United Airlines offers to take your money. Say no.

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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About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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  1. Thanks for the advice. Any thoughts as to other gift cards than Walmart though? I thought the buyback amount could vary depending on supply and demand.

    • BothofUs2: Walmart is consistently in high demand and tends to fetch the highest resale prices (along with Target and gas cards like BP, Shell, etc.). So, I’d expect United to offer fewer miles for a card in less demand. Unfortunately, you have to enter in a valid card # and pin in order to get a quote from United, so I haven’t been able to test with other cards. I’m quite confident, though, that there are better ways to sell your gift cards.

  2. When I saw this United announcement yesterday I laughed and figured it would be a good topic for you to post on… I guess I could run through a handful of gift cards to see if there are any good (mistake?) redemptions in there. Nahhhhhh….

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