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 FrankelOctober 7, 2020
On a similar note...
On a similar note...
GettyImages-959983718-1.jpg

Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This may influence which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own.

United Airlines offers three co-branded credit cards with annual fees ranging from $0 to one that costs $525 after the first year.

The more you pay, the more you get in terms of perks, but all three cards earn MileagePlus miles, which you can redeem toward free flights or seat upgrades on United.

The three cards:

Nerd tip: NerdWallet values United miles at 1 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 1 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 Gateway℠ Card

  • Ongoing rewards: Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on United Airlines purchases, at gas stations, and on local transit and commuting. Earn 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases.

  • Limited-time rewards: Earn 3 miles per $1 spent at grocery stores, on up to $1,500 per month through Sept. 30, 2021.

  • Discount: Earn 25% back on United in-flight 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

Two of the cards offer new cardholders the chance to snag a bonus by meeting a spending requirement early on:

  • United Gateway℠ Card: Earn 20,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.

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

The United Club℠ Infinite Card does not offer a sign-up bonus, but instead waives its hefty annual fee for the first year, offering you the chance to try out its rich perks at no cost for 12 months.

Perks at the airport

3. Baggage, boarding and lounge benefits

The United Gateway℠ 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, eligible 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

We want to hear from you and encourage a lively discussion among our users. Please help us keep our site clean and safe by following our posting guidelines, and avoid disclosing personal or sensitive information such as bank account or phone numbers. Any comments posted under NerdWallet’s official account are not reviewed or endorsed by representatives of financial institutions affiliated with the reviewed products, unless explicitly stated otherwise.