Bulk-buy United miles for huge savings on business, first class flights

By Chris Chamberlin, June 21 2017
Bulk-buy United miles for huge savings on business, first class flights

UPDATE | A new United Airlines 'buy miles' promotion is underway, giving bonuses of up to 75% on MileagePlus purchases through 2:59pm (Sydney time) on July 4 2017 which can then be redeemed for travel on Air Canada, Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways, United Airlines and other Star Alliance members.

Buying 5,000-24,000 miles comes with a 35% bonus, while buying 25,000-85,000 miles attracts the full 75% boost.

Your best option for buying in bulk? Pick up 80,000 miles (rather than the full 85,000 miles) at a cost of US$3,010 (A$3,975), delivered with 60,000 bonus miles on top (your 75% bonus) for a total haul of 140,000 United miles.

That's precisely enough for a return first class trip from Sydney to Bangkok, Singapore or Hong Kong with Thai Airways (80,000 miles), plus a return business class trip to the same destinations with Thai Airways or Singapore Airlines (60,000 miles): two trips up the front for less than you'd pay for one at retail prices, although be prepared to cover taxes and fees of $50-100 per flight when booking using real money.

Or, if you're happy to fly business class on both return flights, you can save some cash by buying a smaller 69,000 miles instead, with 51,750 bonus miles on the side at a total cost of US$2,596 (A$3,429): churning out 120,750 miles in total: more than enough for those two business class return trips.

Just a tip: while business class redemptions are indeed possible on selected Singapore Airlines flights (telephone booking required), look to Thai Airways for first class bookings between Australia and Asia as these aren't available via SQ.

The article below, while written around a previous 25-40% discount promotion, explains more about the process of buying and using United MileagePlus Miles to book flights across the Star Alliance.

PREVIOUS | Want to fly from Australia to Bangkok in Thai Airways' first class cabin for $2,000? How about business class to Singapore with Singapore Airlines for around $1,600, or Sydney to New York for less than $4,000?

Those are some of the amazing deals you can line up courtesy of United Airlines' latest promotional sale of MileagePlus frequent flyer miles.

UA is putting MileagePlus points on the block at massively discounted rates which, when redeemed on award flights with UA or any of its Star Alliance partners, deliver a saving of between 50-70% over regular ticket prices.

But you'll have to move fast: United's promotion closes at 5pm on Tuesday February 18, EST (that's midnight February 17 in UA's home base of Chicago).

So what’s the deal?

Purchase anywhere from 15,000 to 39,000 United miles and you’ll receive a 25% cash discount on the usual asking price.

Pony up for 40,000 to 150,000 miles and the savings escalate to 40%.

(And as UA won't let you buy more than 150,000 miles per calendar year, you may as well max out and grab all of those points while you can.)

Those rates are good enough on their own, but when coupled with the recent Mileage Plus redemption rate improvements for Aussies heading abroad you'll land some incredible discounts at the pointy end – if you know where to look, of course!

While you'll still need to cough up a reasonably small amount for taxes and surcharges, the overall savings from bulk-buying  MileagePlus miles under this promotion speak for themselves.

Here are our five top picks for using your haul of newly-acquired UA miles.

Australia to North America

United Airlines offers one-way redemptions from Australia to anywhere in the United States for 70,000 Mileage Plus miles in business class and 80,000 in first class.

Although that annual purchase cap of 150,000 miles prevents you from buying enough miles for a return journey in first class, you can pocket 140,000 miles for around US$3,160 – enough for a return trip between Sydney and New York in UA business class (below).

$4,000 for Sydney-New York in business class? That'll do nicely...

How do those prices stack up against United's regular pricing? Flying that same Sydney-New York business class return trip in May would set you back A$5,558, which is just shy of US$5,000 – so you'll pocket a cool $2,000 by trading your cash for miles and redeeming them for the same flight.

Also read: United upgrades Sydney, Melbourne flights to Boeing 777s in April

Within the USA

International-grade travel between Los Angeles or San Francisco and New York is also yours for a song on United's transcontinental 'p.s' flights, which boast fully lie-flat seats and 16 inch video screens in UA's BusinessFirst cabin (below).

One-way ‘Saver Award’ redemptions are priced at 25,000 miles in BusinessFirst, so under the MileagePlus promotion the 50,000 miles needed for a return flight would cost US$1,129.

