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United redemptions options are very flexible and awards seats should be available at least at a standard rate, as long as there is a seat available. However, unfortunately, such situations like yours occur, which is a great minus of the frequent flyer miles, and it makes airline credit cards useless.
Fortunately, banks issue travel rewards credit cards that have better redemption options because miles (or points) you earn on such cards are not frequent flyer miles. Thus, they are more flexible when it comes to airfare redemptions or any other rewards opportunities. The Discover it® Miles card is a good example of such a travel credit card. The card allows to earn miles - 1.5 miles per $1 spent on purchases. There is no sign-up offer, but all your first-year miles will be matched at the end of the year (provided you are a new cardmember). Basically, you can consider it to be your bonus offer, as none of other issuers will double your rewards just because you continue using your card after the first year. Discover offers you a great deal, and you can make it as big as you wish. Say you earn 35,000 miles, you get 70,000 miles. The math is pretty simple. Add here a 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months (13.49% - 24.49% Variable APR after that), no annual fee, and no foreign transaction fee, and you will get a great travel companion for all your getaways.
Miles redemption is as simple as miles earning with the Discover it® Miles card. You simply buy an airline ticket with the card, wait when transaction appears on your account (or statement). Then you log in to your account an apply your miles to the transaction. You will see the cost of the ticket credited to your account almost instantly. If you are short of miles, no worries, you can use all available miles for a partial redemption. Discover won't limit you, it allows redemptions starting at 1 mile.
The Discover it® Miles card is cheap and the rewards program is easy to understand and manage. Using this card, you won't have such problems as no available awards seats, blackout dates, or fees and taxes.