Avoid United’s Close-In Booking Fee: A Simple Trick to Save $75

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Avoid United Close In Booking Fee

Avoid United Close In Booking Fee

One of the peskiest things about mileage programs, especially the U.S. based ones, is the little fees they tend to tack on. One of those fees is the dreaded close-in booking fee. United charges $75 to non-elites to book within 21 days of departure and less to lower tier elites. Thankfully there is a way to avoid this fee.

Reselling DO is happening in Baltimore in a few days and unfortunately a friend procrastinated on booking his flight home. By the time this person got around to committing, paid flights had all jumped up to over $300. It turns out the best mileage redemption is on United with a direct flight at the Saver level.

If my friend just booked that flight outright it costs 12,500 miles + $5.60 +  $75. But, if he uses the “trick”, he can avoid that $75 charge altogether.

Here is how it works:

  1. Book a flight (same route if possible) for more than 21 days out.
  2. Once the flight is booked, go into the “Manage Reservations” page in your MileagePlus Account and click “Change Flights” under the reservation you just made. (You can only make changes for free within 24 hours. This trick will not work after 24 hours.)
  3. Search for flights for your desired date.
  4. Select the new flight for your desired date.
  5. You will be allowed to make this change without a fee.

For example, let’s say my friend wanted to fly on 9/15. He could book a flight for 10/1, then go in and change the date to 9/15 and select the new flight without the close-in fee. Of course make sure there is availability for your desired date before going through all of this.

Note: It isn’t clear if United’s upcoming fee and rules changes will affect this trick or not.

Call In Alternative

If you don’t want to hassle with changing things online (or if you get an error), you could also call MileagePlus and see if an agent will make the change for you without charging the fee. There is a chance they will ask for the fee in which case you could call back and try your luck with someone else. I prefer the online method if it is available for your reservation since it is quick and easy.

Conclusion

This United close in trick has been around awhile and is well known, so I am not spilling any secrets. Thankfully the company allows you to change for free within 24 hours of booking and does not charge the fee on that change online. The functionality is built into their website which makes it all so much easier.

What is the worst fee you think mileage programs charge? Let us know in the comments!


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15 COMMENTS

  1. What about if the price is different? Does it readjust the initial credit card payment to reverse the first charge and out in the new real flight cost?

    • Yes. The website cancels the first ticket and then reissues it so the charges are adjusted. On the final confirmation screen before making the change it will show you the difference in miles and dollars (if any).

  2. It does not work for AA because they don’t have a 24 cancellation policy. They do let you hold a reservation for a few days though, that is why they say they don’t need a 24 hr policy.

  3. I just tried this using the online method you detailed, and when i went to change the flight the website errored out. It would not let me save the changes to my booking.

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