United

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United is giving away one billion miles to Untited Mileage Plus members in a sweepstakes. 
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The only condition is that you are a United Mileage Plus member.

How to Enter the Sweepstakes

Between August 1, 2016 and September 30, 2016, you can enter:

1. automatically via purchases on your United Mileage Plus Explorer Card.

2. by logging in here on the billion mile giveaway homepage (not active yet, will be on August 1, 2016) and follow the instructions (fill out a form, I assume). Each entry has to be manually keystroked.

You can win up to one million miles if you’re a grand prize winner, or 25,000 or 5,000 miles if for first or second prize.

Also, note:

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(click to enlarge)

Grand prize winners are technically responsible for paying taxes on the winnings, which is why United is giving away $7,500 cash to them along with the million miles. Considering the numbers above, they are valuing the miles from the grand prize at 2 cents each (total retail value is $27,500, less the $7,500 cash portion of the prize is $20,000). However, as View from the Wing points out, United sells miles for 1.88 cents a piece relatively often, so you could at least make a case for that valuation and possibly pay less taxes on your winnings.

The lower tier prizes have retail values lower than the threshold that requires taxation.

Bottom Line

This is somewhat of an incentive to use your United card more often over the next couple of months, however I wouldn’t see at as a large one unless you have no other travel credit card that earns better category bonuses and you aren’t trying to meet a minimum spending requirement for a sign-up bonus.

If you were already thinking of signing up for United’s co-branded card, then you might as well now to boost your chances of winning that grand prize.

The current sign-up offer is 30,000 United miles for spending $1,000 within the first three months of opening the account. While I can not directly link to the offer for the United Mileage Plus Explorer card, you may find it by clicking below if you decide to apply. (I receive a commission, and your support keeps this blog going.)

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

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I received the following email from a reader.

Dawn writes:

I wanted to ask a question that I didn’t see an answer for on your site or clearly on the interwebs.

I am hoping to do a trip this winter to India. The way my schedule is looking, I won’t have the 85,000 miles I need until about a week and a half before the trip…

My question is, how difficult is it going to be to get an economy seat that close in? Any info I’ve found always seems to be about business class.

Thanks again for your great site and have fun on your travels.

Keep reading for my answer to how difficult getting last minute economy space will be for Dawn and how to estimate this for your own trips.

Will You Find Last Minute Award Space?

Some airlines, but not all, release seats as award seats close to departure that they think would otherwise be empty. I see more of this in premium cabins–probably because a higher percentage go unsold–than in economy, but I see it in all cabins. “Close to departure” varies by airline, and I see some seats released as late as the day of a flight.

The best way to see what a route’s last second availability is likely to look like when you want it is to search the award space for tomorrow (and the following days).

Of course, past performance is no guarantee of future space, but it is the best gauge of which airlines and routes tend to see last second openings.

Keep in mind when doing this what season tomorrow is (peak or off peak) and what season your travel will be (peak or off peak), so you can adjust your estimation of the likelihood of award space opening up in the future accordingly.

Dawn’s Trip

I’ll just look at one part of Dawn’s proposed trip: a return from India to the US, specifically Delhi to the New York City area.

Right now is off peak time in India because of the extreme temperatures and monsoons. Dawn’s trip during the US winter will be more a more popular time to travel to Delhi, when temperatures are more agreeable and the weather is drier. For that reason, I would expect to see more last second availability now then when she actually plans to travel, and we should temper our predictions accordingly.

Here’s Delhi to New York for tomorrow and the next few weeks. The good news is that four out of the next 12 days have at least one way to return from Delhi to New York for 42.5k miles in economy class.

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Blue = premium award space. Yellow = economy award space. Green = both.

Analyze More Closely to Find Patterns

At this point, I would dig even deeper, clicking on each day to see what the actual itineraries are. I’m looking for patterns in what routes and airlines have economy award space to see what Dawn can expect in a few months when she looks to book.

There is one direct flight, flying United, that leaves today.

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Here are some of the multi-segment itineraries scattered over the next 12 days that have economy award space:Screen Shot 2016-07-08 at 11.34.19 AM

 

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While there are lots of different routing options (flying United, SWISS, Lufthansa, Air China, and Ethiopian), the airline with the most flights available with award space overall is Lufthansa.

At this point, I would dig even deeper and look at a few segments for their availability.

Checking Individual Segments

The first I wanted to check was Delhi to Frankfurt since the Frankfurt to New York route has the most economy award space over the next 12 days.

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Direct flights from Delhi to Frankfurt

This route has three days over the next 12 that have economy award space options.

That means that DEL-FRA-NYC could be a good last minute routing option.  Let’s check out Delhi to Munich, Lufthansa’s other hub.

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Direct flights from Delhi to Munich

There are two days with economy space between Delhi and Munich over the next 12. So while DEL-MUC-NYC could be a possibility, it looks more likely that Dawn will find space flying DEL-FRA-NYC.

Neither of Lufthansa’s routings are the most direct way to get from Delhi to New York, but from the pattern we’ve seen there is more of a chance that she will find last minute economy award space for 42.5k United miles flying Lufthansa rather than the direct United flight from Delhi to Newark.

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Repeat the Analysis

For Dawn’s other segments, she can perform a similar analysis to see the likelihood of finding last minute award space.

What routes and airlines have you found with consistent last minute economy award space? First class space?

Pro Tip if Booking a United Award Last Minute

United charges a $75 fee when you book an award within 21 days of departure.

If you want to book a United award within 21 days of departure, book the same flight for 1+ months in the future, then immediately call in to change it to within 21 days of departure. No close in ticketing fee will be charged.

Bottom Line

The best way to predict last minute award space patterns is to search your desired routes for tomorrow and the following days, adjusting your expectations based on what the tourism patterns are for right now compared to when you actually want to travel.

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

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Feeling spontaneous? You should be. You collect miles and points, which means you have the ability to fly all over the world without having to spend tons of hard earned money. Especially when the awards have the mileage price tags that all the redemption ideas listed below do.

I hope these examples inspire you to book a trip today, or start collecting to be able to do so!

All of the awards below (except #3) originate in the United States. None of them have fuel surcharges, just the standard taxes that apply to all awards.

Without further ado (and in no particular order of preference as I would go to all of these places without hesitation)…

1. 20,000 Etihad Miles to Venice

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By Moyan Brenn, taken from Flickr Creative Commons

You most likely don’t have Etihad miles, but there’s a good chance you have either Membership Rewards, ThankYou Points, or SPG points. You can transfer any of those points to Etihad Guest at a 1:1 rate (if you transfer 20,000 SPG points, you’ll get an extra 5,000 bonus Etihad miles to boot).

