Should You Buy United Miles With A 50% Bonus?

Through 11:59PM CT on Thursday, July 30, 2015, United is offering a “Flash Sale” on the purchase of MileagePlus miles.


The bonus is targeted, with two different versions that I’ve seen:

  • Buy miles now and save 35%
  • Buy miles and earn 50% more

With the 35% discount you’re capped at buying 100,000 United MileagePlus miles, so you’re looking at a purchase price of ~2.45 cents per mile. With the 50% bonus you can still only purchase 100,000 United MileagePlus miles, but then receive the 50,000 mile bonus, for a purchase price of ~2.33 cents per mile.


On paper that’s definitely not a good deal. I value United miles at ~1.4 cents a piece, and there are typically far lest costly ways to accrue miles.

That being said, everyone has to do the math on these promotions for themselves. If you’re 25,000 miles short of an aspirational award it could make sense to purchase miles, and if that’s the case you might as well take advantage of a promotion like this.

Lastly, it’s worth noting that United processes mileage purchases directly, so purchasing miles through this promotion would qualify as airfare spend for the purposes of your credit card.

Here are the full offer details:

  • Promotional offer valid until 11:59 p.m. CT (Chicago local time) on July 30, 2015
  • Miles are available in increments of 1,000 up to a maximum of 100,000 miles
  • Bonus Miles will be credited to the recipient’s account when the transaction is complete
  • 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’

Do you plan on purchasing United MileagePlus miles through this promotion?


  1. I would bit if the spend qualified as PQD. For those like me that earn their miles in economy seats, buying lower priced fares, the PQD is where I might fall short on my 1K status. Any suggestions to grabbing about $1000 PQD quickly?

  2. Odd question:

    Given that United processes the mileage buys directly, are they eligible for reimbursement using the Amex Platinum fee credit? Making a higher level of elite than usual this year means that I haven’t had any chances to use it so far.

  3. Given that UA MP people earn award miles based on “fare x status multiplier” doesn’t this sound like a good idea?
    Let’s say you spent $320 to fly LAX-JFK and you are 1K. 350 x 11 = 3520 award miles. But the 50% offer would give you 15,000 award miles for $350.
    What am I forgetting?

  4. When buying miles for frequent flyer account, there is an extra fee either calling it a processing fee and taxes, in the end it costs a lot !

  5. @NerdbirdSD: what you are forgetting is that when you buy the ticket to fly LAX-JFK, it will take you from LA to NY. Whereas you buy miles, you still get stuck at home.

    People don’t fly just for miles, they fly because they need to get to the destination, for business, vacation…etc

  6. @ mark b — You have to crunch the numbers for yourself. Ultimately it can make sense, though I tend to think this is still a bit expensive for that, especially since you’ll be charged a co-pay to upgrade in most cases.

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