Quadruple Dip With United Miles and Starbucks

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United has a shopping tool to earn miles that’s entirely separate from their online shopping port. The MileagePlus X App sells you e-gift cards for participating merchants that you use to pay for goods with those merchants through their app.

A few months ago they sent an offer to United co-brand credit card holders of 500 bonus miles after first purchase with the app and that’s still valid for July 31 for those who received the offer.

In most cases you’ll earn fewer than 5 points per dollar, and most office supply stores won’t let you use gift cards (which is what you’re doing with the MileagePlus X app) to buy gift cards.

But it’s a way to earn points with a wide variety of retailers, albeit since you’re paying via gift card you do give up consumer protections that are associated with payment by credit card.

A couple of interesting opportunities though. This month the MileagePlus X app rolled out 2 points per dollar for Starbucks. (This was apparently available on a limited basis to some members already.)

It’s even better than that because primary United co-brand cardholders get a 25% bonus when using their United card.

Primary cardmembers of a United MileagePlus® Credit Card from Chase will receive a 25% bonus in addition to the miles otherwise awarded by MileagePlus in connection with transactions made through the MileagePlus X app.

That means you’d earn:

  • MileagePlus X app miles per dollar
  • 25% credit card bonus if you’re using a MileagePlus credit card
  • Miles for spending on that card (of course the United Club Card earns 1.5 miles per dollar on all spend)
  • 500 mile first-use bonus if eligible.

Information related to the United Explorer Card and United Club Card has been collected by me and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card. I do not receive referral credit for these cards.

The rewards for each merchant go up and down occasionally, for instance Amazon.com was recently reduced from 2 miles per dollar down to 1.

The 25% bonus using a United card means giving up more valuable points with another card. And paying for these gift cards through the app with Starbucks (or any restaurant) gives up 2 points per dollar from the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or the Citi Prestige Card earned in-store.

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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Editorial note: any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer. Comments made in response to this post are not provided or commissioned nor have they been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any bank. It is not the responsibility of any advertiser to ensure that questions are answered, either. Terms and limitations apply to all offers.


  1. Gary, the 25% bonus does not require using a United card, but rather possessing a United card. I have twice made purchases via the app using a Citi card and still received the 25% bonus, including one purchase from 10 days ago.

  2. And you can transfer the gift card purchased via the app to your own personal Starbucks gift card that you have registered with the (recently devalued) Starbucks rewards program to earn points there.

  3. As Adam mentioned above, you don’t need to use the United card to get the 25%. You will get this bonus as long as you have a united card. I have been using this app for more than a year now and been getting the bonus every time. Love the ease and extra points I earn. So far over 7000 points this year alone from just using this app and not counting the points I earned using various credit card to buy the e-gift cards . For example, when I take my som to Red Robins I earn 5x plus 25% bonus credited to my Mileage account and since I buy the gift card using Sapphire or citi Premiet so I also earn the standard restaurant bonus associated with the card. It’s like earning 8-9 times the amount. Easily beats any office supply option.

  4. Last night, I purchased $106 worth of Starbucks gift cards for $75 on eBay. I got the codes from the seller within a few hours and applied them to the Starbucks app on my phone. There’s no way that buying credit via a mileage card with a bonus is better deal.

  5. Last week, ordering Papa Johns pizza for dinner netted me 270 miles for a $22 purchase using the United Plus app. Received 5X for the pizza, (120 points), paid for it with my Chase Freedom, which is currently offering 5x (another 120) plus I received the 25 percent bonus for having a United card (30 points). Use the app as much as I possibly can.

  6. A better option is using the Chase Ink Business card to buy Starbucks gift cards at office supply stores like Office Max. This gets you 5 Chase Rewards Points/dollar spent. I buy USD 500 cards. Yes, I drink a lot of espresso :-).

    While I’m at it I also buy Amazon and eBay gift cards in USD 500 increments at Office Max. I just redeemed all my Chase Rewards points for 3 Singapore Suites class flights from LAX to SIN, departing this weekend!


  7. @Daniel

    As they say, YMMV. I find the new Starbucks rewards program massively more valuable than before. The only people who saw a devaluation were those who bought only basic or small drinks and only for themselves. As someone who buys larger and more expensive drinks, buys food, and buys for friends and colleagues, my rewards have kicked into hyperdrive.

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