Compared to United's asking price of US$3,572 for a BusinessFirst fare in May, that’s a saving of nearly 70%!

If you'd rather conserve those miles for the long trek between Australia and the USA, you could book an economy seat on the same UA service for 12,500 miles.

Of course, you've got hundreds of other domestic UA routes to choose from. If you regularly do business in the USA we'd suggest seriously stocking up on MileagePlus points ahead of your next trips.

Also read: United Airlines set for US transcon turf war with American, JetBlue, Delta

Australia to Singapore

Closer to home you can use your MileagePlus miles to book some amazing fares with UA partner Singapore Airlines.

A one-way trip from Australia to Singapore with Singapore Airlines is costed at 17,500 miles in economy and 30,000 in business – though you won't be able to luxe it up in a first class suite on SQ's Airbus A380, as these redemptions aren't typically available to MileagePlus users.

As such, US$1,354 sees you settled very comfortably in business class.

These same flights would usually cost around A$4,262 in business on a return journey, using dates in May.

The only catch is that you'll need to call United Airlines to make these particular redemptions, as SQ award seats are not available online.

Australia to Thailand

The same mileage purchase and redemption rates above apply for business class flights between Australia and Thailand.

If you'd rather stump for first class, that's 40,000 miles each way, so US$1,806 would buy enough miles for a return journey in first class.

These same flights would usually cost around AU$5,605 in first class and AU$4,262 in business (using dates in May) – again, a considerable saving over the retail fare.

Based on travel in May, first class on Thai Airways from Sydney to Bangkok would usually set you back A$5,708, with business class (below) hitting A$3,997.

The cost to you if you splurge right now on discounted MileagePlus points? Around A$2,000 for first class return and $1,500 in business class.

Australia to South Africa

Star Alliance member South African Airways flies daily between Perth and Johannesburg, with one-way redemptions available for 85,000 MileagePlus miles in business class and 50,000 miles in economy.

Although you won’t be able to buy enough miles for a round trip in business, this might be an option to consider if you already have at least 20,000 miles in the kitty.

On that basis you’ll be able to grow your balance to 170,000 miles for US$3,386 – enough to take that business class trip. With the cheapest return business class fare showing at AU$5,052 in May, it’s a great find.

But before you buy...

As with any reward program, award availability is never guaranteed on specific flights. It tends to help if you’re a little flexible on dates or have the time to take an indirect flight.

To sidestep this, United’s website can be used to search for flight awards on specific dates before you have the necessary number of miles sitting in your account – so if you can only travel on a particular date, you’ll be able to check that an award is available before shelling out for the miles.

Also, if you’re aiming to attain or retain your Star Alliance Gold or Silver status, be mindful that flights booked with miles won’t count towards your Premier qualifying miles or qualifying segments under the Mileage Plus program.

Follow Australian Business Traveller on Twitter – we're @AusBT

ChrisCh
ChrisCh

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin is the Associate Editor of Executive Traveller and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, a great latte, a theatre ticket and a glass of wine!

Hugo

Hugo

12 Jun 2013

Total posts 744

Please note that the chances of *actually* getting suites-class availability on a Singapore A380 using United miles are Buckley's. 

Thai availability is pretty good. Singapore availability on their "regional" planes is good. But A380 suites are almost always blocked off.

ChrisCh

ChrisCh

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2925

Thanks for sharing Hugo.

Even though this is mentioned nowhere on the UA website, we've received advice suggesting that SQ Suites aren't normally available to UA members for redemptions – though are available to KrisFlyer members at 'saver' rates – so we tweaked the article a little this afternoon to reflect this.

(And yes, Thai Airways availability is quite decent between Sydney and Bangkok – I'm hoping to try out their first class with some of the miles that I've bought!)

pab2025

pab2025

25 Jun 2012

Total posts 52

Also something of worth to note is that united release very little premium seats on the Australia - USA route, and getting decent connections through Asia using star alliance can be tricky. 

mr_pb

mr_pb

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

01 Oct 2013

Total posts 93

Are we talking about limited dates available for award seats, or limited in the sense that seats get snatched up quickly? Was about to book a flight to LAX on QF soon but for savings as much as this I might give UA a try, but now quite discouraged if chances of redemption are slim...

tmsmile

tmsmile

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

08 Nov 2011

Total posts 105

If you're going to buy miles and use it towards award travel as discounted first/business, then you'd be better off buying US Airways DM. They're officially liquidating *A inventory...

bmc

bmc

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

22 Aug 2013

Total posts 134

Hugo, is SQ A380 business class generally available?

