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Until August 31, 2015, United is selling miles up to 50% off.

Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 2.54.36 AM

The exact maximum discount is targeted, so you have to sign in to see your discount. My maximum discount is 50%.Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 2.55.14 AM Even if you get the 50% discount, it only applies to purchases of at least 50,000 miles. United miles normally cost 3.76 cents each, so with a 50% discount, they cost 1.88 cents each.Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 2.55.42 AM

After the 50% discount, 50,000 miles cost $941. The maximum number of miles you can buy in a year is 150,000 miles, which cost $2,822 after a 50% discount.

Is It a Good Deal?

The cheapest miles cost 1.88 cents each during this promotion, and that requires shelling out $941. If your targeted discount is only 40%, the cheapest miles are 2.25 cents each. Smaller discounts result in even pricier miles.

I value United miles around 1.5 cents each, so there is no way I would buy these miles speculatively for 1.88+ cents. The only way it could possibly make sense to buy miles at these prices is if you had an immediate high value use for them.

In general, the highest value uses for United are international economy awards, United BusinessFirst and Global First awards, and these Six Under-Priced Awards on the United Chart. Check out my Basics of United MileagePlus post for more info.

Conspicuously absent from that list are most partner Business and First Class awards. That’s because in February 2014, United jacked up the prices of those awards substantially.

To figure out if the award you’re thinking about is a high value use, use this simple expression:

(A – B) / (C + D)

  • A: Value of the award. Important: this is the lesser of the cash price and your subjective value.
  • B: Taxes on the award
  • C: Miles used on the award
  • D: Miles you would earn if you purchased the award ticket with cash

This will spit out the dollar value you are getting for your miles. If that number is greater than 0.0188, and you can book the dream award now, buy during this promotion. Otherwise, don’t buy.

Bottom Line

You can buy 50,000 to 150,000 United miles for 1.88 cents each if you were targeted for a 50% discount through August 31, 2015. That’s way too high to buy speculatively, but this is tied for the cheapest I’ve seen United sell its miles, so jump on the sale if you have a high value use for the miles.

United miles are sold by, so purchasing them will NOT trigger category bonuses on cards that bonus airline or travel purchases.