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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.
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.
Here's a breakdown of the value you'll get from each plan:
|Monthly Fee||Miles Earned After 12-Months||Cost per Mile|
And here's a breakdown of the value you'll get when purchasing miles at 40%:
|Price (at 40% Off)||Miles Earned||Cost per Mile|
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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