Or, consider other cards for 50,000 or more miles or points that transfer into United miles with additional flexibility for your everyday spending.
$750 for air / hotel / car bookings. Or transfer points to United, Southwest, Hyatt, and more.
No annual fee.
Now that United is about to substantially raise the prices on awards in First and Business Class to Europe, Asia, and other far away places next year the old advice on when and where to best use those miles is starting to change.
For example, it used to be that using your miles for a 100,000 mile Business Class award to Europe was a slam dunk in value – beating out the other option of upgrading with miles and paying an extra fee.
Now, with higher prices for award tickets and lower prices for full cash business class tickets that’s looking less clear. So what do you do with your hard-earned United miles via the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or the United MileagePlus® Explorer Card?
Let’s take a popular romantic destination, Paris. Here are your paid options for travel next summer roundtrip from the East Coast:
With miles your options are:
|Airfare / Taxes||Copay||Extra taxes||Total||Miles spent||Miles earned||Net miles cost||Savings per mile|
|Award - United flights||$144||$0||$144||115,000||0||115,000||$0.029|
|Award - Partner flights||$144||$0||$144||140,000||0||140,000||$0.024|
|Business class fare||$3,474|
We factored in your cash outlay, the cost of paying for a Business Class ticket in cash, and the net miles you will spend (since with an upgrade you will earn miles for your coach ticket).
And while an upgrade means a really big cash outlay – almost $2,500 – in terms of dollar savings per mile you use it is a better deal than the ‘free’ award ticket at United’s new, higher prices. You’re getting over 3 cents per mile in savings, versus just 2.4 cents if you’re stuck using a Partner award.
So if you are cash-rich and miles poor, then this is a decent deal. Unfortunately most of us are miles rich and cash poor and spending over $2,000 on airfare isn’t an option. In that case of course, using miles for an award in Business Class (if you can find one at the Saver levels) is still a very good deal.
And there are other advantages to an award instead of upgrading…
Some of the benefits of upgrading include…
So while upgrading from Economy to Business on United doesn’t come cheap thanks to huge co-pays and high fares to Europe next summer, you shouldn’t think of it as a waste of your miles. In fact, it’s a very good value all things considered.
Of course, if you choose a different mile program – like American Airlines – you’ll find an even better deal. While an upgrade on American will cost your 50,000 miles roundtrip, you only pay $700 in cash for the co-pay – a savings of $400 versus United. That’s well worth spending an extra 10,000 miles.
> See credit cards that earn American AAdvantage miles.
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