United MileagePlus Eliminates Award Redeposit Fees

United MileagePlus Eliminates Award Redeposit Fees

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Today United announced some major changes to earning MileagePlus elite status as of 2023. There’s another change that was just revealed, which I wanted to cover in a separate post.

United no longer has award change & redeposit fees

Effective immediately, United MileagePlus has eliminated redeposit fees on MileagePlus award tickets. This means that regardless of your elite status, you can now speculatively lock in award tickets, and then redeposit them at no cost. This applies regardless of whether you’re originating with the United States or abroad.

While United was the first US airline to eliminate change fees on revenue tickets after the start of the pandemic, the airline wasn’t quite as generous with MileagePlus awards. Prior to this latest change, United had a rather complicated policy, based on whether it was 31 or more days before departure, and based on whether travel originated in the United States or not.

Up until now, the airline has allowed award ticket changes at no cost, though award ticket redeposits have cost up to $125 when done within 30 days of departure. There was a trick to get this waived by moving the itinerary further into the future, but that was ultimately an unnecessarily hassle.

Previous United MileagePlus award redeposit fees

United is catching up with American & Delta here

United is very much playing catch up with American and Delta here:

  • American AAdvantage eliminated award change and redeposit fees in November 2020; that was exciting, since AAdvantage is the only one of the “big three” US airline frequent flyer programs that actually has industry-leading award redemption rates in some regions
  • Delta SkyMiles doesn’t charge award ticket change and redeposit fees for tickets originating in North America, except for basic economy tickets; since SkyMiles is more or less a revenue-based frequent flyer program at this point, the policy between cash and award tickets matches, though it’s unfortunate that these fees aren’t waived when originating outside of North America

I’ve found the ability to redeem miles without change fees to be a game-changer, especially with how hard award availability can be to come by. It’s nice to be able to lock in something at the time of booking, and then change it as the departure date approaches.

In the case of United MileagePlus, I’d say this is an especially exciting change, since the two best Star Alliance programs for award redemptions (Air Canada Aeroplan and Avianca LifeMiles) do charge fees for award ticket redeposits. This could be a reason to book through United, even if award fees are higher.

This policy change provides great flexibility

Bottom line

United MileagePlus has eliminated all award change and redeposit fees. While the airline eliminated award change fees in 2020, redeposits within 30 days of departure have cost up to $125 per passenger. I’m happy to see this change, as it means that the biggest frequent flyer programs in the United States all no longer have award redeposit fees, at least under most circumstances.

What do you make of this MileagePlus change?

Conversations (12)
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  1. Vic Guest

    So Southwest no longer has the advantage it once had for domestic flights when it came to spec or backup bookings with points. Any airline will now do... If I think a flight might be over and they will need vols I book a back up itinerary on another airline just behind it so I can take the bump money and run, even if the flight offered is the the next day!

  2. anon Guest

    It makes sense for revenue tickets, but award tickets often only have a couple seats available. So if someone snags them many months out, then cancels at the last minute, it deprives others of the opportunity to book those.

    This was particularly problematic when you have people with millions of miles book many speculative tickets

  3. jetset Member

    First, this is definitely a great change as these sorts of fees are quite annoying and feel like extortion (vs. fees for added value).

    However, I wish United would think about other ways to enhance and differentiate their loyalty tiers as they remove fees that previously provided differentiation.

    For example, the lack of a 24-hour / same-day change fee for 1K used to be a huge perk as I frequently switched flights the day before...

    First, this is definitely a great change as these sorts of fees are quite annoying and feel like extortion (vs. fees for added value).

    However, I wish United would think about other ways to enhance and differentiate their loyalty tiers as they remove fees that previously provided differentiation.

    For example, the lack of a 24-hour / same-day change fee for 1K used to be a huge perk as I frequently switched flights the day before or day of departure. Once they eliminated the fee and expanded this perk, I now almost never am able to take advantage of it because if there was any space available, someone else had potentially already scooped it up. Certainly higher loads etc. have also contributed but I noticed an immediate degradation in availability when the policy changed.

    Instead they are removing differentiation between status levels and increasing the hurdles to maintain them with no added benefits.

    The main differentiation between status levels at this point feels like the number of minutes you wait on hold for a customer service rep...
    I'm Global Services today but will drop to 1K next year and I'm basically expecting it to feel like Silver with pre-boarding privileges..

  4. Ivan X Guest

    I don't know about globally, but the 30 day penalty window for mile redeposit on domestic travel has definitely been waived for me for the last year, despite their stated policy.

  5. tim Guest

    I think Delta also waives redeposit fees for awards that originate in Mexico, no? (North America). I have a paste of a Twitter message that confirms that, but am now not sure if I was given correct info. Thanks Ben

  6. Sean M. Diamond

    I'm unclear whether the changes at United will apply to award travel originating outside the USA. If so, does it apply to both changes and redeposits?

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Sean M. -- Yep, it applies globally to changes and redeposits.

  7. mdande7 Diamond

    Lucky Delta definitely states they charge these fees (not sure if they actually do):
    In addition to eliminating change fees for tickets originating in the United States and Canada to anywhere in the world,* we have also eliminated the redeposit fee for Award Tickets and mileage upgrades. There are no change fees for travel within the U.S. (including Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands), international travel originating in the U.S. and Canada and...

    Lucky Delta definitely states they charge these fees (not sure if they actually do):
    In addition to eliminating change fees for tickets originating in the United States and Canada to anywhere in the world,* we have also eliminated the redeposit fee for Award Tickets and mileage upgrades. There are no change fees for travel within the U.S. (including Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands), international travel originating in the U.S. and Canada and travel between the Caribbean and the U.S..* You may redeposit miles any time prior to departure. A redeposit fee of $150 will still apply for Award Tickets and mileage upgrades for travel originating outside of North America.

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ mdande7 -- Good catch, thanks, I should have clarified that. Post updated now.

  8. Ryan Guest

    I hope this is for all tickets, not just those originating in the US. I often redeem miles internationally and this exception has been annoying and confusing.

    That said, at least United made it somewhat transparent... Delta exempts international tickets from free change/redeposit, but nowhere on their website do they actually list what the fee would be in these cases...

    1. Che Guest

      Last time I checked - a couple of weeks ago - Delta still charges $150 for miles redeposit fee for tickets originating outside of the US. This was listed somewhere on their website after some digging.

    2. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Ryan -- Indeed, unlike with Delta, this applies globally.

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anon Guest

It makes sense for revenue tickets, but award tickets often only have a couple seats available. So if someone snags them many months out, then cancels at the last minute, it deprives others of the opportunity to book those. This was particularly problematic when you have people with millions of miles book many speculative tickets

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Ben Schlappig OMAAT

@ mdande7 -- Good catch, thanks, I should have clarified that. Post updated now.

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Ben Schlappig OMAAT

@ Sean M. -- Yep, it applies globally to changes and redeposits.

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