United just launched a new promotion: Get up to 70,000 bonus miles when buying United MileagePlus miles. While 70,000 bonus miles might sound great, United miles are typically sold at a laughable rate of 3.76 cents per mile. So, you need a large bonus or discount to make buying United miles worth it. And it turns out that the underlying bonus of 67% doesn’t cut it.
If you need United miles for a redemption, there are better options for getting them than through this promotion. Here are the four alternatives we recommend considering first.
1. Transfer Chase Points
When we need United miles, the first place we at TPG turn to is our Chase Ultimate Rewards balance. Chase Ultimate Rewards points transfer to United MileagePlus at a 1:1 ratio in increments of 1,000 points, and the transfer is usually instantaneous.
Thanks to the 3x earning on travel and dining on my Chase Sapphire Reserve (current sign-up bonus: 50,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first three months), I’ve built up quite a points balance.
Other great ways to build your Ultimate Rewards balance is through sign-up bonuses and meeting minimum spending on the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card (50,000-point sign-up bonus after spending $4,000 in the first three months, 2x on travel and dining) and Ink Business Preferred Credit Card (80,000-point sign-up bonus after spending $5,000 in the first three months plus 3x in several spending categories).
2. Transfer Marriott Points
Another source of potential United miles: Marriott points. You can transfer Marriott points to United miles at a 3:1.1 ratio — which is better than the 3:1 ratio that Marriott points transfer to other airlines. Plus, you’ll score an additional 5,500 United miles (5,000 plus a 10% bonus) for each increment of 60,000 Marriott points that you transfer.
After those bonuses, you’ll end up with 27,500 United miles for each 60,000 Marriott point transfer. In TPG testing, transfer times take less than 48 hours.
You can stock up on Marriott points by signing up for the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express® Card which is offering a 100,000-point welcome bonus after you spend $5,000 on your card within the first three months of card membership until April 24.
Or you can sign up for the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card which is also offering 100,000 points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
3. United Credit Card Sign-Ups
If you’re tapped out of Chase Ultimate Rewards cards, you can stock up on United miles directly by signing up for a United co-branded card. While these cards have more benefits than just the sign-up bonus, here’s the current sign-up incentives for each:
- United Explorer Card: 40,000 bonus United miles after spending $2,000 within the first three months
- United MileagePlus Club Card: 50,000 bonus United miles after spending $3,000 within the first three months
4. Buy Points at 2 Cents Each Through Award Accelerator
Tapped out all of your credit card options? Don’t buy miles from Points.com quite yet. There’s a trick that TPG‘s United expert Zach Honig shared about how he never pays more than 2 cents per mile for his United miles. Note: this good of a rate may only be for Premier 1K elites.
If you’re able to take advantage of this technique, you’ll pay less than the 2.25 cents-per-mile rate available through the current Points.com promotion — and you won’t have to buy nearly as many miles in order to get this rate.
Buy With a 67% Bonus
If you’ve exhausted the options above and can get more than 2.25 cents of value from your United miles, it can make sense to take advantage of the buy-miles promotion, which is in effect now through March 25, 2019.
United and Points.com are known for sending out targeted offers, but it seems this one may be universal:
- Buy 5,000 – 14,000 miles, get a 20% bonus (3.14 cents apiece)
- Buy 15,000 – 29,000 miles, get a 40% bonus (2.69 cents apiece)
- Buy 30,000 – 104,478 miles, get a 67% bonus (2.03 cents apiece)
If you’re planning on utilizing this promotion, here’s how to do so:
- Visit United’s Buy Miles page.
- Click on Buy Miles.
- Enter your United MileagePlus account number and last name.
- Select the number of miles you want to buy and 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:
- You must purchase at least 2,000 miles. Miles may be purchased in increments of 1,000 miles.
- Members can only purchase 175,000 miles per account, per calendar year, and bonus miles count toward the 175,000 mile annual limit.
- Miles may take up to 48 hours to post to your account.
- Purchased or gifted miles do not count toward MileagePlus Premier status.
Which Credit Card to Use
United miles purchases are processed by Points.com, so you generally won’t get any travel category bonuses from this purchase. But, there are notable exceptions that we found in our test purchases to determine the The Best Credit Card for Buying United MileagePlus Miles.
Both the United Explorer Card and the United MileagePlus Club Card earned 2x miles on United miles purchases. In addition, the Ink Business Preferred surprised us by earning 3x Chase Ultimate Rewards points on the purchase.
If you don’t have one of these cards, make sure to use the best non-bonus category credit card for your situation. Based on TPG’s valuations, the Blue Business℠ Plus Credit Card from American Express’s 2x Membership Rewards (on the first $50,000 per year; then 1x thereafter), or Chase Freedom Unlimited’s (1.5%) 1.5x Ultimate Rewards points would be the most rewarding choices.
This is The Points Guy’s permanent page about poor-value United Airlines’ “buy miles” promotions, so you can bookmark it and check back for the latest offer. Keep in mind you may see some reader comments referring to older deals below. Post last updated on March 11, 2019.