For years, United Airlines was the only airline I flew consistently. We lived in Northern California and our tiny airport was only serviced by UA. Every time I flew it was United to San Francisco to get a connecting flight. My first experience with using credit card points and miles were getting an old United Airlines credit card. Every year or so, I earned enough miles to get a free flight. This was so fun for me and I thought I was so clever. This became even more exciting when one of my daughters moved to London and I got that occasional free flight to Heathrow.
Little did I know, how much more fun it was going to be to earn free flights and free hotel stays when I really became a points and miles enthusiast. ! In honor of the first credit card I used for free travel, let’s talk all about United Airlines credit cards and program today!
We have to start out talking about the United Airlines credit cards that get us free flights. These are all co-branded by Chase Bank, so fall under the 5/24 Rule. That means if you like to fly on United, you want to save one of your 5/24 slots for a United card.
This is the most basic of United cards, and I wouldn’t waste a 5/24 spot on it unless I needed just a few more miles and really loved United. The annual fee is $0, so you could always downgrade another card to it in the future if you didn’t want to pay an annual fee.
This card will always be in my wallet because I fly United a lot. It offers a free first-checked bag, priority boarding, 2 United Club passes, and a $100 Global Entry or TSA Precheck statement credit.
This is a great card, too, for those who fly United. We find a lot of great deals to Europe on United, so we have all applied for this card at one time. The annual fee is a little steep at $250, but you get a $125 annual United purchase credit, two bags checked free, priority boarding, up to $100 for TSA Precheck or Global Entry, and two 5,000-mile anniversary award flight credits.
We love business cards because they don’t count against your 5/24 status. For this reason, each of us also recommends getting this card at some point. The annual fee of $99 is waived the first year, and the card includes 2 United Club passes each year, a free first checked bag, up to $100 Global Entry or TSA Precheck reimbursement, and priority boarding. You also receive a bonus of 5,000 miles each year if you hold both the United business and personal card.
For the lover of United Club’s and Star Alliance airport lounge usage worldwide, this is the card for you. For most people, including myself, it won’t be a contender with its $525 annual fee.
United Airlines is part of the Star Alliance. You can use United miles that you earn from United Airlines credit cards to travel on several of their partners. I’ve used them to travel on Lufthansa Airlines, Turkish Airlines, Thai, and Austrian Airlines. Here is a complete list of their partners:
As you can see, it is a huge alliance. With a lot of United miles, you have a lot of possibilities. It has certainly been the airline I have had the most airline miles with. I now live near Denver which is a hub for United so I guess we were just meant to be partners in my traveling adventures!
Booking with United Miles is pretty easy. I usually just plug in my destination from Denver and the dates I want to go and start looking. Being flexible with dates can help you find cheaper award tickets. Let’s say I want to go from Denver to Paris (in my perfect world, the pandemic is not an issue)! Here is what I find:
The return selections are similar. I can see that I can travel roundtrip in Economy for 60K or 90K in Economy Plus but it is a mixed cabin. That means I travel to Chicago in economy, then economy plus from there. When I looked further I found Business Class for 77K each way. Look how cheap the taxes and fees are – $5.60! Spending 60K worth of miles that you received by a credit card welcome offer + $11.20 in taxes and fees is an amazing way to get to Paris!
Because United has been my main airline for most of my life, due to where I’ve lived, I’ve had numerous fabulous redemptions. One of my favorites that I’ve done over and over again is to visit one of my daughters in London.
Alex and I met my London-based daughter in Greece for another fabulous trip. We flew Turkish Airlines (a partner of United) to Istanbul where we had a layover and had a great time in the Turkish Airlines Lounge before heading to Greece. It was in business seats and was Alex’s first time sitting in business – amazing! We only paid $11.20 in taxes and fees for the best flight over.
I absolutely love Italy and have been there many times. A recent trip there was made much cheaper thanks to credit card points and miles!
A couple of years ago I went to Chile on a Spanish Immersion trip for a few weeks. People at the camp were amazed when I told them my business class seats cost me $11.20 in taxes and fees thanks to using credit card miles. Over and over again United award redemptions have provided me with fantastic experiences!
Be sure and have your spouse get United credit cards too for more miles that you can use. Check and see if you can get a referral bonus for referring him/her too! Additionally, Chase Ultimate Rewards can be transferred to United Miles – another great way to increase your mileage with United Airlines.
When you are not trying to meet minimum spend, use your United credit card or even better, a Chase Ultimate Rewards card for daily purchases. This will help your miles grow.
Another way to fly more on United Airlines with award miles is to get American Express Membership Rewards. Air Canada is a transfer partner with them. You can transfer Membership Rewards to Aeroplan and book United flights. I did this recently on a trip to London.
You can also earn more United miles by doing your online shopping through the United Airlines Shopping Portal.
Another great way to earn United miles is through the MileagePlus X app. Late last year both Alex and I earned 10,000 miles each through a promo going on in the MileagePlus X App.
United charges $35 for the first bag checked domestically and $45 for the second bag. One carry-on bag and a personal item are free. Internationally, the first bag is free and the second bag is $100. With the exception of the Gateway card, all the United credit cards give you that first checked bag for free.
For many, many years United Airlines has brought me to fascinating places and allowed me to have incomparable experiences. If you live near an airport that United flies to and from, consider getting United Airlines credit cards that will let you fly them. United Airlines and travel hacking have been a dream duo for me!
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