You can book an American Airlines flight to Venice for only 20,000 Etihad miles one way if the trip is between October 15 and May 15 (because you can still book old American Airlines award chart prices/off peak dates with Alaska or Etihad Miles).

Surprise someone special in October, there’s plenty of award space for two people the second half of the month from Philadelphia:

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2. 15,000 Alaska Miles to Lima

As long as you fly American Airlines between January 16 – June 14 or September 7 – November 14, it will only cost 15,000 Alaska miles one way.

Lima’s food scene is one of the hottest in the world right now–so seriously– if you’re into food, don’t miss it. You can eat at restaurants like Maido pictured below, ranked the 13th best restaurant in the entire world (or Central, also in Lima, ranked #4!).

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Grab your biggest foodie friend and fly down in May. There’s availability for two almost every day between Miami and Lima.

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3. 20,000 United Miles to Seoul (from Australia)

Some readers recently commented on a post that there are more Australian-based MileValue fans like them than I think. So Aussies, this one’s for you.

For just 17,500 United miles, you can fly to Seoul one way. To get there direct, fly Asiana from Sydney.

Seoul, South Korea
By Emmanuel DYAN, taken from Flickr Creative Commons

There is award space every day for two people in January and February from Sydney to Seoul. You can ski by day outside the city and party in a major metropolis by night.

Screen Shot 2016-07-06 at 8.22.02 PMEven if you don’t live in Australia, think of this as an option to add to an awesome round-the-world trip.

4. 12,500 American Airlines Miles to Cozumel

If you fly between April 27 – May 20 or September 7 – November 14 on American Airlines flights, it only costs 12,500 AA miles one way to get to Cozumel, Mexico.

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By Wilfred Hdez, taken from Flickr Creative Commons

Take your whole family to the Mexican island in the Caribbean Sea that’s known for diving. The calendar below shows award space for four people from Dallas:

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5. 20,000 SPG points to Tokyo

The award I am actually referring to is flying American Airlines to Tokyo between October 1 to April 30, which costs 25,000 Etihad miles. But if you transfer 20,000 SPG points to Etihad Guest, you will get a 5,000 mile bonus (which you always get for transferring increments of 20,000 SPG points to any airline transfer partner).

There’s tons of space for two mid September through Mid October from Dallas…Screen Shot 2016-07-06 at 8.02.23 PM…which is prime season for watching Tokyo explode with cherry blossoms.

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By Yoshikazu TAKADA, taken from Flickr Creative Commons

I Don’t Live in the Cities Mentioned Above

You can add a leg from your hometown flying American to get to a gateway city for zero extra miles as long as the leg has economy Mile SAAver award space. This does not apply to #3.

Easy Ways to Get those Miles and Points

ThankYou Points

Citi Prestige® Card with 50,000 bonus ThankYou Points after $3,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open.

Starpoints (SPG Points)

The Starwood Preferred Guest®Credit Card from American Express earns 25,000 Starpoints after you spend $3,000 on the cards within the first three months of opening the account.

Alaska Airlines Miles

Alaska miles are easy to accrue since the Alaska credit cards are still churnable.

You only have to spend $1,000 in the first three months on the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Card to unlock the 30,000 Alaska mile bonus.

While I can not directly link to the current public Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Card offer, you may find it by clicking below if you decide to apply. (I receive a commission, and your support keeps this blog going.)

United Miles

You also only have to spend $1,000 in the first three months on the United MileagePlus Explorer card (by Chase) to unlock the 30,000 United mile sign-up bonus.

While I can not directly link to the United MileagePlus Explorer card offer, you may find it by clicking below if you decide to apply. (I receive a commission, and your support keeps this blog going.)

American Airlines Miles

 Limited Time Offer: The Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard® with 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles and Admirals Club lounge membership
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Bottom Line

There are lots of ways to stretch your miles and points, even redeeming on long distance international awards. Especially if you don’t mind economy. Read more suggestions for high value redemptions in this post about how to book a round-the-world trip in 2016 using underpriced awards.

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

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I just wrote about United’s mile sale (lasts through August 15, 2016) where you can get up to 100% bonus miles. Sounds sassy, but probably isn’t worth it–the bottom line on all mileage sales is that they’re a good deal if you have an immediate, high-value use and not a good deal otherwise.

One of the selling points is that if you buy United miles during this sale, you will be automatically entered into a sweepstakes Points.com is holding to win up to 250,000 United miles.

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But I read something in the fine print, at the bottom of the page where you purchase the miles, that caught my eye. You don’t have to actually buy any United miles to enter in the sweepstakes!

points.com sweepstakes for united miles
click to enlarge

Bottom Line

All you have to do is send a postcard to Points, 351 California Street, Suite 1210, San Francisco, CA 94108, with the following information on it:

  • First and last name
  • Mailing address
  • Phone number
  • Email address
  • A reference to the “Points.com Inc. MileagePlus Miles Sweepstakes

And you could win either 250,000; 100,000; or 50,000 United miles. Who knows, it’s worth of shot! The sweepstakes ends the same day as the points sale, August 15, so send your postcard to California with time for it to arrive by then.

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

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Through August 15, 2016 at 11:59 CT, United is offering a 100% bonus on purchased miles. The size of the bonus depends on the number of miles you buy, with the largest 100% bonus kicking in at 40,000 miles purchased.

United miles normally cost 3.5 cents per mile plus a 7.5% tax, bringing the full price to 3.76 cents each. During the sale, the prices, including bonus, are:
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  • Get 1,000 to 4,000 miles: 3.76 cents per mile
  • Get 5,000 to 14,000 miles: 3.01 cents per mile
  • Get 15,000 to 29,000 miles: 2.51 cents per mile
  • Get 30,000 to 75,000 miles: 1.88 cents per mile

Buying 30,000 miles–the fewest you need to purchase to get the biggest bonus–costs $1,128.75, which is 1.88 cents each for the 60,000 United miles you get.

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Is This a Good Deal?

No, this is a bad deal for speculative purchases. Since United’s huge devaluation in 2014, I value United miles at around 1.6 cents. The bottom line on all mileage sales is that they’re a good deal if you have an immediate, high-value use and not a good deal otherwise.

