United Buy Miles: Maximizing Your MileagePlus Experience

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In the dynamic world of airline loyalty programs, understanding how to effectively utilize your benefits is crucial. For members of United’s MileagePlus program, the option to ‘United Buy Miles’ presents both opportunities and considerations. This comprehensive guide aims to demystify the process, offering insights into the best practices for buying United miles, especially in light of the recent devaluations in 2020 and 2023.

Buying United Miles: A Detailed Overview

When Do United Miles Expire?

A common question among members of the United MileagePlus program is, “When do United miles expire?” The good news for MileagePlus members is that United miles never expire. This change, signaling a shift towards greater flexibility and customer-friendliness, means that once you earn miles, they remain in your account indefinitely.

The Benefit of Non-Expiring Miles

The policy of non-expiring miles offers significant benefits, especially for those who are not frequent flyers. Typically, airline miles are subject to expiration after a certain period of inactivity, which can be a concern for casual travelers or those who do not fly regularly. However, with United’s approach, you don’t need to worry about losing your hard-earned miles due to inactivity. This aspect is particularly advantageous for members who don’t regularly participate in the MileagePlan program.

No Annual Earning Requirement

Another common concern among loyalty program members is the requirement to earn a certain number of miles or points within a specified timeframe to keep their account active. United MileagePlus members can rest easy knowing that there is no annual earning requirement to maintain their balance. Whether you’re earning miles through flights, partner services, or credit card spending, every mile you earn remains in your account without the pressure of an expiration deadline.

United MileagePlus Miles Purchase Guidelines

Navigating the process of purchasing miles through United’s MileagePlus program can be straightforward if you know the right steps. Whether you’re looking to top off your account for an upcoming trip, or planning for future travel, understanding how to buy United miles efficiently can be a valuable asset. 

Step-by-Step Guide: How to Buy United Miles

Step 1: Log Into Your MileagePlus Account

To purchase miles, you first need to log into your United MileagePlus account. If you don’t have an account, you’ll need to sign up for one on the United Airlines website. This step is essential as it links your purchase directly to your MileagePlus account.

Log in to your MileagePlus account
Log in to your MileagePlus account
Step 2: Navigate to the Purchase Miles Page

Once logged in, locate the section for buying miles. This is typically found under the ‘MileagePlus’ dropdown menu or directly within your account overview page.

Step 3: Select the Number of Miles

Choose the number of miles you wish to purchase. Remember, the minimum purchase is 2,000 miles, and the maximum you can buy in a calendar year is 175,000 miles, including any bonus miles.

Example of a miles buying window
Example of a miles buying window
Step 4: Complete Your Purchase

Enter your payment details. It’s important to note that purchases are facilitated through Points.com, not directly through United, which means the transaction won’t count as a United purchase on your credit card statement.

Step 5: Review and Confirm

Before finalizing the transaction, review all the details carefully. Ensure that the number of miles and the total cost are correct. Once you confirm the purchase, the transaction is non-refundable.

Tips for a Smooth Purchase Experience

  1. First-Time Purchase Verification

If this is your first time buying miles, be aware that your transaction might be temporarily paused for account verification. This is a standard security measure.

  1. Buying miles with a travel credit card

One thing to keep in mind is that using a premium travel card that earns rewards points for travel spending doesn’t work with United because the purchase is processed by Points.com.

Therefore, for credit card purchases, it’s better to use cards that reward general purchases or those for which you plan to earn a welcome bonus.

  1. Transaction limits

Be aware of the transaction limits set by Points.com. If you plan to make multiple purchases, consider spreading them out over time or using different credit cards to avoid the limit (no more than 4 transactions within 30 days per credit card)

How to Buy United Miles Cheap

Buying United miles for cheap can be done with a strategic approach. By taking advantage of promotions, understanding the value of miles, and making purchases with specific goals in mind, you can significantly increase the value of your MileagePlus miles. 

Take Advantage of Promotional Offers

United Airlines frequently holds promotions that allow you to purchase miles with a bonus. These promotions can range from 10% to as high as 100% extra miles. Buying miles during these promotional periods is the most cost-effective way to increase your MileagePlus balance. Keeping an eye on United’s announcements or subscribing to their newsletter can alert you to these valuable opportunities.

History of MileagePlus offers for the purchase of miles for 2023

Up to a 100% bonus January 2024
Up to a 100% bonusDecember 2023
Up to a 100% bonusNovember 2023
Up to a 90% bonusOctober 2023
Up to a 100% bonusSeptember 2023
Up to a 100% bonusAugust 2023
Up to a 100% bonusJune 2023
Up to a 100% bonusMay 2023
Up to a 100% bonusApril 2023
Up to a 100% bonusMarch 2023
Up to a 100% bonusFebruary 2023
Up to a 90% bonusJanuary 2023
History of MileagePlus offers for the purchase of miles for 2023

Cost Analysis: United Miles in Numbers

Cost United Miles
Image source screenshot Buy Mileageplus

The base cost of miles is calculated at 3.5 cents per mile.

For promotional offers with a bonus of up to 100% on mileage purchases, the structure of bonus points is usually as follows:

  • Buy between 5,000 and 17,000 miles  –  30% bonus.
  • Buy between 18,000 and 34,000 miles  –  65% bonus.
  • Buy between 35,000 and 87,500 miles – 100% bonus.
Miles PurchasedСost ($)*BonusNumber of miles with a bonus*Total cost of 1 mile per dollar*
Table illustrating how much it costs 10000, 20000, and 50000 to buy United miles with a promotion up to 100%
United boarding gates
Image source United Media Center

Practical considerations: When to buy miles

Miles should be viewed as a currency that is subject to inflation and changes in value. Always have a plan for how you will use them to avoid potential losses.

  1. Estimating the value of miles

Before buying miles, calculate the potential value you can get from them. To do this, compare the value of the miles with the cost of the cash ticket for which you plan to use them. If the price of buying miles is lower than the ticket price, then buying miles may be a reasonable choice.

  1. Planning a specific trip

Ideally, miles should be purchased with a specific purpose in mind, such as booking an airline ticket or an upgrade that offers good value. Buying miles without a specific purpose for using them can lead to the accumulation of miles that may eventually become worthless due to program changes or inflation.

  1. Covering a shortfall in the loyalty miles account

Buying miles can be especially useful when you simply do not have enough money to buy a flight or upgrade. It is more profitable to buy a small amount of miles than to pay the entire fare or upgrade in cash.

  1. Take into account future devaluations

Airlines can devalue miles, usually with advance notice. If you anticipate a devaluation or there is an announcement about it, it may make sense to buy miles before it takes effect, especially if you can redeem them immediately.

  1. Business and first-class bookings

Buying miles to book business or first-class airline tickets can be very beneficial. These fares are often disproportionately expensive when paying in cash, but they can be a bargain when using miles, especially with a mileage bonus or during a sale.

United business class sleeper seats (B767)
United business class sleeper seats (B767) | Image source Flick

Practical examples in some directions:

DirectionCost per Miles*Cost for Cash*Cost in $ with purchase of miles with 100% Bonus*
Los Angeles (LAX)  to Dublin (DUB)87,800 miles + $44.70$7,456$1,625.1
San Francisco (SFO)  to Zurich (ZRH)87,800 miles + $23.10$7,092$1,603.5
New York (NYC) to London (LON)80,000 miles + $5.60$4,032$1,445.6

*All calculations are exclusive of taxes and fees.


Reflecting on the nuances of the United MileagePlus program and the ‘United Buy Miles’ option, it’s evident that informed decisions can lead to significant savings and enhanced travel experiences.

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