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Review: New United MileagePlusX App puts an Online Shopping Portal in your Pocket

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This afternoon, United Airlines sent out an email announcing their new MileagePlusX app for Apple and Android smartphones.  I was interested in seeing how it was possible to earn 2x, 3x, and even 4x using the app, so I tested the app by using it at Office Max, Office Depot, and Panera Bread.  Check out their video demo here.

United MileagePlusX Email 1

An Introduction to the United MileagePlusX App

After downloading the app (iOS and Android), I logged in with my United Airlines MileagePlus account and PIN.

You can view participating retailers on the map or in a list form, similar to Yelp.  You can search for retailers as well.  Each participating merchant will show the number of United Airlines miles you will earn per dollar.

Some merchants have special offers where you can earn a lot of United Airlines miles.

From the My Account section of the MileagePlusX app, you can select your default payment method.  The cards listed are linked to your United Airlines account, so if you want to add a credit card to the MileagePlusX app, you will need to log into your United Airlines account.  After adding a credit card, go back to the MileagePlusX app and you will be able to select a new default payment method.  I added my Chase Ink Bold to try at Office Max and Office Depot; and I added my Citi Forward to try at Panera Bread.

This is how the app works:

  1. After shopping, go to the checkout counter and open the MileagePlusX app.
  2. Enter the amount due on the app.
  3. Purchase an electronic gift card for that amount (must meet minimum amount).
  4. Show the electronic gift card (either numbers or a barcode) to the cashier.
  5. The cashier scans the barcode or enters the electronic gift card into the system to complete your purchase.
  6. Leave the store with a big smile on your face.

My first test of the app was at Office Max.  My default payment method is my Chase Ink Bold, so I wanted to see if I would earn 5x Chase Ultimate Reward Points and another 4x United Airlines miles.  I wanted to see if I could buy a $25 Amazon gift card at Office Max, so I bought a $25 Office Max electronic gift card.  As soon as the purchase went through, I received a text alert on my phone from Chase saying that a $25 purchase was made from MPX*OFFICE MAX (MPX = MileagePlusX).  I don’t think this will earn 5x, based on the name of the charge, but I will report back later.

I earned 125 United Airlines miles for my $25 Office Max electronic gift card purchase.  4x on the $25 purchase price plus another 25% for having a Chase United Airlines MileagePlus Credit Card, even though I didn’t use that credit card.  I now had a $25 Office Max electronic gift card that I tried to use to buy a $25 Amazon gift card.  Guess what?  The cashier wouldn’t let me use the electronic gift card to pay for a physical gift card.  I asked her many times to try and see if it would go through, but she refused.  I ended up paying for the $25 Amazon electronic gift card with my Chase Ink Bold and left the store with a smile on my face.

Here are the gift card terms, no where does it say you cannot use this gift card to purchase other gift cards.  I checked the gift card balance online and it said I had $25, so I drove down the street to try my luck at Office Depot.  After trying to buy a $25 Amazon gift card at Office Depot, I was again denied.  This time the cashier tried many times, but was unable to get the $25 Office Max electronic gift card code to work.  Since Office Depot and Office Max merged, you can use each other’s gift cards at both stores.  Then the store manager came over and told me it was not possible to use a gift card to pay for another gift card.  I pleaded my case, but was told no.  I looked around the store for things to buy for $25 and ended up buying 18 rolls of toilet paper, peanut butter filled pretzel bites, and Twizler bites.  My total was $24.60 and the electronic gift card worked perfectly.  Now I have a 40 cent credit with Office Max / Office Depot.  Yippie!

Determined to try another merchant, I drove to Panera Bread and tried the United MileagePlusX App again.  The app will let you spend $25-$200, so I bought a $25 Panera Bread electronic gift card.  I confirmed the purchase and forgot to change the payment method to my Citi Forward Credit Card.  After the purchase went through, I received another text alert from Chase for $25 from MPX*PANERA BREAD.  If I remembered to change my payment method to my Citi Forward Credit Card, I could see if this purchase would have earned 5x, but I bet it would have only earned 1x.

I earned 62 United Airlines miles for my $25 Panera Bread electronic gift card purchase.  2x on the $25 purchase price plus another 25% for having a Chase United Airlines MileagePlus Credit Card, even though I didn’t use that credit card.  After eating lunch, my unused balances showed 40 cents for Offer Max and $16.41 for Panera Bread.  The one good thing (there are a few) about this app is that it keeps all your electronic gift cards in one spot.

Let’s do a little math…

If I had spent $25 at Office Depot with my Chase Ink Bold, I would have earned 125 Chase Ultimate Reward Points.  By purchase a $25 Office Depot electronic gift card using my Chase Ink Bold, I earned at least 25 Chase Ultimate Reward Points plus another 125 United Airlines miles.  Assuming I always move my Chase Ultimate Reward Points to United Airlines, I earned 150 United Airlines miles vs. the normal 125 United Airlines miles.  That represents a 20% increase in United Airlines miles.  If I value United Airlines miles at 1.5 cents, I earned a return of $2.25 on my $25 purchase, which is a 9% rebate.  I would be slightly better off just buying an Office Depot or Office Max gift card and using that in-store.

If I do the same calculations for Panera Bread, my $25 Panera Bread electronic gift card earned me 62 United Airlines miles and 25 Chase Ultimate Reward Points, worth a grand total of $1.31, which is a 5.2% rebate.  I can easily purchase a Panera Bread gift card or egift card from Gift Card Granny for at least a 10% discount.  I won’t be buying any more Panera Bread electronic gift cards from the MileagePlusX app.

