United just sent out an email to remind people that they can use United miles to pay for select merchandise and, for limited time only, for gift cards as well. These are usually the worst way of redeeming miles/points from various programs as the monetary value associated with a mile tends to be really low.
Amazon Kindle Fire 32 GB $264 or 47900 Miles (35200 for 1K)
Amazon Android tablet for $264 at Amazon or for 47900 United miles. The value of a mile is about half of a cent at $0.0055. For 1K’s, the price is 35200 valuing the mile at three quarters of a cent $0.0075.
Brother Compact laser Printer $119 or 30600 Miles (22800 for 1K)
Brother laser printer that Amazon sells for $119 can be had for 30600 miles ($0.0039 per mile) or for 1K’s at 22800 miles ($0.0052 per mile)
United is now offering gift cards for miles for a limited time, at least per the email that I received. The value associated with the gift cards are somewhat better than with the merchandise rewards above.
You can buy Amazon gift cards valuing the mile at $0.0071 and some others valuing miles at $0.008.
Does it make sense to use miles for buying gift cards and other merchandise?
For the most part, the answer is a definite no. If you fly hundreds of thousands of miles per year and have more United miles that you can ever dream of using in rest of your life, then you have my approval of using them for merchandise and gift cards.
If you, however, use United credit cards and then use your miles for the merchandise above, you are doing a disservice for yourself.
The fair value of a United mile is somewhere between 1.5 to 2 cents each, when you use them wisely. I would never redeem my miles at these values that are just plainly put horrible.