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The latest United miles promotion is now live and the airline is once again offering customers a bonus if they add miles to their Mileage Plus account. It’s unclear if the latest promotion is targeted but, for reference, the highest bonus I can earn is 60%.
With United’s last miles promotion having just closed on December 31st it hasn’t taken long for a new offer to come out – United is becoming more like American Airlines every day.
My Promotion Offer
- The promotion is valid until 11:59 p.m. CT on 22 January 2017.
- Maximum allowable purchase (excluding bonus) is 93,000 miles.
- Bonus Miles will generally be credited to your MileagePlus account when the transaction is complete
- Maximum number of miles that can be purchased in a calendar year is 150,000 and bonus miles count towards this total.
- Miles are non-refundable.
- Purchased miles do not count toward MileagePlus Premier® status.
- GST/HST is charged to Canadian residents.
This is the promotion I see when I log in:
- Buy 5,000 – 10,000 miles and get a 25% bonus
- Buy 11,000 – 29,000 miles and get a 40% bonus
- Buy 30,000 – 93,000 miles and get a 60% bonus
To purchase miles at the best rate per mile I would need to buy between 30,000 and 93,000 miles but the cost/mile does vary slightly within this band.
In this example, if I was to purchase the full 93,000 miles, it would cost me $3,499.13:
…which would net me a total of 148,000 miles (after applying the bonus) at a cost of ~2.36 cents per mile.
Buying just 30,000 miles would still see me get the 60% bonus and would cost me $1,128.75….
…which would net me a total of 48,000 miles (after applying the bonus) at a cost of ~2.35 cents per mile.
Should You Buy United Miles In This Promotion?
I value United miles higher than I value miles from the other two legacy carriers but I still don’t value them as high as 2.35 cents each so, if you got the same offer as I did, it’s not looking good!
United devalued its award chart on 1 November 2017 and, although with United’s MilagePlus you can get some pretty good awards to/from Europe (for example) on excellent carriers like SWISS, the cost to buy miles and then use them for an award is just too high….even with the low taxes you’ll be changed.
Here’s an example to prove my point.
San Francisco to Zurich on SWISS will cost 70,000 miles and $5.60 in taxes on the outbound flight…
…while, on inbound, it’s another 70,000 miles & $53.46 in taxes:
To buy the 140,000 miles you’d need for this award you’d have to spend over $3,300 in this promotion…..and then you’d have to find award availability that works for you.
Finding Business Class cash fares to Europe for under $3,000 is not all that difficult if you can be flexible with your dates so why buy miles to book this fare?
A Possible Use For Miles From This Promotion
If you absolutely have to fly to Europe, you want to fly in Business Class and your dates aren’t all that flexible then this promotion may save you a little cash.
As this ITA Matrix search shows, non-stop Business Class fares to Europe (in this case from SFO) can be expensive irrespective of what airline you’re flying….
….so if you can book a saver award with miles bought in this promotion it’s definitely possible to save some cash.
The important word in that last sentence is “if” – saver awards aren’t that easy to find so make sure there is one available before you dive in to buy some miles.
Buying miles in this promotion for a roundtrip saver award on United would set you back around $2,830 and, as I’ve already shown, would cost around $3,300 for a Star Alliance award – both of those are preferable to paying $5,000+ for a cash fare so, in this instance, this may not be a bad use of miles from this promotion.
The only times buying miles in this promotion may be a reasonable idea are:
- To top up and account with a small number of points.
- To book an award to save money over a cash fare that you would otherwise have to buy.
If you fall into one of those two categories then here a link to buy some miles, if you don’t then this promotion is probably not for you.