Hugo

Hugo

12 Jun 2013

Total posts 744

Nope, it's just as unavailable.

The "regional" business class (on the A330 and the 777-non-ER) is very comfortable for a daytime flight, mind you, and availabilty on these is quite frequent (at least out of MEL, not sure about the mix of planes going to other cities, but here we get two "long-haul" and two "regional" SQ flights a day because SQ can't decide how far away we are.)

casanovawa

casanovawa

14 Sep 2013

Total posts 14

How does buying miles this way stack up compared if I book a USDM redemption and then buy UA miles using the accelerator feature??

Singaporeair

Singaporeair

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

16 Aug 2013

Total posts 8

Will the miles required for these flights continue to be the same?

ChrisCh

ChrisCh

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2925

Ashan, are you asking if the MileagePlus redemption rates are set to change soon?

If so, the redemption rates were actually revised earlier this month after the airline provided a reasonable period of notice (and the article was written using the new rates), so it would be unlikely that they'd be changed again soon.

Of course, United could always revise the mileage tables again further down the track – so perhaps hoarding your miles for flights planned in years to come isn't a safe bet... the best miles are those that are put to good use!

cssaus

cssaus

United Airlines - Mileage Plus

29 Jan 2011

Total posts 155

I was under the impression that UA miles couldn't be redeemed for SQ flights in business or in first class that were operated by A380's or 777-300ER's.

Can someone confirm if this is the case?

edy4eva

edy4eva

11 Mar 2012

Total posts 182

This is a largely misleading article through which Ausbt is trying to draw crowds to their website. SQ F is off limits to other Star Alliance partners, and availability in business is only possible within 14 days. Do NOT buy United MP miles.

cssaus

cssaus

United Airlines - Mileage Plus

29 Jan 2011

Total posts 155

That's pretty much what I thought was the case with SQ and partner redemptions on their flights.

Mal

Mal

14 Jun 2013

Total posts 360

Edy4eva: please point out the parts of this article that are mislead? The article points out that you cannot get SQ F at least on the A380, and if "and availability in business is only possible within 14 days", well that doesn't make the article misleading in any way at all. I actually found it very useful, especially for TG to BKK because that's a route I expect to be doing a few times in Q2 due to a project I have going on there. So this article has actually saved me a LOT of money!

ChrisCh

ChrisCh

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2925

edy4eva,

Rather than to "draw crowds to (our) website", I actually wrote this article to share a fantastic deal with our readers in the hope that some could use it to their advantage – if you look below, Mal has found a way to make the deal work for him, and I'm sure he's not the only one.

As Mal has already asked you, which parts of my work do you claim to be "largely misleading"?

Given your notes on SQ Suites (when the article already reflected as much), methinks you may have just skipped to the comments instead of actually reading the article proper?

Yes, the article first ran earlier today with a redemption rate for SQ F – though after receiving advice that this may not be possible (even though any such restriction isn't noted on the UA website), we tweaked the article to reflect this. However, at the time you commented, these changes had already been made hours prior...

If your tip on timed availability for business awards is indeed accurate, it's handy to know – although still doesn't make the article 'misleading'.

Above, we note that "award availability is never guaranteed on specific flights" and advise that "if you can only travel on a particular date, you’ll be able to check that an award is available (on the United website) before shelling out for the miles."

(In other words, if you can't find an award on a route, airline and date of your choosing, don't waste your money on miles that you won't be able to use for that purpose.)

-Chris

TheRealBabushka

TheRealBabushka

21 Apr 2012

Total posts 3034

These flights will not be mileage accruable?

Seems like a waste not to go the whole hog, especially when you're paying $4,000 plus to fly to North America. Think of all thoes points you would have gained had you purchased a ticket outright. It could lock you into Argean Gold for the next three years.

edy4eva

edy4eva

11 Mar 2012

Total posts 182

These are redemption flights. The only program that had a backdoor to it was BMI Diamond Club where it was possible to retro claim on a redemption (some argue it was the reason it ran into losses). And who cares about status or mileage accural when you could in theory fly that cheap in business for that low?!

