United Airlines miles open up a world of opportunity when it comes to cheap Business and First class travel. United sells miles that can be redeemed for flights on any Star Alliance airline. With bonuses of up to 100% available from time to time, this makes it possible to fly to Asia in First Class for less than $1,000!

The trick is to buy United miles during a “bonus miles” promotion, then to redeem them for high-value rewards. United miles cost US$35 per thousand, plus tax. This equates to around AU$49 per 1,000 miles. But at an 80% bonus, you would only pay AU$27 per thousand miles. And if you’re lucky enough to receive a 100% bonus offer, you’d be paying less than AU$25 per thousand!

After maximising the bonuses, the miles can be redeemed for any Star Alliance flight. This is subject, however, to award availability. One of United’s many program sweet spots is First class flights to Southern Asia. This includes any route between Australia or New Zealand, and Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Bangladesh or The Philippines. Star Alliance airlines flying to these destinations include Thai Airways and Singapore Airlines. A First Class redemption between these zones costs just 40,000 United miles. If purchased at a 100% bonus, these miles would cost just US$752.50, or around AU$980! By comparison, a paid First class ticket from Sydney to Bangkok on Thai Airways would cost almost $4,000.

A Business class redemption on the same route costs 30,000 miles. At a 100% bonus, these miles could be bought for less than AU$750.

Taxes need to be paid in addition to the miles, however taxes on United redemptions are very reasonable. For example, the taxes on a Thai Airways award ticket from Bangkok to Sydney are just AU$57.

United sends out targeted promotional offers on mile purchases on a regular basis. Bonus amounts are generally around 80%, but bonuses vary from as little as 50%, to as much as 100%.

I just received a 100% bonus offer from United. We are in Penang and flew First Class from SYD for 80K miles return. Mostly on points earned flying Star Alliance and topping up at 80%. I think it is a good deal.

80% bonus for me and 100% for my partner. Will be buying through partner’s account for end of the year Thailand trip.

As these offers are targeted, you will need to be a member of the United Mileage Plus frequent flyer program in order to receive them. Joining is free and easy to do online. So, if you would like to take advantage of future promotions, we recommend signing up immediately!

If you are a M+ member and receive their email notices/ advertisements, you may receive an offer. The offers vary by previous purchases, number of flights on United, using miles for flights. I am not really sure of the algorithm of who receives offers. My wife did not receive the offer and she flies with me. I use my M+ Visa card more than she does, so that may be the link.

If you are new to all of this, it will take a while to understand the process. Keep reading people’s experiences in this web page.

Join the discussion HERE.

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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]