Is the United Business Card Worth Its Annual Fee?

Business owners who frequently fly United Airlines will find it easy to recoup the cost of this card.

June CasagrandeJanuary 5, 2021
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If you’re a business owner and a regular United Airlines flyer, the United℠ Business Card may be a match for you. It offers better perks than United’s similarly priced card for non-business owners, the United℠ Explorer Card. Benefits include a nice stack of welcome bonus miles, extra miles earned at office supply stores and a chance to earn a $100 travel credit every year. Plus, there’s an unusual perk targeted at users who already have a personal United credit card: 5,000 bonus miles every year you continue to carry both cards.

But do these benefits alone justify the annual fee: $0 intro for the first year, then $99? Here are the upsides and downsides to weigh when deciding whether the United℠ Business Card is worth getting.

Valuable United℠ Business Card perks

Welcome bonus miles

The current offer is: 75,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. That’s more than enough miles for a round-trip ticket anywhere in the U.S., including Hawaii — even from the East Coast.

Value: This bonus is worth several hundred dollars, but is of course a one-time benefit upon signing up.

Bonus miles on purchases

2X miles on United purchases

Every time you use the card to pay for United plane tickets, seat upgrades, in-flight snacks or drinks or in-flight Wi-Fi, you earn 2 MileagePlus miles for every dollar you charge.

2X miles on dining out, office supplies and more

Charges made at restaurants and some delivery services with the card will earn you 2 United MileagePlus miles per dollar. You’ll also get 2 miles per dollar at gas stations and office supply stores. Do you spend money on local transit or commuting? Those charges will earn double miles, too.

1X miles on all other purchases

Savvy frequent flyers know that every purchase is a chance to earn miles toward award travel. No matter what you buy with the United℠ Business Card, you’ll earn at least 1 MileagePlus mile per dollar.

Value: We value United miles at 1 cent each. Your earning potential will depend on how much you anticipate spending in the above categories.

Free checked bag

Use your card to book a flight directly with United, and you and one travel companion can check a bag each way for free. Since bag fees are usually $35 each way, this benefit can add up fast.

Value: Up to $140 round trip every time you fly with a companion on your reservation. Even if you fly solo, you'll save up to $70 on each round-trip flight.

$100 United travel credit

Do you plan on making a lot of purchases directly from United Airlines? You could get $100 back. The United℠ Business Card’s $100 travel credit kicks in after you’ve made seven purchases of at least $100 with United each anniversary year. That includes not just flight tickets, but also seat upgrades and baggage charges. In-flight food and drinks count, too, but only if you buy $100 worth or more at a time.

Value: $100 after spending at least $700.

Priority boarding

Beat the rush to grab overhead bin space by boarding your United flight earlier. Book your tickets with the United℠ Business Card, and you and your companions can get on the plane before the passengers in the general boarding groups.

Value: Priority boarding costs start at $15 per person per flight. So your value will vary depending on the number of flights you take.

Two lounge passes annually

After account opening and every year on your card anniversary, you’ll get two passes to a United Club airport lounge.

Value: Because a one-time pass to a United Club typically costs $59, this is worth $118, and the two annual passes more than outweigh this card’s annual fee.

5,000 bonus miles for carrying two+ cards

Do you already have a personal credit card that rewards United miles? This business card has a perk just for you: You’ll earn a bonus of 5,000 United MilagePlus miles every year when you keep both cards open. This applies to any Chase-issued United Airlines card that doesn’t have the word “business” in its name, including the $0 annual fee United Gateway℠ Card.

Value: NerdWallet valuations estimate that United Miles are worth 1 cent apiece, so these 5,000 bonus miles are worth about $50 — not quite enough to offset the annual fee, but enough to put a dent in it.

Other benefits

  • No foreign transaction fees: If you travel overseas or make any purchases abroad, some cards charge you transaction fees of up to 3%, which can add up fast. The United℠ Business Card won’t charge you those foreign transaction fees.

  • Coverage for your rental car: When you use the card to rent a vehicle and decline the rental company's collision insurance offered at the counter, you’ll automatically be covered for theft and collision damage up to the actual cash value of the car.

  • Trip-cancellation/trip-interruption insurance: Travel insurance can be expensive, so the coverages that come with this card could prove valuable. If you use the card to prepay for a nonrefundable trip and it gets canceled or cut short due to sickness, severe weather or other covered events, you’ll be taken care of up to $1,500 per person, up to $6,000 per trip.

The bottom line

For the business owner who flies United more than any other airline, the United℠ Business Card offers plenty of ways to make up for its annual fee — and then some. The welcome bonus alone is valued well over the annual fee, and when you add in the free checked bags and the two free annual United Club passes, the balance sheet is in your favor. It’s also nice that this card pays bonus miles on charges at restaurants, gas stations and office supply stores.

If you regularly fly other airlines or you would rather earn points that get good value for hotel stays or car rentals, this card’s benefits likely won’t outweigh its costs.

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