This past weekend we did a bit of shopping, and I had my first opportunity to really use the MileagePlus X App. Available on iOS and Android devices, the app is basically just a United MileagePlus portal to retailers. Buy an e-gift card on the app, show the gift card number to the cashier, and you’re all set! As long as you have a connection, you can add a credit card, select your retailer, and purchase the gift card. It’s easy and fast, but wait, there’s more! The earning potential on this app is huge, and that’s the major draw.
How it Works
- Download the app.
- Login and link your MileagePlus account to the app.
- Add your credit card(s).
- Find your retailer.
- Purchase the e-gift card in almost any amount.
You can see the gift card redemptions on two different receipts from the other day. The process is similar no matter which retailer. Once the gift card is purchased, the retailer will need the gift card number and PIN, which show up on the phone screen. There’s also a barcode that shows up for some merchants. I just hand the cashier my phone, and the rest is a piece of cake!
Why should I get it?
There’s a few reasons the United MileagePlus X app is useful.
- The first, and most important reason, is clear. This app has great potential to earn miles on regular, everyday purchases. Using the app to pay for things like clothes and dining, you can easily double or quadruple your mileage and point earnings.
- The app stores your information. You don’t have your wallet on you? You can still use the MPX app if the retailer is offered! It also stores your unused gift cards. If you bought a $50 gift card, but only used $10, you can update it to reflect that. The app will store all your gift cards, so no more stuffing your pockets with half-used cards and all those receipts to remember how much you have on them. Next time you go to tat store, you can use the remaining $10 on the gift card.
- The MileagePlus X app is fast. You can instantly purchase a gift card, earn miles, and have them posted to your account shortly thereafter.
- Looking for an easy way to keep your MileagePlus miles from expiring? Look no further: any activity should reset the clock, so a simple MPX app purchase makes the cut! Even if you don’t need the gift card now, purchase one you know you can use later!
What do I need to worry about?
All this comes with a few downsides too. For one, you have to store your credit card information on the app. I recognize that not everyone is comfortable with this kind of data so readily available on their phone, and so I wanted to bring it up. You could always delete your card information after each purchase, and re-add it, but doing this kind of defeats the simplicity of the app.
The next issue is the actual phone and connectivity. You’ll need an Android or iOS, and a data plan to purchase these gift cards on the fly. WiFi is becoming ever more universal, but a data plan still gets you the most use out of this app at this time.
Then, as always, miles and points must be earned with a heaping dose of self control. If your idle hands find solace in perusing the selection of gift cards on the MPX app, it may not be for you. Remember, earning miles and points is only ever worth it if you’re living within your means. If having an extra credit card and an extra app cause you to spend extra money, you should take an extra step away from it! The miles should always be an afterthought. Not the sole reason you’re spending your hard earned money.
This is where the app really shines. The earning power of the app is remarkable, especially when comparing the rate on the app to the regular rate. Sure, you might earn 2 points to the dollar at restaurants, with a variety of cards, but can you earn 4 miles to the $1? 5 miles? How about 5 miles to the dollar on other things? What other things? Well, to name a few: home improvement, toy stores, auto repair, clothing, shoes, and more!
I earned almost 400 extra miles this weekend, simply by routing my spending through the app, rather than swiping my card at the register.
You know I like to crunch numbers, here goes:
So, I buy a $40 gift card to California Pizza Kitchen using my American Express Premier Rewards Gold card…
I earn 5 MileagePlus miles for every $1 spent at California Pizza Kitchen: 200 miles.
I earn 50 MileagePlus miles for having a Chase United MileagePlus card: 50 miles. Note that you only need to have the card, you don’t have to actually pay with it. I don’t even have my United card linked to the app, it’s only connected to my MileagePlus number on United. Let’s assume you don’t have the card though.
Then, I earn 1 Membership Rewards for every $1 spent: 40 points. There are reports of the merchant code pulling through the transaction, so you may be able to get 2 points to the $1 (on US restaurants), but don’t count on it. As you can see below, my real transaction from Old Navy coded as a “Special Service Ticket,” not a clothing store.
If I simply paid a $40 bill at California Pizza Kitchen with my AmEx PRG, I’d earn 80 Membership Rewards points, worth about $1.52, or a 3.8% return on my money. Purchasing through the MPX app, I earn 2oo United miles, and 40 Membership Rewards points, worth about $3.76, or a 9.4% return on my money! I just more than doubled the return on my spending, by simply clicking away at my phone for a seconds!
What about another card? Let’s say I put it on my Citi AAdvantage Executive. 200 MileagePlus Miles and 40 AAdvantage miles. $3.68, which is a 9.2% return.
On my Barclaycard Arrival+? 200 United and 80 Barclaycard miles. $3.80, a 9.5% return! Shoot, I should have used this one…you get the idea.
Long story short, if you:
- want MileagePlus miles,
- have a smartphone (Android or iOS) and data,
- and don’t mind having your credit card information stored on your phone..
..get the MPX app. The return on your money spent is simply too good to pass up. This is exactly why I got into travel hacking.
If I had a card that earned 10% back, I’d use it. Everywhere. I still haven’t found a 10% cash back card, but the MPX app comes pretty darn close.