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There are a few United awards for which you’ll get more than 1.88 cents of value per mile, but even in those cases, you’d probably be better off buying LifeMiles for 1.47 each and redeeming them for the exact same award.

Math

To figure out if you have 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, and LifeMiles somehow is offering a worse deal, buy during this promotion. Otherwise, don’t buy.

Bottom Line

You can buy 75,000 United miles for 1.88 cents each until August 15. That’s way too high to buy speculatively.

United sales are processed by points.com, so you do not get category bonuses on cards that bonus airline or travel purchases like the Citi Prestige® Card, which offers 3x on purchases from airlines.

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

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TAP Portugal currently flies from Lisbon to three different destinations in the United States: Miami, Newark, and most recently to Boston. July 1, 2016 they will launch one more route that will fly between Lisbon and New York (JFK).

What’s interesting about the two newest routes is that they are flying different planes than the old routes, with an enhanced Business Class product– fully lie-flat beds and direct aisle access for every passenger. The Miami and Newark routes fly a Business Class with angle lie-flat beds.

Why is this good news apart from the obvious? Because it means there is more Business Class award space to Europe from the United States.

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Photo by Joao Carlos Medau, taken from Flickr Creative Commons

One Mile at a Time pointed this out via USA Today, who published a story about TAP Portugal debuting lie-flat seats on the Boston route, which is flying an updated Airbus A330. The New York route that begins in July will also fly the updated A330 with the improved Business Class product. The airline has plans to retrofit the planes that fly their Miami and Newark to Lisbon routes as well, and receive more updated A330’s, so that by March of 2017 anyone flying TAP Portugal Business Class from the United States to Lisbon will have a lie-flat bed.

In the meantime, fly out of or through Boston or New York if you want all 360 degrees.

Best Miles to Redeem on TAP Portugal’s New Routes

TAP Portugal is a member of Star Alliance. In my Comprehensive Spread Sheets of Eight Star Alliance Award Charts: Cheapest Awards to Every Region, there is specific information about the best star alliance miles to use to Europe.

There you can see that the cheapest mileage prices to Europe in Business Class are using Asiana miles (40k one way). However, Asiana charges fuel surcharges on awards where the cash ticket has a fuel surcharge (with the exception of United flights), so redeeming Asiana miles on a TAP Portugal award would incur fuel surcharges.  So just how much would those fuel surcharges be, and are they worth it considering the best option without fuel surcharges is 70k United miles per direction?

Let’s see. I’ll look up what the fuel surcharges would be on ITA Matrix– here’s how to use ITA Matrix.

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The red outlined line item “TP YQ Surcharge” is the fuel surcharge, which is $856. Ouch. That is too much to pay out of pocket to save 30k United miles, which I value at 1.6 cents each.

Conclusion: the best miles to redeem on TAP Portugal Business Class to Lisbon are United miles. If you have Avianca Lifemiles, then you could pay even less mileage (63k one way) and still escape fuel surcharges, but I assume most of you don’t have Lifemiles. Nor is Lifemiles a transfer partner of any of the big transferrable point programs.

Using United miles to fly TAP Portugal Business Class to Lisbon you will pay 70,000 miles + about $50 in each direction.

Award Space

Search for TAP Portugal award space on united.com. All the calendars below show space for one person on direct flights. Green days have space in Business and economy, yellow just economy, and blue only Business.

Boston to Lisbon

This route has tons of Business Class award space that just gets more open as the year goes on.

Screen Shot 2016-06-29 at 7.06.14 PMScreen Shot 2016-06-29 at 7.15.12 PMScreen Shot 2016-06-29 at 7.16.24 PM Lisbon to Boston

The return is almost as open, but with a little less Business Class space this summer. But as the year goes on the route opens up completely.

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Screen Shot 2016-06-29 at 7.22.55 PMNew York to Lisbon

This route has even more Business Class seats than Boston to Lisbon… nearly every day, even over the summer.Screen Shot 2016-06-29 at 7.39.04 PMScreen Shot 2016-06-29 at 7.40.44 PMScreen Shot 2016-06-29 at 7.41.27 PMLisbon to New York

This return has very little Business Class award space in August, but every month from September and on has plenty.

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But I Don’t Live in Boston or New York…

You can add a leg on United from your hometown to connect to the Boston or New York flight– as long its Saver space– for zero extra miles. Just take note that on United awards you can’t have more than four segments per one way.

How to Get United Miles

Check to see if you’re targeted for the current 70k sign-up bonus for the United Mileage Plus Explorer card, the limited time offer ends tomorrow! From the sign-up bonus alone you’d have enough to fly in a flat bed to Lisbon on TAP Portugal’s new Business Class.

Also, Ultimate Rewards transfer to United MileagePlus at a rate of 1:1. The Ink Plus by Chase is a business card that offers 60,000 Ultimate Rewards after spending $5,000 in the first three months– it is ranked number two in my top ten list of travel credit cards at the moment.

While I can not directly link to the current Ink Plus offer, you may find it by clicking below if you decide to apply. (I receive a commission, and your support keeps this blog going.)

Bottom Line

You now have one more option to fly to Europe in Business Class with a fully lie-flat bed: from Boston to Lisbon on TAP Portugal, and Business Class award space on the route is prevalent Fall 2016 through Spring 2017. You can easily find space this summer as well if you’re flexible.

Beginning in just a few days, you’ll have yet another option to fly to Europe in Business Class with a fully lie-flat bed: from New York (JFK) to Lisbon on TAP Portugal. You can easily find a Business Class seat on this route at pretty much any time.

Unless you have Avianca Lifemiles, the best way to book this award is with United miles: it will cost 70,000 miles + about $50 in taxes in each direction.

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

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Update 6/29/2016: These increased sign-up bonuses end TOMORROW, June 30, 2016! You have two days left to take advantage! 

The United MileagePlus Explorer Card is currently offering a limited time sign-up bonus offer targeted to United MileagePlus account holders:

  • 70k bonus miles after spending $3,000 in your first three months as a cardmember + 5k miles for adding an authorized user + $50 statement credit after first purchase (annual $95 not waived first year). You’ll also earn at least 3k miles from 1x spending to unlock the sign-up bonus, so that’s at least 78k miles.

There is also a limited time offer on United’s website (if you’re signed in to your MileagePlus account):

  • 50k bonus miles after spending $3,000 in your first three months as a cardmember + 5k miles for adding an authorized user. Annual $95 fee not waived first year. You’ll also earn at least 3k miles from 1x spending to unlock the sign-up bonus, so that’s at least 58k miles.

