How to book a United Flight using United Miles in less than 5 minutes

A reader wrote asking the following:

Dear Reward Boss,

I have accumulated miles on my credit card from United and i wanted to use them to buy a flight ticket to Poland for December. Could you please advise how to do it?? I never done it so i was wondering if you could help. Thank you

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Hi – thanks for writing in. United’s website makes it easy to book a reward flight. Here is what you need to do:

Step 1: Click here to go to the United.com website

Step 2: There is a blue box on the top left. Fill in
From: NYC
To: Krakow (for example)
Dates: Fill in the dates in you know the exact dates or select “My dates are flexible” and select “December” and the number of days you want to go for (I choose 6 days).
Click “award travel”
Click the SEARCH button

Step 3: A calendar will appear with colored dates. Yellow = coach seats available. Blue = Business/first class. Green = economy and business. White = nothing available.

I selected 12/17/13. For coach flights look in the left column (under the heading ECONOMY SAVER AWARD. Avoid the Yellow “Standard Awards” as these are VERY EXPENSIVE.

I found a flight for 30k miles (one way) stopping in Frankfurt for 2 hours and 45 minutes. Click the BLUE “SELECT” button.

Now do the same to find a return flight. I found this return flight for 30k miles on 12/23/13 also stopping in Frankfurt.

The total cost for this flight is 60,000 miles and $106.70.

A quick look for cash prices, I see flights available from $691 on Dec 4th for 6 nights, up to around $1100 on Dec 19th. Comparing versus the $691 price, the rewards flight $691 – $106 = $585. Your 60,000 miles is worth a little less than a penny each, which is not a very good value. If you use it on a more expensive flight that costs say $1100, your points are worth about 1.6 cents, which is a pretty good value.

What should you do?

I probably would not use my United miles for this flight if I could go for only $691 (I would pay cash). If the dates I need are around $1000, I would likely use the points. Why? I got a flight NYC to Aspen for 25k miles which normally costs around $750 (each mile is worth 3 cents in this case). Its rare that I am able to make such good use for a coach flight, but I would rather use miles for Aspen (save $750) and pay for Poland with cash. With 60,000 points saved, you can book 2 flights to Aspen which would normally cost you $1500 total.

What if you don’t have enough miles?

If you need some more points, click here to see the latest credit card offers.


If you have any questions or comments, feel free to add some below.

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Comments

    • What you’re looking at are “Standard Awards” which are more expensive than “Saver Awards”.

      When you look at the calendar, the 21st is white which means there is nothing ‘cheap’ reward flights available.

      Try Dec 1-17. There are flights available for 30k + $38.
      Coming back I see Jan 7-31 all have flights for 30k + about $60.

      Look for the GREEN or YELLOW dates when you see the calendar.

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