Usually the focus of this blog is on earning frequent flyer miles, or on redeeming them for free trips.
But periodically, it's worth considering an alternative method of accumulating miles: winning them in a sweepstakes.
Earlier this month we reviewed a JetBlue sweepstakes, featuring a fat 1 million points as the grand prize. That was noteworthy, but hardly unusual.
During the past few years, airlines and their marketing partners have turned increasingly to travel sweepstakes with big mileage prizes to get consumers' attention and influence their behavior.
It's an easy way for airlines to build mailing lists of travel-oriented consumers, for example, or call attention to a newly redesigned website.
It's cost-effective, too. While the miles may have considerable value to the winner (and to the IRS, which will tax them at the same rate as regular income), the real cost to the airlines is minimal.
"You Could Win 1.2 Million Miles!"
While the headline on the landing page for United's Mileage Plus Sweepstakes entices with "You could win 1.2 million miles!" the actual grand prize, according to the promotion's terms and conditions, is 1,280,000 United miles.
That's a whole lotta miles. Enough, according to United, for a pair of around-the-world award tickets. And, in case you were wondering what the tax impact would be, United's assessment of the miles' value is $25,600, or 2 cents each.
Unlike most other such sweepstakes, which simply feature a single cache of miles as a grand prize, this one also offers a multitude of lesser prizes to console those who fall short of the big one. Among them:
- Sixteen first prizes - 50,000 Mileage Plus miles each
- Thirty-two second prizes - 25,000 Mileage Plus miles each
- Forty third prizes - 8 GB iPod Touch with Skullcandy earbuds
- Plus 160 Hamilton Beach panini makers, 160 Black & Decker drills, 320 one-time Red Carpet Club passes, 240 Monster Toss games, 400 Restaurant.com certificates
The last day to enter is December 30, but it behooves you to enter sooner rather than later as the runner-up prizes are awarded throughout the promotion period and you can play up to three times a day.
And finally, a caveat that will be familiar to anyone who's ever read the fine print for a sweepstakes: "Odds of winning the Sweepstakes Prize depend on the number of eligible entries received during the Promotion Period."
(Check out FrequentFlier.com's sweepstakes page for more ways to win free trips and frequent flyer miles, including two other million-mile promotions.)
This article originally appeared on FrequentFlier.com.