This is the normal offer through Chase’s website:

  • 30,000 miles after spending $1,000 within three months of opening the account + 5,000 miles for adding an authorized user + 1k miles from 1x spending to unlock the sign-up bonus  = at least 36k miles

How to Check if You’re Targeted for 70k

  1. Log in to your United MileagePlus account on United.com’s homepage.
  2. Click this link.

Card Benefits

  • Either a 30k, 50k, or 70k mile sign-up bonus
  • 5k mile bonus for adding an authorized user**
  • 10k mile bonus when you spend $25,000 in net purchases each year
  • Earn 2 miles per dollar spent on tickets purchased from United
  • Earn 1 mile per dollar spent on all other purchases
  • $50 statement credit after first purchase (only being seen as a benefit with the 70k targeted offer)
  • Free first checked bag for cardmember and one companion on United flights purchased with Explorer Card
  • Priority boarding
  • No fees on foreign transactions
  • EMV chip provides more security and global acceptance
  • 2 United Club passes per year
  • Annual fee is $95 for the 70k targeted offer, as well as the 50k offer on United’s website– it is not waived the first year of card membership. For the public offer through Chase’s website, the annual fee is waived the first year and is $95 thereafter.
  • Cardholders get more United award space than non-cardholders

**Add an authorized user to the account during the application for an easy 5k mile bonus– this applies to all offers, targeted and public. The extra card will be sent to you, so you can always decide not to give it to the authorized user. The authorized user will not be precluded from opening his own account with a 50k mile bonus later. You will receive the 5k miles after one purchase is made on the authorized user’s card.

Data Points of Targeted Offers

When I sign in to my United MileagePlus account, I see a sign-up bonus offer of 50k miles after spending $3,000 within three months of opening the account (+5k after adding an authorized user):

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Multiple Doctor of Credit readers have reported receiving a 70k mile offer (like this one posted by reader Red) for spending $3,000 within three months of opening the account (+5k after adding an authorized user):

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Why Collect United Miles

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Star Alliance Members

As I explained in the Basics of United MileagePlus, United is one of my favorite mileage programs because:

  • United miles can book flights on all 27 Star Alliance members, the biggest alliance with the best award space worldwide.
  • United doesn’t collect fuel surcharges.
  • United has great prices on economy awards and reasonable prices on awards in its own fully flat bed BusinessFirst and Global First products that I’ve flown many times and found very comfortable each time.

However, do not collect United miles to use in luxurious First Class on its partners’ flights. Since United introduced a separate, higher-priced award chart for premium cabin awards on its partners, these flights are a terrible deal.

Chase Matches

Chase is the best about matching people who have applied for and been approved for inferior offers to the best available offer. You can always send a Secure Message through chase.com to ask to be matched to a better offer on a card you have. In my experience, Chase will only match you if you were approved within 90 days of your Secure Message. Your experiences may vary. Share them in the comments.

Doctor of Credit reported that people who applied with lower sign-up offers within the last 90 days and are now targeted for the 70k offer have had success matching by sending screenshots of the higher offer to Chase.

Eligibility

You can only get the bonus on the same Chase card once every 24 months. This 24 month clock starts when you got the last bonus (which may be several months after you got the card). Read more about issuing bank rules for approvals and new bonuses here.

The Chase 5/24 rule (that your application will be denied if you’ve opened five credit cards from any institution within the last 24 months) applies to the official public offer for the United MileagePlus Explorer Card, and I think it might also apply to targeted offers– see comment below this post. Let us know in the comments if you have any experience with the 5/24 rule in regards to these targeted offers.

Bottom Line

Check to see if you’re targeted for one of these inflated sign-up bonus offers for the United MileagePlus Explorer Card by signing into your MileagePlus Account on United.com and then clicking this link. You could earn up to 78,000 United miles for spending $3,000 within three months of the account opening and adding an authorized user.

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

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We have seen a ton of cheap fares to Europe lately, like the $414 roundtrips to Zurich and Frankfurt at the beginning of the month. Now Star Alliance airlines are also running fantastic sales on roundtrip flights to Europe to keep up with the fare war. You can find fares as low as $425 roundtrip right now between many American cities and Europe.

How to Find the Fares

Use ITA Matrix or Google Flights to do a broad search over this fall and winter– both have calendars functions that will show you the price of a roundtrip depending on the span of your trip. Google flights has a more user friendly interface but you can get a lot more specific with ITA Matrix searches.

There are lots of city pairs with availability between the months of September and December (and a some with dates in early 2017) from the United States to Europe in economy for under $500 roundtrip.

Examples

Atlanta to Istanbul flying Air Canada- $425
Screen Shot 2016-06-27 at 2.05.14 PM

Chicago to Amsterdam flying Lufthansa- $466Screen Shot 2016-06-27 at 2.17.45 PM

San Francisco to Istanbul flying United – $425

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Mileage Earning

If you’re flying United, check out my post about where to credit butt in seat miles. And no matter what airline you end up flying, just remember that you can enter your frequent flyer number with any partner instead. All of these cheap fares to Europe are classified in a discounted economy fare bucket so do a little research about which airline is most advantageous to credit miles to considering the fare class.

Best Way to Buy the Ticket

Your top choice should be the Citi Prestige® Card, since it comes with a $250 Air Travel Credit every calendar year that will cover a large portion of this ticket. If you haven’t used the credit yet, buy this fare with your Prestige, and you will receive an offsetting credit on your next statement: a $175 roundtrip to Istanbul or a $216 roundtrip to Amsterdam!

Even if you’ve already used your $250 credit for this year, the card offers 3x on all airfare purchases.

See my review of the Citi Prestige Card which explains its many components like it annual $250 Air Travel Credit, 50,000 point sign up bonus, access to the American Airlines Admirals Clubs and Priority Pass lounges, 3x points per dollar on air travel and hotels, and a $450 annual fee.

Bottom Line

If you’re interested in a trip to Europe, check out these fares now as they won’t last! You can fly roundtrip to Europe from the United States for as little as $425, which in most cases is a better deal than using your miles or points.

Hat tip Secret Flying

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

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3

United has announced a 25% discount on roundtrip economy class awards between the United States and Europe. That means your trip to Europe would cost 45,000 miles roundtrip instead of the normal 60,000.

