preface i don’t do the “manufactured spend / squeeze every last point out of a card” thing so all y’all might have a different take on this. i also don’t know if they will post in such a way that you can double-dip on multiplier categories or whatever they’re called with certain cards. UPDATE: this post shows your mileage (HA!) may vary in terms of merchant coding.
i was, as i often do when i’m procrastinating, clicking through my Bookmarks Bar and ended up skimming the thread topics at the FlyerTalk Mileage Plus forum. one thread about “MileagePlus X” caught my eye. turns out it’s not some top secret new MileagePlus program, but a way to earn points when you shop via an app. you can get more information about it on United Hub, but basically, you fire up the app when you’re ready to pay, enter in the amount of your purchase, and the app instantly buys you a gift card that you redeem at the merchant right then and there. (yep, a gift card!)
supposedly the app is in preview and accessible by invitation only, but i was able to log in! they might have opened it by accident, or maybe it’s public now for real.
so, how does it work?
find a merchant
when you start up the application, it will use your location to find participating stores near you. around me, the miles multipliers range from 0.5 miles/dollar for Lowe’s to 4 miles/dollar for many merchants, including Sports Authority and OfficeMax, with many in between like 2 miles/dollar for Panera.
get ready to pay
when you’re at the register, you fill in the total. note that the smallest purchase amount i saw when going through some merchants was $5. you can buy a virtual gift card for more than the total, and the app will save the unused amount for later use (somehow, my $9.99 gift card is still showing unused, but i have a feeling something is up with the app or maybe the payment processing.)
a barcode will appear after a bit of an awkward wait, like 20 seconds — luckily no one was in line behind me. just have the cashier scan or type in the gift card number (at my Cold Stone, she typed it in manually; she wasn’t surprised at all about this app, so maybe people have come through with similar ones before?).
the transaction went through without a hitch,
you can pick which card you want to pay with; it lets you use the ones you have linked to your united.com account. if you use a Chase MileagePlus card, you get an extra 25% bonus — and that doesn’t include the normal 1 mile per dollar you normally get. (the United Hub microsite says you will get normal bonuses, but again, i don’t know if it will count towards category multipliers.)
they even give these pointers in their FAQ:
15. How do I become an expert and triple dip?
Use your MileagePlus credit card on purchases to earn: (1) your traditional mileage for using your MileagePlus credit card, (2) your miles for paying with MileagePlus X, and (3) the 25% cardmember bonus.
16. Is there a quadruple dip?
There sure is! Find a merchant that is in both MileagePlus X and MileagePlus Shopping, use your MileagePlus credit card within MileagePlus X, and then pay for your purchase online with the gift card number and PIN from MileagePlus X after clicking through to the merchant at MileagePlusShopping.com.
you can also use it to shop online:
11. Can I use this for online purchases?
Yes, you can use the MileagePlus X app for online purchases with many merchants. While you are checking out, use the MileagePlus X app for the amount due and enter the gift card number and PIN that is generated to pay with a gift card at the merchant’s web site.
and, stuck in the fine print of the Terms and Conditions they hint they may let you pay with a combination of miles and credit card in the future.
In its sole discretion, United may offer the ability to purchase Gift Cards through MileagePlus X using MileagePlus miles or a combination of miles and money.
posting to your account
the miles posted immediately! and i’m including how it appears in the pending transactions of the credit card as well.
so, i’m not sure how useful it will be to y’all but at least now i can pay without taking out a credit card, since my lowly iPhone 5S has no tap-to-pay functionality. i don’t really patronize any of these merchants on a regular basis, but i’ll try and remember to check the app every now and then just to keep in mind which places around me participate.
and now, time to enjoy some ice cream! #oink