Buying United miles during a promotion is a clever way to save money on Star Alliance Business and First class flights, as the cost of the miles is often lower than the cost of an equivalent airfare. United Mileage Plus miles can be redeemed for premium cabin award flights across the entire Star Alliance network (except, at present, Singapore Airlines). Plus, there are no fuel surcharges on most United award tickets.
Don’t have any United miles? No problem! You can easily buy United miles online, and United even offers regular, generous discounts and bonuses when you purchase miles.
How to Buy United Mileage Plus Miles
United sells Mileage Plus miles on its website. At full price, they are a little pricey at USD37.63 per thousand (including taxes). But you’ll pay much less than this by buying miles during a promotion. You must buy at least 2,000 miles per transaction.
There is an annual purchase limit of 175,000 miles per account, including bonus miles.
Anyone with a United account can buy miles, but the offers may be targeted. You’ll only receive offers if you’re a United Mileage Plus member. So if you haven’t already, make sure you sign up now to avoid missing out on future deals!
Special Deals on Buying United Miles
Promotions typically come around every 2-3 months. It is not uncommon for United to offer up to 100% bonus miles. But many promotions are targeted and some members may receive different offers to others.
United’s most recent promotion offers up to 67% bonus miles on purchases. This offer expires on 25 March 2019 (US central time). Here are the bonuses on offer in the latest promo:
- Buy 5,000 to 14,000 United miles and earn 20% bonus miles
- Buy 15,000 to 29,000 United miles and earn 40% bonus miles
- Buy 30,000 to 104,478 United miles and earn 67% bonus miles
If you were to purchase the maximum 104,478 United miles during this promotion, you would receive 70,000 bonus miles. This means you’d receive a total of 174,478 miles at a cost of USD3,930.98 (~$5,570). This is not the best price we’ve seen on United miles, so you may prefer to wait for the next promotion if you’re not in a hurry to book.
115,000 United miles are enough to book a First class ticket from Australia to Europe. These would cost you USD2,596.13 (~$3,678) during this promotion. The miles for a Business Class ticket to Europe would cost USD2,031.75 (~$2,878). This is a bit more expensive than buying and redeeming Avianca LifeMiles.
Business Class flights from Australia to Japan cost 50,000 United miles one-way or 100,000 miles return. You could buy 100,000 miles during a 67% bonus deal for USD2,257.50 ($3,198).
Alternatively, Business Class flights from anywhere in the Pacific Islands to Japan (via Australia or New Zealand) cost just 75,000 miles return.
Promotions on buying United miles are discussed on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: Bonus United Miles – Up to 100%
Redeeming United Miles
United miles can be redeemed to fly on any Star Alliance airline. These include Thai Airways, Air Canada, South African Airways, Turkish Airlines, ANA, Asiana, Air India, Lufthansa and (of course) United Airlines. Singapore Airlines and Air New Zealand are also in Star Alliance. But Air New Zealand rarely releases Business class award availability, and Singapore Airlines premium awards are generally only available on regional flights when booking with United miles. (In any case, Singapore Airlines awards are currently unavailable through United Mileage Plus until further notice.) United’s airline partners also include Aer Lingus, Eurowings and Azul.
All United award flights can be booked on the United website.
United uses a region-based award chart. Not all United award bookings are great value, but there are several “sweet spots” for Australians:
- Australia to Europe costs 90,000 United miles in Business or 115,000 miles in First class
- Australia to the Middle East (including Israel) costs 75,000 United miles in Business class
- Australia to Asia is 50,000 miles in Business Class. This is reasonable value for longer flights, e.g. to Japan, Korea and China
- Flights to most destinations (including Japan and Europe) are cheaper if you depart from the Pacific Islands – even if your flight routes via Australia! This includes departures from Tahiti, Fiji, Cook Islands, Samoa and Tonga.
- Australia to the USA is reasonable value, especially to the east coast which costs the same as travelling to the west coast. But award availability (especially on direct flights between Australia and North America) is very limited.
If you book a round-trip award with United, you can also take advantage of the “Excursionist Perk”. This gives you a free one-way flight within your destination zone, effectively giving you a free stopover.
United is not the only Star Alliance airline to sell miles. Avianca, a South American airline, sells LifeMiles with up to 145% bonus miles available during special promotions. Buying Avianca LifeMiles can work out cheaper than buying United miles for Star Alliance award travel. But redeeming United miles is far easier and less risky!
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