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United miles for Hotwire hotels – good or bad deal?

by on Tue February 5, 2013 • No Comment

United miles are very valuable to us. With generous availability they are great for getting international flights – premium and economy, and domestic flights to expensive destinations at reasonable mileage levels. Getting a $1,500 ticket to Europe for 60,000 miles or $4,000 business class ticket for 100,000 miles makes them worth more than 2 cents each to us, better than the 2% cash back of the best cash back credit cards.

So when we saw a link for ‘unpublished hotel awards‘ with United miles we were intrigued.

United partners with Hotwire to let you use your miles for the same discounted hotels that appear on When you use cash at you can often save 20-40% off the going rate for a hotel. That’s because they don’t tell you the name of a hotel before you book. We use it often to get good deals on nice hotels.

Is this an opportunity to get some great value out of your United credit card miles?

Unfortunately, no.

We checked some bookings side by side with the United site and

United miles Hotwire hotel search results

United miles Hotwire hotel search results

Hotwire cash hotel search result

Hotwire cash hotel search result

Both give you the exact same hotel options when you search. The problem is, the price in miles is very high versus the price if you paid cash at For example, in a search for San Francisco we saw a 4.5 star hotel for $144 per night on That same hotel option shows up on United’s site, but for 25,550 miles.

That’s terrible. It’s like saying your United miles are worth one half of a cent each!

The equivalent would be spending 50,000 miles on a plane ticket that cost only $250 in cash. And if you’re using credit card spending to earn miles, you could have easily earned $250 – $500 in cash value for the spending that would earn you 25,000 points using a cash back credit card.

So if you want the great rates Hotwire offers, stick to cash. Save your miles for the airfare to get there.

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Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

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50,000 bonus points

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$0 introductory annual fee, then $95

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