BEST OF

Best United Airlines Credit Cards of July 2022

Take a look at our top picks, then let us walk you through making the decision.

Jun 16, 2022

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United Airlines offers an array of branded credit cards, from a $0-annual-fee version for occasional travelers to a $525-a-year club card that gives regular flyers unlimited airport lounge access. Some United flyers might even be better off with a card that doesn't carry the United brand.

In general, the higher the fee, the more benefits and perks you'll get from the card. Below, you'll find our picks for different types of travel, followed by a guide to choosing the right United credit card for you.

NerdWallet's Best United Airlines Credit Cards of July 2022

Best United Airlines Credit Cards

Our pick for

Most United flyers

Apply now

on Chase's website

United℠ Explorer Card

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Apply now

on Chase's website

Annual fee

$0 intro for the first year, then $95

Rewards rate

1x-2x

Miles

Intro offer

70,000

Miles

Recommended Credit Score

The United℠ Explorer Card provides excellent value at a reasonable cost, even for those who fly only a couple of times a year.

Pros

  • The rewards you earn aren't over the top: You cap out at 2 miles per dollar spent with United, at restaurants and on certain hotel accommodations. But it has the most extensive perks of any airline card in its class, including a free checked bag for you and a companion, two one-time lounge passes each year, a Global Entry or TSA Precheck statement credit every four years, primary rental car insurance, trip cancellation and interruption insurance, priority boarding and more. You start out with a great bonus offer, too.

Cons

  • Comparable cards from other airlines provide a free checked bag for more people traveling on your reservation.

Read full review
  • Earn up to 70,000 bonus miles. Earn 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Plus, earn an additional 10,000 miles after you spend $6,000 total on purchases in the first 6 months your account is open.

  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.

  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on dining, hotel stays, and United® purchases

  • Up to $100 Global Entry or TSA PreCheck® fee Credit

  • 25% back on United® inflight purchases

  • Check your first bag for free (a savings of up to $140 per roundtrip) when you use your card to purchase your ticket

  • Enjoy priority boarding privileges and visit the United Club℠ with 2 one-time passes each year for your anniversary

  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on dining including eligible delivery services

Our pick for

No annual fee

Apply now

on Chase's website

United Gateway℠ Card

3.3

NerdWallet rating 
Apply now

on Chase's website

Annual fee

$0

Rewards rate

1x-2x

Miles

Intro offer

30,000

Miles

Recommended Credit Score

The United Gateway℠ Card could be a good fit for someone who doesn't travel that often and just wants to earn miles at a steady clip between occasional trips.

Pros

  • The key selling point is the $0 annual fee. You'll earn 2 miles per dollar spent on United purchases, as well as at gas stations and on local transit and commuting, and 1 mile per dollar on other purchases. There's a modest bonus offer, too.

Cons

  • You don't get a free checked bag, which is a signature perk of other airline cards (and which can more than make up for an annual fee). No priority boarding either. If you don't travel much anyway, it might not be worth it to lock yourself into a single airline; a general-purpose travel card might be a better fit.

Read full review
  • Earn 30,000 bonus miles

  • No annual fee

  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on United® purchases, at gas stations and on local transit and commuting

  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on United® purchases

  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on local transit and commuting

  • Earn 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases

Our pick for

Elevated benefits

Apply now

on Chase's website

United Quest℠ Card

4.6

NerdWallet rating 
Apply now

on Chase's website

Annual fee

$250

Rewards rate

1x-3x

Miles

Intro offer

80,000

Miles

Recommended Credit Score

The United Quest℠ Card gives frequent United flyers a way to earn more miles and perks than with the airline’s more basic cards. The annual fee is higher, too, but there's a credit that offsets much of it.

Pros

  • You earn 3 miles per dollar spent with United; 2 miles per dollar on other travel, at restaurants and on select streaming services; and 1 mile per dollar on other purchases. There's a solid bonus offer, free checked-bags benefit, a Global Entry/TSA Precheck fee credit, mile credits and more. Notably, there's an annual $125 credit for United purchases, which can effectively cut the annual fee in half (and which makes the Quest card not that much more expensive than the Explorer card).

Cons

  • The $250 annual fee is fairly high, especially for a card that doesn't give you lounge access. It also doesn't offer a companion fare, which you see on some airline cards in a comparable price range.

Read full review
  • Earn 80,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.

  • $250 Annual Fee

  • Earn 3x miles on United® purchases, 2x miles on dining, select streaming services & all other travel, 1x on all other purchases

  • Earn 3x miles on United® purchases

  • Earn 2x miles on dining and select streaming services

  • Earn 2x miles on all other travel

  • Earn 1x mile on all other purchases

  • Each year, receive a $125 credit on United® purchases and two 5k-mile anniversary award flight credits. Terms apply.