Panera Bread GCs on GCG

Final Thoughts

I am curious what the charges will post as and if they are eligible for category bonuses, I would be surprised if I earned anything greater than 1x.

Chase Alert MileagePlusX

UPDATE! My friend Ben @ Reward Yourself Travel just told me that he earned 2x Chase Ultimate Rewards by using his Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card at Papa John’s through the United MileagePlusX app.

MPX Papa Johns 2x Chase Ultimate Rewards

The confirmation emails are not very detailed, but the United Airlines miles posted right away (within a few hours at least).  This could be a great way to top up your account if you are a few miles short of a redemption.

Recent United Activity

Word of Caution

Please be careful if you are planning to generate MS with this app.  Since most cashiers are trained not to allow gift cards or egift cards from being used to purchase certain items (PayPal My Cash Cards, Visa Gift Cards, etc.), start small and experiment with $20 tests.  Do not buy $200 at Office Depot or Staples and be dissapointed when you cannot use that electronic gift card to purchase a $200 Visa gift card.  Just assume you cannot use the electronic gift cards to purchase any type of gift card or prepaid product.  The electronic gift cards are great for restaurants, but make sure you crunch the numbers to see if it is worth the extra steps.

Have you played around with the app, what do you think so far?  If you have any questions, please leave a comment below.  Have a great evening everyone!

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27 thoughts on “Review: New United MileagePlusX App puts an Online Shopping Portal in your Pocket

  1. KDY

    this app only let you purchase gift card or you can buy other stuff like having a real meal in panera bread and gain miles for it?

    1. Grant

      You are essentially buying a egift card right before you pay and you use the egift card to pay for your purchase. You earned United Airlines miles in the process.

  2. Chris

    The biggest question to me is: is the process fast enough that you would be comfortable doing it if there were a line behind you?

    Because I don’t want to start seeing people at the front of the line going “Wait, wait, $22.50? Hold on… um, another muffin, I guess. Okay, $26.21. No, hold on… I just have to… Okay, here it is. Now please enter this gift card number manually into your computer. Oh, the screen turned off. Here, I have to do the screen lock…”

    1. Grant

      Haha, I know exactly what you mean. The process is very fast if you have your phone available right at the cash register, you can enter the dollar amount you want, and then the gift card is ready right away. It might take a few tries to streamline the process, but after a while, it’s pretty easy.

  3. Adam

    Hey Grant, have u seen any of the department stores when u look up locations on the map, like Macys or JCP? I think the list is limited currently to only few locations (at least in my area) to few restaurants (like ihop, papjohns), Sears, khols, Sephora (inside JCP but not JCP), barnes and nobles among other miscellaneous locations.. I did not see any official participating store list anywhere on the app, did u?

    1. Grant

      I think the list of participating retailers matches the list of retailers that sell gift cards and egift cards. No small mom and pop merchants as far as I can tell. I think JCP should be on the list of participating merchants.

  4. DaninMCI

    So how will this work at some of the full service restaurant partners like Texas Roadhouse or Cheesecake factory. You buy the card on the app and then the wait staff member has to take your phone to the register to scan it? Not sure I like that idea. I like the concept of the idea but in reality the purchase point process is a pain. Oh that and only a 1/2 mile per $ at Lowes :(

    1. Grant

      I understand your concern. A possible work around is to buy the electronic gift card, take a screenshot, email that screenshot to yourself, print out the screenshot, and bring the paper to the restaurant. That sounds pretty easy, right?

  5. Holly

    I just downloaded the app yesterday and tried it at a cheesecake factory today. Once I had the check I opened the app and typed in the bill (+ tip) amount. A 16 digit gift card number was displayed and it told me to write the number down for the waitress. So I did and told her it was a gift card number. She came back a minute later and said it worked. I had to sign a credit card like slip .. The tip was shown as a gift card balance on the slip so I wrote the amount in on the tip line. I hope that was the right thing to do otherwise she got no tip. I received an email quickly showing the total miles I earned. I will try it at panera soon!

    1. Grant

      Excellent, sounds like you had a perfect experience. Since you wrote a tip on the gift card receipt, the waitress should get the tip. You can also check the app to see if there is a balance left on the gift card.

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  7. Mohit Koladia

    Hi Grant,

    Did u recieve 4X from the MPX app plus 5X points with your ink bold?
    I am just curious to use it once you confirm it.
    Can we use the app to buy a prepaid visa gift cards too? I mean its essentially that you end up paying for a gift card with a ‘gift card’ by the app.

    Please see if you can answer my question!


    1. Grant

      I have a few more days until my Chase Ink Bold statement period closes. As far as using the app to buy a gift card, that would be very risky since all the cashiers I have tried tell me that you can’t use a gift card to pay for a gift card. I wouldn’t rick it.

      1. Mohit

        Hi Grant, Do you have any idea to unload money to bank using Chime card? That would be really fruitful actually :)

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  11. Lindsay

    I’ve tried it a few places. Depending on signal strength of your phone it can take longer than I’d like to go through. A couple times I was in line and it was taking forever and I felt bad.
    A couple places I’ve tried it at had NO IDEA what I was trying to do. They were so confused and said they didn’t accept electronic gift cards or that I had to print it out ahead of time. I will never use it at Joann Fabrics again. Only 1 person that was working could figure it out and I won’t risk going back and the person not be able to figure out how to get it to work and then I’m stuck with a gift card I can’t even use.

    I’m not sure how I feel about it yet. I hate feeling like a total pain at the cash register.

    1. Grant

      It is a new technology, so the cashiers will have to get trained or learn how to deal with the electronic gift cards. I have royally confused quite a few cashiers.

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