The Danger of Using Credit Card Points to Buy AA and UA Tickets

Yesterday both American Airlines and United Airlines rolled out their new basic economy fares in limited markets.  These are cheaper fares that come with a number of restrictions like no carry-ons in the overhead bin, no seat selection, no flight changes (even for a fee), last boarding group, limited mileage accrual and lesser credits toward elite status. (Some of these restrictions are waived if you have elite status and/or hold one of the co-branded credit cards.) When you book these fares on their website, there should be clear indication of what is and is not included in your fare.2017-01-18-aa-basic-economy
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Donate to Hurricane Matthew Relief, Earn UA Miles


As Hurricane Matthew has now passed through some areas, relief efforts are kicking into high gear.  United Airlines is offering its MileagePlus members the opportunity to earn bonus miles for donating to one of four charities aiding those affected.

  • The American Red Cross is a humanitarian organization that provides emergency assistance, disaster relief and education inside the United States
  • Airlink is a rapid-response humanitarian relief organization that links airlines with pre-qualified nonprofits.
  • Americares is a non-profit disaster relief and global health organization providing immediate response to emergency medical needs and supporting long-term health care initiatives for people in the United States and around the world
  • Operation USA is a non profit humanitarian organization dedicated to helping communities alleviate the effects of disaster, disease, and endemic poverty throughout the world by providing privately funded relief, reconstruction, humanitarian aid and development aid.

If you donate via the United Airlines link, you may earn bonus miles based on the amount of your donation:

  • Donate $50–$99 and earn 250 bonus miles
  • Donate $100–$249 and earn 500 bonus miles
  • Donate $250 or more and earn 1,000 bonus miles

United will award up to five million bonus miles to MileagePlus members who donate and they will match up to $100,000 of customer donations.  Note that because the donations are administered via CrowdRise, they will not count as United spending if you use your MileagePlus credit card to make a donation.  The donation might, however, count as a charity donation if you have a card that gives a bonus for that category.

Note that the deadline to earn miles for your donation is October 21, 2016.

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Convert IHG Rewards Club Points to United MileagePlus Miles


Between now and October 10, 2016 you can transfer your IHG Rewards Club points to United MileagePlus miles.  For each 10,000 points you transfer you get a 50% bonus.  The kicker is that 10,000 IHG points usually becomes 2,000 airline miles. With this special you’ll end up with 3,000 UA miles.  So it’s not a great ratio, obviously.

The process is quite simple.  First go to the United site and register for the promotion.
Next, contact the IHG Customer Care Center to initiate the transfer.

Is this something you want to do?  As usual, it depends on your personal situation.  If you are IHG points-rich and just need a few miles to top off a UA award then, perhaps.  Otherwise I’d give this one a pass.

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Great airfare deals on AA and UA to/from Chicago

I saw a tweet this morning from Ric Garrado of Loyalty Traveler that American and United are having fare wars between certain cities.  His blog post showed a screen shot of a fare on United where the base fare was $53!  There were taxes and fees that brought the cost up to $86 but still, that’s a fantastic deal for a round-trip ticket.  His post lists the 12 cities and the base fares that he found.

Great news for those who live in Chicago or want to visit the Windy City!

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Last day to buy MileagePlus miles on sale

UA MileagePlus LogoIf you’re a member of the United MileagePlus program, you likely received an email today stating that it’s your last chance to buy MP miles with a bonus. The amount of the bonus is targeted. The offer I received:

Buy 5,000 – 19,000 miles, save 15%
Buy 20,000 – 49,000 miles, save 25%
Buy 50,000 – 149,000 miles, save 35%
Buy 150,000 miles, save 50%

The offer expires at 23:59 US Central Time tonight and are non-refundable. These miles are redeemable miles and do not count towards elite status. Canadians will be charged GST/HST. It may take up to 48 hours for the miles to post.

This will show on your credit card as a charge by Points.com so it will not count as airline spend for credit card bonus categories.

Even with the 50% bonus, it’s not a terrific deal for those of us who like to use the points for premium cabin international travel. The 150K miles cost $2625 (before taxes, fees, processing charges, etc.) which is 1.75 cents per mile. At the present time Ben from One Mile at a Time values UA miles at 1.4 cents each while Brian, The Points Guy places their value at 1.5 cents apiece.