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Details:

  • Only valid when booked by June 28, 2016
  • For flights flown:
    • between the United States + Canada (not Hawaii) and Europe
    • between August 23, 2016 and March 31, 2017
    • on United planes only
  • Blackout dates on which you cannot book with the discounted price: December 15, 2016, to January 8, 2017
  • Roundtrip only, one ways will maintain the normal price of 30,000 United miles

You don’t even have to log in or register anywhere special. The promotional prices show with normal searches on united.com, as long as the above parameters are met.

I assume this move is in direct competition with American Airlines, who also offer discounted economy awards between the United States and Europe during designated Off Peak dates. The 45,000 United mile sale price is exactly what it would cost you to redeem American Airlines roundtrip to Europe between January 10 – March 14 or November 1 – December 14. But the United sale spans an even bigger time window, including the end of August, September, and October, as well as a few extra days on the other end in late March of 2017.

Compare Before You Buy

Before speeding off to united.com, do a little research so your miles aren’t spent in vain.

There have been a lot of cheap revenue economy tickets on sale between the United States and Europe recently, like the roundtrips to Zurich and Frankfurt we saw a few weeks ago for just $414.  In these types of cases, it might not be worth it to use 45,000 United miles. It depends on how much you value the miles.

You have to run the numbers to see if the sale is worth it to you. For example, if I was trying to decide whether to pay $414 or use 45,000 United miles to get to Zurich, I would run the following equation since I value 1 United mile at 1.6 cents:

(.016 x 45,000) + award taxes/fees = $720 + award taxes/fees

$414 < $720 + award taxes/fees

So I would not use 45,000 United miles on a flight I could buy for $414. But perhaps there is no cheap fare to where you want to go, or departing from where you live. Then it could certainly be worth it.

Open Jaw and Double Open Jaws Are OK

I did a couple dummy bookings to make sure the discounted economy award prices would still apply if you booked the award with an open jaw or double open jaw. Open jaws give you the freedom to see other places on your trip and help you avoid expensive departure taxes. Departing from Britain can cost you around $200 out of pocket in taxes, while departing from many other places in Europe will only run you around $50.

The result of the dummy bookings was that yes, open jaw awards and double open jaw awards still fall in the promotional price category of 45,000 miles.

Here is an example flying out of Newark to London, and returning to Newark from Paris:

Screen Shot 2016-06-21 at 6.19.56 PM

And here is an example flying from Newark to London, and Paris to Chicago:

Screen Shot 2016-06-21 at 6.34.11 PM

So even if you start your trip in Britain, return from one these low tax cities instead to avoid costly departure taxes and see way more of Europe. Just take a low cost carrier like Ryanair, use Avios, or take trains to connect your itinerary.

Already Book a United Award to Europe?

In the terms and conditions of the promotion, it states:

“Qualifying existing award tickets may be reissued, upon request, to the award sale mileage. They are subject to the award change policy, including any applicable service fees.”

So if you already redeemed United miles for a roundtrip economy award flying United to Europe that travels between August 23, 2016 and March 31, 2017, you can save 15,000 United miles by calling and speaking to a representative at MileagePlus (1-800-421-4655).

You will have to pay the change fee however if you don’t have elite status, so take that into consideration. It would cost $75 per person if you make the change more than 21 days in advance of the travel date or $100 per person if the change is within 21 days of travel.

Bottom Line

Roundtrip economy awards flying United are discounted down to 45,000 United miles instead of 60,000 if you buy within the next week. The award has to be for travel between August 23, 2016 and March 31, 2017 and cannot be over the blackout holiday dates. This is a great deal and use of your United miles, but before acting, do some research first (The Flight Deal and airfarewatchdog are good places to start) to make sure there isn’t a cheap revenue ticket out there thats a better deal than using 45,000 United miles.

If you decide to bite the bullet, pay for award taxes with the Citi Prestige® Card, since it comes with a $250 Air Travel Credit every calendar year that also applies to out of pocket award taxes and fees.

Even if you’ve already used your $250 credit for this year, the card offers 3x on all airfare purchases, which is a higher category bonus than the United co-branded card offers for buying their own plane tickets (2x).

See my review of the Citi Prestige Card which explains its many components like its annual $250 Air Travel Credit, 50,000 point sign up bonus, access to the American Airlines Admirals Clubs and Priority Pass lounges, 3x points per dollar on air travel and hotels, and a $450 annual fee.

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

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In light of the news that American Airlines is changing to a revenue-based award earning structure, and the fact that all three major US carriers now use a revenue-based award earning structure, I am writing a series of posts about when and where you should diversify the award miles you earn through paying for airfare. This post is Part 2, and discusses when and to where you should diversify your award earning when flying paid tickets on United flights. 

“When & Where You Should Diversify Revenue Ticket Miles” Series Index

In March of 2015, United switched to a revenue-based award earning structure that is much like the structure American Airlines’ is adopting come this August.  The amount of United miles you earn flying United flights is based on two things: the ticket price less any government imposed taxes or fees, and the elite status you have with the airline.

A revenue-based award earning structure is worse for folks who fly far, cheap tickets and better for people who fly short, expensive tickets. That is, at least, if we’re talking about crediting miles to United MileagePlus. But it is not obligatory to do that–you can enter your frequent flyer number with any United partner instead.

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 9.14.50 PM

In your mind, this fact should pose two questions.

  1. When should I choose to credit my award miles to United?
  2. If not United, then who?

I’m going to dive into both questions here to help equip you with the knowledge to make these decisions in the future.

Note that this post is specifically referencing the award miles earned from flying United flights. The amount of United miles you can earn flying a Star Alliance or other partner airline will be based on flight distance and the purchased fare class. See United’s Airline Partners and Global Alliances page for partner-specific information.

When Should I Choose to Credit my Award Miles to United?

The simple answer to this question: Not when you’re buying a cheap economy ticket, but maybe if you’re buying an expensive premium cabin ticket. United’s revenue-based award earning system rewards those who generate more revenue for United, point blank.

The more correct answer to this question is: when the math works out.

The Math

To figure out how many United miles you’ll earn flying their planes, use the following equation:

Status multiplier x (ticket price – government-imposed taxes/fees) = award miles earned

The status multiplier depends on what tier elite status you have with the airline:

  • 5x– MileagePlus member
  • 7x –Premier Silver
  • 8x – Premier Gold
  • 9x – Premier Platinum
  • 11x– Premier 1k

We know the ticket price is how much united.com tells us the flight costs.

But how can we isolate the government-imposed taxes and fees from that price? ITA Matrix. If you’re not familiar with ITA Matrix, here’s how to use it— it will show you the breakdown of a ticket by base fare, fuel surcharges, and government-imposed taxes and fees.

