How to Buy & Redeem United MileagePlus Miles

United 787
A United Airlines Boeing 787. Photo: United.

Buying United miles during a promotion can be a clever way to save money on future Star Alliance Business and First class flights, as the cost of the miles is often lower than the cost of an equivalent airfare. United MileagePlus miles can be redeemed for premium cabin award flights across the entire Star Alliance network. 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 the airline even offers regular, generous discounts and bonuses when you purchase miles.

 

How to Buy United MileagePlus Miles

You can buy MileagePlus miles on the United website. At full price, they are a little pricey at USD35 per thousand, plus a 7.5% US federal excise tax (bringing the total cost to USD37.63/1,000 miles). 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 MileagePlus account can buy miles, but the offers may be targeted. You’ll only receive offers if you’re a United MileagePlus member. So if you haven’t already, make sure you sign up now to avoid missing out on future deals!

United Airlines MileagePlus miles do not expire.

 

Special Deals on Buying United Miles

Promotions typically come around every 1-2 months. It is not uncommon for United to offer up to 100% bonus miles (which is equivalent to a 50% discount)! But many promotions are targeted and some members may receive different offers to others.

United’s most recent promotion offers up to 100% bonus miles on purchases. This offer expires on 26 July 2022 (U.S. Central Time). Here are the typical bonus amounts on offer in the latest promo:

  • Buy 5,000 to 19,000 United miles and get 50% bonus miles
  • Buy 20,000 to 39,000 United miles and get 70% bonus miles
  • Buy 40,000 to 87,500 United miles and get 100% bonus miles

If you were to purchase the maximum 87,500 United MileagePlus miles during this promotion, you would receive the maximum 175,000 miles (including the 100% bonus miles) at a cost of USD3,292.19 (including tax).

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, Turkish Airlines, ANA, Asiana, Air India, Lufthansa and (of course) United Airlines. Singapore Airlines and Air New Zealand are also in Star Alliance.

Star Alliance airlines in 2021
Star Alliance member airlines.

Unfortunately, Air New Zealand rarely releases Business class award availability and Singapore Airlines premium awards are generally only available on regional flights (e.g. within Asia, or from Cairns or Darwin to Singapore) when booking with United miles. United’s airline partners also include Virgin Australia, Aer Lingus, Eurowings, Eurowings Discover and Azul.

All United award flights can be booked on the United website. You can also use the United website to find award availability on Star Alliance airlines.

United previously used a region-based award chart. However, it removed its award charts for itineraries including United-operated award flights in November 2019. In May 2020, it also removed award charts for Star Alliance partner awards without notice. Prices are now dynamic and can vary based on the route, airline and even date of travel.

There is still some consistency in pricing for Star Alliance partner airline awards. But without award charts, pricing is never guaranteed. So, be sure to check the cost and availability of a given redemption before purchasing miles!

Not all United award bookings are great value, but there are several “sweet spots” for Australians:

  • Australia to Europe in Business or First Class
  • Australia to the Middle East (including Israel) in Business Class
  • Australia to North Asia in Business Class
  • 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 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.

 

Other Star Alliance programs that sell miles

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! United miles also never expire.

You can also buy Air Canada Aeroplan miles or buy Aegean Miles+Bonus miles.

Aegean Airlines, based in Greece, has a competitive award chart. But there is a key limitation – award flights can only have a maximum of one connection (i.e. no more than two flight sectors).

Air Canada Aeroplan, meanwhile, has emerged as an excellent new Star Alliance program since it began selling miles in 2020. You can easily redeem online, the award pricing is competitive and Air Canada also partners with many airlines outside of the alliance including Etihad Airways and Virgin Australia.

 

Want to learn more about buying points for cheap premium cabin flights?

Frequent Flyer Solutions offers a comprehensive training program which includes an entire course on buying and redeeming points for discounted premium travel! This course covers 8 frequent flyer programs in detail, including United MileagePlus. View course →

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Matt Graham
The editor of Australian Frequent Flyer, Matt's passion for travel has taken him to over 60 countries… with the help of frequent flyer points, of course!
Matt's favourite destinations (so far) are Germany, Brazil, New Zealand & Kazakhstan. His interests include economics, aviation & foreign languages, and he has a soft spot for good food and red wine.

You can contact Matt at [email protected]

Community Comments

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in mind there is a devaluation coming at some point (can't remember when)...

1st Nov I believe.

Reply Like

I love the search engine for UA.

Looks like there's award availability from NZ to LAX in Aug direct and about 8 days in Sept. Otherwise booking east coast US, Caribbean or Europe/UK seems good value.
It's tempting as the 100% bonus doesn't seem to come along often but I'm not 100% sure I can make use of it in the next 12 - 18 months:(. Need more leave to use the points, but need to work to buy the points - gah!!

Reply 1 Like

First time in 12 months they've had a 100% bonus. It's the one I've been hanging out for. Cost including tax recovery fee is 1.88c USD) per mile.

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Be careful about the devaluation though, it hit Australia - Asia routes badly, Australia - South Asia was one of the sweet spots for UA mile redemption.

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Be careful about the devaluation though, it hit Australia - Asia routes badly, Australia - South Asia was one of the sweet spots for UA mile redemption.

True - but bookings made before 1 Nov can be for a year in advance. But a major advantage is wide-open availability for LH F!

Reply 2 Likes

Exchange rate is pretty decent too so I'm definitely tempted with this offer.

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True - but bookings made before 1 Nov can be for a year in advance. But a major advantage is wide-open availability for LH F!

LH F availability is the only reason I'm considering this.
When it's not available via LM, UA is next best option.

Reply 1 Like

Actually I just realised I wasn't looking at the *A partner chart and it's actually 90K to use UA to Europe from NZ/Oz which with taxes combined doesn't look to be very good value considering you can find cheaper using google flights to pay cash fare, dates you want, and earn points.

I like the idea of being able to fly short notice (1-2 months) NZ to LAX during low season. It is cheaper than what NZ charges for the direct flight even on sale. About $1,000 cheaper each way departing from Australia.

Tossing up between availability of NZ direct with UA redemption vs getting a sale fare from Australia. Both would likely be low seasons but I suspect there are more sale dates ex Aus than availability dates with UA. But UA would cut out 8hrs of back tracking...... IF available.

I'm thinking Alaska Mileage Plan is better to get to Asia AKL-HKG?

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click to expand...

LH F availability is the only reason I'm considering this.
When it's not available via LM, UA is next best option.

With United Miles, can you book LH F > than 14 days out? edit Yes you can!

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With United Miles, can you book LH F > than 14 days out? edit Yes you can!

you can? Have you got an example? I can only find 14 days. Good news if this has been extended.

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