Should You Buy Miles From United?

Well, maybe.

Selling miles is an easy way for airlines to make some quick cash. Since there is no governor on mileage inflation, if too many miles get sold, they’ll simply raise amount of miles that a ticket costs.

Apparently, it’s that time of year, since United is winding down a mileage sale,* as well. Last week, I wrote about the American Airlines mileage sale, which might be appropriate under certain circumstances. Now, I’ll do the same for United. Their bonus,  by the way, gives you up to 70,000 extra miles.

Buying United Miles: Only under One Circumstance…


Is buying United miles worth it? Maybe.

The same rule applies for United that applied for American: Only buy miles if you will be using them right away and if the cost in miles is cheaper than the cost in money. For example, 175,000 miles will cost you $3,900. So if you were buying two tickets that cost more than $3,900 in cash but were also available for 175,000 miles (or fewer), you’d be better off buying the miles than you would paying cash (keeping in mind that you don’t earn miles on a ticket paid for with miles).

United’s sale, which ends tomorrow, differs from American in two key ways. One is a positive, one is a negative.

Positive: You don’t need to buy the maximum amount of miles to get the biggest bonus. For American, you needed to buy 150,000 miles to get the full bonus of 75,000 free miles. Even 149,000 miles would not have qualified. On the other hand, United will give you the full 67% bonus for buying as few as 30,000 miles. Of course, you’re probably not getting a deal at that level, but at least it’s offered.**

Negative: The miles are expensive. Even if you max out your purchase, you’re paying 2.2 cents per mile. Under most circumstances, that’s not going to be worth it.

Bottom line: If you have a reason to buy United miles, go for it. But don’t buy a bunch of miles just to have them. You never know what their value will be.


*So this is actually an affiliate link. If you buy miles through this link, I may receive something. I say “may,” since I rarely post the URL code correctly, anyway. But I’d appreciate it if you give it a try.

**There is one circumstance under which you could consider buying as few as 30,000 miles (which gets you 50,000, after the bonus). Let’s say you wanted to buy a very expensive ticket, such as an international business class ticket, with miles, but didn’t have the full amount of miles that you needed. It may be worth it to fork out some cash, even if it’s $1,100 to get the remaining miles. For example, if you have 100,000 miles and the ticket you want is 150,000 miles, you could buy the difference. A ticket that might cost $8,000 in cash may be worth paying for the difference.


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