United Airlines sent me an email this morning offering a surprise discount on purchased miles. It’s a unique link that I can’t share. But clicking on the link took me to a page with pictures of four destinations United serves, and after clicking on Hong Kong the card spun around to show I had received a 35% discount.
35% seems relatively high to me given United’s track record, so it could be the maximum. However, I imagine there could be room for savings up to 50%, and it’s also possible that the discount is the same no matter which card you pick — that is, it’s predetermined based on the individual receiving the offer and the destination is just a gimmick.
United offered to sell me up to 150,000 miles. After the discount and including the 7.5% federal tax, that comes out to $3,668.44 or 2.45 cents per mile.
I wouldn’t buy miles at 2.45 CPM unless I had an immediate need to top up my account for an award in the near future. United’s recent decision to devalue its award chart, particularly for travel on its partner carriers, has drive my assigned value of their miles from around 2 CPM to below 1.7 (and some would argue even lower than 1.5).
However, one of the largest benefits of using United’s miles vs. earning and redeeming with a partner’s own program is that United has more generous routing rules and does not collect fuel surcharges on any itinerary. If someone gets a better discount, perhaps as high as 50%, let us know and there may be some way to game the offer by picking the right destination. 50% would bring the price just under 2 CPM and would make this more appealing.
(Also, what’s up with branding this offer as “Order Personal Miles®”? Does anyone else think that this is one of the silliest excuses for a registered trademark?)
Terms & Conditions
- One discount offer per member during the duration of the promotion.
- Minimum purchase of 10,000 miles required for this promotional pricing.
- 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.
- Displayed price includes all discounts and taxes.
- Credit card will be billed immediately upon purchase.
- Mileage rates and other fees and offer are subject to change without notice. Other restrictions may apply.
- Allow 48 hours for miles to process and post to your MileagePlus account.
- Miles are nonrefundable.
- Promotional offer valid until 11:59 p.m. CT (Chicago local time) on March 17, 2014.
- Purchased miles do not count toward MileagePlus Premier® status.
- All MileagePlus Program Rules and terms and conditions apply.