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United just launched its newest buy miles promotion, and it comes with a mystery bonus. Now through October 25, 2021, MileagePlus members are can buy United miles with up to a 50% discount or 100% bonus. At best, you'll effectively pay as little as 1.88¢ per mile. But, is this worth it? Let's take a look.
- Promotion is valid through October 25, 2021, 11:59 p.m. CST
- The minimum purchase is 2,000 miles
- You must purchase at least 5,000 miles to receive any discount (25% discount at this tier)
- To receive a 50% discount or 100% bonus on miles, you must purchase at least 60,000 miles
- The discount percentage depends on the number of miles purchased
- You can purchase a maximum of 175,000 miles per year (including bonus miles)
- Purchased miles may take up to 48 hours to post to your MileagePlus account
- Purchased miles do not count toward MileagePlus Premier status
- Miles are nonrefundable
- United miles do not expire
Considering this is a “mystery bonus”, this is likely a targeted promotion. With that said, we are seeing quite a few members report the same structure when purchasing United miles:
- 5,000 to 24,000 miles: receive a 25% discount
- 25,000 to 59,000 miles: receive a 35% discount
- 60,000 miles or more: receive a 50% discount
Who Should Buy Miles?
If you've read any of our latest posts regarding mileage sales, then it should come as no surprise that we do not recommend buying miles without a specific plan to use them. This is particularly true now while the world sits in anticipation of when we'll be able to travel again, and financial uncertainty affects many of us—United included.
However, there are a couple of exceptions. Buying miles can make sense if you have a specific redemption in mind, and it would cost less to buy the miles than it would cost to buy the flight.
Through this promotion, you can buy MileagePlus miles at these rates:
- 25% discount is approximately 2.82¢ per mile (not good at all)
- 35% discount is approximately 2.45¢ per mile (still quite expensive)
- 50% discount is approximately 1.88¢ per mile (good price, OK for the right redemptions)
Bear in mind that United recently devalued its MileagePlus program. But even after this devaluation, there's still value to be found. For the cheapest mileage rates, you'll want to stick to flights operated by United.
For example, you can fly from Houston (IAH) to Amsterdam (AMS) for 60,000 miles in business class:
Or Houston (IAH) to Buenos Aires (EZE) for 60,000 miles in business class:
Partner awards are priced at a premium. Examples of the unpublished United partner award chart include the following award prices:
- Los Angeles (LAX) to Porto (OPO) for 77,000 miles in business class
- New York (JFK) to Cape Town (CPT) for 88,000 miles in business class
- San Francisco (SFO) to Tokyo (NRT) for 121,000 miles in first class
If you utilize the 50% discount, you could buy the miles necessary for these redemptions for:
- Houston (IAH) to Amsterdam (AMS) or Buenos Aires (EZE) — $1,128 in business class
- Los Angeles (LAX) to Porto (OPO) — $1,448 in business class
- New York (JFK) to Cape Town (CPT) — $1,654 in business class
- San Francisco (SFO) to Tokyo (HND) — $2,275 in first class
There are a lot of situations where the cost to buy a ticket could be far more expensive than buying miles with this discount. This is especially true with one-way tickets that often cost more than half the round-trip price.
Maximize Your Purchase
United miles purchases are processed by Points.com, so your purchase will not qualify for any standard travel category bonus. However, if you happen to hold a United co-branded credit card, purchasing miles will qualify as a United purchase, earning the appropriate multiplier. Just make sure to select the “MileagePlus Visa” option from the dropdown list.
If you don't hold a United co-branded card—or you'd simply prefer to collect another award currency—then your best options are to use the purchase to meet a minimum spend requirement, or use a card optimized for everyday spending. Two of our favorite everyday spending cards include the The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express and Citi® Double Cash Card.
Other Ways to Get United Miles
If you're not in a bind for time and looking to build your stash of United miles, a better method might be through earning a sign-up bonus on a United co-branded credit card. The United℠ Explorer Card currently comes with a signup bonus of 40,000 bonus miles.
Additionally, don't forget that United is a 1:1 transfer partner for Chase Ultimate Rewards. This means that points earned on cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve® or Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card can be converted to United miles if you need a top-up for a redemption.
- Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
- Enjoy new benefits such as a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5X points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3X points on dining and 2X points on all other travel purchases, plus more.
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel.
- With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories
- Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
- Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
- Get up to $60 back on an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership through 12/31/2021, and get full access to their workout library through the Peloton app, including cardio, running, strength, yoga, and more. Take classes using a phone, tablet, or TV. No fitness equipment is required.
- 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022
- 5X points on travel purchased through Chase
- 3X points on dining at restaurants worldwide
- 3X points on eligible streaming services
- 3X points on online grocery purchases (excluding Target, Walmart, and wholesale clubs)
- 2X points on all other travel
- 1X point per dollar spent on all other purchases
For the majority of people, buying miles probably doesn't make sense — and that's especially true right now. This 100% bonus / 50% discount buy miles promotion is about as good as it gets. There are better ways for most travelers to get United miles than buying them at 1.88¢ each. However, for travelers who have tapped out all other sources, it can make sense to buy miles for the right award redemption. A 50% discount on your purchase is the best you can get if you need to buy miles.
Are you planning to buy United miles through this promotion?
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