Benefits of United Airlines Credit Cards

The more you're willing to pay, the more perks and benefits you'll get, but all three United cards earn rewards you can redeem for travel.

Robin Saks FrankelMay 29, 2020
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United Airlines offers three co-branded credit cards with annual fees ranging from $0 to $0 intro for the first year, then $525. The more you pay, the more you get in terms of perks, but all three cards earn rewards you can redeem for travel on United.

The three cards:

United miles vs. TravelBank cash

United's credit cards are different from other airlines' in that they offer two different kinds of rewards currencies. The $0-annual-fee United℠ TravelBank Card earns rewards in the form of TravelBank cash, while the other two cards earn miles in United's frequent flyer program, MileagePlus:

  • TravelBank cash can be redeemed for United purchases on a simple dollar-for-dollar basis — $100 in TravelBank cash is worth $100 when booking travel with United.

  • MileagePlus miles can be redeemed for free flights or seat upgrades. The per-mile value depends on how you redeem your rewards.

Nerd tip: NerdWallet values United miles at 0.8 cent each. This is a baseline value, drawn from real-world data on hundreds of economy routes, not a maximized value. In other words, you should aim for award redemptions that offer 0.8 cent or more in value from your United miles.

Rewards on spending

1. Solid ongoing rewards rates

Each United credit card gives you extra rewards on spending with the airline itself:

United℠ TravelBank Card

  • 2% back in TravelBank cash on tickets purchased from United.

  • 1.5% back in TravelBank cash on all other purchases.

United℠ Explorer Card

  • 2 MileagePlus miles per $1 spent on eligible United purchases.

  • 2 MileagePlus miles per $1 spent at restaurants

  • 2 MileagePlus miles per $1 spent on hotel purchases directly from the hotel.

  • 1 MileagePlus mile per $1 spent on all other purchases.

United Club℠ Infinite Card

  • 4 miles per dollar spent on United purchases.

  • 2 miles per dollar spent on dining.

  • 2 miles per dollar spent on all other travel.

  • 1 mile per dollar on all other purchases.

2. Sign-up bonuses

Each card offers new cardholders the chance to snag a bonus by meeting a spending requirement early on:

United℠ TravelBank Card: $150 in United TravelBank cash after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

United℠ Explorer Card: 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.

United Club℠ Infinite Card: None

Perks at the airport

3. Baggage, boarding and lounge benefits

The United℠ TravelBank Card does not offer free checked bags, early boarding or access to the airline's United Club airport lounges, but the cards with annual fees do.

United℠ Explorer Card

  • First checked bag free for the primary cardholder and a companion traveling on the same reservation. Potential savings: Up to $140 per round trip.

  • Priority boarding. 

  • Two free lounge passes each year. Day passes cost $59 apiece, so this benefit is worth $118 a year.

United Club℠ Infinite Card

  • Two free checked bags apiece for the primary cardholder and a companion traveling on the same reservation. Potential savings: Up to $280 per round trip.

  • Priority boarding. 

  • Unlimited lounge access. A stand-alone lounge membership costs $650 a year.

Travel perks

United's credit cards also come with an array of protections and benefits that can be handy when traveling.

4. No foreign transaction fees

United Airlines credit cards are a great travel companion abroad since they don't add a foreign exchange surcharge on your spending.

5. Discount on CLEAR membership

Thanks to a partnership with CLEAR, United credit card holders can get a discount on a CLEAR membership, which can help expedite the check-in process at more than 60 airports, arenas, stadiums and Hertz rental car locations nationwide. United consumer credit card holders receive a discounted membership rate of $109. The regular annual membership retails for $179.

6. Travel protections

  • Trip cancellation and trip interruption insurance. If your trip is canceled or cut short by covered situations like sickness or injury, you can get reimbursed.

  • Auto rental collision damage waiver. Decline the rental company's collision insurance and charge the entire rental cost to your United card and receive primary coverage for theft and collision damage for most cars in the U.S. and abroad. Coverage in the U.S. on the United℠ TravelBank Card is secondary to your personal insurance.

More about these cards

Information related to the United℠ TravelBank Card has been collected by NerdWallet and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of these cards.

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