Why You Should (Almost) Never Buy Miles Directly from United MileagePlus

a white airplane flying in the air

United MileagePlus is offering one of its regular promotions to buy miles. If you are targetted for the 100% bonus, you would pay 1.88 cents per mile – as along as you buy 90,000 miles or more. (45,000 before bonus)

However, it is really quite easy to acquire United miles and pay less – and NO… I’m not pitching a credit card here…

Buy Marriott Points Instead…

Marriott Bonvoy also offers regular promotions to its members. Click here to read about the current promotion.

My account happens to have a 45% bonus offer, which is a bit lower than the maximum Marriott typically offers. Nonetheless, I could buy 60,900 Marriott points for $525.

a screenshot of a website

Why 60,900? Because you need 60,000 miles to get the most favorable conversion rate when you convert Marriott points into miles. Normally 60,000 points would become 25,000 miles. But with United Mileage Plus, you receive an extra 10% on top.

As a result, I can convert 60,000 Marriott points and receive 27,500 United miles.

$525 / 27,500 = 1.91 cents per mile. (although you would have 900 Marriott points left over…)

But That’s not Such a Great Deal…

If your Marriott account is only targetted for a 45% bonus, you might not want to bother.  But if your account is targetted for a 55% bonus, then you would only be paying $487.50 to get those 60,000+ Marriott points. Once those become 27,500 United miles, you would have paid 1.77 cents per mile.

If you are patient, you would also wait for a conversion bonus. The last United / Marriott conversion bonus took place in September 2021 (although they are usually annual occurances).

I took advantage last September, which means that each 60,000 point conversion became 35,750 United miles. If you happened to buy those 60,000 Marriott points at a 55% bonus (as I had), then your net cost of an United mile became 1.36 cents per mile.

Bottom Line

If you need 90,000+ United miles urgently, then I suppose that buying United miles during a promotion might make sense. But if you are happy to take a more patient approach, then you can take advantage of Marriott point purchase promotions and then wait for a conversion bonus…