How to trade unwanted Gift Cards for United Miles with the United Gift Card Exchange

How to trade unwanted Gift Cards for United Miles

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Did you get a few Gift Cards this Christmas that weren’t really your cup of tea? Not to worry, with the United Gift Card Exchange program you can easily swap those unwanted gift cards for United Miles. We explain how easy it is to use this MileagePlus benefit and answer the underlying question: is the United Gift Card Exchange a good deal or not?

United Gift Card Exchange – how to trade unwanted gift cards for United Miles

Like you, I received several gift cards as Christmas presents this year and also like you, most of them were pretty sweet. A few, however, were just ok, and not from places I shop at frequently, if ever. Instead of having that gift card sit in your wallet or on a shelf somewhere United Airlines allows you to swap that gift card for Miles. Sweet! Maybe….

In a process that literally took me all of about 3 minutes I was able to exchange a $25 Cabela’s gift card I received for Christmas for 670 United Miles. Cabela’s is not really a place I shop at much and so rather than invent something to buy there I simply swapped it out online using the MileagePlus Gift Card Exchange benefit.

How does the United Airlines Gift Card Exchange Work?

The United Gift Card Exchange is incredibly easy to use. It’s not so easy to find though. I couldn’t find a link while logged in to my United Mileage Plus account nor could I find the program when searching on United’s website. I ended up using Google to find it. I’ve provided the link below (non-affiliate link, btw):

United Gift Card Exchange Home Page

Link to MileagePlus Gift Card Exchange

The program is pretty straightforward and is a 3 step process:

  1. Choose your retailer (most major ones are included, see list at end of article)
  2. Enter your card number and pin
  3. Accept T&Cs and make the virtual exchange to get your miles

Your miles will show up almost immediately in your MileagePlus Account, although their terms and conditions note it could take up to 5 business days.

Here’s a pictorial view of the process:

The first screen has you enter your retailer, the card number and pin (which you can see depicted below from my Cabela’s card – now defunct, btw).

United Gift Card Exchange Page 2
Screen 1 in Exchanging your Gift Card for United Miles

The second screen, below, confirms your exchange and gives the option to review the terms and conditions of the United Gift Card Exchange.

United Gift Card Exchange Page 1
Screen 2: Confirm your exchange

The final screen confirms you order:

United Airlines Gift Card Exchange Page 3
Final Screen confirming your MileagePlus Gift Card Exchange

You will also get a corresponding email confirming the transaction. The email is sent to the email address you have on file in your MileagePlus profile.

There is no need to mail your physical gift card anywhere as you are simply using the gift card number and pin. You can use both physical gift cards and virtual gift cards too.

A Few Considerations and Limitations for the United Airlines Gift Card Exchange Program

There are few T&Cs / fine print to consider or keep in mind when using the United Gift Card Exchange program. Some include:

  • Your MileagePlus account must have been open for at least 90 days (and have a positive balance)
  • Gift card must have a balance of at least $15
  • The exchange of miles for the balance of your gift card includes a 7.5% tax
  • Gift card cannot have an expiration date
  • The gift card must be from a retailer involved in the MileagePlus Gift Card Exchange Program
  • Some retailers in the program support various gift card balances. For example, Starbucks only supports up to $50 gift card balances while 1-800-FLOWERS accepts up to $2000 gift card balance (who has a $2k florist gift card…but I digress)
  • You will need to be logged into your MileagePlus account to complete the transaction

You can read the full terms and conditions here.

Is the United Gift Card Exchange a good deal or not?

This is the million dollar question. Or in my case, the $25 question. Is the United Gift Card Exchange actually a good deal? The chart below shows the exchange rate with a few sample gift card balances. I had a $25 Cabela’s Gift Card and was awarded 670 miles for the exchange. But is this a good deal?

United Airlines Gift Card Exchange Calculator

Not really. Fellow BoardingArea.com blogger One Mile at a Time currently values United Miles at around 1.4 a mile. Using that valuation (which I find pretty fair) this is a terrible deal. United is valuing their miles much higher than they are probably worth.

Given this poor rate you are likely to find a better rate elsewhere.

While it was easy, convenient (and really just done for the purposes of this article) it’s clear I did NOT get a good deal here.

My recommendation? Consider going elsewhere unless you really have no other option.

Full List of United Airlines Gift Card Exchange Retailers

Here is a current list of retailers officially participating in the United Gift Card Exchange program (although, as you will note, below, there are actually many other retailers participating):

  • American Airlines
  • American Eagle
  • Armani Exchange
  • Athleta
  • Barnes & Noble
  • Bass Pro Shops
  • Best Buy
  • Brooks Brothers
  • Cheesecake Factory
  • Columbia Sportswear
  • Cracker Barrel
  • DSW
  • Fye
  • GameStop
  • Home Depot
  • Hot Topic
  • J. Crew
  • JoS. A. Bank
  • Kohls
  • Macys
  • Nordstrom
  • Office Max
  • Overstock
  • Pottery Barn
  • Puma
  • Saks 5th Ave
  • Sears
  • Southwest Airlines
  • Starbucks
  • Sur La Table
  • Target
  • Ticketmaster
  • Toys R us
  • Urban Outfitters
  • Victorias Secret
  • Walmart
  • West Elm
  • Williams-Sonoma
  • Yankee Candle

It’s worth noting that a 1-800-FLOWERS is *not* listed in their official list of supported retailers but when I punched them in as a test they DID show up (with support for up to a $2k gift card). In fact, MANY other retailers are supported, although not officially listed on their website including:

  • Duluth Trading
  • Dunkin’ Donuts
  • Sephora
  • Panera Bread
  • And many, many otherrs

In other words, try your card FIRST before assuming it’s not supported.

Thanks for visiting

Exchanging an unwanted gift card for United miles may be a good fit for you. I was able to easily exchange my gift card in literally 3 minutes for a few miles. I don’t think it was a good deal, but it was easy, and it was some miles (and I am hoarding United miles right now for a family trip we are planning).

Is it the best way to go? Probably not in most cases, but it’s ease of use is pretty undeniable. If you are looking for better ways to earn United Miles you might look into the United Dining Program.

Thanks for stopping in. As always, we appreciate all of our readers. Be sure to check out some of our interesting travel content including:

Note: All Screenshots are from United.com

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Author Biography

We. Do. Business Travel. The CBoardingGroup.com is a leading business travel focused travel blog. The principal author has over 18 years of consistent & frequent business travel. Over the years, he has developed various travel habits, travel tips, advice and more that he shares with fellow travelers of all skill levels. From hotel life, to airplane tips, to the weekly grind of frequent travel, plus a little travel humor, this blog is a haven for business travelers. Read his full bio here.

Advertiser Disclosure: CBoardingGroup has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. CBoardingGroup and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. “Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.”

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