does purchasing these miles count as eligible airline purchase for the $250 credit for the Citi Prestige Card?

    They do have this on their terms: “Powered by Points to purchase United MileagePlus miles”

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