United Airlines is running a promotion right now with targeted offers to MileagePlus members when they buy miles by April 25, 2016. Some members have been targeted with offers as high as 100% on top of what they buy, although my personal offer is just 75% more.
Next to Alaska Airlines miles, I think United’s miles are among the most valuable for frequent flyers. This is because of their flexible award routing rules, no surcharges, and generally good award availability.
For example, I could pretty easily find and book a business class award to Southeast Asia for 160,000 miles, or to Europe for 140,000 miles with United’s Star Alliance partners and pay no fuel surcharges. If traveling on United’s own aircraft, I’d redeem about 10% less. I can also include a free stopover on round-trip itineraries and put an open jaw at either end, making it easier to visit multiple cities on the same award ticket.
Even with a measly 75% bonus, purchasing 140,000 miles to visit Europe would cost just $3,010 (or $2,633.75 if you got a 100% bonus). From the West Coast I might easily pay between $4,000 and $7,000 if I just purchased a similar business class itinerary this summer. This is one example of how frequent flyer miles continue to be a good value for some travelers despite the many devaluations we’ve seen to earning rates and award charts — travelers with flexibility can still save money by purchasing the necessary miles.
This is a tiered promotion in addition to being targeted. That means all travelers will see bigger bonuses when they buy more miles. It may not be worthwhile to get just a few thousand. But as I showed above, even some of the smaller bonuses can make sense when you max out your offer to buy enough miles for an international business class award.