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Most everything to do with the United Months of Miles promotion since it started has been bad news (including most of this post), but I am going to start off with some personal good news related to the promo. I am almost half-way to earning the maximum number of miles now allowed from this promotion – 25,000! I count that as good news, because when I look back to the first few posts I wrote about this promotion, I was just shooting for 10,000 – 15,000 miles. So, I am going to come out better with this promo than I originally thought. All of my transactions have been for things I would have bought anyway, but I have been “splitting the check” at United Dining eligible restaurants with The Man so that we get two transactions instead of just one when we eat out. He can’t wait for this promo to be done as he hates splitting the check – even though the money is all coming out of the same place!
As a quick example of how that works, last night we went out to a United Dining program-eligible Cajun Seafood restaurant for dinner. The bill came to about $50 and we split it 50/50 on two different credit cards registered with the United Dining program. He put all of the tip on his card so that the total amounts would be different. I’m not sure that makes a difference, but we do it just to be on the safe side. For dinner we earned 300 miles ($60 including tip x 5 miles per dollar). We also got two transactions for the Months of Miles promo. Since we were targeted for the 3 transactions for 1,000 miles version of the promo, each of those 2 transactions is effectively worth 333 miles. So, our yummy Saturday night dinner earned us roughly 933 miles. It is just crazy to me how fast miles can add up just for doing things you were going to do anyway. The crazy side of me wanted to run around to each table at the restaurant and make sure they knew they could be earning a good chunk of miles towards a free flight just for eating their dinner.
Okay, back to the bad news. Aside from all the other million changes that United made to this promo since it started (here and here), many of my favorite United Shopping Mall retailers have now barred gift card purchases from earning miles. By default the purchases then don’t count as transactions for this promo. Some of the notable losses include Home Depot, Gap, and Best Buy. All of those retailers were hit hard by people purchasing hundreds of small denomination gift cards for the Months of Miles (before the 25K earning cap was imposed). I’m not interested in pointing fingers, but it makes me sad that these retailers are no longer part of the United shopping program, as I frequently bought gift cards from them to give as house warming gifts, birthday gifts, holiday gifts, etc… Sam’s Club’s website also no longer sells $10 gift cards. They do offer $25 gift cards, and do still award miles for gift card purchases. I would like to think that all of these are temporary changes, but my more sensible side says that they are not.
I have said many times that I do not like to overly impose on others just so that I can earn miles. I know that is a gray area, and it could be argued that asking a waiter or waitress to split our check so that we can earn extra miles is an imposition. However, it makes me sad that likely as a very direct result of this promotion, no one can continue to earn United miles by purchasing gift cards at those retailers. I know that the terms and conditions set this promo up for the onslaught of gift card purchases that ensued, but it still makes me a bit upset that this avenue of earning miles is now likely permanently ended for all of us. While I don’t at all think it to be similar in terms of world-wide impact, the concept reminds me of over-farming/over-fishing/etc…. You take too much advantage of a good situation, and it ends of being destroyed for everyone. I don’t think the outcome would have been different whether I posted about this promotion or not, I do somewhat shake my head some knowing that I promoted those sites as eligible retailers that sold gift cards. It could be described as a snake eating its tail, I suppose.
One more bit of bad news is that there still has not been a response from United about dining transactions that were less than $10 prior to the change in terms and conditions still being honored as eligible transactions. I know that there are several on this Flyertalk thread who have contacted United about this, and I am hoping that United will respond shortly. I am not holding my breath! In my own tally, I am just assuming that those transactions less than $10 will not count, and I will essentially be “redoing” those transactions over the next couple months. While it won’t make a difference to my total mileage earning in the end, I continue to feel it was very crummy on United’s part if they don’t ultimately honor those transactions as valid for this promo.
Back to good news…..there are still some retailers on the United Shopping Mall that do sell gift cards that are eligible for earning miles. Since the unlimited mileage earning feeding frenzy for this promo is over, I feel comfortable sharing a few of them in case you are actually in the market for a mileage earning gift card: Petsmart, Kmart, Sears, and Kohl’s (physical gift cards only – no e-gift cards) all still sell gift cards that earn miles when you purchase them. As I mentioned earlier, Sam’s Club does as well, but the minimum denomination is currently $25. Though if you are actually shopping for a gift card to give someone, that minimum denomination would usually be just fine.
I’ve been earning miles and points for years by being strategic about the purchases I was going to make anyway. My way of doing things isn’t fancy, it isn’t quick, but it also isn’t going to lead to its own demise. I know it seems counter-intuitive for a points blog to say “don’t go crazy earning points”, but I want some of these great earning opportunities to be around for years – not rapidly killed off because companies aren’t good at writing their own terms and conditions. I’m not sure what the answer is, but I am sad to see some of my go-to purchases off of the mileage earning list.
What do you think about how United handled this promo, and how the miles and points community handled the promo? Is the snake eating its own tail here, or is this just a fluke?
And because I don’t like to end anything on a down note – here is a shot of what we did this weekend. Little C having a fantastic time going down two of the “big slides” at a local park – no points or miles required! Mommy even got to join in some of the fun. 🙂