United Airlines MileagePlus is one of the few programs allowing you to purchase miles to redeem on Star Alliance partner airlines like Singapore Airlines, ANA and Air New Zealand. This is especially useful for cheaper Business and First Class redemptions internationally, particularly in Asia and other select international routes.
MileagePlus often runs deals that enable you to purchase miles for cheaper or get a bonus on top. You can check the latest offers in our dedicated guide. This guide explains how to buy the miles and things to look out for with buying United MileagePlus miles.
What do I need to know before purchasing United MileagePlus miles?
First up, the good news. United miles never expire. And you won’t require any annual earn to keep your existing balance. This is useful for people who don’t frequently engage in the MileagePlan program, which would probably include most Australian readers.
You might have the transaction blocked or ‘on hold’ when you first buy miles until MileagePlus can verify your account. This can be frustrating when you’re buying miles for instant redemption. Thankfully, this doesn’t happen too often from what we’ve heard. Also, note that:
- You can purchase a total of up to 175,000 miles per calendar year., including bonuses
- There is a minimum purchase of 2,000 miles per transaction.
- Points.com (the payment processor) usually limits further purchases if you exceed 4 transactions within 30 days on the same credit card. You may be able to get away with this by using a different card for further transactions.
- For those with rewards cards that give bonus points on travel-related spending, buying United MileagePlus miles does not count as eligible spending.
How do I buy United MileagePlus miles?
The most straightforward way to buy United MileagePlus miles is direct from United. It costs around US$37.6 per 1,000 miles, including extra fees and taxes. This equates to roughly 5.8 cents AUD per mile, which isn’t helped by the weak exchange rate at the time of writing (September 2022).
We value MileagePlus miles at roughly 1.6 cents each. The purchase rate of 5.8 cents each is much higher, meaning this is generally not great value unless you are just a little short of your goal. However, these numbers improve when a bonus deal is offered.
For example, when there is a 100% bonus (double points), you can buy 87,500 points for US$3,292.19 and get another 87,500 points for free. That brings the overall cost to 2.90 cents AUD per mile.
Example: Using MileagePlus to book Thai Airways
Thai Airways is a Star Alliance carrier that consistently offers good Business Class availability between Australia and Bangkok. For example, you can redeem 55,000 MileagePlus miles (plus AU$87.18) for a one-way Business Class seat from Melbourne to Bangkok.
With a 100% bonus on miles, booking a one-way Business Class ticket could cost you around AU$1,712, including taxes. Also, consider Air Canada Aeroplan for even cheaper Star Alliance redemptions.
You can buy United MileagePlus Miles in three easy steps:
- Head to the Buy MileagePlus miles page on the United website and log in.
- Choose how many miles you would like to purchase.
- Enter your payment details to complete the transaction.
Note that the transaction is run by Points.com, which is based in the US. Payments are charged in US dollars, so you will get an international transaction fee with Australian cards (unless you use a card that doesn’t charge).
How else can I earn United MileagePlus miles?
If you have American Express Membership Rewards points, you can transfer them to Marriott Bonvoy. From there, you can convert your points into MileagePlus miles at preferred rates. More info on that process is in our guide to transferring Marriott Bonvoy points. You can also credit Star Alliance flights to your MileagePlus account.
Learn more about how to earn and burn United MileagePlus miles in our starter guide to the program. It includes a list of the airlines you can spend your purchased miles on. Finally, if you’re not yet a member of United MileagePlus, sign up for free here.
Purchasing United MileagePlus miles can be a good way to accumulate miles for cheap airline redemptions with Star Alliance partners. However, it generally only makes sense to do so when there is a decent buy miles offer and you have a particular redemption in mind.
We don’t usually recommend purchasing miles speculatively, given that programs can be devalued at short notice. United recently changed its flights to dynamic pricing, although partner airline flights are currently unaffected.
It may be worth taking a minute to see if Avianca LifeMiles or Air Canada Aeroplan are also offering bonuses. Both Star Alliance airlines also sell discounted miles for redemptions, though Lifemiles’ website and processes may be difficult to navigate if you don’t understand Spanish.
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