CREDIT CARDSCREDIT CARDSUNITED GATEWAY CARD REVIEW: A NO-ANNUAL-FEE TICKET TO AIRLINE MILES

United Gateway Card Review: A No-Annual-Fee Ticket to Airline Miles

It earns 2 miles per $1 spent with United Airlines, at gas stations and on local transit and commuting (1 mile per $1 on all other purchases). It doesn’t offer free checked bags or early boarding, though.
Gregory Karp Author Avatar
Feb 13, 2024 1:26 p.m. PST
Edited by
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3.3

NerdWallet rating
The bottom line:

The entry-level credit card for United Airlines offers a free way to test an airline card, but given its lack of perks, devoted United flyers might soon want to upgrade.

Pros
  • No annual fee
  • Bonus categories
  • New cardholder bonus offer
  • Premium travel protections
Cons
  • Requires good/excellent credit
  • No free checked bags
  • Rewards have limited flexibility
United Gateway℠ Card Image
United Gateway℠ Card
Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

21.99%-28.99% Variable APR

Intro APR

0% intro APR on Purchases for 12 months

Rec. credit score

Apply Now
on Chase's website
on Chase's website

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

21.99%-28.99% Variable APR

Apply Now
on Chase's website
on Chase's website
  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Rewards rate

    1x-2x

  • Bonus offer

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

  • Intro APR

    0% intro APR on Purchases for 12 months

  • Ongoing APR

    APR: 21.99%-28.99% Variable APR

    Cash Advance APR: 29.99%, Variable

    Penalty APR: Up to 29.99%

  • Balance transfer fee

    Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.

  • Foreign transaction fee

    $0

More details from Chase
  • 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 at gas stations, on local transit and commuting
  • Earn 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • 25% back as a statement credit on purchases of food, beverages and Wi-Fi on board United-operated flights and on Club premium drinks when you pay with your Gateway Card
  • Member FDIC

Compare to Other Cards

ANNUAL FEE
$0
REGULAR APR
21.99%-28.99% Variable APR
INTRO APR
0% intro APR on Purchases for 12 months
RECOMMENDED CREDIT SCORE
ANNUAL FEE
$0 intro for the first year, then $95
REGULAR APR
21.99%-28.99% Variable APR
INTRO APR
N/A
RECOMMENDED CREDIT SCORE
ANNUAL FEE
$525
REGULAR APR
21.99%-28.99% Variable APR
INTRO APR
N/A
RECOMMENDED CREDIT SCORE
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Detailed review: United Gateway℠ Card

The United Gateway℠ Card, issued by Chase, is a tempting choice for occasional leisure flyers who often choose United Airlines.

Foremost, it’s an airline credit card with an annual fee of $0, which means that unlike a lot of cards in its class, it won't cost anything to carry, even if you seldom use it. It also earns the usual United MileagePlus frequent flyer miles, which can be useful.

However, it lacks valuable airline-card perks, such as free checked bags and early boarding. That’s why more devoted United flyers should instead pony up for the United℠ Explorer Card, which carries an annual fee of $0 intro for the first year, then $95.

🤓Nerdy Tip

In the fall of 2020, the United Gateway℠ Card replaced the United℠ TravelBank Card, a different no-fee rewards card that earned its own rewards currency. That card is no longer available.

United Gateway℠ Card: Basics

Card type: Airline.

Annual fee: $0.

Rewards:

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

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

NerdWallet values United miles at 1.2 cents each.

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

Foreign transaction fee: None.

Interest rate: 0% intro APR on Purchases for 12 months, and then the ongoing APR of 21.99%-28.99% Variable APR.

Noteworthy perks:

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

  • Trip cancellation/interruption insurance.

  • Rental car insurance.

  • Extended warranty protection

  • Purchase protection.

  • A one-year complimentary DashPass membership for both DoorDash and Caviar. Terms apply.

Benefits and perks

No annual fee

Some luxury travel credit cards have annual fees measured in hundreds of dollars, while the typical airline card often charges a fee of close to $100 per year. This card has an annual fee of $0. That gets you earning United frequent flyer miles with little downside.

Sign-up bonus

For an airline credit card with an annual fee of $0, it’s a plus to have a sign-up bonus: Earn 30,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Card issuers change bonuses often, but usually the bonus is enough to at least give you a decent head start toward a free domestic roundtrip flight in coach.

Frequent flyer miles

This card earns United MileagePlus frequent flyer miles, the same miles you earn from flying. They can be used to book award travel with United Airlines and its partners.

Whenever you earn frequent flyer miles, you have a chance to get outsize value by landing on a great deal: an award flight or seat upgrade that doesn’t cost too many miles.

Unlike regular MileagePlus members, cardholders get expanded availability to use miles to book award flights — no blackout dates, for example.

