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.
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|
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.