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May 5, 2018

Which United Credit Card is Right for You?

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Fly United? You may want to consider an United credit card. But which one is right for you? We break it down.

© Oliver Holzbauer (CC BY-SA 2.0) via Flickr

United with partnered with Chase. They have a line of co-branded United MileagePlus cards. Chase also has general travel rewards cards that let you transfer Ultimate Reward points to United miles.

Each card has its benefits. Read on to see which is best for you.

How to decide which United Card is right for you

There are many options here, so how do you know what to choose? Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Do you want lounge access? The United MileagePlus Club Card comes with a big perk by including United Club access with the card.

  • Do you want flexibility in the airlines you fly? If you don't want to be limited to just United (and its partners), then look into the Chase Sapphire cards. These cards allow you to transfer points to multiple airline partners, including Southwest and Air France. You can also use points to book travel on the Chase travel portal.

    Just note that with these cards, you will pass up United perks like free checked bags and priority boarding.

  • How much do you fly each year? Most travel rewards cards come with an annual fee (though some are waived for the first year). You'd have to be a semi-frequent flyer to make it worthwhile. If you want to avoid the annual fee, consider a travel credit card with no annual fee.

Note: Chase has instituted a 5/24 rule. Meaning if you have applied for and received 5 credit cards in the last 24 months, you won't be approved for a Chase card. This includes the Chase and United MileagePlus co-branded cards. If you're over the 5/24 rule, check out other travel card options from Delta or American Airlines. If you're looking for a domestic, non-Chase option, check out JetBlue.

United MileagePlus Club Card: If You Want Lounge Membership

What really makes this card worth it is the complimentary United Club membership. You and your eligible travel companions (one other adult and children under 21, or up to 2 guests) can enjoy free food and drink while you relax before your flight. If you like traveling luxuriously, consider the fact that one United Club membership normally costs $550.

You also automatically get World of Hyatt Discoverist status, which gives you room upgrades and late checkout based on availability. You also get Hertz Gold Plus Rewards President's Circle status, which gives you one-car-class upgrades.

Get this card if:

  • You want to have access to United lounges all over the world
  • You and a partner travel twice a year on United and check 2 bags each
  • You stay at Hyatt hotels or use Hertz' car rental services

Chase Sapphire Preferred: Earn Points to Convert to Miles

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
Apply for Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
At Chase's Secure Site
  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® named a 'Best Travel Credit Card' by MONEY® Magazine, 2016-2017
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards
Intro APR for PurchasesIntro APR for Balance TransferRegular APRAnnual Fee
17.74% - 24.74% Variable
$0 Intro for the First Year, then $95

Chase Sapphire Preferred is part of Chase Ultimate Rewards, one of the most flexible and most valuable rewards program for travelers. We also love the option to use your points on the Chase travel portal at higher value.

Keep in mind that the Sapphire Preferred doesn't offer United-specific perks. That means no free checked bags or priority boarding.

Once you have earned the points, you can transfer them at a 1:1 ratio to United miles. The transfer happens immediately.

You can combine cards for maximum United miles earning. Consider using a United credit card for all United travel purchases. Then use the Chase Sapphire Preferred for all other purchases, especially travel and dining.

Get this card if…

  • You want to transfer points to other airlines hotels in addition to United
  • You eat out often
  • You do other forms of travel besides just flying United

Chase Sapphire Reserve: for Luxury Travelers

The Sapphire Reserve is the luxury big sister of the Sapphire Preferred. It has a much larger annual fee, but a lot more benefits.

Chase Sapphire Reserve
Apply for Chase Sapphire Reserve
At Chase's Secure Site
  • Earn 50K bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Named a 'Best Travel Credit Card for 2017' by MONEY® Magazine
  • 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. $0 foreign transaction fees.
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,000+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select
  • Up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
Intro APR for PurchasesIntro APR for Balance TransferRegular APRAnnual Fee
17.74% - 24.74% Variable

If you're a frequent traveler, we think this card more than justifies the annual fee. It doesn't give you United Club access, but it does have Priority Pass Select membership (valued at $399). This membership gives you and 2 guests access into over 1,000+ lounges worldwide. Most major airports will have at least one Priority Pass lounge you can visit.

You can also rack up points a lot faster with the higher bonus points on travel and dining. And plus, your points are worth 1.5x more value when you book travel on Chase Ultimate Rewards. All this makes the Reserve highly valuable.

