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Could This be the Worst Use of United Miles?

I don’t like United Airlines. Their flight attendants are rude, their award availability isn’t that great and their website is slow. So when I had about 55,000 miles available, I considered the unthinkable: to use my limited budget to purchase goods from their “Mileageplus Merchandise Awards” store. I assumed the redemption value wouldn’t be great, but thought it might be borderline acceptable. I was wrong. What I found might be the worst way to spend your United Miles. At an average value of less than half a cent a point, it’s almost criminal. Needless to say, I still have my mine. Adding insult to injury, United recently had the audacity to boast of a “sale”, that offered miles “for as low as” 2.15 cents each. This was of course if you were to purchase the maximum available. If purchasing less, the price was actually more than 2.15 cents. Just awful.

How Bad?

To make sure that getting a poor value wasn’t limited to the products I was interested in, I took an average of all categories. In my attempt to keep the comparison somewhat random, I simply chose the first item from each major product category. If the identical item was not available on Amazon, I moved to the next. Take a look at the chart below, detailing the carnage:

Category Item Miles Required Amazon Price Redemption Value
Travel American Tourister 18” Upright – Mickey 10,000 30.99 0.0031
Home & Living Airocide Replacement Cartridge Kit 14,200 99.00 0.0069
Style & Beauty Armani Code Black Eau de Toilette for Men-1.7-oz 10,000 43.99 0.0043
Jewely & Watches Adidas Originals Aberdeen Black Silicone Watch w/ Gold Accents 10,000 57.44 0.0057
Golf 3Bays Golf Putt Analyzer for Android – Silver/Black 17,000 74.49 0.0043
Sports & Recreation Coleman 6PC Family Cook Set 10,000 25.99 0.0025
Electronics 360Fly 1/4″ Tripod Adapter – Black 10,000 10.00 0.0010
Kids & Family “BB-8 App-Enabled Droid” Built by Sphero 22,000 115.01 0.0052
Optics Bushnell 3x 30mm Equinox Z Night Vision Monocular 37,000 225.50 0.0060
Kitchen All-Clad 10-Piece Stainless Steel Cookware Set 95,600 558.99 0.0058
Office Brother Business Smart Inkjet All-in-One Printer 27,000 149.91 0.0055
Cameras & Camcorders 360Fly 360° 4K Video Camera 67,300 449.99 0.0066
Average 27,508 153.44 0.0047

Bonus Ripoff:There you have it, a truly awful way to spend your MileagePlus Miles. I mean, if you really need something, are low on cash and have some miles expiring, I suppose it’s better than a black eye. But not by much.

It a sea of dogs, some hounds stand out as worse than the rest. I found this one because, well, I was looking for a camera. Below, we have the Sony RX100. Available pretty much anywhere for $449.00. It’s a great camera, but not at this price.

United is offering the item for 90,500 UMs. To put it another way, for $.00496/mile. But that alone isn’t what’s so bad. Where you really start feeling it, is when you attempt to purchase with cash and miles, see below:

If you were to spend the minimum amount of points, and the maximum amount of cash, you’d be receiving $121.50 in “value” for your 48,590 points. In other words $0.0025 per point!

And that, my friends, is how United seems to roll these days.