United Credit Cards
$95, waived first year
50,000 miles: 40,000 miles with $2,000 initial spend, 10,000 additional miles with $5,000 in total purchases in first six months. ($635 net value, 13/$) Offer Link. An extra $100 may be available through this link (thanks US Credit Card Guide)Business card: 50,000 miles, with $5,000 initial spend, plus an additional 50,000 points with a total of $25,000 of spending in the first six months. First-year annual fee is not waived.
40,000 United miles
$2,000 initial spend
($450 net value, .23/$)Signup Bonus Chart
2x United Purchases
2x Hotels (booked directly)
1x Everywhere Else
No Foreign Transaction Fee
If you frequently fly on United Airlines, you should get one of the United Airlines cards, to take advantage of free checked bag, priority boarding privileges, and increased access to United award space.
Because it is hard to use credit card travel benefits during the pandemic, Chase has made some temporary changes to their cards.
- You'll earn 3x points on up to $1,500 of grocery spending in May and June. This benefit is only available on the personal cards.
United Credit Card Options
There are four different United Airlines credit cards.
- United Explorer card. The normal version of the card is the main focus of the guide, and will typically be the first choice of anyone who wants the card for its ongoing benefits and/or signup bonus.
- Explorer Business version. A downside of the business version is that it can't be downgraded to United's no-annual-fee card to preserve the "slot" and retain access to extra award availability, while avoiding an annual fee. It does provide a $100 credit if you make 7 or more airfare purchases during the year, but many people don't buy that many tickets. And you can earn 2x miles on transit and taxis, restaurants, gas stations, and office supply stores (rather than at restaurants and hotels). $99 annual fee. Chase Webpage. United Webpage. Signup Bonus Chart.
- United Club card. The premium version of the United Card includes a membership in the United Club but has a $450 annual fee. It is only interesting to people who would otherwise have considered purchasing a United club membership. Chase Webpage. United Webpage. Signup Bonus Chart.
- Club Business version. The business version is essentially identical to the personal version of the Club card, except for the signup bonus. The normal signup bonus on this card is only a $100 statement credit. Chase Webpage. Signup Bonus Chart.
- Old Business Explorer card. Existing cardholders can keep the older version of the Business Explorer card. The current version of this card, introduced in early 2020, is considered a "new" card from a signup bonus perspective.
Collecting the Signup Bonus
- It is worth signing up for this card, just to collect the signup bonus. The normal 40,000 mile signup offer is valued at $480 (at 1.2 cents per point).
- You may be able to earn the signup bonuses from both the personal and business version of the card. If you have any kind of side business, you are entitled to apply for business cards. If so, you can get at least 40,000 miles from the regular version, and at least 40,000 miles from the business version. Unlock Extra Reward Points with Business Credit Cards.
- Higher signup offers are sometimes available. The introductory offer on the new business card was a whopping 100,000 miles (with $10,000 initial spend)).
- You don't usually want to sign up for the United Club card, unless you really want the Club access. You would wind up paying a very high annual fee, in order to earn the same or worse signup offer as the regular version of the card, and all of these cards are still affected by the Chase 5/24 rule.
- It is difficult to collect a signup bonus a 2nd time, because of the Chase 5/24 rule. Normally, you are eligible for a Chase signup bonus, if you haven't already earned the bonus, from the same card, during the last two years. However, due to the Chase 5/24 rule, if you've been signing up for other cards, you won't be able to get approved, when you reapply. You'll need get under the 5/24 limit, before you can earn one of the bonuses again. Dealing with the Chase 5/24 Rule.
After subtracting the opportunity cost of using the card for $2,000 of spending, the calculated net value of the sign-up is $450 (23 cents per dollar spent). Your value may be higher or lower, depending on how much you value the United miles. How Much are Points Worth?
In addition, if you hold onto both cards, you'll receive an extra 5,000 points each year (on your business card anniversary) to help offset the extra annual fee.
Other Notable Benefits
- Free checked bags. The first checked bag is free for the primary cardholder and up to one companion. Get Free Checked Bags with Airline Credit Cards.
- Expanded award availability. Increased availability for "saver" level awards. You can also book any available seats as award tickets, if you are willing to pay enough miles.
- 25% inflight discount. Good for the purchase of wi-fi, food, and drinks.
- Free roadside assistance. Many credit cards include a benefit where they will arrange for roadside assistance, but this card actual includes actual free roadside assistance services. Includes up to $50 in free towing, lockout assistance, spare tire installation, jump starts, or emergency fuel. Get Free or Discounted Roadside Assistance with these Credit Cards.