AlG

AlG

04 Nov 2010

Total posts 674

I read this with interest because I've started flying semi-regularly to Singapore this year for business, and using SQ mainly because of of their choice of flights and because they are a Virgin Australia partner and a few years ago I switched all my domestic flying from QF to VA. Problem is that their business class is great and better than QF to Singapore but expensive but unlike Qantas SQ doesn't have premium economy so I end up in economy.

So the idea of 'bulk buying' UA miles to trade on low-cost SQ J seats really caught my eye, but people saying you can't get J on SQ using redemtpion threw me.

I entered into Google "Can I redeem UA miles on SQ business class" and the first link I got back is from 'Lucky' at One Mile At A Time. Now this is a guy who really knows his stuff, I reckon nobody would know better than him.

Here is his summary of what he has to say:

Anyway, back to redeeming partner airlines miles for travel on Singapore Airlines — there’s a common misconception out there that Singapore Airlines doesn’t release any first or business class award space to partner airlines, and that’s simply not true.

They definitely release much less space to partner airlines than to their own members, but there are many routes on which they do release space.

Singapore Airlines does release saver business class award space to their partner airlines pretty regularly to the following destinations:

  • Intra-Asia routes
  • Australia/New Zealand
  • The Middle East & India
  • Cairo, Copenhagen, and Istanbul

You can read the whole lengthy and detailed post below
http://boardingarea.com/onemileatatime/2013/11/04/redeeming-star-alliance-miles-travel-singapore-airlines-premium-cabins/

But he makes it very clear that SQ J is definitely available for redemption miles.

edy4eva

edy4eva

11 Mar 2012

Total posts 182

It's irrelavant what Ben Schlappig says on his website because what I suggested earlier isn't coming from void either, it's coming from experience. The point of this discussion are the prized premium J/F seats from Australia. SQ makes seats on all of their 'premium J' aircraft available to other partners within 14 days. I have helped many friends book these in the recent past through various partner programs. A couple recent examples are CAI-DXB-SIN-MEL on 1 Jan (when seats were impossible to find), but that seat only came to light 14 days prior to that date. You have to understand that it's going to be a risky business. Having said the above, I truely believe that buying UA miles is poor value for us Aussies because there are a better and cheaper way than guarantee J and F seats on SQ months away.

joakleigh

joakleigh

15 Mar 2011

Total posts 18

Hi - do United miles have any expiry? Or do they remain current as long as there is activity on the account within 18 months?

I won't be travelling on these miles anytime soon, I just want to make sure that the miles I buy won't expire before I get a chance to use them.

ChrisCh

ChrisCh

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2925

Hi joakleigh,

If you earn or redeem miles at least once every 18 months, your balance will never expire.

petriojala

petriojala

British AIrways

08 Feb 2011

Total posts 22

We have some US domestic flights planned and UA flies them direct, about half a dozen flights a day.

I looked the flights with $$ and UA charges $400 for oneway, about about the same for a return.  Ugh.

I looked the same flights as a reward flight and with this promo the miles will cost about the same.  The half mileage saver rewards were available two days in April.

I guess it's the same with the US airlines, one has seriously plan using miles in advance to get any advantage -- even with a great promo like this one.

ChrisCh

ChrisCh

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2925

That's unfortunate petriojala!

At least you checked pricing and availability before coughing up for the miles – though even if you can find the right award flights, if the cost is basically the same, you'd be better off just paying for the fare and growing your mileage balance at the same time.

That aside, it really depends on when and where you want to use your miles – there's plenty of availability between Australia and Asia, though as you mentioned the USA, remember that April includes spring break and Easter – so flights around the country are likely to have higher loads than usual (and thus, less reward seats available).

Flyman

Flyman

QFP

22 Jan 2013

Total posts 42

Just tried to buy some points and it told me it could not complete the transaction due to security  reasons

ChrisCh

ChrisCh

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2925

Hmm... that's an interesting one!

I bought my miles on Friday night without issue, and they landed in my account this evening.

Have you tried calling your credit card company to see if the transaction was blocked as suspicious? If so, there's your problem – and if not, it indicates that something is amiss on United's end.

Alternately, try again but put a 0 in front of your Australian post code (so that it's 5 digits), which may get the credit card address verification to approve.