I’m giving this sale a pass as my present travel needs don’t call for travel on Star Alliance carriers.

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Earn United Miles for Donating to Nepal Relief

I just received an email from United stating I can earn miles for donating to the Red Cross in support of their relief efforts in Nepal:

2015-04-27 UA Red Cross

You can click on the offer to enlarge it but the highlights are:

  • 250 miles for a donation of $50-$99 USD
  • 500 miles for a donation of $100-$249 USD
  • 1000 miles for a donation of $250 or more

Donations must be received between now and 11:59 pm Central Time on 15 May 2015.

If you haven’t found a way to help out yet, here’s an easy way and you can earn miles in the process.

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20%-50% Bonus on Purchased United Airlines MileagePlus Miles

2015-03-12 UA Points BonusUnited is offering a targeted bonus on purchased miles that could in an extra 20%, 30% or 50% miles.  I received an email from United and clicked on my link.  I was offered the 30% bonus, which works out to a price of 2.7 cents per mile.  With the recent devaluation of United miles on partner airlines (it now costs significantly more miles for award travel on Star Alliance partner airlines), Ben of One Mile At A Time values them at only 1.4 cents apiece while Brian, The Points Guy, values them at 1.5 cents apiece.  So 2.7 cents is not a particularly good price.  As usual, your situation may vary.  If you only need a few thousand miles to top off an award, now is as good a time as any to buy them.

Note that you may only purchase 150,000 miles per year and there are additional taxes and fees associated with the purchase, reducing their value even further.  Allow 48 hours for the miles to post to your account.  The purchase is processed through Points.com so it will not count as a United Airlines purchase for credit card category purposes.  The offer is valid until 11:59 PM Central Time on 23 March 2015.

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30% Discount on Fees when Transferring United Airlines Miles

2015-01-01 UA Miles Transfer DiscountFor the next week, through January 8th, United is offering a 30% discount in the cost of fees for transferring MileagePlus miles from one person to another. You must transfer at least 2000 miles and there is a 100,000 mile maximum.

Is this a good deal? Transferring miles is rarely a good deal, even with a discount. This is because most frequent flyer programs – including United – allow you to use your miles to book an award ticket for someone else. So there’s usually no need to transfer tens of thousands of miles to someone else. But, if the other person only needs a few thousand to top off an award, it might be worth it.

The transfers cost $10.50 per 1000 miles along with a $14 processing fee for each transaction.

Note that you can only transfer 25,000 miles to a single recipient per calendar year.

If you want to transfer miles, click here to go to the United website.

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Bonus miles for MileagePlus Dining Program

Each of the airlines is an affiliate with the Dining network.  Use a registered credit card to dine at one of participating establishments and earn miles for each dollar of credit card spend.  For the first ten(?) dines of each year you get five miles per dollar spent and after that I believe it’s eight miles per dollar.

United recently sent me a targeted promo to earn 7500 bonus miles if I dined ten times between now and a date in December.  As a single person I eat out a lot both because I can’t/don’t want/don’t like to cook and because cooking for one is a pain.  Two of the restaurants in my regular “rotation” participate in the Dining Rewards program.  Great!  Until I read the fine print: not only must there be 10 separate dines, for each dine I must spend $40 or more.  For the two participating restaurants I visit regularly, my average bill is $10.31.  I could theoretically buy gift cards on each visit but, wow, that’s a lot of spend for 7500 miles.  For me, it’s just not worth it.

Did you receive one of these offers?  Are you planning to try to get the bonus miles?

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Miles for tickets….no, not those tickets

2014-08-21 UA MP Score Big


We often think about going through online malls to earn bonus points or miles when we buy things online. And while you may be able to earn cash back at Ticketmaster via a mall, you can’t earn points or miles. United’s hoping to change that via their relationship with Score Big. Now you can earn a minimum of 500 United miles for each pair of tickets you buy to ball games, concerts and other events and you’ll also get 1000 bonus miles on your first purchase. You may earn even more miles depending on the event ticket you select.

There are a lot of footnotes to this promotion so be sure to read them before forking over your hard-earned dollars! Go to scorebig.com/united to get started.

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