United has unveiled a new service in which they will let you trade gift cards to them in exchange for miles. If you’re interested, you can see the offer in action, here.
It’s a bad deal. Don’t do it.
I should just stop this post with that, but I’ll explain a little more. To test out the service I offered up a $100 Walmart gift card to see what United would offer in return. The result? 2,660 miles. Yep, that’s it. You can get the same number of miles by spending $66.50 on magazines in the Ultimate Rewards Mall.
Let’s look at this a bit closer. Plastic Jungle will buy Walmart gift cards for 92 cents on the dollar. So, based on that, we can assume that the $100 Walmart card is worth $92. In that case, trading in the gift card for miles is like paying 3.46 cents per mile. True, 3.46 cents is less than United charges to purchase miles directly (they charge 3.76 cents), but it is far more than Chase charges for Ultimate Rewards points (2.5 cents) which can be converted to United miles for free (if you have the Sapphire Preferred or Ink Bold credit card).
So, one more time: Don’t do it!
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