The other ‘trick’ to avoid paying the United Award Reservation close-in fee

Share via:


I wrote a while back about this trick to avoid paying United’s award booking close-in fee. In a nutshell, United assesses a $75 fee to general members when booking an award ticket within 21 days of the departure date. Premier Silver members are assessed a $50 fee, while Gold members are charged $25. This of course is annoying and inconvenient. For the longest time this could be done online, and then United caught up to it, and updated the system to not allow this trick to work online. The only option left is to call and hope that the rep forgets to add the fee to your booking. It’s not guaranteed and it may take several phone calls. With a bit more planning, however, there’s a different route to avoiding this fee, and it’s not a sketchy one at all. In comes United Star Alliance partner Air Canada.

Before saying anything else, take a look at this search for a nonstop flight on July 28th (within 21 days of departure), from Chicago to Portland on United. If I book through United with United miles it looks like this:

You can see on there that this award ticket should cost a general MileagePlus member under $6, but because of that close-in fee, it bumps it to half of the out-of-pocket fare price! That’s no bueno. But if I use Air Canada miles and book through Aeroplan, this is the result:

 

It’s a pretty significant difference. So from a strategic perspective, it’s a good idea to have Air Canada miles available to use, even if just for unexpected award bookings on Star Alliance. I’ve written about how Amex cards can be used to accumulate and use Air Canada miles on United. Though used by most for pleasure trips, points and miles can be life savers when immediate/emergency travel plans are needed. For this reason I make sure to have a steady balance of United + Air Canada + ANA and you should too!

Here are some AMEX cards that allow you to earn Membership Rewards or SPG points, which in turn are transferable to Aeroplan at a 1:1 ratio:

Starwood Preferred Guest® Business

  • Earn 25,000 bonus Starpoints® after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases within the first 3 months
  • Earn up to 5 Starpoints® for every dollar of eligible purchases at participating Starwood hotels
  • Earn 2 Starpoints® for every dollar of eligible purchases on the Card at participating Marriott Rewards® hotels
  • Enjoy free access to the Sheraton® Club Lounge
  • Receive free in-room, premium Internet access, plus free Wi-Fi with Boingo once enrolled
  • $95 Annual fee (waived on the first year)
  • Apply here for the Starwood Preferred Guest® Business

Amex Business Platinum Card®

  • Earn 50,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $10,000 on qualifying purchases within your first 3 months of Card Membership
  • Earn an extra 25,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend an additional $10,000 all on qualifying purchases within your first 3 months of Card Membership
  • Earn 5x points per dollar on eligible travel on amextravel.com
  • Earn 1.5x points per dollar on elligible purchases of $5,000 or more (that’s an extra half point per dollar)
  • Enjoy Airport Lounge access program
  • $200 Annual Airline Fee Credit
  • 35% Airline Bonus
  • Internet access on 6 airlines and at over 1,000,000 hotspots
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre-check
  • $450 Annual Fee
  • Apply here for the Amex Business Platinum Card

I deliberately put the two Business cards at the top of the list, since these won’t count against Chase’s 5/24 rule. Other banks’ Business card products will not show up on your credit report for Chase to see.

Amex EveryDay® Preferred

  • Earn 20,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $1,000 on qualifying purchases within your first 3 months of Card Membership
  • Earn 3x points per dollar at US supermarkets
  • Earn 2x points per dollar at US gas stations
  • Earn 50% extra points after using the card 30 or more times within a billing period
  • $95 Annual Fee
  • Apply here for the Amex EveryDay® Preferred

Starwood Preferred Guest® Personal

  • Earn 25,000 bonus Starpoints® after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months
  • Earn up to 5 Starpoints® for every dollar of eligible purchases at participating Starwood hotels
  • Receive free in-room, premium Internet access
  • $95 Annual Fee (waived on the first year)
  • Apply here for the Starwood Preferred Guest® Personal

Amex Platinum Card®

  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $5,000 on qualifying purchases within your first 3 months of Card Membership
  • Earn 5x points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel
  • Earn 5x points per dollar on eligible hotels on amextravel.com
  • $200 Annual Airline Fee Credit
  • $200 Annual Uber Credit ($15/month, $20 in December)
  • $100 Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre-check
  • Enjoy Airport Global Lounge CollectionSM
  • $550 Annual Fee
  • Apply here for the Amex Platinum Card®

Give me your thoughts