Our pick for

Lounge access

Apply now

on Chase's website

United Club℠ Infinite Card

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
Apply now

on Chase's website

Annual fee

$525

Rewards rate

1x-4x

Miles

Intro offer

100,000

Miles

Recommended Credit Score

The United Club℠ Infinite Card gives you unlimited access to the airline's airport lounges for less than the price of a stand-alone membership, along with free checked bags and a great rewards rate for United purchases.

Pros

  • The defining perk of this card is that it gets you into United Club airport lounges. (A standalone lounge membership costs $650 a year, so the jumbo annual fee on this card could be viewed as a bargain.) You earn 4 miles per dollar spent with United; 2 miles per dollar on other travel and at restaurants; and 1 mile per dollar on other purchases. You and a companion can each get two checked bags free. There's a fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Precheck, a terrific bonus offer and more.

Cons

  • The $525 annual fee can be tough to swallow, even when you have complimentary airport lounge beverages to wash it down with. If you don't spend a lot of time in United Clubs, it's not worth the cost.

Read full review
  • Earn 100,000 bonus miles.

  • Earn 4 miles per $1 spent on United® purchases including tickets, Economy Plus, inflight food, beverages and Wi-Fi, and other United charges.

  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on all other travel

  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on dining including eligible delivery services

  • Earn 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases

  • Up to $100 Global Entry or TSA PreCheck® fee credit

  • Free first and second checked bags - a savings of up to $320 per roundtrip. Terms Apply

  • 25% back as a statement credit on purchases of food, beverages and Wi-Fi on board United-operated flights when you pay with your Club Infinite Card.

Our pick for

Business travelers

Apply now

on Chase's website

United℠ Business Card

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Apply now

on Chase's website

Annual fee

$0 intro for the first year, then $99

Rewards rate

1x-2x

Miles

Intro offer

75,000

Miles

Recommended Credit Score

The United℠ Business Card can be a practical, helpful travel companion to business travelers, with benefits that easily outstrip the cost of its annual fee.

Pros

  • You earn 2 miles per dollar spent with United as well as at restaurants, gas stations and office supply stores, and on commuting and transit expenses; other spending earns 1 mile per dollar. There's a good bonus offer, a checked bag benefit, two one-time lounge passes each year, priority boarding, the chance to earn a United travel credit if you fly often enough and more.

Cons

  • The free checked-bag benefit is limited to you and just one other person on your reservation, which might be an issue if your business has you traveling in groups. Other airlines' cards offer a broader benefit.

Read full review
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.

  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $99.

  • Receive a 5,000-mile "better together" bonus each anniversary when you have both the United℠ Business Card and a personal United® credit card.

  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on United® purchases, dining (including eligible delivery services), at gas stations, office supply stores, and on local transit and commuting.

  • Earn 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases. Plus, employee cards at no additional cost - miles earned from their purchases accrue in your account so you can earn rewards faster.

  • Enjoy a free first checked bag - a savings of up to $140 per roundtrip (terms apply), 2 United Club℠ one-time passes per year, and priority boarding privileges.

  • $100 United® travel credit after 7 United® flight purchases of $100 or more each anniversary year.

Our pick for

Point transfers and flexibility

Apply now

on Chase's website

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
Apply now

on Chase's website

Annual fee

$95

Rewards rate

1x-5x

Points

Intro offer

60,000

Points

Recommended Credit Score

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card isn't a United-branded card, but the points you earn are super-flexible. Among your options: transferring points directly to United (as well as a dozen other airline and hotel partners).

Pros

  • You earn 5 points per dollar spent on travel booked through Chase; 3 points per dollar on dining, select streaming services and online grocery purchases (excluding Target and Walmart); 2 points per dollar on other travel; and 1 point per dollar everywhere else. Points can be transferred to United or other partners, or you can use them to book travel through Chase at a rate of 1.25 cents apiece. There's a stellar sign-up bonus and a slew of other perks.

Cons

  • Since this is a general-purpose travel card, you won't get the free checked bags, priority boarding or lounge access available on United-branded cards.

Read full review
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

  • Enjoy benefits such as a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3x on dining and 2x on all other travel purchases, plus more.

  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel.

  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories

  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.

  • Get complimentary access to DashPass which unlocks $0 delivery fees and lower service fees for a minimum of one year when you activate by December 31, 2024.

