Buy United Miles at the Cheapest Price I’ve Ever Seen

Buy United Miles

Through Friday only United is offering to sell miles at the lowest price I’ve ever seen from MileagePlus — in fact at 1.88 cents apiece it’s the price that US Airways used to sell miles for prior to the merger with American.

It’s a tiered bonus:

  • Buy 10,000 – 29,000 miles | Get 50% bonus
  • Buy 30,000 – 75,000 miles | Get 100% bonus

You can buy up to 150,000 United miles per year, and the bonus counts against this. So maxing out this promotion buying 75,000 miles and getting a 75,000 mile bonus gets the cost down to 1.88 cents apiece.

This is a little more than what I value the miles at. But it’s closer than it’s ever been. I’m not going to buy the miles speculatively, but I would certainly buy to top off an account to the level needed for an award that I’d be interested in booking within the next few months.

The value of miles isn’t actually a fixed number.

It depends on how you redeem them. What value are you going to get for your points in terms of the cash they actually save you (what you’d have been willing to actually spend for what you get)? The important thing here is not to use the retail price of a ticket you’re getting, since

  1. with premium cabin rewards you might not have been willing to spend that much cash.
  2. Frequent flyer tickets aren’t necessarily worth as much as a paid ticket. They don’t earn miles. They may not be upgradeable. And you can’t necessarily just pick whatever flight you want, you have to be flexible and worry about award availability.

It depends on when you’re going to redeem them. You don’t earn a rate of return on miles and points like you might with cash in a bank or investment account. And you need to discount to present value if you’re going to use the points later. Plus there’s substantial risk of devaluation with many points currencies.

It depends on how many you already have. The value of points at the margin is different than an overall average value. As you approach having enough points for an award, the marginal value of a few more points goes up substantially — since those extra points are what make the award possible. On the other hand, once you have more points than you’ll redeem in the near-term the value of additional points falls since you may not ever use them, or may not use them under current award charts.

Someone that’ll redeem for a premium cabin award soon and already has a stash of United miles will likely find this an appealing offer. I have more than enough United miles already though.

Terms and conditions:

Promotional offer valid until 11:59 p.m. CT (Chicago local time) on December 18, 2015.
Miles are available in increments of 1,000 up to a maximum of 75,000 miles.
Bonus Miles will be credited to the recipient’s account when the transaction is complete.
Bonus miles count towards the 150,000 mile annual limit per account.
Purchase up to 150,000 miles per account per calendar year
Your credit card will be billed immediately for purchase
Mileage rates and other applicable fees are subject to change
Allow up to 48 hours for miles to process and post to your MileagePlus account
Miles are non-refundable
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’

Buy United Miles

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. Gary: i will argue that miles are often MORE valuable than the paid ticket (if you can use them- looking @ you AA). unless you’re overpaying massively for a flex ticket, miles are infinitely more flexible even with a little status (extremely, if you’re upper-top tier). want/need to stay a few more days? regular ticket: either not changeable or quite expensive to change. award: lower fees and, with status, none- so a non-issue to not just change dates, but change the entire itinerary as long as regions stay the same. UA has, by FAR FAR FAR, the most usable miles.

    that all said, agree: would only buy if i needed to (i don’t) and had a trip in mind.

  2. I agree this is a good deal but it really doesn’t compare to US Air. Not that long ago you could buy them at this rate for US Air and then redeem them for off peak business class for 60k round trip from the US to Europe. You can’t do that on UA. Still a good deal though.

  3. A quick check on award accelerator (I only have award flights booked in there right now) I am being offered 0.0190 $/mile.

  4. I’m tempted to buy since I have 20K orphan miles and no Chase/SW cards. Would be about same price to get me to Asia ow in J as Lifemiles and much more flexible.

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