Up to 85% Bonus When You Purchase United Miles

Nov 2, 2015

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Earning airline miles the traditional method (actually flying) is just one way to boost your account balance. Fortunately airlines make it relatively easy to accrue miles without flying, whether through top credit card offers or by utilizing shopping portals. You can also purchase miles directly from an airline, and United has just announced a potentially lucrative new promotion that offers you a bonus of up to 85% when you purchase miles.

You can earn up to an 85% bonus when you buy or gift miles with United’s newest promotion.

Here’s how this works. From today (November 2) through December 14, you’ll earn a mystery bonus of either 60%, 70% or 85% when you buy or gift United miles (note that you may receive other bonus offers, too). Unfortunately you won’t know which bonus you’re targeted for until you log in here. While you’ll obviously be best off with the 85% bonus, even the low end of the promotion offers a decent discount off the regular buy miles price of ~3.76 cents per mile ($35 per 1,000 miles plus a 7.5% tax recovery fee). The bonus percentage may vary depending on the number of miles you purchase, but the greatest return may be available at lower levels, unlike past buy miles promotions that require you to purchase a boatload to get the maximum value.

Here’s a chart that breaks down the different bonuses if you purchased a relatively conservative 10,000 miles (at a cost of $376.25):


Bonus Miles

Total Miles

Cost Per Mile




2.35 cents




2.21 cents




2.03 cents

Here’s how to take advantage of the promotion:

  1. Visit United’s Buy Miles page.
  2. Click on Buy Personal Miles or Give Miles (both are eligible for the bonus).
  3. Login to your United MileagePlus account.
  4. Select the number of miles you want to buy/give and click Continue.
  5. Fill in the required information to finalize your purchase.

Keep in mind that the usual restrictions for purchasing United miles apply to this promotion, including the following (based on the 85% bonus level outlined above):

  • You must purchase at least 2,000 miles but can only purchase 150,000 miles per account per calendar year.
  • Miles may be purchased in increments of 1,000 miles up to a maximum of 80,000 miles.
  • Miles may take up to 48 hours to post to your account.
  • Purchased or gifted miles do not count toward MileagePlus Premier status.
Lufthansa first class will set you back a ton of United miles, but it’s a luxurious experience.

Is this worth it?

In TPG’s most recent valuations, he pegs United miles at 1.5 cents apiece, but there are definitely ways to get significantly more value out of the program. If you’re targeted for the 85% bonus and max out the promotion, you’ll take home 148,000 miles at a cost of $3,010. This is obviously a lot of cash to spend, but if you have specific redemptions in mind, it could make sense to purchase specific amounts to top off your account.

For example, TPG Special Contributor Eric Rosen recently flew Lufthansa A380 first class from Frankfurt to Los Angeles and used 110,000 United miles for the award ticket. If your MileagePlus account balance is zeroed out and you want to purchase miles to replicate this redemption, here’s how many you’d need to buy (or gift) with the current promotion:

  • 60% bonus: Buy/gift 69,000 miles and receive 110,400 at a price of $2,596.13
  • 70% bonus: Buy/gift 65,000 miles and receive 110,500 at a price of $2,445.63
  • 85% bonus: Buy/gift 60,000 miles and receive 111,000 at a price of $2,257.50

These one-way tickets typically cost much more than $2,600, so depending on your situation, this could represent a good use of the promotion. Keep in mind that award flights on United metal require fewer miles in many cases, so that could be a better use of the bonus.

Remember too that United MileagePlus is a transfer partner of Ultimate Rewards, so you could use points earned on cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or Ink Plus Business Card in conjunction with this offer to open up your ideal redemption. You also could consider opening the United MileagePlus Explorer Card, which is currently offering 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open. The card can also open up additional award inventory, which can be a big help for booking free flights.

Bottom Line

This promotion likely isn’t for everyone, but if you’re cash-rich and miles-poor or have a specific redemption in mind, it could make sense to take advantage of it. Just remember that United underwent a massive devaluation in early 2014, so you should definitely check the program’s interactive award chart to make sure you know how many miles you’ll need for your redemption.

Will you be taking advantage of this new promotion?

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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