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What’s Cheaper and What’s Not: United’s Award Devaluation

What’s Cheaper and What’s Not: United’s Award Devaluation

United‘s most recent award chart devaluation went into effect at the beginning of this month. We had warning about these changes, but it’s still unfortunate. A lot of redemptions saw price increases, but not all did. The awards that were the hardest hit are:

  • Mainland US/Alaska/Canada to/from Australia New Zealand – United Business class prices increased to 80,000 miles each way and partner business class prices increased to 90,000 each way.
  • Mainland US/Alaska/Canada to/from South Asia – United Business class increased to 75,000 miles each way and partner business class prices increased to 90,000 each way.
  • Mainland US/Alaska/Canada to/from Southern South America – United and Partner Business class prices increased to 60,000 miles each way.
Devaluations are usually not a good thing overall, and this one is no different, but there are a handful of awards that are actually going to be cheaper to book now than they were before. The most notable, positive changes is that non-stop, intra-region, economy class flights under 800 miles outside of the US – Yup, that’s a mouthful. Short flights that are outside the US and within the same United-defined region will now cost less than they most likely would have before.
This definitely is a net-negative change that United has made.
It’s a fact of points and miles life that award programs devalue, and anything too good to last won’t. That said, there are things you can do to protect yourself against future devaluations.
  1. Don’t hoard miles. Miles only have value if you actually use them for something, so don’t earn (or buy!) more than you need. Have an idea of the trips you want to take in the coming year and make sure you earn enough miles to book those trips well in advance. Once you have used the miles you have, start planning how you want to earn more for the next trip you want to book.
  2. Diversify. The more diverse your points and miles portfolio is, the better protected you will be from devaluations. If one program devalues and that’s where all of your miles are, you’re SOL. If you have miles in different programs, or better yet, as transferrable currencies, you can weather the devaluation storm much better and save your devaluated miles for a trip that wasn’t hit as hard.
  3. If you know about a devaluation, use your miles first. United gave us plenty of warning about this one, there’s really no reason to have not planned an upcoming trip with UA miles (unless you’re one of the lucky few that had an award that’s better off now). Airline and hotel programs don’t always give notice, so don’t waste when they do!
Now, I know it’s easier said than done to follow some of the tips outlined above. I have more than enough miles to cover my 2018 travels, and I’m still working on earning more. I also didn’t book anything before the devaluation (though, the changes don’t have an effect on the things that I have set in stone for next year, either).
A devaluation is always a blow, but we have to make the most of what we are left with!
Do you have plans for your United miles?
View Comments (2)

2 Comments

  1. Mama

    November 17, 2017 at 3:59 pm

    There is one situation where I think banking some miles is a good thing. That is for emgency use. I have a family member living overseas. One time I had to visit them on a short notice. Most international airfare are outrageous expensive if less than 7 days of departure, even if there are plenty of seats left, and award redemption is wide open. In this situation, you only need to pay United’s redemption close in fee . Even if you have to get the standard award redemption mileage (not saver award), you are still much better than pay out of pocket.

  2. wiley fahma

    November 18, 2017 at 11:16 pm

    Apart from devaluations, it seems like availability of business class award flights on United and (American) has really decreased as well on international flights.

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