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United has launched the MileagePlus Gift Card Exchange where you can trade gift cards for MileagePlus miles. This works with gift cards from over 100 merchants, but the trade-in value is pretty awful.
- Select a retailer. I chose Best Buy.
- Enter the value of the gift card (in my example, I chose $200)
- Receive your offer (in this case it was 5,320 miles)
I tried to use the $200 amount for other brands and most gave me an error saying that $100 was the highest denomination accepted. This includes a random sampling of Amazon, Starbucks, Red Lobster, Abercrombie, Restoration Hardware, and more. All of these offered 2,660 miles for a $100 gift card.
The value of miles here is even lower than if you were to purchase them outright from United. Especially since United is currently running a promotion where you receive bonus miles when you buy them. You’d receive 6,500 miles for $188.13 (including taxes). This is 20% more than you would receive from the trade, but also marked up steeply based on most values assigned to MileagePlus miles.
Here are the rest of the rules for the exchanges.
Anthony’s Take: This is a bad idea. There are ways to get value from just about any gift card and trading them for MileagePlus miles is probably one of the worst.
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You’re right with the proviso of “most of the time”. I just used the offer to excellent effect. While organizing my home office in advance of Christmas, I found that my sister had given me a gift card for Cheesecake Factory in 2017! Yes, it was a victim of the policy of “a pile for everything and everything in its pile.” I am aware of the popularity of the chain but doubt I’ll visit anytime soon. The card retained its face value of $25 and, given no plans to use it at the restaurant, I gratefully redeemed it for Mileage Plus.
An unused, found gift card is a good trade. I’d take MileagePlus miles if I really had no use for a gift card.