A comparison of United Airlines credit cards — Two with limited-time increased offers!

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If you’re a United Airlines flyer, you may be searching for the credit card that best serves your needs. There are plenty to choose from, after all.

United offers some of the best airline credit cards of the free world — one of them, in my opinion, being THE best airline card (and it doesn’t even have a big annual fee). And even better, two of the United cards are offering increased bonuses for a limited time.

All of the Chase United Airlines cards are affected by the Chase 5/24 rule. If you’re looking to earn United miles, it’s important to know your options. It’s also important to know which perks you’ll get with each version. For example, only some United cards save you money on baggage fees or get you into United Club airport lounges.

Here’s a rundown of what you’ll get with each card.

Best United Airlines credit cards

Card NameSign-Up BonusAnnual Fee
Unitedâ„  Explorer Card60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases in the first three months from account opening.$95 (waived for the first year)
United Clubâ„  Infinite Card100,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 in purchases in the first three months from account opening.$525
Unitedâ„  Business Card60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening$99 (waived for the first year)
Our United Airlines credit card comparison will help you choose the perfect one to fulfill your travel dreams to places like Iceland. (Photo by Andrew Mayovskyy/Shutterstock)

Some United cards offering limited time increased welcome bonuses

Chase United Explorer: Best all-around United Airlines credit card

With the United Explorer Card, you’ll earn 60,000 United Airlines miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. This increased offer is valid through Sept. 30, 2020.

We estimate United miles value to be at least 1.3 cents each. That means you should easily receive $780 in United flights from this bonus. However, you could get even more value when redeeming for first or business class flights.

Fly to Europe in business class for just 60,000 United miles. (Image courtesy of United Airlines)

The United Explorer card also comes with:

  • 2 United Airlines miles per dollar you spend on purchases from United Airlines
  • 2 United Airlines miles per dollar spent at restaurants and hotels when you book directly
  • 1 United Airlines mile per dollar you spend on everything else

The United Explorer comes with priority boarding and two one-time United Club lounge passes per cardmember year. Plus, you’ll get a $100 credit every four years for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck membership, which is a huge time saver at U.S. airport security checkpoints. Everyone on the MMS team has either TSA PreCheck or Global Entry (you can read about TSA PreCheck vs. Global Entry here).

Cardholders will also get priority boarding, free checked bags, access to more United Airlines award seats and more.

Once you received your card, be sure to check if you’re targeted to earn a bonus on grocery spending.

There’s a $95 annual fee with this card, but it’s waived the first year.

This is my favorite airline credit card. It enhances every step of your travel experience with perks like waived checked bag fees and more award seat availability. The access to more award seats has come in handy more times than I can count. Being a United Explorer cardholder has not only made it easier to earn United miles but to use them too. I think this is an absolute must for United Airlines flyers. Read our Chase United Explorer review.

 United Clubâ„  Infinite Card: Best credit card for United elite flyers

United Airlines miles can help you cross off your biggest bucket list items. (Photo by Joseph Hostetler/Million Mile Secrets)

Through Sept. 30, 2020, with the United Club Infinite Card, you’ll earn 100,000 United Airlines miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.

We estimate United miles value to be at least 1.3 cents each. That means this increased bonus can be worth $1,300 in United flights. Again, if you know how to maximize United miles, you could realize much more value.

With this card, you get:

  • 4 miles per dollar on United purchases
  • 2 miles per dollar on dining
  • 2 miles per dollar on all other travel
  • 1 mile per dollar spent everywhere else

This card comes with a United Club membership (worth up to $650). If you enjoy United Airlines lounges and their free food and drinks when you fly, this is a great card to have. With the membership, you can access United Clubs and Star Alliance lounges. Plus, you can bring two guests for free (or one adult and dependent children under 21 years of age) to a United Club or one guest to a Star Alliance lounge.

Note that United Airlines lounge access restrictions state that you need to be flying United Airlines or one of its partners the same day to gain entry to United Clubs.

You’ll also get perks like first and second bags checked free when you pay for your ticket with the card (save up to $280 per round-trip flight), priority check-in and boarding and, of course, more access to available award seats. Some cardholders have even be targeted to receive bonus miles on grocery spending.

This card has a $525 annual fee.

The only glaring advantage this card has over the United Explorer Card is the United Club lounge access. There are other goodies but they’re not useful to everyone. A United Club membership costs more than you’ll pay for this card’s annual fee, so opening this card is a way to get United Club access at a discount.

Unitedâ„  Business Card: Best welcome bonus with a United Airlines credit card

Small-business owners can do business well with the United Business Card. You’ll earn 60,000 United Airlines miles after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.

Ongoing earnings

With the United Business Card you’ll also get:

  • 2 United Airlines miles per dollar on purchases from United
  • 2 United Airlines miles per dollar on local transit and commuting
  • 2 United Airlines miles per dollar at gas stations, office supply stores and restaurants
  • 1 United Airlines mile per dollar you spend on everything else

Like the personal version of the United Explorer Card, United Business cardholders get benefits like free checked bags for them and a traveling companion when they use the card to pay for their reservation, priority boarding, two one-time United Club lounge passes and more. And they get my favorite perk, access to more United Airlines award seats.

