Although United offers no stopovers on one way awards, the airline allows one stopover on roundtrip awards in addition to your destination. This can lead to all sorts of outsized value:

Lately I’ve been most excited about the possibilities of the Three One Ways award. That’s probably because I’m a nomad and have booked my awards as an unending series of one way awards for the last few years. (If you’re not a nomad, you’ll probably get more value from Free One Ways and 2-3 cities for the price of one awards.)

I was toying around with a Three One Way award recently to get from the Chicago Seminars (where I’ll be presenting about miles twice in October) to South America and then Africa. I found a way to fly to three cities in Business Class for only 100,000 miles, 20,000 miles cheaper than if I booked the award as a series of one way awards.

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The Award Search

Start your Three One Way search on united.com by searching separately for each of the three one way awards that you plan to stick together. I started with Chicago to Buenos Aires.

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Award space in economy is much better than Business Class on the route, but I found some Business Class the week of Thanksgiving.Screen Shot 2016-07-26 at 1.17.32 PM Then I searched Buenos Aires to Sao Paulo. Award space is wide open on Turkish Airlines in flat bed Business Class.

Screen Shot 2016-07-26 at 1.19.03 PMTurkish flies this short tag flight at a terrible time as part of its route to Istanbul.
Screen Shot 2016-07-26 at 1.18.50 PMFinally I searched Sao Paulo to Cape Town, which is wide open in Business Class and has some economy available.
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South African Airways flies Sao Paulo to Johannesburg daily with connections throughout South Africa. (I flew and reviewed South African Business Class from Buenos Aires to Johannesburg, a route which has since been cancelled.)

Amazingly United charges only 45,000 miles one way in Business Class for this longhaul.Screen Shot 2016-07-26 at 1.19.48 PM

Putting It All Together

Once I noted the dates of the award space, I went back to the home page of united.com and clicked “All search options” to do a multi-city award search for all three one ways.

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I selected “Multi-city” and typed in my cities.

Screen Shot 2016-07-26 at 1.23.41 PMMulti-city award results are always weird on united.com. Look how some Saver Business Class awards showed as 55,000 miles and some showed as 27,500 miles for the first leg.
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Ignore that weirdness, and select the legs you want. All the Saver space will show up as the same price at the end. (For those interested, the 27.5k awards are considering Sao Paulo the destination and charging 27.5k + 27.5k + 45k for the award while the 55k awards are considering Buenos Aires the destination and charging 55k + 22.5k + 22.5k, both of which equal 100,000 miles.)

I selected the award space I had found on my original one way searches.
Screen Shot 2016-07-26 at 1.24.53 PM Screen Shot 2016-07-26 at 1.25.06 PM And the award totaled 100,000 miles + $132 in taxes.Screen Shot 2016-07-26 at 1.25.25 PM Screen Shot 2016-07-26 at 1.25.33 PMThat price is what makes this a Three One Ways Award. As you can see from the original one way searches, if booked as one ways, these awards would have cost:

  • 55,000 miles in Business Class from Chicago to Buenos Aires
  • 20,000 miles in Business Class from Buenos Aires to Sao Paulo
  • 45,000 miles in Business Class from Sao Paulo to Cape Town

That’s 120,000 miles separately. But booked together, it’s 100,000 miles. That’s the magic!

Getting United Miles

You need United miles to book Three One Ways awards. You could get the 100,000 miles for the award in this post from just two cards.

United is a 1:1 transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards, and the best cards to get Ultimate Rewards are the Sapphire Preferred and Ink Plus.

The Sapphire Preferred is one of the best personal credit cards on the market. It offers:

  • 50,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $4,000 in the first three months
  • 5,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards for adding an authorized user
  • 2 Ultimate Rewards per dollar on travel and dining purchases
  • 1 Ultimate Reward per dollar on all other purchases
  • no annual fee the first year and $95 thereafter

The Ink Plus is easily the best business card on the market. It offers:

  • 60,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $5,000 in the first three months
  • 5 Ultimate Rewards per dollar at office supply stores and on cellular phone, landline, internet and cable TV services
  • 2 Ultimate Rewards per dollar at gas stations and hotel accommodations
  • 1 Ultimate Reward per dollar on all other purchases
  • $95 annual fee

Bottom Line

Stopovers lead to tricks. Delta and American no longer allow stopovers, but United still allows one on roundtrip awards.

United Three One Way awards are enabled by using this stopover and your destination to book three one way awards together and save thousands of miles over booking them separately.

It took me all of 15 minutes to come up with and search for the example in this post. Can you come up with another Three One Ways Award example that would save thousands of miles?

Chase Sapphire Preferred

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