For people who are hard to buy for during the holiday season, gift cards are usually the solution. It’s the gift that tells them they’re free to figure things out on their own. But if you’re the recipient and don’t care for a gift card, what can you do? United Airlines is offering one possible solution.
The airline has announced a MileagePlus Gift Card Exchange program that will accept unwanted gift cards and apply their value to award miles. If you’re not already enrolled, you can fill out an online form to join the MileagePlus program. After a 90-day waiting period, you can begin trading in gift cards for miles. The airline accepts over 100 gift cards from retailers like Best Buy, Walmart, food franchises, and other outlets. They’ll even accept cards for rival airlines like American Airlines and Southwest Airlines. They won’t field Amazon cards, however.
The actual card-to-miles conversion rate will vary, but according to the Points Guy website, it works out to roughly 26.6 times the balance of the card. A $50 card could net you 1330 miles or so. The airline will give you a chance to review the exchange before committing to it.
Is there fine print? Naturally. The gift cards need to have at least a $15 balance. United reserves the right to impose a maximum individual balance redeemed, though they don’t specify what that might be. A 7.5 percent federal excise tax will also apply.