Look at this breakdown of a roundtrip United ticket between Dallas and Paris:

Screen Shot 2016-06-14 at 7.24.16 PM

This is a great example of the kind of cheap revenue ticket readers of this blog would buy, because it’s an example where you might be better off paying for the flight in cash rather than using miles that could be put towards higher value redemptions.

The dollar amounts outlined in the red rectangle are the government-imposed taxes and fees (sum = $129.86). Fuel surcharges are always labeled as either YR and YQ (in this case YQ). Fare 1 and 2 are the base fares in each direction on the roundtrip.

Now we can plug in our equation.

5 x (480.86 – 129.86) = 1,755

So, assuming you are just a normal Mileage Plus member without status, you would earn 1,755 United miles for flying about 9,900 miles on a United plane.

Even if you are a Premier 1k elite, you would only earn 3,861 United miles on this ticket.

But let’s say you purchased a Business Class ticket on the same flight, which costs $6,328.06 (oh yea, now I remember why I collect miles!). Your equation would look like this:

5 x (6,328.06 – 129.86) = 30,991

Then you would certainly want to credit those miles to United, because you cannot beat that crediting to any other partner. It is easy to see how this system rewards those that spend more. But I assume the majority of us will find ourselves with something closer to the first equation’s answer most of the time.

Conclusion

When it comes time for you to make this decision, plug your own numbers in.

When flying a discounted economy ticket:

If you get a number greater than 100% of the distance flown, then stick with collecting United miles. That is the maximum amount of miles you could get crediting to a partner (assuming you don’t have status with any of them.)

If flying a full fare ticket:

If you get a number greater than 150% of the distance flown (if flying economy), greater than 200% of the distance flown (if flying Business) or greater than 300% of the distance flown (flying First Class), than stick with United miles. If not, then credit them to Lufthansa.

Otherwise, read on to see your options for crediting to other partners.

If Not United, Then Who?

Listed below are the award earning structures for some of United’s partners. Loyalty programs that generally lack valuable award redemption opportunities have been left out. What you earn for crediting miles to these airlines is represented by the percentages in the tables below. To figure out the total, you multiply the percentage by the distance flown.

Members of Star Alliance

Copa Airlines

Screen Shot 2016-06-14 at 6.45.57 PM

Read further detailed info about crediting miles to ConnectMiles here.

Asiana Airlines

Screen Shot 2016-06-14 at 6.52.25 PM

Read further detailed info about crediting miles to Asiana Club here.

Singapore Airlines

Screen Shot 2016-06-14 at 6.59.52 PM

Screen Shot 2016-06-14 at 6.59.23 PM

Read further detailed info about crediting miles to Krisflyer here.

Avianca 

Screen Shot 2016-06-14 at 7.05.55 PM

Read further detailed info about crediting miles to LifeMiles here.

Air Canada

Screen Shot 2016-06-14 at 7.08.47 PM

Read further detailed info about crediting miles to Aeroplan here.

LufthansaScreen Shot 2016-06-14 at 7.12.39 PM

Read further detailed info about crediting miles to Miles & More here.

All Nipon Airways (ANA)

Screen Shot 2016-06-14 at 7.16.47 PM

Read further detailed info about crediting miles to ANA Mileage Club here.

Conclusion

Not considering any other incentives you might have for wanting to collect a certain kind of mile (like a particular redemption you have in mind, chasing a status, etc.), the best alternative airline to credit miles to when flying United is Singapore. It offers the highest percentages of distance flown, ranging from 100% for even the low economy fares (which are the most common types people like you and I buy) to 150% for First Class. The next best options are Air Canada, Avianca, Asiana, and Copa. Out of those, it depends on whose miles you value more. Click here to read about the top 11 most valuable miles to me.

The other options listed above offer similar ranges of percentages for distance flown, but with lower tiers for discount economy tickets that range from 0 to 50%. So if you’re flying a discounted ticket, like the one from the example in this post that is categorized as fare class “K”, then definitely choose to credit those miles to Singapore.

If your fare class is not one associated with a discounted economy ticket, then credit your miles to Lufthansa. Any full price fare will earn something in the 150% to 300% of distance flown range depending on whether it is full fare economy or First Class– those percentages blow all other partner options out of the water.

Best Card to Buy Airfare With

Your top choice for buying United tickets with should be the Citi Prestige® Card, since it comes with a $250 Air Travel Credit every calendar year that applies to airfare. If you haven’t used the credit yet, buy the fare with your Prestige, and you will receive an offsetting credit on your next statement.

Even if you’ve already used your $250 credit for this year, the card offers 3x on all airfare purchases, which is a higher category bonus than what United’s co-branded cards offer for buying their own plane tickets (2x).

See my review of the Citi Prestige Card which explains its many components like its annual $250 Air Travel Credit, 50,000 point sign up bonus, access to the American Airlines Admirals Clubs and Priority Pass lounges, 3x points per dollar on air travel and hotels, and a $450 annual fee.

Bottom Line

If you’re like me and only spend cash on the cheapest of airfares, then it is very likely you will not want to credit the miles you earn from flying United flights to MileagePlus due to the program’s revenue-based award earning structure. If you haven’t started an account with Singapore Airlines’ frequent flyer program Krisflyer, then do so today. Out of United’s partners, it is probably the most valuable program to funnel your miles into (unless you’re flying a full fare ticket, in which case definitely credit to Lufthansa!)

If you want to jumpstart that Krisflyer miles collection, sign up for cards that earn you Ultimate Rewards–they transfer to Krisflyer miles at a 1:1 rate.

  • Open an Ink Plus card and you can earn 60,000 Ultimate Rewards after spending $5,000 within the first three months of opening the account.
    • While I can not directly link to the Ink Plus, you may find it by clicking below if you decide to apply. (I receive a commission, and your support keeps this blog going.)
  • Open a Sapphire Preferred card and you can earn 50,000 Ultimate Rewards after spending $4,000 within the first three months of opening the account.
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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

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27

I just emailed two winners. If either doesn’t reply within 24 hours, I will pick a new winner.

Generous reader Eugene is donating four United Club passes that expire June 30, 2016–in three weeks–to two lucky winners (one pair to each winner.)

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If you have a use for the passes between the 16th (to allow time for them to be mailed to you) and 30th of this month, comment on this post for a chance to win the passes. Include your real email address while commenting, so I can contact the winner. Your email address will not be displayed and will not be used for any other purpose.

