United's Billion Mile Giveaway

United has announced a new contest for owners of the Chase United MileagePlus Credit Card. The contest will be run from August 1st through September 30th. During that time any purchase made with your MileagePlus card will count as an entry into the contest. The more purchases you make, the more entries you get into the contest. Full details of the contest can be seen over at the United Contest Website

Prize breakdowns are as follows:

  • 100 Grand Prizes of 1,000,000 Miles
  • 10,000 First Prizes of 25,000 Miles
  • 130,000 Second Prizes of 5,000 Miles

Is the Contest Worth Entering?

The ultimate question here is whether or not you should dust off that United credit card and make purchases. Simply put, it's not worth it. These types of contests are no better than the lottery and tend to give terrible odds of actually winning anything significant.

Looking at the fine print, you'll see that estimated odds of winning each prize.

  • Grand Prize Odds are 1 in 1,668,600
  • First Prize Odds are 1 in 16,686
  • Second Prize Odds are 1 in 1,284

For all intents and purposes you aren't going to win. Even the low 5,000 mile prize is fairly long odds. The thing to remember when talking about math like this is that probabilities don't increase with the number of entries you submit. Having 2 entries doesn't give you 2 in 1,284 odds. Instead each of those entries only has the same 1 in 1,284 odds of winning. That probability will never change no matter how many entries you add.

At the end of the day you are better off focusing your spending on a card that gives better bonuses than the United credit card does. The bonus miles you can gain from spend could easily exceed the 5,000 mile prize on from this contest. No reason to shoot for a contest that rarely awards miles when you have cards that guarantee miles.