Everything You Need to Know About United Airlines' Miles by the Month

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There's a new subscription-based way to earn miles with United: Miles by the Month. United Airlines is the first U.S. airline to allow members to pay each month to earn a fixed amount of MileagePlus miles. Here's everything you need to know about this program.

However, while interesting, it's not the best way to get miles.

United Airlines “Miles by the Month” is Not a New Concept

United Airlines is the first U.S.-based airline to offer members of its frequent flyer program the ability to earn miles each month for a fixed monthly fee. However, this subscription-based program is far from the first of its kind. A number of United Airlines' Star Alliance partners already offer a miles subscription service.

Star Alliance members TAP Portugal, Avianca, and Copa Airlines all offer a similar program. American Airlines' South American partner, GOL, also offers a subscription. United Airlines is the first U.S. airline to offer a program like this.

The Miles by the Month program first launched in late August 2021. The program starts at $94.50 a month. At this rate, MileagePlus members get 3,000 miles a month. In addition to the $94.50 monthly plan, there are two additional and more expensive plans.

united miles by the month landing page

These subscription programs supposedly offer two benefits. The first is beneficial to the airline. If a member is earning miles each month, they are more likely to explore additional avenues to earn even more miles. Essentially, these programs increase member activity. The airline also gets consistent income. For members, these programs supposedly offer miles at a discounted rate. On the surface, this seems like a fantastic deal. Full details are here (you must be logged in).

The Details of United Miles by the Month

Miles by the Month program offers United MileagePlus members three plans from which to choose. As previously mentioned, these plans start at $94.50 a month, topping off at $210 a month. Additionally, the Miles by the Month program allows members to earn a growing bonus. The longer a member subscribes to the program, the greater the bonus they'll earn.

Here's what the Miles by the Month program and the bonus looks like:

Plan 1: $94.50/month

  • Earn 3,000 miles each month
  • Savings of 10% plus a 20% bonus
  • Earn 43,200 miles total after 12 months
  • $1,219.08 for 43.2k miles after 12 months
  • 2.82¢ per mile overall

Plan 2: $140/month

  • Earn 5,000 miles each month
  • Savings of 20% plus a 20% bonus
  • Earn 72,000 miles after 12 months
  • $1,806 for 72k miles after 12 months
  • 2.51¢ per mile overall

Plan 3: $210/month

  • Earn 8,000 miles each month
  • Savings of 25% plus a 25% bonus
  • Earn 120,000 miles after 12 months
  • $2,709 for 120k miles after 12 months
  • 2.26¢ per mile overall

Is United Airlines' Miles by the Month Program Worth It?

On the surface, United Airlines' Miles by the Month program seems like a cost-effective and potentially lucrative way to earn miles. However, as has been noted by other major frequent flyer blogs, this isn't the case. Rather, there are multiple more lucrative ways to earn MileagePlus miles.

One such way is purchasing MileagePlus miles during a promotion. Recently, United Airlines had a promotion allowing members to save up to 50% when purchasing miles. While this promotion has ended, United runs similar promotions multiple times throughout the year. These offer 30-50% discounts, which are all above the discount levels in United's Miles by the Month program. The 50% discount promotion offered miles at 1.88¢ per mile, for comparison.

However, during non-promotional times, the Miles by the Month program is a better value than purchasing miles outright. For example, when miles are being sold at full price, members who subscribe to the $210 a month plan will save $1,680 through earning miles with United's Miles by the Month program compared to purchasing miles outright.

United Miles by the Month value compared to purchasing MileagePlus miles
Here's how the United Airlines Miles by the Month program compares to purchasing miles outright at full price.

Here's a breakdown of the value you'll get from each plan:

Monthly FeeMiles Earned After 12-MonthsCost per Mile
$94.50+tax43,2002.82¢
$140+tax72,0002.51¢
$210+tax120,0002.26¢

And here's a breakdown of the value you'll get when purchasing miles at 40%:

Price (at 40% Off)Miles EarnedCost per Mile
$978.2543,0002.23¢
$1,51272,0002.1¢
$2,520120,0002.1¢

Note that United compares the value of its Miles by the Month program to the cost of buying miles at full price. Obviously, this makes it look like a good deal. This isn't a very fair comparison, though. It ignores the regular promotions to buy miles at a discount and ignores the ability to earn large chunks of miles through credit card welcome offers.

