If you keep up to date with miles and points, you've almost certainly heard of the fact that last week United changed their awards program significantly. Depending on the carrier and the cabin that you fly (I prefer first and business on partner Star Alliance airlines) flights booked with United miles after 2/1/14 will suddenly be 15% to 90% more expensive!
In my estimation, this has caused United to plummet from some of the most valuable miles to some of the least. Personally, I think this is a game changer and has totally skewed the landscape of the frequent flyer game. Rather than rehash all of the minutiae of the changes, View From the Wing has done an admirable job going over all of the increases in the program. This is why he gets paid the big bucks.
After ruminating over this paradigm shift, I've come up with some tips that will hopefully help readers get the most out of their United miles while they're still valuable.
1. Sign up for as many United cards as possible before the 2/1/14 devaluation deadline: I've already applied for the United Explorer Personal card but will be including the Business version for an additional 50,000 mile signup bonus. In addition, I'll be applying for the Ink Bold card that gets me another 50,000 UR point bonus.
2. Burn all United miles and equivalents as quickly as possible: Obviously, informed people look to exit out of a devaluing currency as quickly as possible. The same is true for frequent flyer miles. So if you have a significant number of these miles sitting in your accounts and trips on your travel horizon, you should definitely get to stepping. Keep in mind that United allows flights to be booked out 330 days (I believe) so if you're looking to fly this summer in a premium cabin, particularly on a partner airline, now's the time to do it. With the 300,000 odd United miles I have left, I am going to treat my parents to first class splurges on flights to Paris, Bali, Seoul and Tokyo on Star Alliance partner flights. Historically, United miles have been some of the best way to indulge in first class seats, and it's pretty much a now or never sort of deal.
3. Start Reassessing Flexible Points Currencies: For the past few years, Chase Ultimate Rewards Points have come on strong as the arguable leader in flexible points currencies. This was largely due to the ability to transfer these points to great awards programs like United and Hyatt. With United's devaluation come and general rumblings of Hyatt to follow other hotel points programs' devaluations, Chase UR points look a lot less attractive. Starwood points now seem to be the de-facto leader in the flexible points currency wars and I believe that the once maligned AMEX Membership Rewards points are now at parity with Chase's UR program. In other words, start shifting more of your credit card spend to SPG and AMEX MR points rather than just blindly upping your tallies on Chase UR balances.
Although this is a sad day for frequent flyers around the world, I can't help but look back on all of the amazing flights I had courtesy of the Mileage Plus program. Again, get it while you can!