For a limited time, United Airlines MileagePlus is selling miles with a maximum bonus or discount of up to 100%. This is a tiered and personalized promotion, so you’ll need to log into your MileagePlus account to see the maximum bonus or discount you are being offered.
Buying miles speculatively is one way to unlock luxury award travel, especially if you are already close to a redemption threshold. And the case for buying miles is definitely stronger when a bonus or discount promotion like this one is running.
- What’s the deal?
- What are the pros and cons?
- How much is a United MileagePlus mile worth?
- Is it worth speculatively buying miles?
- How many miles do I need for an award flight?
- What other ways are there to earn United MileagePlus miles?
- Do United MileagePlus miles expire?
- How does this offer compare to previous promotions?
What’s the deal?
From January 8 to January 27, 2024, you can earn a bonus or discount of up to 100% when you buy miles through the United MileagePlus program.
Unlike some of the recent MileagePlus bonus offers, the maximum bonus or discount isn’t being offered to all members, so it might not necessarily make sense to buy miles during this promotion if you are being targeted with a smaller discount
For example, some MileagePlus members are only being offered a maximum discount of 45%, whereas others are being targeted with a bonus of up to 100%.
In any case, this is a tiered promotion, so the bonus or discount increases with the number of miles you purchase.
Maximum purchase amount
United MileagePlus now lets members purchase a maximum of 200,000 miles per year which has increased from the 175,000 miles limit in 2023. Bonus miles count towards the annual limit.
If you’ve been targeted with a discount offer, you can, therefore, purchase up to 200,000 miles in one transaction, whereas members targeted with a bonus offer (with a 100% bonus applied) would only be able to purchase a maximum of 100,000 miles in a single transaction as this will then be doubled to 200,000 miles.
Cost per mile
Without any bonus or discount, United MileagePlus normally charges 3.5 cents per mile in addition to a 7.5% federal excise tax.
With the maximum 100% bonus rate applied, the cost per mile drops to just 1.88 cents per mile.
What are the pros and cons?
- Redeem miles across Star Alliance airlines.
- Earn a bonus when purchasing just 5,000 or more miles.
- United MileagePlus miles don’t expire.
- United MileagePlus suffered a big devaluation earlier this year.
- This promotion only represents great value for members targeted with the maximum bonus or discount.
United Airlines massively devalues the MileagePlus program
Historically, airlines have occasionally devalued their frequent flyer programs by making changes to their award charts, increasing redemption rates, or imposing additional fees and restrictions. Such changes can result in members needing more miles or points to redeem for the same flights or experiences.
United Airlines recently devalued its MileagePlus program, increasing the number of miles required for many international flights. The devaluation went into effect on March 8, 2023.
The biggest changes were to awards to Europe, which saw an average increase of 33%. The devaluation also affected awards on partner airlines, including Air Canada, Lufthansa, and ANA.
How much is a United MileagePlus mile worth?
Each United MileagePlus mile is worth approximately 1.2 cents each
On average, each United MileagePlus mile is valued at 1.2 cents. However, assessing whether you are getting value for money with a specific redemption is important.
It’s pretty simple to do this by comparing the cost in miles for a flight against the cash price for the same flight. Simply divide the cost of buying the flight with cash by the cost of buying the flight in miles. The result will be the ‘cents per mile’ – a rate above the average is good value for money, whereas a rate below the average could represent bad value for money.
Is it worth speculatively buying miles?
I generally advise only to buy points in order to boost your points balance to achieve a specific redemption, but this latest deal is an excellent opportunity to acquire points for a very reasonable price, which could, in turn, unlock some pretty compelling award opportunities.
The case for speculatively buying points is definitely stronger when there’s an attractive bonus promotion such as this one, although you’ll want to be certain you are getting value for money when you book an award flight.
Although United MileagePlus miles don’t expire, remember that miles can be devalued with no notice. This is exactly what happened earlier this year and there have been some other recent devaluations in the MileagePlus program’s history.
How many miles do I need for an award flight?
Unfortunately, United Airlines no longer publishes an award chart, and redemptions are priced dynamically depending on a number of factors, including:
- Demand – including seasonality and local events
- Flight route – different routes might attract higher redemption rates
- Cabin availability – If there are fewer seats available, redemption rates will likely be higher.
To ensure you are getting value for money, compare the cost in miles for an award flight against the cash cost for the same flight. See ‘How much is a United Airlines MileagePlus mile worth?’ for a simple formula to work out whether you are getting good value for money.
What other ways are there to earn United MileagePlus miles?
One of the quickest and easiest ways to earn United MileagePlus miles is through. cobranded credit card.
- The United Explorer card
- The United Quest card
- The United Club Infinite card
You can also transfer points from other Chase credit cards to your United MileagePlus account on a 1:1 basis.
Do United MileagePlus miles expire?
Unlike many airline and hotel loyalty programs, miles earned with United MileagePlus do not expire. There’s no inactivity period that might result in you losing your miles, and you won’t ever have to jump through hoops to stop your miles from expiring.
Of course, while your miles might never expire, it’s worth remembering that loyalty programs can always be devalued at a moment’s notice. United Airlines massively devalued MileagePlus earlier this year and didn’t provide any notice at all.
How does this offer compare to previous promotions?
United’s MileagePlus program runs promotions on purchased points fairly regularly. Here’s what United MileagePlus has been offering recently…
|December 7 – December 22, 2023
|Bonus of up to 100%
|November 3 – November 20, 2023
|Bonus of up to 100%
|October 4 – October 26, 2023
|Bonus of up to 90%
|August 7 – August 25, 2023
|Targeted bonus of up to 100%
|Bonus of up to 85%
|Bonus of up to 45%
|Bonus of up to 85%
- United Airlines is offering a maximum bonus of up to 100% when you buy miles through the MileagePlus program from January 8 to January 27, 2023.
- This is a personalized and tiered promotion and varies between members.
- It can take up to 48 hours for purchased miles to be posted to your account.
- United MileagePlus only lets members purchase a maximum of 200,000 miles per year, including miles earned via a bonus promotion.
For many members, this isn’t going to be the best deal offered from United MileagePlus on purchased miles, but if you’ve been targeted for the maximum 100% bonus, this presents a great opportunity to stock up on miles.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.