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):
The program is pretty straightforward and is a 3 step process:
- Choose your retailer (most major ones are included, see list at end of article)
- Enter your card number and pin
- 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).
The second screen, below, confirms your exchange and gives the option to review the terms and conditions of the United Gift Card Exchange.
The final screen confirms you order:
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?
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
- Barnes & Noble
- Bass Pro Shops
- Best Buy
- Brooks Brothers
- Cheesecake Factory
- Columbia Sportswear
- Cracker Barrel
- Home Depot
- Hot Topic
- J. Crew
- JoS. A. Bank
- Office Max
- Pottery Barn
- Saks 5th Ave
- Southwest Airlines
- Sur La Table
- Toys R us
- Urban Outfitters
- Victorias Secret
- West Elm
- 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
- 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:
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Note: All Screenshots are from United.com
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