United miles pooling is now live – important things to know

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Last week, news broke that United would be launching a new feature to its MileagePlus loyalty program – the ability to pool miles with friends and family members.

Miles pooling went live on Friday March 22, only to be pooled pulled a few hours later. Well, it’s now available again and, while it’s great that you now have the ability to share miles for free with others, the feature has quite a few quirks that it’s important to be aware of.

United Airlines Miles Pooling

How to pool United miles

You can pool United miles with other MileagePlus members here. The requirements are as follows:

  • The MileagePlus member initiating the pool (and thus becoming the pool leader) has to be 18+.
  • A maximum of five people can be in a pool (including the pool leader).
  • All members can contribute miles to the pool.
  • Only the pool leader can redeem the pooled miles unless they authorize pool members to redeem them.
  • You can only participate in one pool at a time. If you leave a pool, you lose access to the miles you contributed.

Important things to know about United Miles Pooling

While it’s fantastic that United has introduced a way to pool miles for free, there’s quite a few things you should be aware of before setting up or joining a pool as this could have a significant impact on your plans.

1) Lose miles when leaving a pool

As noted in the section above, if you join a pool, contribute miles to it and then leave, you lose access to the miles you contributed as they remain in the pool.

2) You don’t have to pool all your miles

You don’t have to share all of your MileagePlus miles to a pool – you can pick and choose how many to share.

3) You can only use pooled miles for award flights on United & United Express – not partner flights

One of the most important things to be aware of is that pooled miles can only be redeemed for flights operated by United and United Express. They can’t be redeemed for flights on United’s partner airlines which is a potentially huge limitation depending on what your plans would be.

4) You can reverse miles transferred to a pool

If you change your mind after transferring miles into a pool, you have 24 hours after the transaction to change your mind. After that, they’re stuck in the pool.

5) Children can be added to a United miles pool

This is one of the best aspects of this pooling feature. If you have children who occasionally join you on paid flights, they’re eligible to earn miles but would likely rack them up so slowly that it’ll take a long time before you’d be able to redeem them for an award flight. You can now pool their miles with yours.

6) You can only participate in one pool at a time

If you change your mind and want to join a different pool you can do that, but there are restrictions…

7) There’s a 90 day wait period when someone leaves a pool

If someone leaves a United miles pool, no one else can join that pool for 90 days. The member that leaves the pool also can’t join another pool for 90 days.

8) Miles get shared when dissolving a pool

Before sharing miles with a pool, be aware that in the event of the pool being dissolved by the pool leader, the miles will be shared equally among members. That could have a massive impact on how many miles get returned to your account.

For example, let’s say you set up a pool for you, your partner and your two children and you each contribute the full number of miles in your MileagePlus accounts. Your personal balance had been 111,000 due to earning a United credit card welcome offer, earnings from flight activity, etc. Your partner and two children have had a little bit of flight activity on their accounts, so they each have 3,000 miles to contribute.

That puts you at 120,000 miles total for the four of you. If those miles get pooled and you subsequently change your mind about pooling them more than 24 hours later and dissolve the pool (perhaps after realizing that pooled miles can’t be used for partner awards), those miles get shared equally. That means 30,000 miles would be returned to each account. That could be very inconvenient if you’d expected 111,000 miles to be returned to your own account.

Quick Thoughts

I’ve already shared many of my thoughts above, but wanted to highlight a couple more things. One is that United has been smart about how they’ve designed this feature to try to prevent mileage brokers from being able to game the system. By putting in place restrictions that allow you to only participate in one pool at a time, that you can’t add a new member to a pool within 90 days of one leaving, that someone who’s left a pool can’t join another for 90 days and that pooled miles can’t be used for partner award flights, much of the appeal of miles pooling for people looking to sell/buy miles will be reduced. While it’s a shame that it means families looking to legitimately pool miles for partner awards won’t be able to do so, having the ability to pool miles for free for travel on United is still a nice value add.

Remember that even though pooled miles can’t be redeemed for partner awards, you can still redeem non-pooled miles for partner awards for other people. If you have one family member or friend who’s the one who’d be contributing a significant number of miles to a pool versus everyone else, it could make more sense – if they have enough miles themselves – to just book award flights for others straight out of their own account rather than from a pool.

