Frequent United Airlines flyers looking for an alternative to the carrier's Chase-issued credit cards might have heard about the First Hawaiian Bank United® Mastercard®. Its selling points include a beefed-up checked-bag benefit for solo travelers and bonus rewards on groceries and gas that the Chase cards can't match.
There's just one problem: Unless you live on an island in the Pacific Ocean, you're not eligible for it.
If you do qualify for this card, it could be an appealing option for earning United MileagePlus miles, especially if groceries and gas make up a large portion of your budget. But most United flyers will be better off with the mass-market United℠ Explorer Card from Chase, which comes with strong perks and incentives at a similar price.
The First Hawaiian Bank United® Mastercard® has an annual fee of $0 the first year, then $99. Here are five other things to know about the card.
1. You must be a resident of Hawaii, Guam or the Northern Mariana Islands
Here’s the non-starter for most people: Only legal residents of Hawaii, Guam or the Northern Mariana Islands will be considered for the First Hawaiian Bank United® Mastercard®.
If you’re one of the roughly 1.6 million residents who could qualify for this card, it may be a good choice. United has a large Hawaiian footprint, and serves all of the major Hawaiian islands with up to 45 daily departures over 18 routes.
2. Don't confuse it with the United℠ Explorer Card
In some ways, the First Hawaiian Bank United® Mastercard® bears a resemblance to the United℠ Explorer Card, which carries an annual fee of $0 intro for the first year, then $95.
The annual fees are similar, the rewards rate on United tickets is the same, and both offer many of the same side perks.
But there are notable differences, too, especially in terms of ongoing rewards. Here’s how the two cards compare on that count:
First Hawaiian Bank United Credit Card
United℠ Explorer Card
United ticket purchases
Restaurants and delivery
In short, the First Hawaiian Bank United® Mastercard® is better for gas and groceries, while the United℠ Explorer Card is superior for dining and hotel stays.
3. The sign-up bonus is underwhelming ...
The First Hawaiian Bank United® Mastercard® offers the following incentive for new cardholders: 25,000 Miles when you spend $1,500 within the first 3 months after account opening.
(NerdWallet values United miles at 1 cent each.)
That's not bad, especially since the annual fee is waived in the first year. But typically, airline cards with this kind of ongoing fee offer much bigger bonuses. The United℠ Explorer Card, for example, offers a far more lucrative incentive: 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Plus, an additional 25,000 bonus miles after you spend $10,000 in the first 6 months.
4. ... But there's a decent intro APR offer
It's not a 0% offer, but the First Hawaiian Bank United® Mastercard® does feature a low intro APR: 2.99% for 8 months on balance transfers, and then the ongoing APR of 16.24% Variable.
To take advantage of that offer, you'll have to transfer the balance within 30 days of opening the new account, and you'll also owe a balance transfer fee of $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Still, most airline cards — including the United℠ Explorer Card — don't offer this kind of balance transfer deal.
5. You'll get United perks
The First Hawaiian Bank United® Mastercard® offers some valuable benefits when you fly United. When you book your ticket on the card, you’ll get the fees for a first and second checked bag waived, which is fairly generous.
The typical cost for one-way checked bags with United is $35 for the first bag and $45 for the second (assuming you don't prepay the fee, in which case it can be lower). If you flew United round trip just one time per year with two checked bags, this would add up to savings of $160 — which already offsets the card's annual fee.
That's slightly different from what you get with the United℠ Explorer Card, which offers only one free checked bag, but for both you and a companion. (The First Hawaiian card's benefit is two bags, yes, but for the primary cardholder only.)
The First Hawaiian Bank United® Mastercard® also offers:
Two complimentary one-time United Club passes per year ($118 value).
Greater access to award seat availability than general United MileagePlus members.
Premier upgrades on award tickets (subject to availability).
The United℠ Explorer Card also offers these benefits, but in addition you'll get a credit toward a TSA Precheck or Global Entry application fee once every four years, as well as 25% back on in-flight purchases. The First Hawaiian Bank United® Mastercard® doesn't offer these perks.