United Airlines is running a targeted promotion to purchase miles, with a bonus offer as high as 100%. At least, that’s the offer I received. Others have reported lower bonuses of just 50%. But, anyone who buys miles will also be entered in a contest to win up to 250,000 United Miles. That’s enough for two round-trip business class tickets to anywhere United Airlines flies (and most partner destinations, too). You must purchase miles by August 15, 2016, to lock in this offer.
Thresholds for earning the bonus are tiered, which means you will get a larger bonus if you buy more miles. Here’s my offer:
- Buy 5,000 – 19,000 miles and get a 25% bonus.
- Buy 20,000 – 29,000 miles and get a 50% bonus.
- Buy 30,000 – 75,000 miles and get a 100% bonus.
There is a cap on purchasing 75,000 miles, which means a total of 150,000 miles after receiving a 100% bonus. The final price in this scenario would be $2,821.88 including government taxes of 7.5%.
In addition, anyone who purchases miles — regardless of bonus — will receive an entry into a sweepstakes. A nice fillip, but not really enough to justify buying miles by itself.
- Grand Prize (1 winner): 250,000 miles
- 2nd Prize (1 winner): 100,000 miles
- 3rd Price (3 winners): 50,000 miles
All-in, the final cost with a 100% bonus is 1.88 cents per mile. I consider that a reasonable good deal. United miles are among the most valuable of the big three carriers (United, Delta, and American) because the airline doesn’t collect fuel surcharges on any award tickets and because it allows a free stopover on round-trip tickets. I generally value them between 1.7 and 2 cents per mile. Your valuation may be on the higher end if you have elite status and can avoid various fees for changing awards or booking at the last minute.
But if you got a smaller bonus, say 50%, then I don’t see any reason to maximize this offer (the price increases to about 2.5 cents per mile). At most I might recommend a few thousand miles in order to complement those already in your account. Of course, purchasing miles when you know that award space is available can still make sense in such situations as it’s usually cheaper than buying a first or business class ticket outright.