Be Wary of Promo Codes

A distraught reader sent me a note yesterday about a bonus mile offer he received from United, and I thought it was worth sharing with everyone. Take note – always do a search on with and without the code to make sure you’re getting the lowest fare.

This particular deal gives you an increasing number of bonus miles for each roundtrip you fly this Spring up to three total. It looks like it’s targeted at Colorado residents as part of the big brawl between Southwest, Frontier, and United but it can be used by anyone (just enter promo code MPD330). Sounds pretty good, right? Might as well get bonus miles if you’re flying, but be careful. This deal is only good on fares in Q class or higher. So let’s say you want to go from LA to Dulles on some random dates in May. With the promo code, I see this: With Promo Code

You’ll notice that it tells me that “To qualify for the promotion, all selected flights must be promotion-eligble,” but they don’t bother telling you that they are only showing fares that are promotion eligible. If I take away that promo code, guess what I see? Without Promo Code

Holy shnikes! That’s over $400 less. Now, if I’m a savvy traveler, I might see at the bottom of the terms and conditions that it’s limited to fares that are in Q or higher, but that doesn’t mean I expect to not be shown lower fares. Many people are likely to miss that restriction anyway. There should be something here that shows the lowest fare without a promotion code so people can evaluate if this is good offer or not.

I don’t know anyone in their right mind who would pay a $400 premium for some bonus miles. For that price, I could just flat-out buy over 10,000 miles directly from United.

So be careful if you’re using a United promo code on their website. Make sure you always do one search with the code and one without so you can ensure that you aren’t missing out on a much better deal.

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