Just in time for Christmas, United has released to a “select group” of MileagePlus members its new app that allows shoppers to earn miles for purchases in the stores of around 50 national retailers, including AMC Theaters, Gap, Lowe’s, and Sears.
The app, called MileagePlus X, is available for both Android and iOS devices.
United claims that the earning rate will be up to four miles per $1 spent, depending on the retailer. And purchases charged to a MileagePlus credit card earn a 25 percent bonus on the normally earned miles.
Helpfully, the app automatically identifies participating retailers, based on the shopper’s location. The purchase-to-earn-miles procedure itself, however, is less than seamless. As United describes it: “At check-out, customers enter the total dollar amount of their purchase via the app, creating a digital merchant gift card. The cashier then scans the barcode to complete the digital gift card purchase.”
In its news release, United touts the app’s supposed ease of use, as follows: “The new MileagePlus X app builds on the increasing popularity of mobile purchasing, enabling members to make in-store purchases and earn miles without having to pull out a credit card.” But really, is pulling out a cellphone and creating a digital gift card easier or more convenient than handing over a credit card?
Another concern is security. In order to create a gift card, the app links to the MileagePlus member’s credit card information, stored in the member’s profile. Given the recent history of hacks on major retailers’ computers, many consumers are rightly reluctant to trust their credit-card information to any company’s customer database.
Concerns aside, earning and redeeming miles for offline purchases will inevitably become commonplace. With MileagePlus X, United is ahead of the curve. And there’s more to come. Among the new features planned for the app in future updates: the ability to redeem miles for in-store purchases.
Reader Reality Check
Will you be using this app when it’s released to all MileagePlus members?
This article originally appeared on FrequentFlier.com.