How to top off a United account fast and cheap (if you have access to Ultimate Rewards)

Update: It is no longer possible to purchase Ultimate Rewards points directly from Ultimate Rewards. 

United charges 3.5 cents per mile, plus a 7% federal excise tax for the purchase of miles. That means 2,000 miles (the minimum you can purchase through United) will cost you $75.25, not to mention the miles can take up to 48 hours to post to the account.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve been just a few thousand points short of an award redemption, which is where this trick comes in handy.

While we all know Ultimate Rewards points are valuable, many don’t realize you can purchase them for 2.5 cents per point directly from Ultimate Rewards.

So if you have a card that accrues Ultimate Rewards points, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, log-in to your Ultimate Rewards account at and click on “Manage Ultimate Rewards” at the top of the page.

Then on the next page click on “Purchase Points,” located on the left sidebar.

There you can purchase up to 5,000 Ultimate Rewards points per calendar month, for a total of $25 per 1,000 Ultimate Rewards points, which will post instantly.

Now, hopefully you’ll have earned enough Ultimate Rewards points through sign-up bonuses, credit card spend, and the Ultimate Rewards Mall so that you don’t actually have to purchase any, but if you do, it’s unbeatable in terms of price and speed.

(Tip of the hat to Travelsort)


  1. I actually did this to have enough miles for a trip to Hawaii. Was 908 short, so bought 1,000 and transferred them instantly (and for free!). Going in January. Take me on one of your trips! 😉

  2. Whoa…I had no idea and need 8k to get an UA ticket to AMS in a week…thanks Lucky!!

  3. As Lark said, “buy extra miles” works better. Buy A fully refundable ticket, buy the extra miles with you Sapphire preffered card for the extra UR miles then cancel the refundable ticket.

  4. So for $125 I can buy an expensive short-haul flight between BWI and ORD using BA miles on AA which usually costs quite a bit more out of pocket. Might be worth it under limited circumstances.

  5. Any advice on how to top off AA account? I am short by 5,000. If I were to use SPG pts, I would transfer 20K to get 5k bonus but I only need 5k now.

  6. Are some of your readers really this clueless about UR to warrant a blog post? Seems more like an excuse to recycle the usual referral links and promote travelsort, but maybe I’m missing something.

  7. @ HikerT — No referral links and I don’t work with Travelsort anymore. Maybe I should be embarrassed about this, but I had no clue you could actually purchase Ultimate Rewards points. I knew you could purchase Membership Rewards points, but I wasn’t aware that purchasing Ultimate Rewards points was also possible. So I’m sorry for being clueless…

  8. I was not aware you can purchase point so I appreciate the post.
    When I buy the points I assume they are paid via the credit card which is one point plus 7% bonus.
    Does it qualify as a travel purchase? that way we can get 2 points per $ spent

  9. Hi just wonder if Chase Ultimate points can only be transferred to one or different UA accounts. I would like to transfer to my wife’s UA account if possible. Thanks

  10. @ Exodus — You can transfer to ANY United account, which is another one of the benefits. 🙂

  11. Thanks this is great as both my wife and I have UA, BA, KE, Hyatt and Marriott accounts, so essentially having just one Chase card can transfer to all these accounts to prevent points or miles expiration!

    Now only if Chase allows transfer to Hilton and AA 🙂

  12. I’m a “newbie” to UR, and as much as I’ve read online, this is the first I’ve learned about buying UR points. Thank you.

  13. Seems like every blog has its own critic who turns up to cast aspersions on the motives of the blogger for sharing info, because THEY already knew whatever it was, and others who didn’t are CLUELESS.

    There’s one on TPG too.

  14. I just checked and looks like Chase removed the link under that section. I searched ultimate rewards, and apparently the purchase option is now gone. Doh! I just need to top off about 2500pts

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