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United has announced a 25% discount on roundtrip economy class awards between the United States and Europe. That means your trip to Europe would cost 45,000 miles roundtrip instead of the normal 60,000.

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Details:

  • Only valid when booked by June 28, 2016
  • For flights flown:
    • between the United States + Canada (not Hawaii) and Europe
    • between August 23, 2016 and March 31, 2017
    • on United planes only
  • Blackout dates on which you cannot book with the discounted price: December 15, 2016, to January 8, 2017
  • Roundtrip only, one ways will maintain the normal price of 30,000 United miles

You don’t even have to log in or register anywhere special. The promotional prices show with normal searches on united.com, as long as the above parameters are met.

I assume this move is in direct competition with American Airlines, who also offer discounted economy awards between the United States and Europe during designated Off Peak dates. The 45,000 United mile sale price is exactly what it would cost you to redeem American Airlines roundtrip to Europe between January 10 – March 14 or November 1 – December 14. But the United sale spans an even bigger time window, including the end of August, September, and October, as well as a few extra days on the other end in late March of 2017.

Compare Before You Buy

Before speeding off to united.com, do a little research so your miles aren’t spent in vain.

There have been a lot of cheap revenue economy tickets on sale between the United States and Europe recently, like the roundtrips to Zurich and Frankfurt we saw a few weeks ago for just $414.  In these types of cases, it might not be worth it to use 45,000 United miles. It depends on how much you value the miles.

You have to run the numbers to see if the sale is worth it to you. For example, if I was trying to decide whether to pay $414 or use 45,000 United miles to get to Zurich, I would run the following equation since I value 1 United mile at 1.6 cents:

(.016 x 45,000) + award taxes/fees = $720 + award taxes/fees

$414 < $720 + award taxes/fees

So I would not use 45,000 United miles on a flight I could buy for $414. But perhaps there is no cheap fare to where you want to go, or departing from where you live. Then it could certainly be worth it.

Open Jaw and Double Open Jaws Are OK

I did a couple dummy bookings to make sure the discounted economy award prices would still apply if you booked the award with an open jaw or double open jaw. Open jaws give you the freedom to see other places on your trip and help you avoid expensive departure taxes. Departing from Britain can cost you around $200 out of pocket in taxes, while departing from many other places in Europe will only run you around $50.

The result of the dummy bookings was that yes, open jaw awards and double open jaw awards still fall in the promotional price category of 45,000 miles.

Here is an example flying out of Newark to London, and returning to Newark from Paris:

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And here is an example flying from Newark to London, and Paris to Chicago:

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So even if you start your trip in Britain, return from one these low tax cities instead to avoid costly departure taxes and see way more of Europe. Just take a low cost carrier like Ryanair, use Avios, or take trains to connect your itinerary.

Already Book a United Award to Europe?

In the terms and conditions of the promotion, it states:

“Qualifying existing award tickets may be reissued, upon request, to the award sale mileage. They are subject to the award change policy, including any applicable service fees.”

So if you already redeemed United miles for a roundtrip economy award flying United to Europe that travels between August 23, 2016 and March 31, 2017, you can save 15,000 United miles by calling and speaking to a representative at MileagePlus (1-800-421-4655).

You will have to pay the change fee however if you don’t have elite status, so take that into consideration. It would cost $75 per person if you make the change more than 21 days in advance of the travel date or $100 per person if the change is within 21 days of travel.

Bottom Line

Roundtrip economy awards flying United are discounted down to 45,000 United miles instead of 60,000 if you buy within the next week. The award has to be for travel between August 23, 2016 and March 31, 2017 and cannot be over the blackout holiday dates. This is a great deal and use of your United miles, but before acting, do some research first (The Flight Deal and airfarewatchdog are good places to start) to make sure there isn’t a cheap revenue ticket out there thats a better deal than using 45,000 United miles.

If you decide to bite the bullet, pay for award taxes with the Citi Prestige® Card, since it comes with a $250 Air Travel Credit every calendar year that also applies to out of pocket award taxes and fees.

Even if you’ve already used your $250 credit for this year, the card offers 3x on all airfare purchases, which is a higher category bonus than the United co-branded card offers for buying their own plane tickets (2x).

See my review of the Citi Prestige Card which explains its many components like its annual $250 Air Travel Credit, 40,000 point sign up bonus, access to the American Airlines Admirals Clubs and Priority Pass lounges, 3x points per dollar on air travel and hotels, and a $450 annual fee.

Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

Just getting started in the world of points and miles? The Chase Sapphire Preferred is the best card for you to start with.

With a bonus of 60,000 points after $4,000 spend in the first 3 months, 5x points on travel booked through the Chase Travel Portal and 3x points on restaurants, streaming services, and online groceries (excluding Target, Walmart, and wholesale clubs), this card truly cannot be beat for getting started!


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