Failing that, perhaps try a different credit card – or even the same card on a different computer (your IP address may be dynamic/shared and may have been flagged as a spammer or for malicious use in the past, even though it probably wasn't you).

dazzle_perth

dazzle_perth

07 Feb 2011

Total posts 5

Hi all, hoping you'd be able to help with a question;:

Where I redeem miles on UA for a J or F seat and where I have no status on UA, when I check in at the airport, can I then input my SQ KF #  ( where I am PPS) for status recognition and access to status benefits (although, it  may be arguable that a J or F tix would accord the same bennies anyway), or does the redemption tix need to correspond to the FF program to which it was redeemed from?

Any insights much appreciated!
 

Singaporeair

Singaporeair

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

16 Aug 2013

Total posts 8

Benefits are never based on how the ticket was purchased. It relies on what card you hold and present at the counter. So travelling with PPS on a UA redemption flight from KF points will still entitle you to all the usual PPS benefits that are carried across Star Alliance airlines. Although, when you're travelling J or F there aren't many more benefits...you have most of them already! :)

P.S. This will apply to most Star Alliance airlines, but we are talking about UA here... who knows what their policies are!! They could be really strict... But I'm pretty sure it'll be fine!

DRW

DRW

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 Apr 2014

Total posts 19

Is this a better deal than the Avianca one, for say Australia to South East Asia or US domestic?

leegale

leegale

Qantas

13 May 2011

Total posts 5

Some questions....

1) How does this deal work for upgrades? I assume United points can only be used for upgrades on United flights (i.e. UE ticketed)... or can you use United Points on Singapore Airline tickted (i.e. SQ) flights?

2) Will you have the availability of seats if you are a UE base-level member (i.e. no gold/silver status)?

leegale

leegale

Qantas

13 May 2011

Total posts 5

Think I might have answered my own question #1 > http://www.united.com/web/en-US/content/mileageplus/awards/upgrade/saua.aspx

Upgradeable booking classes include Business class (C and D) and Economy class (Y and B), as well as the additional fare classes listed below:

Singapore Airlines - S, Z and J class

Except for flights on all A380 and 777-300 aircraft

andrew84

andrew84

08 Nov 2014

Total posts 20

agree about TG availability, but this seems to be a bit of a lazy update - SQ availability is harder than QF F imo.

 

ChrisCh

ChrisCh

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2925

Hi Andrew,

We routinely update our 'buying miles' articles with the latest details in a dedicated section at the top, which allows readers to see both the current offer and the in-depth 'how-to' which we've previously published.

Research-heavy articles such as this require a significant amount of time to produce, and if we were to fully re-write the article every time a promotion came along, we'd have less time to create other content.

We feel that the 'update' process provides the best of both worlds – giving readers the latest information while reducing the time required to provide that information.

Regarding award availability, we've noted in the article that this can vary from flight to flight (and thus airline to airline) and that readers should ensure award seats are available on their preferred routes and travel dates before buying miles.

-Chris

Aleks

Aleks

17 Apr 2016

Total posts 4

Hi Chris.

According to the update in this article (April 2016), another United Miles promotion is underway.

Can you please confirm that there is indeed a United Buy Miles promotion currently on. I have looked and cannot find the promotion anywhere.

Hope to hear back soon!

Regards,

Aleks.

ChrisCh

ChrisCh

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2925

Hi Aleks, you will need to login to your account on United's 'buy miles' page to see the offer appropriate to you. It's also possible that as part of the targeting your account has been excluded from this particular offer.

Pip

Pip

11 Jul 2016

Total posts 1

Hello, I bulk bought 75000 mileage plus points which gave me 150,000 with their current deal,  but may have acted hastily. I'm looking to fly from Melbourne to Memphis return next year, ideally business. Can you tell me if United are likely to drop the points required for such a flight. At the moment they're 175000 miles one way business. Thanks 

ChrisCh

ChrisCh

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2925

Hi Pip, United has not announced any upcoming changes to its redemption rates.

simiguelito47

simiguelito47

Asiana Airlines - Asiana Club

09 Feb 2017

Total posts 42

I read that they have done these discount promos several times a year albeit at different rates.

I presume that the award flights we buy won't generate status/elite credits for us working towards status / lifetime status? If so I might just pay for economy flights and just use miles to upgrade ... but in this case, can we spend UA miles but earn miles with another *A carrier?


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