  • See if you qualify for a better offer with Chase:

    Get Pre-Qualified

HOW TO CHOOSE THE RIGHT UNITED AIRLINES CREDIT CARD FOR YOU

By Erin Hurd, NerdWallet

The four United Airlines consumer credit cards from Chase include a basic card with no annual fee, a premium card with a high-end price tag and two in-between cards with varying in-between fees. All four cards earn MileagePlus miles on spending, which you can redeem for free flights, seat upgrades, lounge passes and more.

The higher the annual fee, the more you'll get. Consider how often you fly and how much you'll use the perks. Here's a quick summary of how they stack up:

United Gateway℠ Card

United℠ Explorer Card

United Quest℠ Card

United Club℠ Infinite Card

ANNUAL FEE

$0.

$0 intro for the first year, then $95.

$250.

$525.

BONUS OFFER FOR NEW CARDHOLDERS

Earn 30,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.

Earn up to 70,000 bonus miles. Earn 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Plus, earn an additional 10,000 miles after you spend $6,000 total on purchases in the first 6 months your account is open.

Earn 80,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.

Earn 100,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

FREE CHECKED BAGS

None.

First checked bag free for you and one companion on your reservation.

First and second checked bags free for you and one companion on your reservation.

First and second checked bags free for you and one companion on your reservation.

REWARDS ON SPENDING WITH UNITED AIRLINES

2 miles per $1.

2 miles per $1.

3 miles per $1.

4 miles per $1.

REWARDS ON OTHER SPENDING

• 2 miles per $1 at gas stations.

• 2 miles per $1 on local transit and commuting.

• 1 mile per $1 on all other purchases.

• 2 miles per $1 at restaurants.

• 2 miles per $1 on hotels (when booked directly with the hotel).

• 1 mile per $1 on all other purchases.

• 2 miles per $1 spent on all other travel (including other airlines, hotels, car rentals and more).

• 2 miles per $1 on dining (including takeout and delivery).

• 2 miles per $1 on select streaming services.

• 1 mile per $1 on all other purchases.

• 2 miles per $1 on all other travel.

• 2 miles per $1 on dining.

• 1 mile per $1 on all other purchases.

AIRPORT LOUNGE ACCESS

None.

2 United Club one-time passes each year.

None.

Annual membership to all United Club locations, plus select Star Alliance lounges.

CREDIT FOR TSA PRECHECK OR GLOBAL ENTRY

None.

Up to $100 every four years.

Up to $100 every four years.

Up to $100 every four years.

Key points of difference

Annual fee

Don't count a card out just because it has an annual fee — even a high one. The more you pay, the more you'll usually get in terms of the miles you earn and the perks you'll enjoy.

For example, regular travelers can save enough on checked bag fees to more than make up for the annual fee on the United℠ Explorer Card. (More on this below.) If you’re a heavy traveler who eats several meals a month at the airport, you could eat for free in the airport lounges that the United Club℠ Infinite Card gives you access to and come out on top despite the high annual fee.

The United Quest℠ Card offers more United-specific perks that can effectively reduce the $250 annual fee. When you use the card to make eligible United charges, you'll get up to $125 back in statement credits each year. Plus, when you redeem United miles, you’ll get 5,000 miles back on eligible United flights — up to two times every anniversary year.

NerdWallet values United miles at 1 cent each. That means those 5,000 miles you could get as a rebate for holding the card are worth roughly $50, with the potential to earn back about $100 in United travel.

That said, you’ll have to weigh how much you’ll use the extras to see if it makes sense for you.

Rewards

The United Club℠ Infinite Card earns 4 miles per dollar spent on United purchases, which is twice as much as you get with the United℠ Explorer Card or the United Gateway℠ Card. If you spent $5,000 in a year on United airfare, you would earn 20,000 miles with the United Club℠ Infinite Card, compared with 10,000 miles on the other cards.

None of the cards offer standout earnings in other categories — 2 miles per dollar is the best you'll do.

If you spend a good chunk of change eating out, the United℠ Explorer Card and the United Club℠ Infinite Card cards will earn 2X on dining. But if you drive a lot, the 2X on gas from the United Gateway℠ Card can help fill up your MileagePlus account. And only the United Quest℠ Card offers 2X on streaming services.

Free checked bags

Bag fees can add up, but three of the four United cards can save regular travelers a tidy sum. If you fly with a companion, you can save up to $140 in baggage fees on a round trip with the United℠ Explorer Card. Your savings from that one trip could pay the annual fee and then some.

The potential savings go even higher with the United Club℠ Infinite Card and United Quest℠ Card. Since these cards cover the fees for the first and second checked bags for you and one travel companion, you could save up to $320 per round trip.

The United Gateway℠ Card doesn't offer free checked bags.

