Just to reiterate a warning I feared and is now a reality: United’s new variable award pricing means some awards are pricing at levels under one cent each. Don’t waste your miles on these awards.
While Live and Let’s Fly stresses the outsized value of premium cabin redemptions, the fact is that most people redeem their United MileagePlus miles for domestic U.S. economy class tickets. That’s not a bad thing; it’s just not extracting the kind of value from your miles that makes this whole points and miles game so interesting for me.
But there is a red line when it comes to miles and points, and that is one cent per point. Some would argue that it is more, but no one with any credibility would argue that it makes sense to collect points in a program that gives you less than one cent per dollar spent in value, since there are so many 1% cash back cards on the market.
That’s the trouble with many domestic economy awards in United’s new era of dynamic award pricing.
Take for example a trip from Newark to Rochester that I just booked for a client. She wanted to use points, but it simply did not make sense:
A Basic Economy fare cost $111 while a “regular” economy fare cost $146.
How about using points?
17K plus $5.60 means less than one cent per value.
There are many examples I could cite, but you get the picture. The cheaper fares above were $114 versus 9K + $5.50, still about a one cent in value.
Fear not, it’s not like MileagePlus miles are suddenly worthless.
The flip side is that there are some good deals, including “saver” business class fares that you can still find on many longhaul routes close-in. 63,500 miles for a one-way business class to Europe is still far better than the cash price. There are other sweet spots that I will outline in a future post.
But double check the cash price before you use miles. And if your’e the type of person who uses your miles for economy class redemptions, consider a cash back credit card now more than ever.