What Happens When You Sell Miles or Upgrades?

by Anthony Losanno

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Frequent flyer programs have lots of rules, regulations, and terms that members are held to when flying the airline. Perhaps none of them is as important to know as the rule that you cannot exchange miles or upgrade certificates for cash or other goods. When that happens, the airlines usually catch on and accounts are quickly terminated.

United PlusPoints

FlyerTalk user, @Unitedcustomer382 said that he was a Premier 1K® member and gave his friend some of his PlusPoints. His friend in turn sold these upgrades to other “friends” and United busted him. He claims to almost be a Million Miler and that he lost around 400,000 miles after his account was closed. He’s reached out to United repeatedly, but this is what they have told him:

Upon investigation into MileagePlus account XXX we have come to learn that PlusPoints were brokered from this account. As a result, we’ve permanently closed the account to protect the integrity of the MileagePlus program for all our members.

This activity is a violation of United’s Mileage Plus Program Rules (the ”Rules”), specifically Rule 10, which states that “the sale, barter or other transfer or attempted sale, barter or other transfer of any such mileage, certificates, awards, benefits or status, other than as authorized and/or sponsored by United is expressly prohibited.”

In accordance with Rule 2b and Rule 2c, United has initiated “the removal or cancellation of any or all accrued mileage, Premier Qualifying Credits, lifetime miles, and any pending or outstanding award redemptions, certificates, or benefits (including without limitation any benefits associated with Premier (and/or Million Miler) status, if applicable),” as well as “the confiscation of any award tickets, denial of boarding with respect to any award ticket holders or, at United’s discretion, completion of the travel only upon payment of an applicable revenue fare (and applicable taxes and fees).”

You’re welcome to continue traveling on United, but are no longer eligible to participate in the MileagePlus program. Any new account you open will be closed in accordance with MileagePlus Program Rule 2, which states that “members whose accounts have been terminated shall not be eligible to participate in any aspect of the Program and shall not be eligible to enroll with new accounts unless express consent is received from United.”

He continued to try to escalate the situation, but United was not having it. A further reply reads:

We have reviewed the complete case documentation and must remain firm in our decision. We do not close MileagePlus accounts unless we have concrete proof of a violation. We are unable to grant your request to reopen this account. It is important for us to preserve the integrity of our program for the vast majority of members who participate in accordance with the program rules. We will no longer respond to future emails regarding this account.”

When you break the rules (and especially this one), you don’t have much recourse and your account will likely stay closed with miles lost. United (and other airlines) take this extremely seriously and have dedicated teams to handle members trying to profit off of the program.

United eBay

eBay has constant listings for status and upgrades. These are clear violations of the program rules and when it comes to selling status, they’re likely breaking a corporate contract as well. Some of these listings are even placed or purchased by United in hopes of snaring rule breakers.

Anthony’s Take: It’s best to not sell or buy miles and upgrades. The tracking is more sophisticated than ever and you will get caught. It’s not worth the consequences to make a few dollars and violate program rules.

(Featured Image Credit: Tamanna Rumee.)

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1 comment

DaninMCI March 18, 2024 - 5:12 am

I’d argue a couple of points (sorry for the pun) on this issue. First, it’s immoral to break the rules of a program which is something that many people don’t seem to care about these days. Even if you don’t mind breaking the rules it endangers the program value for all of the users much like shoplifting does for retail customers and the cost you end up paying. But beyond all that if you did want to buy such offers in hopes of upgrades or whatever it seems that you would be better off to do it with a throwaway account with few miles in it so if you got shut down you aren’t out much. Maybe pay for status or upgrade perks right before a trip so you’d use it to your advantage before the slow wheels of airline justice could catch up with you.


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