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Airlines are more than happy to sell you miles directly for a usually pretty high fixed price that will sometimes dip a bit during promos and sales. However, you can also effectively “buy miles” for even less by strategically participating in some of their promotions and calculating how much it will cost you to earn the bonus miles. This isn’t always worth it, but if you would ever even consider buying miles via the regular prices, then it is absolutely worth at least thinking through how you may do by maximizing some of their promotions.
A perfect example of this arrived in my inbox the other day. United sent out targeted offers to some customers to earn 5,500 MileagePlus miles per eligible Hertz rental through September 9, 2017. This offer consists of all the regular bonus miles you earn by going through them to book with Hertz, along with an extra 3,000 miles layered on top if you use the codes tied to that offer and rent at least a mid-size car. There is no minimum price or length of rental restrictions mentioned in the terms and conditions that I pasted at the end of this post.
Absent other sales or promotions, United would normally sell you 5,000 miles for about $188. However, thanks to this offer you can get 5,500 United miles with just a one day Hertz rental that I am certain could be had for far less than $188.
I didn’t spend a ton of time with this so you could probably find cheaper examples, but I was able to get a mid-size one-day Hertz rental at my home airport for today for $55 all-in. That $55 car rental would get me 5,500 United miles at a cost of 1 cent each by paying for the $55 rental. United does discount the miles they sell from time to time, but never all the way down to one cent each. You could factor the cost per mile differently based on your time/expenses to get the rental, or potentially you could do even better than one cent per mile if you actually needed the rental anyway.
For what it is worth, I have done car rentals before just for the miles and never actually even taken the car off the lot, so you do look crazy at first, but they get used to it.
As I mentioned, this specific offer was targeted, so search your inbox for an email with the subject line “Summer special: Earn up to 5,500 miles per car rental and save up to 40%” if you want in on this particular deal. However, even if you can’t hop on this one, hopefully this exercise will help you think through how you may be able to maximize a future similar opportunities
Anyone plan on renting lots of cars this summer?!
Terms and conditions:
This offer is nontransferable and valid only for original recipients of this email communication.
*Base rate includes time and mileage charges only. Taxes, tax reimbursement, age differential charges, fees, surcharges and optional service charges, such as refueling, are not included. Reservation must be for a mid-size or larger car and include CDP 62455, PC 305023 and be booked through united.com to qualify for 1,500 bonus miles. Extra 3,000-mile bonus per rental only available to recipients of this email. Rentals must be picked up by September 9, 2017, to earn the 3,000-mile bonus, and by September 30, 2017 to earn the 1,500-mile bonus. Rentals in Japan are not eligible for bonus miles. Use discount code (CDP) 62455 to save up to 40% on qualifying Hertz rentals. Discount will vary depending on location, length and date of rental; 40% discount will not apply in all cases. Age, driver, credit and qualifying rate restrictions for the renting location apply. Offer not valid and rate change or additional fees may apply in the event of reservation modification, early/late vehicle return or if not returning vehicle to renting location. Offer has no cash value, and may not be used with other discounts, promotions or special rates. Frequent Flyer Surcharge of $0.75 per day to miles earned when providing your MileagePlus number upon reservation or providing the number when you pick up. If the number of award miles earned by a member for any Hertz rental exceeds 500 miles, the 500 base award miles will post to the member’s account first, and any miles earned in excess of 500 miles will separately post within 5 business days. Subject to availability, blackout periods and additional restrictions. Award miles will be earned based upon member’s MileagePlus status or card membership at the time of rental car return, not at the time of booking or pickup.
Editorial Note: The opinions expressed here are mine and not provided, reviewed, by any bank, card issuer, or other company unless otherwise stated.