United has launched a new promotion which is offering a 10% bonus when adding funds to your TravelBank. There are some big restrictions with using the bonus though which greatly limits its usefulness.
- Members can choose from six purchase amount options and, once purchased, the value remains valid for five years from the date it is deposited in your TravelBank account.
- Purchases made before August 5th, 2020, (11:59:59 p.m. CT) are eligible for a bonus deposit equal to 10% of the purchase value.
- The bonus will be deposited approximately 90 days after the initial purchase deposit date and will expire 120 days from the bonus deposit date.
- Purchases are not refundable and are limited to one purchase per promotion per MileagePlus account.
During normal times, a 10% bonus with no strings attached when adding funds to your United TravelBank might be worth considering.
These aren’t normal times though and there are strings attached. The first is that the 10% bonus isn’t awarded until 90 days after your purchase, so it’s not like you can add funds to your account today and immediately book a flight using the bonus.
The second important restriction is that you then only have 120 days to use the bonus before it expires. That means you only have from early November to early March to redeem the bonus before it disappears. Not only is that a limited time frame, but we have no idea what travel restrictions will be like at that point. With the first wave of COVID-19 not over yet and a potential second wave in the fall, domestic travel might look different at that point and international travel restrictions for residents of the US might continue.
You might therefore be giving United an interest-free loan, with your non-bonused TravelBank funds being stuck in your account with no opportunity to get a refund. This “deal” is therefore a hard pass for me and I can’t imagine it being worthwhile for many people at all.
An additional risk is that paying for flights with your TravelBank means you’d be forgoing credit card protections unless you put some of your flight’s cost on a card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve. With this much uncertainty about travel, missing out on those protections could cost you more than you’d gain from the 10% bonus.
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Stephen Pepper is on a 5 year, 50 state road trip with his wife Shae and their dog Truffles. Finding opportunities to earn miles and points is one of the ways they can afford to do this, so he’ll try to help you do the same for your own travels.
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