Monday, May 23, 2016

Around the World for 137,500 United Miles (Some First Class!)

I know most people just want to go somewhere and come back with their miles, but I am biased toward BIG trips. For the most part, the best way to book such big trips is as a series of one way awards with many different types of miles, taking advantage of the sweet spots with each program. But if that’s too much effort or mental bandwidth, and you can only use one miles, use United miles.

United has a pretty good award chart (except for partner First Class), great worldwide award space on the largest alliance, and no fuel surcharges on awards. Plus if you’re stringing together a number of one way United awards, you can string three together onto a single award for big miles savings through what I call a United Three One Ways Award.

This post is an example of a round-the-world trip I’ve pieced together as two United Three One Ways awards. It took me ten minutes to plan and search for award space. It would take another 20 minutes to sign up for the credit cards necessary to get the 137,500 United miles (and there are only $230 in taxes.)

Three One Ways Awards

The following is an excerpt of Master Thread: United Three One Ways Awards. If you still are confused, read that whole post before continuing.

What are United Three One Ways Awards?

Imagine a roundtrip United award with a stopover.

  • New York to Frankfurt (stopover)
  • Frankfurt to Delhi (destination)
  • Delhi to New York

This is legal, and a little bit interesting. You get to see Europe for zero extra miles on your award to India. Now imagine that there is an open jaw between the origin (New York) and the final destination.

  • New York to Frankfurt
  • Frankfurt to Delhi
  • Delhi to Los Angeles

This is legal and a little more interesting, but you probably either live in New York or Los Angeles, so there’s little practical benefit.

Now imagine that you keep this structure of a stopover and an open jaw, but throw the idea of flying anything like a roundtrip out the window.

  • New York to Frankfurt
  • Frankfurt to Delhi
  • Delhi to Bangkok

Amazingly this too is legal. And it’s very interesting because it can be part of a New Yorker’s round-the-world or other very BIG trip. This map should make it clear why I call this a Three One Ways Award.

Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 12.48.49 AM

The trick is that we book it as a single United “roundtrip” award and not as three one ways. Why?

Well in this example, if you booked all three segments as one way awards, you would pay 90,000 United miles in economy:

  • New York to Frankfurt (30,000)
  • Frankfurt to Delhi (25,000)
  • Delhi to Bangkok (35,000)

If you book the one ways as a single “roundtrip,” you pay 77,500 United miles.

Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 12.48.42 AM

  • New York to Frankfurt to Delhi (42,500 with free stopover)
  • Delhi to Bangkok (35,000)

And we can find even bigger discounts and sweeter spots on the United chart.

How to Book a Three One Ways Award

You book Three One Ways Awards on’s advanced search page by selecting “Yes” and “Multi-city” for the second and third questions.

Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 7.06.55 PM

If you get an error online, you call United to book.

The RTW Made Up of a Pair of Three One Ways Awards

Starting in Los Angeles (chosen arbitrarily, home airport doesn’t matter), the award goes to Europe, Southeast Asia, Australia, Japan, and Hawaii before heading home.

Screen Shot 2016-05-23 at 2.52.04 PM

The first award goes from Los Angeles to Barcelona, Barcelona to Bangkok, and then continues from Phuket to Sydney.

Screen Shot 2016-05-23 at 2.47.30 PM For those scoring at home, Barcelona is the stopover, Bangkok is the destination, and the gap between Bangkok and Phuket is an open jaw (that you would fill with a low-cost carrier flight for well under $100.)

The first two parts are in economy, but Phuket to Sydney is in First Class because United charges a silly-cheap 40,000 miles one way in First Class between Southeast Asia and Australia/New Zealand. By flying Thai First Class out of Bangkok, you set yourself up for a world-class ground experience that includes a free hourlong Thai massage.

This award would cost 80,000 United miles + $123.Screen Shot 2016-05-23 at 2.47.38 PMThe second award goes from Sydney to Tokyo to Honolulu to Los Angeles.

Screen Shot 2016-05-23 at 2.51.12 PM

In economy, this is only 57,500 United miles + $107. United considers Honolulu the stopover. Sydney to Tokyo is 22,500 miles, and Tokyo to Los Angeles is 35,000.
Screen Shot 2016-05-23 at 2.50.59 PM

Could You Do XYZ Instead?

Yes, you could choose different cities in the same regions for the same price.

Yes, you could choose totally different regions for a different price. (If you get an error booking online, call United to book.)

Yes, you could add an open jaw in Japan for zero extra miles.

Yes, you could use each point on the United awards as a stopping point to explore the region for weeks or months with other awards, low-cost carriers, trains, or other transportation.

Getting the United Miles

You can get 124,000 United miles just by getting the Sapphire Preferred and Ink Plus and meeting their spending requirements because both cards earn points that transfer instantly 1:1 to United miles.

The Sapphire Preferred is one of the best personal credit cards on the market. It offers:

  • 50,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $4,000 in the first three months
  • 5,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards for adding an authorized user
  • 2 Ultimate Rewards per dollar on travel and dining purchases
  • 1 Ultimate Reward per dollar on all other purchases
  • no annual fee the first year and $95 thereafter

While I can not directly link to the current Sapphire Preferred offer, you may find it by clicking below if you decide to apply. (I receive a commission, and your support keeps this blog going.)

The Ink Plus is easily the best business card on the market. It offers:

  • 60,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $5,000 in the first three months
  • 5 Ultimate Rewards per dollar at office supply stores and on cellular phone, landline, internet and cable TV services
  • 2 Ultimate Rewards per dollar at gas stations and hotel accommodations
  • 1 Ultimate Reward per dollar on all other purchases
  • $95 annual fee

While I can not directly link to the current Ink Plus offer, you may find it by clicking below if you decide to apply. (I receive a commission, and your support keeps this blog going.)

Bottom Line

My preference is to collect many types of miles for big trips to maximize all their uses, but if you have to choose just one type, collect United miles.

Then string together your awards as Three One Ways awards.


Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

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Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

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