United and Chase have introduced a new form of currency into the miles-and-points game: United Mileage Plus Choices.
Choices are essentially a type of point earned by using the Mileage Plus Visa, and offer members some enhanced redemption opportunities.
Members can use Choices for five new awards, including any open seat on any available flight booked on united.com with no capacity restrictions or blackout dates; any hotel stay or car rental booked on united.com; Economy Plus Access; or Elite Qualifying Miles/Segments.
Members may also use Choices for traditional awards.
To apply Choices to a free trip, members simply purchase a ticket on http://www.united.com with a Mileage Plus Visa card and then redeem Choices online for a credit that is then applied to their Mileage Plus Visa statement.
Unlike Saver or Standard Awards that have set redemption amounts, the amount of Choices members redeem is based on the price of the ticket. For flights, Choices are valued at about one cent each.
For example, members can purchase a $129 ticket from united.com using a Mileage Plus Visa card, and redeem 12,900 Choices for a $129 Visa statement credit. Members can also redeem Choices for less than the full amount of the ticket with a minimum of 10,000 Choices.
Redemptions for hotel stays and car rentals are slightly less valuable, as Choices in those cases are only worth about .8 cents each.
Economy Plus Access “costs” 40,000 choices, and 50,000 choices can “buy” 5,000 elite qualifying miles a year.
A new currency and new redemption options, while welcome, do tend to cloud the big picture. Confusion reigned when the announcement was made, as many members thought that the new program was change to the fundamentals of the Mileage Plus program, rather than simply another option.
As the dust settles, they’re finding that when used properly, the Choices program can be seen as an enhancement of the program. If they find it too confusing, they may simply opt out.