Anyone without United status is charged a hefty $75 fee to book an award within 21 days of departure. There are two tricks to reduce or eliminate this fee.
Trick 1- Transfer your Ultimate Rewards to a Status-ful spouse’s United account
Ultimate Rewards can be transferred to your United account or your spouse’s. If your spouse has status, transfer there.
If you transfer your Ultimate Rewards to a spouse’s account who has Premier Platinum or higher status and book from his account, the $75 fee will be waived.
As a bonus, future change and cancellation fees will be waived too, so you don’t need to worry about yesterday’s tricks for reducing or eliminating those.
Trick 2- Book an award 22+ days out and change it to your real award — perhaps
If you don’t have Ultimate Rewards or a friend with Platinum+ status, I might at least be able to save you $25, using one of yesterday’s tricks.
Take a look at United’s award fee chart:
Theoretically that means that there is no advantage to booking a dummy award and changing it to your real award if you want to make a last-minute booking. But I think doing just that might save non-elites $25.
Here’s my reasoning. Look at this award change:
This is a within-21 day change, so there should be a $75 fee. That fee is not listed where it would be in a normal award search, under the taxes/fees link. Instead, we just see the $50 “Change Fee” listed where it was yesterday when we were basically cancelling itineraries.
I have Silver status with United, so that’s what I should be charged to make a within-21 day change: $50. This possible trick doesn’t save me anything.
But I think it might save non-elites $25 to book within-21 day itineraries this way. The reason is that the $50 charge listed in the screen shot above is exactly the same $50 fee that was charged to non-elites yesterday when they should have been charged $75.
Unfortunately, I don’t have access to a non-elite United account, so I can’t check whether this trick works and saves $25 for close in bookings. But if you can check, let us know.
Either way, the next time you want to make a within-21 day booking on United without status, it can’t hurt to make a dummy booking then immediately try to make the change to your desired award. At worst, you’ll break even. At best you’ll save $25. (Don’t forget if you try to make a change, and the award space you wanted has disappeared, you can cancel a United award within 24 hours of booking it for free.)
Save $75 per ticket on last minute bookings by transferring your Ultimate Rewards to a friend with high-level United status and having him book.
If you don’t have Ultimate Rewards or friends, you can try my as-yet-unproven second trick to save $25 on a last minute booking by booking a distant-future dummy award and replacing it with your real desired award.