- "Primary" rental car insurance. If you use this card to pay for your rental car, you'll get primary rental car insurance. Unlike the "secondary" insurance you get from most other cards, if you damage your rental card, your don't need to involve your personal auto insurance company. Credit Cards That Provide “Primary” Rental Car Coverage.
- $100 TSA fee credit. Every 4 years, you can receive an automatic reimbursement of your Global Entry or PreCheck application fee (for up to $100).
- Access to Chase's Luxury Hotel and Resort Collection. Along with other Chase cards, you'll get access to Chase's luxury hotel program. When you use the program to book one of the participating hotels, you'll receive a set of valuable benefits, including free breakfast, late check-out, and a hotel-specific amenity, which is typically a $100 hotel, restaurant, or spa credit. Take Advantage of Luxury Hotel Programs for Valuable Extra Perks.
- Two United Club passes per year. Each one can be used one time (to admit a single person).
- Priority boarding.
- Access to the Visa Signature Luxury Hotel Collection. As with all Visa Signature cards, you'll get access to Visa's luxury hotel program. Whenever you book one of the 900+ participating hotels, you'll receive a set of valuable benefits, including free breakfast, late check-out, and a $25 food and beverage credit. The Visa program has slightly weaker benefits than the other luxury hotel programs, but includes a number of more affordable hotel options, and a price guarantee. Take Advantage of Luxury Hotel Programs for Valuable Extra Perks.
- Access to Visa Signature Offers. Your card entitles you to a set of special offers available from Visa.
Extra benefits from the business version
The business card has an extra benefit that you don't get from the personal card.
- If you make more than 7 United flight purchases of $100 in a cardholder year, you'll receive a $100 bill credit.
In addition, it has different bonus categories, and if you have both cards, you'll receive 5,000 bonus points on your business card's anniversary.
Extra Benefits from the United Club Card
The $450 annual fee United Club card comes with a bunch of additional benefits.
- United Club membership. You can bring in your family, or up to two other adults. The full cost of purchasing a membership starts at $550. However, United elites get a discount on membership fees, so the real value of the membership is usually lower.
- "Premier Access". Cardholders and their companions get access to priority check-in, security, boarding, and baggage handling. However, most people who would be considering paying $450 per year for this card, in order to get the United Club membership, are likely to fly United enough to already have these benefits through their United elite status.
- Second bag free. The cardholder, and up to one guest, get two free checked bags, instead of just one.
- Waived close-in booking fees.
- Automatic Hertz President's Circle status.
- If you have the United Club Card, you should probably use it for your United purchases. As you are likely a frequent United flyer, you might get more value out of 4x United Miles than you would from 5x Membership Rewards points, 5x ThankYou points, or 3x Ultimate Rewards points. Best Credit Cards for Travel Spending.
- You are better off making your United Airlines purchases with a card that earns a high reward rate for all your airfare spending. 2x United miles are better than what you'd earn from most general-purpose reward cards, but not as good as what you'd earn from a card that offers high bonus rewards on airfare purchases.Best Credit Cards for Travel Spending.
- There are better options for your hotel and restaurant purchases. The rewards from the personal version of this card are more valuable than what you would get from a good general-purpose reward card, but not as good as what you could get from a card that offers good bonus rewards for these categories. Best Credit Cards for Travel Spending. Best Credit Cards for Restaurant Spending.
- There are better options for your restaurant, office supply, and gas purchases. The rewards from the business version of this card are more valuable than what you would get from a good general-purpose reward card, but not as good as what you could get from a card that offers good bonus rewards for these categories. . Best Credit Cards for Restaurant Spending. Best Credit Cards for Gas Spending.
- The Business card's bonus on transit and taxi services may be useful. You'll earn 2x United Miles, worth about 3 cents per dollar. If you don't have a card that includes these expenses as part of its travel category (such as the Sapphire Reserve), the United Business Explorer might be your best option.
- You don't want to use these cards for your everyday spending. You'll earn higher rewards from a good general-purpose reward card. Get a Great General Purpose Reward Card and Use It for All of Your Spending.
Getting Rid of the Card
If you aren't getting enough value from your United Explorer card (personal version), you can convert it to one of the no-annual-fee United options. The discontinued "MileagePlus Rewards" card (not the current TravelBank card) continues to provide access to extra United reward space. And you'll have the option of converting back if you want to regain the free checked bag and other benefits, even if you are blocked by the 5/24 rule.
When downgrading your card, you'll get a prorated rebate of the annual fee. So it can be worthwhile doing so, even if you forgot to downgrade at your account anniversary.
If you are under 5/24 and it has been two years since you've earned the signup bonus, you might consider cancelling or converting your card, reapplying, and earning the signup bonus again.
You can cancel your card without losing your United miles. They are treated like any other miles in your account.
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