All About the United Airlines Cards

Pam

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!

Note: These cards have higher than usual offers right now!

 

United Airlines Credit Cards

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. Note: Some of these offers are limited-time offers so don’t delay!

 

United Gateway Card

Welcome Offer: 20,000 United miles after you spend $1,000 in three months
Annual Fee: None
Category Spend Bonuses:  2 miles per $1 spent on United purchases, gas stations, local commuting expenses, and 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases
What you can do with the bonus: Occasionally, you can find a really cheap one-way ticket that you can book with 20,000 miles. Otherwise, just add it to your stash.

This card is also a great option if you’d like to downgrade a United card that comes with an annual fee. Learn how to apply here.

 

 

United Airlines Explorer Card

Welcome Offer: Earn 60,000 miles after spending $3,000 in 3 months; Add’l 10,000 miles after spending $4,000 total in first 6 months
Annual Fee: No fee the first year, then $95 includes 2 United Club passes each year, free first checked bag, and up to $100 Global Entry or TSA Precheck statement credit and priority boarding
Category Spend Bonuses: 2 miles per $1 spent at restaurants and on hotel accommodations when purchased directly with the hotel, 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases
What you can do with the bonus:  You could book a round-trip ticket from Salt Lake City to Maui as Alex did.  There are many award tickets domestically for 12,500 miles so you could get three one-way tickets free with this bonus.

Learn How to Apply here.

 

United Explorer Credit Card

 

United Quest Card

Welcome Offer: 90,000 United MileagePlus Miles after you spend $5,000 in the first 3 months
Annual Fee: $250, includes a $125 annual United purchase credit, first two bags checked free, priority boarding, up to $100 for TSA Precheck or Global Entry, two 5,000 mile anniversary award flight credits
Category Spend Bonuses: 3 miles per $1 spent on United purchases, 2 miles per $1 spent on restaurants, travel, and select streaming services, 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases
What you can do with the bonus: I have used 66,000-70,000 United miles to travel each way in business class to  Greece, London, and Amsterdam just to mention a few. I live an hour from Denver which is a United hub so I can always use more United miles so I was thrilled to see the addition of the United Quest Card!

Learn How to Apply here.

 

 

 United Explorer Business Card

Welcome Offer: 75,000 United miles after you spend $5,000 in 3 months.
Annual Fee: $99, waived the first year – includes 2 United Club passes each year, free first checked bag, up to $100 Global Entry or TSA Precheck reimbursement, and priority boarding. $100 annual United travel credit after 7 United flight purchases over $100, 25% back on United in-flight purchases. Also, receive a bonus of 5,000 miles each year if you hold both the United business and personal card.
Category Spend Bonuses: 2 miles per $1 spent at gas stations, office supply stores and restaurants, rideshare services and transits, and United purchases
What you can do with the bonus:  I’ve booked several business class seats to Europe for 70,000 one way so that would be a no-brainer for me. You could also get an economy round-trip ticket to Europe for 60,000.  Domestically, it is easy to find round-trip tickets for 25,000 miles.

Learn How to Apply here.

 

 

United Club Infinite Card

Welcome Offer: 120,000 United MileagePlus Miles after you spend $5,000 in the first 3 months plus a $100 TSA or Global Entry credit, 1st, and 2nd bags checked free. The main perk is getting United Club and Star Alliance airport lounge usage worldwide. You will need to spend $3,000 in 3 months to earn these points.
Annual Fee:  $525/year
Category Spend Bonuses: 4 miles per $1 spent on United purchases, 2 miles per $1 spent on dining, and all other travel.
What you can do with the bonus:  I’ve booked several business class seats to Europe for 70,000 one way so that would be a no-brainer for me. You could also get an economy round-trip ticket to Europe for 60,000.  Domestically, it is easy to find round-trip tickets for 25,000 miles.

Learn How to Apply here.

 

 

United Partners

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:

  • Aegean
  • Air Canada
  • Air China
  • India
  • Air New Zealand
  • ANA
  • Asiana
  • Austria
  • Avianca
  • Brussels
  • Copa
  • Croatia
  • Egypt Air
  • Ethiopian
  • EVA
  • LOT
  • Lufthansa
  • SAS
  • Shenzhen
  • Singapore Airlines
  • South African Airways
  • Swiss
  • TAP
  • Thai
  • Turkish

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!

 

Using United Miles

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:

Screenshot of United Airlines award travel Denver to Paris

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!

 

My Favorite United Mile Redemptions

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.

 

Santorini, Greece, and a view I never tired of!

 

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!

 

How to Get More United Miles

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.

There is also a dining program you can earn miles with as well as surveys you can take to earn more miles.

 

United Baggage Policies

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.

 

Bottom Line

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!

 

 

United Airlines travel hacking pin
united planes at gate

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