You’ll also receive a $100 United travel credit annually, after seven flight purchases of $100 or more. The card even comes with an annual bonus of 5,000 miles when you also hold a personal Chase United credit card

You’ll pay $99 per year to hold this card (waived the first year)

You won’t find a United card welcome bonus larger than this one. You can fly to lots of places with 60,000 miles. Although the United Airlines award chart recently moved to “dynamic pricing” for awards, you should have enough miles for at least two coach flights within the U.S., a one-way business-class ticket to Europe or a round-trip coach flight to Hawaii.

You must have a small business to be eligible for this card but lots of folks qualify for a small business card without realizing it. If you earn income for performing a service like driving for Uber or selling goods on eBay, you could qualify. You’ll also need to be under Chase’s 5/24 limit to apply for the card, but Chase doesn’t report small-business cards to your personal credit report so the United Business credit card won’t add to your 5/24 count.

Read our full Chase United Business Card review.

Who should and shouldn’t get a United credit card?

As you might expect, United Airlines credit card benefits do no good to someone who doesn’t fly United. Most perks you’ll receive, such as priority boarding, one free checked bag, even exclusive award availability, only benefit you if you’re a United Airlines flyer.

Some United cards come with United and Star Alliance airport lounge access. But you must have a same-day boarding pass for United OR one of its partners. In other words, if you don’t fly United or its partners, these cards will do you no good.

However, even if you fly United just a couple times per year, you could save $120+ in checked bag fees. And the miles you earn with the card can be used to fly United Airlines partners — they’re good for much more than just United flights.

Can you have more than one United Airlines credit card?

There are a total of five cobranded United credit cards — and you can have them all. That means you can earn as many welcome bonuses as are on offer. We don’t recommend keeping all the United cards, though. Many overlapping benefits make the annual fees you’d pay far from worth it.

I have the Unitedâ„  Explorer Card (in my opinion the single best airline credit card because of its diverse perks), and that serves all my United Airlines flying needs. I may eventually opt for the United Club Infinite card for its stellar lounge access and cancel my current United card.

Which card is best for United elite flyers?

Far and away the best United card for elite flyers is a premium card like the United Club Infinite. If you’re elite with United Airlines, you fly them often and will likely use their airport lounges (or the lounges of partner airlines). Plus, you’ll get 4 United miles per dollar for your spending (more than any other United card).

And because COVID-19 has really funked up this year for travel, United is allowing you to earn 4,000 Premier Qualifying Points by spending on your card. Unfortunately, this will only help you to achieve Platinum status with United, not 1K status.

How we choose the best United Airlines credit cards

Welcome bonus: The fastest way to a free vacation is by earning large welcome bonuses. Earning a single bonus could net you a round-trip coach flight to Asia, a lie-flat business class seat to Europe or many other things.

Rewards for everyday purchases: If you fly United Airlines with frequency, you’ll want a card that gives you a large return on United purchases — and United miles for everyday spending. If you choose one that earns rewards to match your daily spending patterns, it’s an especially great way to steadily accumulate points for your next trip.

Perks and benefits: This is the true meat of a credit card. Ongoing perks like free checked bags, lounge access, priority boarding, etc. can save you hundreds and hundreds each year, not to mention enhance your travel experience.

Other ways to earn United Airlines miles

Don’t forget, United Airlines is a Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partner. This means you can transfer these flexible points directly to the airline if you have these popular credit cards:

These cards often have a better earning rate than United Airlines credit cards. Plus, if you have any of the Chase Ultimate Rewards cards mentioned above, you can combine points from these no-annual-fee Chase Ultimate Rewards cards and move them to United Airlines as well:

Bottom line

Anyone looking for a United Airlines card has five options to choose from. Let us know your favorite among the bunch! And subscribe to our newsletter for United Airlines travel tips and tricks to getting the most from your miles.

Meghan Hunter is a contributor to Million Mile Secrets, he covers topics on points and miles, credit cards, airlines, hotels, and general travel.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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1 month ago

Just add promo code UAC34x in promo box on application for the 2500 extra miles on top of 60k.

1 month ago

On a DOC post, I originally learnt about this offer. It’s really got value for $ spent compared to their previous 50k 5k spend offer which was quite mediocre.

DOC blog pointed out how to get an extra 2500 miles on top of the 60k which is a cherry on top.

I got mine prior to this offer and will have to decide if I will cancel or renew in February.

Angela Valdes
1 month ago

Don’t be fooled by those who claim can fix credit in such a short while because most of them are fakes. i advice you try hackengineexpert @ gmail he was the only true expert i could hire to help fix my credit without disputes

1 month ago

I have the Explorer card with the AF. Is there still an option to downgrade to a no AF card and still have better award availbility?

3 months ago

What is the travel photo above a picture of?

4 months ago

I have cancelled flights scheduled in 2020. If I cancel my United Mileage Plus card and /or switch to a United Explorer card, how do I receive my refund for money spent (after the 12 month waiting period)? Can I just give United my address and wait for a check in the mail?

5 months ago

I just tried to downgrade my United Explorer card to the TravelBank card and they told me that no changes were allowed on the account. So I cancelled the card instead.

6 months ago

Thank you for the clear understanding of each card.
Very helpful.

How long do I have to wait to re apply for this card once I have closed it?

R. D.
7 months ago

If my wife opens a United Card, can we put my MileagePlus account number as the account associated with the card for the sign on bonus as well as the recurring award points?

1 year ago

For the priority boarding, do you have to book your flight with the United credit card? My employer requires that I book my flight on the company credit card so I can’t use this United card to book the flight for my business trips. Wonder if that means I won’t get priority boarding.