I receive compensation for content and many links on this blog. You don’t have to use these links, but I am grateful to you if you do. American Express, Citibank, Chase, Capital One and other banks are advertising partners of this site. Any opinions expressed in this post are my own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by my advertising partners. I do not write about all credit cards that are available -- instead focusing on miles, points, and cash back (and currencies that can be converted into the same).
The cheapest United sells miles for is 1.88 cents apiece. They first offered via Groupon in 2014.
After Scott Kirby became President of United, bringing with him Andrew Nocella from American, the frequency of these discount offers increased. They’re America West-turned-US Airways veterans who aggressively sold miles turning their airline into the ‘official consolidator of Star Alliance premium cabin seats’. And they brought the mileage sale discount approach with them to American Airlines.
Now United is back with this sale, creating a sense of urgency promoting the offer as ‘one day only’. That’s true as far as it goes, and it’s cheaper than usual, though I think we can expect that this pricing will be back at some point later in the year.
Buying between 50,000 and 75,000 miles generates a 100% bonus. Here’s the cost to buy 150,000 miles. It comes to 1.88 cents per mile.
Remember of course that you may be able to get back the taxes from the IRS as well.
United sells miles via Points.com. That means you won’t get reimbursed for the purchase as a travel credit. And it actually means that Points is taking a cut of the purchase price. (They may also be guaranteeing some minimum sales to United, buying in bulk and reselling at a profit.) United itself is earning meaningfully less than 1.88 cents apiece through this arrangement.
While 1.88 cents is more than United miles are worth the offer can work for you to top off an account, or even buying from zero if you were going to book one of the unique values.