The Bottom Line: The card is suited to those who don’t travel much, but fly United when they do. It offers a simpler rewards program. Those who want more flexibility or are seeking traditional airline-card perks should look elsewhere.
United℠ TravelBank Card
18.24% - 25.24% Variable APR
recommended credit score
- Earn 2% in TravelBank cash per $1 spent on tickets purchased from United.
- Earn 1.5% in TravelBank cash per $1 spent on all other purchases
- No foreign transaction fees
Pros & Cons
High rewards rate
No annual fee
No foreign transaction fee
Alternate Pick: Greater flexibility
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Transfer points to United, or use elsewhere
This card earns 2 points per dollar spent on travel and dining and 1 point per dollar elsewhere. You can transfer points on a 1:1 basis to about a dozen hotel and airline programs, including United, or you can use them to book travel through Chase at 1.25 cents per point. However, you won't get any airline-specific perks. Annual fee: $95.Read our review
If you fly United Airlines, the United℠ TravelBank Card is a simpler type of airline credit card with an annual fee of $0 and its own rewards currency that you can use to book free flights.
But take note: You won't get free checked bags or early boarding like you do with many airline cards.
United℠ TravelBank Card: Basics and benefits
Annual fee: $0
2% in TravelBank cash per $1 spent on tickets purchased from United.
1.5% in TravelBank cash per $1 spent on all other purchases.
Sign-up bonus: $150 in United TravelBank cash after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
Foreign transaction fee: None
APR: The ongoing APR is 18.24% - 25.24% Variable APR
Where the United℠ TravelBank Card shines
Simple rewards earning
With a typical airline card, you earn frequent flyer miles or points with every purchase. You then redeem those rewards for free flights or seat upgrades. But frequent flyer programs can be exceedingly complicated. The number of miles you’ll need for a particular flight depends on an array of factors. On top of that, the flight you want might not have award seats available. And your preferred travel dates might be “blacked out” — that is, reserved for paying customers.
The United℠ TravelBank Card eliminates the whole idea of miles. Instead, you earn “TravelBank cash,” which is redeemable for travel with United on a simple dollar-for-dollar basis.
The card earns 2% back on United purchases and 1.5% back on everything else. A $500 United flight, for example, would earn $10 in TravelBank cash. A $500 purchase elsewhere would earn $7.50.
Simple rewards redemption
When booking a flight with United, you can pay some or all of the fare with your accumulated TravelBank cash rewards. Consider a ticket that costs $400. If you had at least $400 in TravelBank cash, you could use it to pay the entire fare. If you had only $50 in rewards accumulated, you could apply it to the fare and reduce the cost to $350.
No annual fee
Some 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.
For a simple credit card with an annual fee of $0, it’s a pleasant surprise to have a sign-up bonus: $150 in United TravelBank cash after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
» MORE: NerdWallet's best airline cards
The United℠ TravelBank Card is light on flash compared with most travel cards, but it comes with a couple of perks:
In-flight discount: 25% back as a statement credit on purchases of food, beverages and Wi-Fi onboard United-operated flights when you pay with the card.
No foreign transaction fees: Travel cards generally don’t charge a fee — 3% is common — for making purchases abroad. This United card doesn’t, either. And it uses the Visa network, which is widely accepted abroad.
United℠ TravelBank Card: Drawbacks
No checked bags or early boarding
At $30 per bag each way, fees for 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 out of pocket. And if you carry luggage aboard, you won’t get boosted toward the front of the boarding line, because the card lacks a priority boarding perk.
You won’t earn United MileagePlus miles with this card. That keeps things simple, but you also lose the potential to reap outsize value by scoring a great awards seat — like a business-class international fare worth thousands of dollars — for relatively little spending.
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.
Redeeming rewards is relatively simple, but you’re still locked into United Airlines, which is limiting compared with general travel credit cards, which allow you to apply rewards to a wide range of travel-related expenses.
United℠ TravelBank Card: Alternatives
If you would rather earn traditional MileagePlus frequent flyer miles and get the typical perks of an airline card — like free checked bags and priority boarding — look at 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: 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
It has an annual fee of $0 for the first year, then $95.
» MORE: Full review of the United℠ Explorer Card
If you mix your flying with airlines other than United, a general travel card might be a better fit.
An option with an annual fee of $0 includes the Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card.
1.5 points per dollar spent.
3 points per dollar spent on eligible travel booked through the Bank of America® Travel Center.
A value of 1 cent per point when redeemed for travel credit and a little over half a cent per point for cash.
A sign-up bonus: 25,000 online bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases.
The Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card isn't tied to an airline or hotel chain. Book travel any way you want, with no restrictions and no blackout dates, and then use points to wipe out the cost on your statement. Bank of America® also has one of the broadest definitions of "travel" of any major issuers. You can use points to get credit for airfare, hotel stays, cruises, car rentals, campgrounds, art galleries, amusement parks, carnivals, circuses, aquariums and zoos.
» MORE: Full review of the Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Is the United℠ TravelBank Card right for you?
The United℠ TravelBank Card offers a simpler way to earn free flights on United Airlines for casual flyers committed to that airline. If you spread your flying among a number of carriers or want more flexibility, consider a general travel credit card. Die-hard United loyalists are likely to get more value from the United℠ Explorer Card.
Information related to the United℠ TravelBank Card has been collected by NerdWallet and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.
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