United has lounges all over the world. The clubs are a pleasant place to relax in a comfortable chair, use free wifi, and enjoy free snack and drinks. Here are the amenities. One-time entry goes for $59, so this giveaway could be worth up to $118.

I’ll pick a winner by Friday to get those passes in the mail as soon as possible.

Even if you don’t win this giveaway, there are credit cards that offer free airport lounge access every time you travel like the Citi Prestige® Card, which offers free American Airlines and Priority Pass lounge access.

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

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0

Starting December 1, 2016 United’s new Business Class product Polaris will begin service, eventually flying to 330 destinations in more than 50 countries, on the following aircraft:

  • Boeing 777-300ER
  • Boeing 787-10
  • Airbus A350-1000
  • Retrofitted Boeing 767-300’s and 777-200’s.

The first to be updated will be the 777-300ER’s and the rest will follow. Polaris will be standard on all international Business Class routes.

The Old Business Class

It is a big pet peeve of mine when a Business Class product has a seat layout that doesn’t provide aisle access to all passengers. This is currently the case with all of United’s international Business Classes which either have a 2-1-2, 2-2-2, or 2-4-2 configuration. Here is a seat map from SeatGuru for a Boeing 777-200, which as a 2-4-2 layout.

Boeing-777-UA-SeatGuru

 

united 2-4-2 on 777-200
United BusinessFirst on a 777-200 flight from London to Washington, D.C.

Polaris will have a 1-2-1 seat layout. I will be the happiest to see that 2-4-2 configuration go– it is by far the worst with absolutely no way to avoid climbing over or being climbed over at some point on a flight.

The New Business Class

While comfort and convenience are definitely the most important aspect of any premium cabin experience, especially if you want to arrive rested to your international destination, United isn’t just changing their seats. The entire Business Class experience is being revamped, with an improved inflight dining experience, custom bedding by Saks Fifth Avenue, updated amenity kits and nine new United Polaris lounges.

Below are the highlights of the new Polaris Business Class.

Seats

  • Suite-like pods (although not fully enclosed)
    • Do-Not-Disturb signs you can turn on/off
  • 1-2-1 seat configuration with direct access to the aisle for every seat
    • Divider of the two middle seats can be put down
  • 180-degree flat-bed recline
  • Up to 6 foot 6 inches of bed space

Bedding / Amenity Kit

  • Bedding designed by Saks Fifth Avenue
    • Duvet
    • Lightweight day-blanket
    • Large and small pillow for each passenger
    • Mattress cushions available upon request
  • Amenity kit with all the necessities plus fancier products from Soho House & Co.’s Cowshed Spa, like a lavender pillow mist
  • Slippers
  • Pajamas available on flights over 12 hours

Dining

  • Welcome pre-departure beverage and truffle
  • New in-flight menus updated seasonally, developed alongside The Trotter Project and its well-known chefs
    • On daytime flights longer than eight hours and on all flights longer than 12 hours, hot mid-flight snacks like lobster macaroni and cheese will be available
  • Upgraded wine list with wine flights

Lounges

Chicago will see the first new Polaris Business Class lounge, and Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, New York/Newark, Washington Dulles, Tokyo Narita, Hong Kong and London Heathrow will follow.

  • Better seating with new chairs and private daybeds
  • Showers
  • Hot meals served in a “boutique restaurant setting”

To take a virtual tour and check out the new features in depth, check out United’s launch page.

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Polaris Versus the Competition

It was about time–United was behind when it came to their Business Class. American Airlines’ is in the process of revamping their Business Class to a 1-2-1 configuration and Delta One already offers this.

The one edge that United has on American Airlines’ in regards to Business Class is that United has more fully lie flat beds on it’s existing international Business Classes, although American should catch up as they continue the reconfiguration of their long haul planes.

And the (not so surprising) twist…

One Mile at a Time pointed out, from a quote found in the FAQ section of United’s launch page, that the airline plans on phasing out international First Class completely, replacing it with Polaris:

Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 5.50.17 PM
(click to enlarge)

Delta doesn’t have an international First Class, and American Airlines is headed in that direction as well, so that is why I see this move by United as not so surprising.

Want to Give Polaris a Go?

Until June 30, 2016, the United Explorer Card comes with 50,000 bonus miles after spending $2,000 in the first three months on the card. You can also get 5,000 more bonus miles for adding an authorized user, so I think of this as a 55,000 bonus mile card. (Adding an authorized user does not prevent that person from getting the card at the same time or in the future as a primary account holder and getting the full sign up bonus.)

There are also targeted promotions going on with sign-bonus offers that can get you up to 78k United miles.

Bottom Line

United is completely overhauling their Business Class product, on all planes that fly all international routes. The Polaris experience will start rolling out this December, first with a new lounge in Chicago and an updated in-flight experience on their Boeing 777-300ER aircraft. It is a welcome change as United plays catch up with American Airlines and Delta who have been working on upgrading their premium products for some time now.

For further details, read United’s press release or the FAQ from their Polaris launch page.

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

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0

Through Friday (May 27, 2016) at 11:59 CT, United is offering a 100% bonus on purchased miles. The size of the bonus depends on the number of miles you buy, with the largest 100% bonus kicking in at 40,000 miles purchased.

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 9.45.21 PM

United miles normally cost 3.5 cents per mile plus a 7.5% tax, bringing the full price to 3.76 cents each. During the sale, the prices, including bonus, are:
Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 9.45.27 PM

  • Get 1,000 to 4,000 miles: 3.76 cents per mile
  • Get 6,250 to 23,750 miles: 3.01 cents per mile
  • Get 30,000 to 58,500 miles: 2.51 cents per mile
  • Get 80,000 to 150,000 miles: 1.88 cents per mile

Buying 40,000 miles–the fewest you need to purchase to get the biggest bonus–costs $1,505, which is 1.88 cents each for the 80,000 United miles you get.

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 9.45.42 PM

Is This a Good Deal?

No, this is a bad deal for speculative purchases. Since United’s huge devaluation in 2014, I value United miles at around 1.6 cents. The bottom line on all mileage sales is that they’re a good deal if you have an immediate, high-value use and not a good deal otherwise.

There are a few United awards for which you’ll get more than 1.88 cents of value per mile, but even in those cases, you’d probably be better off buying LifeMiles for 1.47 each and redeeming them for the exact same award.

Math

To figure out if you have 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, and LifeMiles somehow is offering a worse deal, buy during this promotion. Otherwise, don’t buy.

