5 things to know before you burn your United miles

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People are trying to burn their miles before the devaluation takes effect on Feb. 1st.  If you are one of these people looking to use them up, you may as well know a few things about stretching those miles out.

If you are already fairly savvy in your knowledge of redeeming miles and want to know the really advanced strategies for turning your miles into multi-destination trips, here are some posts you may be interested in:

For advanced readers….

If you want to “trick your ticket” so to speak to save miles as you burn them, (and basically, burn them better) you may want to read a few of these posts:

Just before the devaluation was announced, Drew began a series detailing the best use of United Miles to specific locations.  For people interested in European and Latin American vacations pre-devaluation, take a look at these posts:

For beginners:

The thing is, all of the above posts aren’t going to make much sense at all if you don’t understand a few simple things.

  1. First, know that the old award chart is in effect for any travel booked before February 1st, not simply travel scheduled for before February 1st.  So if you want to burn your miles, but don’t have vacation time until next year, no worries.  You just have to book your trip before the devaluation takes place.
  2. Secondly understand that when we are discussing United’s prices, we are pretty much only going to be concerned with “Saver Awards.”  The below award chart for example shows what award prices are for saver/standard awards (one way), but it’s the saver prices we are going to pay attention to.  So for example we can see that for flights booked to Europe before February 1st , the Saver Award price is going to be 30,000 United miles each way.Screen shot 2013-11-20 at 2.26.49 PM In the picture below, you can see that the blue “Saver” select button shows a much lower price than the yellow “standard” equivalent.Screen shot 2013-11-20 at 3.45.45 PM
  3. Also note that (to our knowledge and as far as anyone can tell) the routing rules are not changing with this devaluation.  In fact most of the changes are seen in premium awards.  They are also now offering different award prices for tickets booked entirely with United as opposed to tickets booked with alliance partners, but the charts are pretty much the same for economy tickets, and get steeper when looking at premium cabins with non-United redemptions.
  4. Which brings us to the routing rules for award tickets.  Again, Drew’s post United’s Stopover and Routing Rules Secrets…with pictures! will give you a closer look at some of the more complex rules, but for beginners, we will mostly talk about “stopovers” and “open-jaws.”A United award ticket allows you to incorporate two open-jaws and one stopover for round-trip tickets.
  5. One thing that gets very confusing for people is understanding that a stopover and an open-jaw are very different things.A stopover can be thought of as a second destination.  Unlike a layover (less than 24 hours,) a stopover can be as long as you want it to be.  Two days, two weeks, two months, whatever.  As long as it is a legal route (discussed more in the link referenced in point 4), you can stay at your stopover location as long as your destination.  Visit London for a week long stopover, then go to Bangkok for a week long destination before returning home.Screen shot 2013-11-20 at 4.04.03 PM

    An open-jaw on the other hand, is a gap or break in your ticket.  It adds a location without getting us to that location.

    If we apply an open jaw to the ticket mentioned above for instance, we could apply it to our stopover, our destination, or our return destination (home.)  We could visit London for a week, then leave for our destination from Paris instead of London.

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    Or, we could visit London for a week, then go to Bangkok for a week, and leave for home from HongKong instead of Bangkok.

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    Or, we could visit London for a week, then go to Bangkok for a week, and go home to New York instead of Chicago.

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    Remember, you get two of these open jawsThis means we could insert two of these gaps. 

    For instance, you could go from Chicago to London (stopover) then go from London on to Bangkok (destination) then openjaw from Hongkong (instead of Bangkok) to NYC instead of Chicago.

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These 5 things should at least help you to have a beginner’s understanding of how to make full use of your United award ticket.  Then, once you feel confident with these points, you can dive even deeper into the possibilities of United tickets.  At least until the devaluation. 🙂

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