Redeeming frequent flier miles for non-airline activities just went digital.
United Airlines on Monday launched a new MileagePlus Digital Media Store allowing its frequent fliers to redeem miles for music, movies and television programs. Similar to services like Apple's iTunes and Amazon's MP3 Music Store, users can download music tracks, full albums, as well as rent movies for either 24 hours or unlimited streaming. Television programming is slated to be available later this year.
The online store features seven million music tracks across a wide range of genres, including pop, rock, country, jazz and classical. Purchases can be played on computers, tablets and smartphones.
When I initially searched through the database of music, the lowest rates I saw were around 115 miles for single tracks and about 1,000 miles for full-length albums. Up at the top of the screen, though, I noticed a link reading, "Sign in to see if you qualify for lower prices."
I logged in with my frequent flier credentials and the 115-mile rate for a single track ended up dropping to 95 miles. I also qualified for lower rates on movies where a 345 mile price for a 24-hour rental of "The American President" dropped to 280 miles. The lowest price for unlimited streaming of a movie I came across was 945 miles.
United Airlines spokesman Joe Micucci tells CNBC.com in an email that, "pricing varies based on a member's level of engagement with MileagePlus." More specific pricing details weren't provided.
While I tend to exclusively redeem my miles for premium cabin international award travel, it's nice to have another way to use my miles for something I actually want and will use.