United Airlines tends to charge far, far too much for their miles if you need to buy a few extra before booking your award. But a new promotion might be worthwhile. It offers three tiered bonuses, with the largest bonus of 75% available when you buy 40,000 United miles or more.
To put that in perspective, 40,000 miles normally would cost $1,505 or 3.76 cents each (including a 7.5% federal tax). The 75% bonus makes that a total of 70,000 miles for just 2.15 cents each. This promotion is valid through September 30.
Many airline miles are worth purchasing for about 2 cents or less assuming you have a particular high-value award in mind. For example, Alaska Airlines regularly sells miles for about 2 cents each, and people buy them because Alaska has some great partner award charts and flexible rules that allow things such as stopovers on domestic awards and one-way awards.
United isn’t quite as generous — you need to book a round-trip award to be allowed just one stopover — but it has some other features that Alaska doesn’t. For example, Alaska only allows you to book travel on just one partner per award, but United lets you mix and match, giving you more options to reach your destination.
I don’t recommend buying fewer than 40,000 miles, which would drop the bonus to 50% and significantly raise the cost per mile. Similarly, I don’t recommend buying miles if you plan to redeem for an economy class ticket, which may be cheaper if you just pay cash. Here are some examples from United’s award chart of what you could book with 70,000 miles after adding in the bonus miles you receive from this promotion:
- Round-trip business class ticket to northern South America on United for 70K
- One-way business class ticket to Asia or Australia on United for 70K (Japan is 65K)
- One-way business class ticket to Europe on a Star Alliance partner for 70K