Perks

The United Gateway℠ Card is light on flash compared with most travel cards, but it comes with minor perks:

  • In-flight discount: 25% back as a statement credit on purchases of food, beverages and Wi-Fi on United-operated flights when you pay with the card.

  • No foreign transaction fees: Travel cards generally don’t charge a fee for making purchases abroad. This United card doesn’t, either. A fee of 3% is common on nontravel cards. And it uses the Visa network, which is widely accepted abroad.

  • Travel-related insurances: Trip cancellation/interruption insurance and secondary rental car insurance are nice-to-haves on an airline card.

  • Purchase protection: Covers new purchases made with the card for 120 days against damage or theft, up to $500 per claim and $50,000 per account.

How it compares with other United cards

The United Gateway℠ Card is one of four co-branded personal United Airlines credit cards. Its siblings offer better perks, making this card a potential “gateway” to higher-end United cards.

Here’s how the United Airlines consumer cards compare on key features:

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 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.

Earn 70,000 bonus miles and 500 Premier qualifying points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.

Earn 80,000 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, GLOBAL ENTRY OR NEXUS

None.

Up to $100 every four years.

Up to $100 every four years.

Up to $100 every four years.

Business owners, even those with side gigs, might consider the United℠ Business Card.

Drawbacks and considerations

No checked bags or early boarding

At $35 per bag each way when you don't prepay, fees for first checked bags add up in a hurry, especially when you’re traveling with others on your itinerary. That’s why typical airline cards are so valuable. But this card has no checked-bag-fee waivers, so you’ll have to pay. And you won’t get boosted toward the front of the boarding line, because the card lacks a priority boarding perk. That could hurt you when looking for overhead bin space.

The logical solution is the United℠ Explorer Card. It offers:

  • 2 MileagePlus miles per dollar spent on purchases from United.

  • 2 miles per dollar spent on restaurant purchases and hotel stays.

  • 1 mile per dollar spent on all other purchases.

  • First checked bag free for you and a companion on your reservation, if you use the card to purchase your ticket.

  • Two United Club one-time use passes per year.

  • Global Entry/TSA Precheck statement credit every four years.

  • 25% off in-flight purchases.

  • Sign-up bonus: Earn 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.

It has an annual fee of $0 intro for the first year, then $95.

Fewer benefits

Some airline cards give you perks at the airport. They might reimburse you the application cost of Global Entry or TSA Precheck to get through security lines quicker, or get you free or discounted passes to an airport lounge.

This card offers none of those.

Inflexible redemptions

For redeeming rewards, you’re locked into United Airlines and its partners. That's limiting compared with general travel credit cards, which allow you to apply rewards to a wide range of travel-related expenses.

An option for those looking to avoid an annual fee is the Bilt Mastercard. It offers 3 points per $1 spent on dining, 2 points on travel and 1 point on everything else. You'll even earn 1 point on rent payments with no transaction fee. Points can be redeemed multiple ways, including transferring them to United Airlines at a 1:1 ratio. There is a small catch though: To earn rewards, you'll need to use the card at least five times each statement period.

If you're looking for more robust rewards, the Wells Fargo Autograph℠ Card also has a $0 annual fee and earns unlimited 3 points per $1 spent on:

  • Restaurants.

  • Travel and transit.

  • Gas stations (and electric vehicle charging stations).

  • Popular streaming services.

  • Select phone plans.

Points are worth 1 cent each and can be redeemed for travel, gift cards or statement credits. It's important to note, though, that you can't transfer the rewards earned with the Wells Fargo Autograph℠ Card to United or any other airline. So if your primary goal is to earn United Airlines miles, you'll likely fare better with a different card.

You can also see how these cards measure up vs. the best credit cards NerdWallet has to offer.

How to decide if it's right for you

If you’re an occasional flyer on United, the United Gateway℠ Card is a low-risk introduction to airline credit cards because of its annual fee of $0. But you might find this is, indeed, merely a gateway card to the United℠ Explorer Card with an annual fee of $0 intro for the first year, then $95. That older-sibling card probably offers more value overall for most people.

If you spread your flying among a number of carriers or want more flexibility, consider a general travel credit card.

Methodology

NerdWallet reviews credit cards with an eye toward both the quantitative and qualitative features of a card. Quantitative features are those that boil down to dollars and cents, such as fees, interest rates, rewards (including earning rates and redemption values) and the cash value of benefits and perks. Qualitative factors are those that affect how easy or difficult it is for a typical cardholder to get good value from the card. They include such things as the ease of application, simplicity of the rewards structure, the likelihood of using certain features, and whether a card is well-suited to everyday use or is best reserved for specific purchases. Our star ratings serve as a general gauge of how each card compares with others in its class, but star ratings are intended to be just one consideration when a consumer is choosing a credit card. Learn how NerdWallet rates credit cards.

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