Travel Brainstorm

Turn Gift Cards into United MileagePlus Award Miles

Turn Gift Cards into United MileagePlus Award Miles

by Jon Mohatt

MileagePlus point option

MileagePlus Email Screen Capture (10/15/2013)



I’m not sure how many others received the same email this past week but I am assuming it was most MileagePlus members. Here is a quick analysis of its merits.

criteria to participate:

– Gift Cards have to have a minimum balance of $15

– Your MileagePlus account must be at least 90 days old and have a balance of 1000 or more points

some finer points:

– Points can take five or more days to post to your MileagePlus account

– A 7.5% federal excise tax will be charged

– All transactions are digital

– All transactions are final!

Exchange rate:

Right now there is a 25% MileagePlus point bonus for all exchanged gift cards.  The current points awarded for a $100 gift card is 3,330 points or 3 cents per point.  That makes the normal exchange (once the bonus is over) roughly 2,664 per $100 or 3.75 cents per point.  Please be aware that I am not calculating the 7.5% tax that will be charged.  That will increase the price of each point.  If one was to buy points (tax excluded) it runs $75.25 for 2,000 points or 3.76 cents per point, roughly the same as for gift cards once the bonus offer ends.  This means you can treat this option the same as you have treated buying miles in the past.  I believe the prevailing wisdom is that it’s not been a good deal to purchase points unless you have a specific purpose in mind and can get at least the 3.75 cents of value out of the points.


I do feel this new option will be yet another option to tuck away if you get a gift card that you will never use (and you don’t want to re-gift it), you need to bump your account to reset your point expiration date or you just need a few miles to top off your account for an award.  I love options so I am glad united has included this option but I just don’t see me using it much.  The fine print indicates that Plastic Jungle will be handling the transactions for this effort so you will always want to check that and other gift card selling sites before exchanging them for points with united.  Currently you can get $85 cash for a $100 Best Buy (one of MileagePlus approved merchants) gift card so be sure to see how much cash you are leaving on the table before opting for the MileagePlus route. 

Your thoughts are always appreciated