Being able to pool miles could make other United mileage-earning activity of more interest now too. For example, every month the United shopping portal offers some kind of promotion like ‘spend $750 & earn 2,500 bonus miles.’ In addition to being valid on online purchases, the United portal has a card-linked feature for in-store purchases at participating retailers which can make it easier to hit the spending thresholds of those offers. If you do a lot of eligible spending online, it could make sense to hit the spending threshold on your account to earn the bonus miles, then do the same for other family members who are members of your existing/prospective pool. The only requirement listed on the United shopping portal for having a shopping portal account is that you have an eligible MileagePlus account. That means things like Giftcards.com purchases via the portal can be credited to your children’s MileagePlus accounts to earn bonus miles whenever those promotions are running, which can then be pooled with the whole family.

Your Thoughts

Are you excited about United’s new miles pooling feature? Let us know in the comments below.

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Lauren

After a member contributed his miles to the pool and they are not pending anymore. How can the member leave the pool? There is no option that I can see online

Alex

If two people form a pool and one person leaves — will the pool remain active for others to join later? Or will it automatically dissolve?

If it remains active, it could be a backdoor way to transfer. Since the pool leader could later dissolve and simply get all the miles back to their account

beavis

Who wrote this policy? Monty Python? It would be easier to return a dead parrot.

Tarik

I just tried this and there’s one more restriction. None of the MileagePlus accounts were new, I believe they’re referring to the member being new to the Pool.

“Wait to add or redeem miles
As a new member, there’s a 72-hour waiting period before you can add or redeem miles to and from the pool. This period helps ensure a secure pooling environment for everyone.”

Last edited 16 days ago by Tarik
Dick Bupkiss

It also ensures that whatever award redemption that you were hoping for will be long gone by the time that 72-hour clock stops ticking.

jeffk

The pooled miles accounts with Jet Blue and British Airways are a way better product for me and my wife. When my mom was alive, we had her pooled miles in both these accounts as well. Used BA for AA domestic U.S. flight and Jet Blue are easy to use as well. We also have tens of thousands of miles in each of our United accounts, but I won’t pool them unless I have to do so for a particular reason. I want the flexibility to use them for partner airline awards! If I pool, I cannot do that. So, it is nice to know I have this option if my travel would be on United metal and I need to pool to accomplish the trip, but I will keep my miles un-pooled in the meantime.

Matt

Thanks United for deciding that my family of 6 can’t fully be included in this pooling…

Alan

Does the 90 day restriction prevent people from leaving the pool?

Wouldn’t the best way to do this for a family be to have up to 5 people join the pool, everyone pool the points together, and then 1 by 1 everyone but the pool leader leaves. Then the pool leader can dissolve the pool when they’re the only one left and thus have all the points.

EruptingLoowit

That was my thought. Along with how long it takes from dissolving the pool until the miles post.

Points Adventure

No partner makes this useless on arrival for me.

jeffk

I think you can add anyone, even a friend.

Points Adventure

I meant partner airline 😉

jeffk

yep, I agree that is a huge downside. I won’t be combining my points unless I have a very specific need. would rather fly partners like Singapore for sure.

Dick Bupkiss

You join a pool and you send some miles to the pool. Those pooled miles can not be used to book awards on partner metal, because, pooled. Turns out nobody uses them to book a flight. The pool breaks up, the miles get divvied up among former members of the pool. You get back some miles (maybe more than you sent to the pool, maybe less).

Question: When your (formerly-pooled) miles come back to your individual account, are they still restricted to use only for awards on United metal going forward, or are they fully restored to their previous flexibility?

Shah

If I share my miles in pool lead by a 1K or GS member, will they be able to book flights using the pool miles and have their status benefits apply?

Shah

That would be huge. I have family members with both GS and 1K status and they’ve seen better/cheaper award availability in the past, especially with business fares to Europe. I’ve taken advantage of this in the past booking from one of their 1K accounts (60k one way instead of 80k from my account), but now this would mean I can use my miles and eventually have him book to get the better fares, right? Rather than use his.

Thomas

Well, it sucks there are so many restrictions, but I understand why. I will say this, it is better than nothing.

Ralph

Sounds like an old school tontine lol