Get this card if:

  • You spend at least $300 in travel every year
  • You want lounge access all over the world
  • You're a frequent international traveler

Chase Ink Business Preferred: For Business Travelers

The Chase Ink Business Preferred card is one of our favorite business cards on the market. It has great earning opportunities and again, you get access to the Ultimate Rewards market.

Ink Business Preferred Credit Card
Apply for Ink Business Preferred Credit Card
At Chase's Secure Site
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Earn 3 points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent on travel and select business categories each account anniversary year
  • Earn 1 point per $1 on all other purchases–with no limit to the amount you can earn
  • Points are worth 25% more when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • Redeem points for travel, cash back, gift cards and more – your points don't expire as long as your account is open
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Employee cards at no additional cost
  • $95 Annual Fee
Intro APR for PurchasesIntro APR for Balance TransferRegular APRAnnual Fee
17.74% - 22.74% Variable

The value and flexibility of Chase Ultimate Rewards points make this a great business card option. Plus, you can combine points with other cards in the UR family (including the Sapphire Preferred, Freedom, etc.). Just like the Sapphire Preferred, you can transfer these Ultimate Rewards points to United miles at a 1:1 ratio.

Get this card if:

  • Your business spends on items in the bonus-earning categories
  • Your business has travel needs
  • You want free employee cards

What Are United Miles Worth?

© Riik@mctr (CC BY-SA 2.0) via Flickr

United uses a region-based reward system. They offer 2 tiers of awards flights:

  • One-way Everyday Awards: Eligible United MileagePlus cardholders can book Everyday awards on any flight for any seat. For non-MileagePlus cardholders, there are a limited number of Everyday award seats. Everyday awards are based on the cost of the flight, so every flight will be different. But there is a cap. If you must travel on a specific day, you may have no choice but to book an Everyday award.

  • One-way Saver Awards: Saver awards cost the least number of miles. For example, one-way flights within the U.S. cost 12,500 miles in Economy, as opposed to up to 32,500 miles for the Everyday award. The only issue is that there are very few Saver seats available on every flight (and sometimes none at all if the flight is in high demand). It's best to start planning early and be flexible about the days that you fly.

Here are how many miles you'd need with the Saver awards. These are all for one-way Economy flights starting from the continental U.S.:

  • Domestic, less than 700 miles: 10,000
  • Domestic, more than 700 miles: 12,500
  • Canada & Alaska: 10,000/12,500
  • Hawaii: 22,500
  • Caribbean, Mexico, and Central America: 17,500
  • North South America: 20,000
  • South South America: 30,000
  • Europe: 30,000
  • North Asia: 35,000
  • South Asia: 40,000
  • Central Asia & Middle East: 42,500
  • Oceania: 35,000
  • Australia & New Zealand: 40,000
  • Africa: 40,000

Take a look at the United award chart.

United imposes a "close-in booking fee" of $75 if you are booking a flight within 21 days of your departure. Frustrating, we know. That's why it is always best to plan award travel far in advance. However, if you have the United MileagePlus Club card, those close-in fees are waived.

A big benefit to working with United miles is that United is part of the Star Alliance. This is the largest airline alliance and it can take you all over the world. The other Star Alliance airlines include:

  • ADRIA Airways
  • Aegean Airlines
  • Air Canada
  • Air China
  • Air India
  • Air New Zealand
  • ANA
  • Asiana
  • Austrian
  • Avianca
  • Avianca in Brazil
  • Brussels Airlines
  • Copa Airlines
  • Croatia Airlines
  • EgyptAir
  • Ethiopian Airlines
  • EVA Airways
  • Juneyao Airlines
  • LOT Polish Airlines
  • Lufthansa
  • Scandinavian Airlines (SAS)
  • Shenzhen Airlines
  • Singapore Airlines
  • South African Airways
  • Swiss International Airlines (SWISS)
  • TAP Portugal
  • THAI
  • Turkish Airlines

The other big benefit to United miles is that United doesn't impose fuel surcharges, not even on partner flights. Flying with fewer fees involved is always a good thing.

Bottom Line

There are many cards you can use to earn United miles. Picking the right one depends on what you value, how often you fly, and your spending habits.

There are a lot of great options. With the information in this article, you can choose the one that's right for you.

Editorial Note: This content is not provided by Chase. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by Chase. This site may be compensated through the Advertiser's affiliate programs.

Disclaimer: The information for the Chase Freedom has been collected independently by CreditDonkey. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

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