VIP treatment

If you like having time to settle into your seat and get dibs on the overhead compartments, this perk will appeal to you. Holders of the United℠ Explorer Card and United Quest℠ Card (and any companions traveling with them) are eligible for priority boarding on United flights.

The United Club℠ Infinite Card kicks the red carpet treatment up a notch. Not only will cardholders get priority boarding on United flights, but they’ll also get priority check-in, security screening and baggage handling.

The United℠ Explorer CardUnited Quest℠ Card and the United Club℠ Infinite Card also give a credit of up to $100 every four years for Global Entry or TSA Precheck — services designed to make your travel experience smoother and faster at security checkpoints.

Nerdy tip: Want to build up MileagePlus miles for your small business? United offers more than just personal credit cards. Check out the United℠ Business Card for United-loyal entrepreneurs.

Airport lounge access

For regular travelers, use of United's airport lounges could be the deciding factor when choosing a card. United Club lounges are a quiet place to relax before a flight with snacks, light meals, beverages and sometimes even showers. The United Club℠ Infinite Card comes with an annual membership, and it allows you to bring one adult and dependent children under 21, or up to two guests, into any United Club location.

If you fly through an airport with a United Club lounge often, you and your traveling companions could enjoy substantial value from this premium perk. But if your home airport doesn’t have a United Club lounge, or you fly only a few times a year, it may not make sense.

Occasional travelers can get a taste of the good life with the United℠ Explorer Card, which comes with two one-time lounge passes each year.

Though the United Quest℠ Card has a $250 annual fee, it lacks any lounge access perks at all. You could, however, use your card to pay for access to a United Club and be reimbursed up to $125 with the card's annual statement credit.

What these cards have in common

25% back on United in-flight purchases

If you hold any of the United credit cards, you’ll get a 25% rebate when purchasing an in-flight snack, drink or Wi-Fi connection. Use your United card to pay on board, and you’ll receive a statement credit for 25% of the total.

Clear program discount

Travelers can save time at some airports (not to mention select arenas, stadiums and Hertz rental car locations) by using Clear, a biometric ID system. Memberships to Clear usually run $189 a year, but United credit card holders can get a discounted rate of $109 by adding their United MileagePlus number to the Clear subscription. If you already have a Clear account that was created or renewed within the past 60 days, you’ll receive a refund for the difference.

Foreign transaction fees

The United Gateway℠ Card, United℠ Explorer Card, United Quest℠ Card and United Club℠ Infinite Card are all good traveling companions when you’re going abroad. You won’t pay foreign transaction fees on any of the cards.

Trip cancellation and interruption protection

You’ll get some trip cancellation and trip interruption insurance coverage from all four of these United credit cards, though the amounts vary by card:

  • United Gateway℠ CardUnited Quest℠ Card and United℠ Explorer Card: Eligible for up to $1,500 per person and $6,000 per trip for prepaid, nonrefundable fares.

  • United Club℠ Infinite Card: Eligible for up to $10,000 per person and $20,000 per trip for prepaid, nonrefundable fares.

The United℠ Explorer Card, United Quest℠ Card and the United Club℠ Infinite Card also have some extra travel protections, like auto rental collision damage waivers and lost luggage reimbursement, that the United Gateway℠ Card doesn't offer.

Which United credit card should you choose?

If you’re only a casual United flyer, you probably won’t get enough value from the United Club℠ Infinite Card to make it worth the high fee.

If you're a loyal United flyer but don't value all the bells and whistles that come with the United Club℠ Infinite Card, the United Quest℠ Card is a strong contender. And if you'll use the $125 United statement credit and two 5,000-mile anniversary award flight credits, the $250 annual fee can be effectively reduced to just $25.

For most people, though, the choice comes down to the United Gateway℠ Card and the United℠ Explorer Card. If you check bags on your United flights a couple times a year, your baggage savings will likely outweigh the annual fee. And the United℠ Explorer Card gives a better sign-up bonus to help your MileagePlus balance take flight.

If you don’t check bags, aren’t excited about the two United Club passes and just want a no-cost way to earn miles, the United Gateway℠ Card could be a better choice.

It's also worth considering whether a more flexible travel card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card works better for your travel style. When you earn Chase Ultimate Rewards® points from the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, you can transfer them to United or use them for hotel stays, rental cars, vacation packages and more.

Last updated on June 16, 2022

Methodology

NerdWallet's credit cards team selects the best credit cards in each category based on overall consumer value. Factors in our evaluation include fees, promotional and ongoing APRs, and sign-up bonuses; for rewards cards, we consider earning and redemption rates, redemption options and redemption difficulty. A single card is eligible to be chosen as among the "best" in multiple categories. Learn how NerdWallet rates credit cards.