Bottom Line

You can buy 150,000 United miles for 1.88 cents each until Friday (May 27). That’s way too high to buy speculatively.

United sales are processed by points.com, so you do not get category bonuses on cards that bonus airline or travel purchases like the Citi Prestige® Card, which offers 3x on purchases from airlines.

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

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6

Download a free app and get 1,000 free United miles in a few weeks.

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 1.50.43 PM There are three steps:

  1. Register for the promotion here. (The promotion is that if you download a personal finance app called Prosper Daily and register your account, you get 1,000 free United miles. I don’t need a personal finance app, so I’m just in it for the miles.) You will be asked your name, zip code, United MileagePlus number, and phone number.
    Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 1.51.39 PM
  2. Click the link that’s texted to you to download the app.
  3. Give an email address, password, and PIN to register your account in the app.

That’s all I did. I didn’t link any bank accounts or give any personal information. I believe I’ve done enough to get the 1,000 miles. We’ll find out for sure in 6-8 weeks, though I suspect the miles will post much sooner.

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 2.05.57 PM

If you like free mini-miles like this, which are nice to reset the expiration date on your account, you still have a week left to get 700 free American Airlines miles in five minutes.

Hat Tip The Points Guy

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

Screen Shot 2016-06-05 at 4.28.39 PM

18

I know most people just want to go somewhere and come back with their miles, but I am biased toward BIG trips. For the most part, the best way to book such big trips is as a series of one way awards with many different types of miles, taking advantage of the sweet spots with each program. But if that’s too much effort or mental bandwidth, and you can only use one miles, use United miles.

United has a pretty good award chart (except for partner First Class), great worldwide award space on the largest alliance, and no fuel surcharges on awards. Plus if you’re stringing together a number of one way United awards, you can string three together onto a single award for big miles savings through what I call a United Three One Ways Award.

This post is an example of a round-the-world trip I’ve pieced together as two United Three One Ways awards. It took me ten minutes to plan and search for award space. It would take another 20 minutes to sign up for the credit cards necessary to get the 137,500 United miles (and there are only $230 in taxes.)

Three One Ways Awards

The following is an excerpt of Master Thread: United Three One Ways Awards. If you still are confused, read that whole post before continuing.

What are United Three One Ways Awards?

Imagine a roundtrip United award with a stopover.

  • New York to Frankfurt (stopover)
  • Frankfurt to Delhi (destination)
  • Delhi to New York

This is legal, and a little bit interesting. You get to see Europe for zero extra miles on your award to India. Now imagine that there is an open jaw between the origin (New York) and the final destination.

  • New York to Frankfurt
  • Frankfurt to Delhi
  • Delhi to Los Angeles

This is legal and a little more interesting, but you probably either live in New York or Los Angeles, so there’s little practical benefit.

Now imagine that you keep this structure of a stopover and an open jaw, but throw the idea of flying anything like a roundtrip out the window.

  • New York to Frankfurt
  • Frankfurt to Delhi
  • Delhi to Bangkok

Amazingly this too is legal. And it’s very interesting because it can be part of a New Yorker’s round-the-world or other very BIG trip. This map should make it clear why I call this a Three One Ways Award.

Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 12.48.49 AM

The trick is that we book it as a single United “roundtrip” award and not as three one ways. Why?

Well in this example, if you booked all three segments as one way awards, you would pay 90,000 United miles in economy:

  • New York to Frankfurt (30,000)
  • Frankfurt to Delhi (25,000)
  • Delhi to Bangkok (35,000)

If you book the one ways as a single “roundtrip,” you pay 77,500 United miles.

Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 12.48.42 AM

  • New York to Frankfurt to Delhi (42,500 with free stopover)
  • Delhi to Bangkok (35,000)

And we can find even bigger discounts and sweeter spots on the United chart.

How to Book a Three One Ways Award

You book Three One Ways Awards on united.com’s advanced search page by selecting “Yes” and “Multi-city” for the second and third questions.

Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 7.06.55 PM

If you get an error online, you call United to book.

The RTW Made Up of a Pair of Three One Ways Awards

Starting in Los Angeles (chosen arbitrarily, home airport doesn’t matter), the award goes to Europe, Southeast Asia, Australia, Japan, and Hawaii before heading home.

Screen Shot 2016-05-23 at 2.52.04 PM

The first award goes from Los Angeles to Barcelona, Barcelona to Bangkok, and then continues from Phuket to Sydney.

Screen Shot 2016-05-23 at 2.47.30 PM For those scoring at home, Barcelona is the stopover, Bangkok is the destination, and the gap between Bangkok and Phuket is an open jaw (that you would fill with a low-cost carrier flight for well under $100.)

The first two parts are in economy, but Phuket to Sydney is in First Class because United charges a silly-cheap 40,000 miles one way in First Class between Southeast Asia and Australia/New Zealand. By flying Thai First Class out of Bangkok, you set yourself up for a world-class ground experience that includes a free hourlong Thai massage.

This award would cost 80,000 United miles + $123.Screen Shot 2016-05-23 at 2.47.38 PMThe second award goes from Sydney to Tokyo to Honolulu to Los Angeles.

Screen Shot 2016-05-23 at 2.51.12 PM

In economy, this is only 57,500 United miles + $107. United considers Honolulu the stopover. Sydney to Tokyo is 22,500 miles, and Tokyo to Los Angeles is 35,000.
Screen Shot 2016-05-23 at 2.50.59 PM

Could You Do XYZ Instead?

Yes, you could choose different cities in the same regions for the same price.

Yes, you could choose totally different regions for a different price. (If you get an error booking online, call United to book.)

Yes, you could add an open jaw in Japan for zero extra miles.

Yes, you could use each point on the United awards as a stopping point to explore the region for weeks or months with other awards, low-cost carriers, trains, or other transportation.

Getting the United Miles

You can get 124,000 United miles just by getting the Sapphire Preferred and Ink Plus and meeting their spending requirements because both cards earn points that transfer instantly 1:1 to United miles.

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

While I can not directly link to the current Sapphire Preferred offer, you may find it by clicking below if you decide to apply. (I receive a commission, and your support keeps this blog going.)

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

While I can not directly link to the current Ink Plus offer, you may find it by clicking below if you decide to apply. (I receive a commission, and your support keeps this blog going.)

Bottom Line

My preference is to collect many types of miles for big trips to maximize all their uses, but if you have to choose just one type, collect United miles.

Then string together your awards as Three One Ways awards.

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

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