United Airlines is offering targeted bonuses on the purchase of additional frequent flyer miles through December 13, 2015. Customers who receive the best offer — 85% additional miles — will realize a net cost of about 2.03 cents per mile when they buy 10,000 miles or more. This compares to a regular price of ~3.76 cents per mile.
You’ll need to log in to see what your actual offer is. Mine was just a 60% bonus, so I’ll be sitting out this round. Some customers might also see a 70% bonus.
Even with several devaluations to the United MileagePlus program in recent years, including the increased cost of some partner awards, I think that United remains a good value for people looking to redeem their miles. Even though some partner awards do cost more, they aren’t that much: often just ~10% more in business class. United is also rolling out the Boeing 787 on new routes, including to Australia, on which I think their own business class product is pretty decent.
Flexible routing rules, a large network, and a blanket policy against fuel surcharges on award tickets can be very helpful. Award availability to Asia from the West Coast and to Europe from the East Coast is easy to find.
I don’t recommend buying miles on speculation. There could always be another change that leaves you stuck holding a lot of miles that have suddenly lost value. What would be a good idea is to buy miles if you have definite plans for an upcoming award or if you were considering buying a business class seat. The cost of the miles can be much less than most purchased tickets in premium cabins.