United Joins the Game With a 100% Bonus on Purchased Miles, But There’s a Giant Catch…

Through Thursday only United is offering up to a 100% bonus on purchased miles. But there’s a catch.

If you get the 100% bonus then miles are 1.88 cents apiece. That’s the regular price US Airways offers miles at, pretty much every month, with their promotions.

And you may not be able to get the 100% bonus. It depends how many other people buy miles. You need a critical mass of others buying to get in on the deal — sort of like Groupon, but:

  • Groupon is so four years ago.
  • Groupon didn’t charge you unless you could get the real deal.

Here’s the bonus table:

  • 1-300 people = 35% bonus
  • 301-600 people = 40% bonus
  • 601-900 people = 45% bonus
  • 901-1,200 people = 50% bonus
  • 1,201-1,500 people = 55% bonus
  • 1,501-3,000 people = 60% bonus
  • 3,001-4,500 people = 80% bonus
  • 4,501+ people = 100% bonus

Will over 4500 people take the plunge? That is a very bad idea.. even if a 100% bonus is a decent deal, you should wait until the threshold is crossed of 4501 people buying before you buy yourself. Which means that everyone else should do the same. Which means that they’d never cross the threshold.

I see two possibilities for United actually giving out the bonus:

  1. People are irrational. Remember, some people buy even without a bonus.
  2. United gets generous. They award the bonus anyway, they run their science experiment but don’t want to stick it to customers willing to come out of pocket and buy their miles.

I wouldn’t be buying United miles at a 100% bonus speculatively of course, certainly not since they devalued.

Nice try, United. But this is why people don’t trust you. You take their money and say that you might give actual reasonable value, you’ll let everyone know later. Meh.

Terms and conditions:

  • To take advantage of this offer, you must use the order links on this page.
  • Promotional offer vaild until 11:59 p.m. CT (Chicago local time) on September 4, 2014.
  • Bonus miles will post to the MileagePlus account within 7 days.
  • For a limited time, get a minimum of 35% bonus award miles a maximum of 100% bonus award miles when you purchase miles via the above links.
  • Displayed price includes all taxes
  • Minimum purchase of 5,000 miles required for this promotion.
  • For Give Miles transactions, both purchased miles and bonus miles will be posted to the recipient’s mileagePlus account.
  • Miles are available in increments of 1,000 up to a maximum of 100,000 miles, and in increments of 5,000 up to a maximum of 150,000 miles.
  • Purchase up to 150,000 miles per account per calendar year.
  • Credit card will be billed immediately upon purchase.
  • Mileage rates and other applicable fees are subject to change.
  • Allow 48 hours for miles to process and post to your MileagePlus account.
  • Miles are nonrefundable.
  • Purchased miles do not count toward MileagePlus Premier® status.
  • All MileagePlus Program Rules and terms and conditions apply.

  • 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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    1. @Michael – depends how soon you’ll need to make a redemption… if it’s not close, you might earn those 4k otherwise. If it’s close, then sure, those 4k are really valuable

    2. UA miles are still a great currency compared to AA and DL miles and with a 100% bonus, it’s almost worth it, but just almost.

      But I agree, what they are doing here is just silly and it’s not working.

      Every person with common sense will wait till the number hits 4500. Been watching it today and they are not selling at all. For the last few hours, only a few dozen packages have been sold, not even at 500 yet.. I’d be surprised if more than 1000 buys before we hit the deadline.

    3. United still has some great award rates in Africa and Europe. Lot’s of European folks have no access to a US credit history. Buying United Miles (even at a higher price) can be a better deal than buying Lifemiles.

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