Here are some examples:

  • United Gateway℠ Card — Earn 20,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
  • United℠ Explorer Card — Earn 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
  • United Quest℠ Card — Earn 80,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
  • United Club℠ Infinite Card — Earn 100,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

The Bottom Line

It's good to see a U.S. airline introduce a subscription-based service that allows members to buy United MileagePlus miles monthly at a discount. United Airlines' Miles by the Month program is the first of its kind in the U.S. However, it's not as lucrative as it appears on the surface. There are multiple other ways to earn miles that offer a better value than this program.

The Miles by the Month program allows members to accumulate up to 120,000 miles in a calendar year. To earn 120,000 miles, members will have to shell out a total of $2,520 over a 12-month period. This means that members who subscribe to the most expensive plan will be earning miles at a rate of 2.26¢ overall. That's not the best rate.

What do you make of the Miles by the Month program? Will you subscribe to the program?

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Comments

  • too expensive!

  • What a terrible deal from a truly mediocre mileage program. United’s domestic availability is uneven at best and while United does well to Asia, esp. with partners, it will cost a small fortune to get enough miles to fly in the front of the plane there….hard pass on this offer United

  • This honestly seems to be a complete rip off. There are so many other ways of earning United miles rather than buying them. All the miles give you is a discounted flight (that doesn’t earn miles or status and with severe limitations on the number of seats available). It would be interesting to see how many people actually do this. I feel sorry for them getting duped like this.

  • What a terrible deal!
    Even at the promotional rate of 50% off, it’s difficult to justify buying United miles unless you have a very specific redemption in mind.

  • It seems that the subscription program is not an attractive deal.

  • I am really curious why they started the program in the first place. Are the target customers those who want to purchase miles through installment payments?

  • If I’m going to pay monthly for miles I’d want a much better discount. If they would offer a better rate they would probably have a lot more people taking advantage of it which may initially not be the best for UA but the benefit may come with quantity of people enrolling, especially with the very if-y travel in the current climate.

  • I am not sure who would subscribe to buy miles at such rates. If you need miles wait till a promo and buy at much cheaper rates. I am curious to how many people will actually sign up.

  • It really doesn’t seem like a good deal compared to other methods of accumulating United miles

  • lol What a joke! I guess some people will do it though.

  • Interesting, I can see other companys jumping on this idea.

  • It really wouldn’t make a lot of sense to do this, frankly, you could put the money in a simple credit union savings account and shop around on various travel websites to get an awesome vacation package for those amounts, often times including flights, rooms, tours, cars, etc.

    Just a few weeks ago I saw Aer Lingus had packages on their page that were half this amount including a week hotel stay….but many people cannot figure out budgets or plan so maybe it works for them.
    I’m not a big fan of buying miles simply because you can’t find any award availability now and the airlines keep going higher and higher for the number of miles needed for redemptions. Sure you can find biz class award seats to Paris…for 240,000 miles per seat!!!
    I mean come on, it is getting to be like the Old Man on the Progressive commercials where he’s holding the fishing pole with a dollar on the end of the line…. “You almost had it” comes to mind. The earn/burn idea is great if you can ever actually BURN the miles. I’m afraid that this promotion will just create more people trying for those same 4 award seats. What’s next? Are they going to start auctioning them off too?

    • I agree that the promotion isn’t really a great use of money. However, I disagree with the idea that it’s super difficult to use miles / carrot on a stick depiction.

  • Perfect timing I was just about to burn some chase UR throught United….good info

  • As a United shareholder, I’d love it if lots of people would sign up for this program.

    But as a United customer, there’s no way I’m signing up myself.

  • I don´t think this is a program worth the money

  • Interesting concept but not worth it, there are better ways to accumulate miles for a lower cost.

  • Way too expensive. Sign up for credit card or two and save your money just getting the signup bonus!