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Best cards for Star Alliance flights

United is the only U.S. airline partner in the Star Alliance network. These cards can help you maximize miles and points on Star Alliance flights


Looking for ways to maximize miles and points on Star Alliance flights? These credit cards can help.

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Why should you care about airline alliances? Because they’re yet another secret to cutting the cost of travel.

“If you’re willing to do some digging, you can really get some bargains on other carriers,” says Benét Wilson, a travel expert also known as the Aviation Queen.

“You do have to dig,” she adds. “But it’s worth it because you get a big bang for your buck.”

If you’re a regular United Airlines traveler, you’re probably already familiar with the Star Alliance.

If not, these are the airlines in the Star Alliance network:

  • Aegean Airlines
  • Air Canada
  • Air China
  • Air India
  • Air New Zealand
  • ANA
  • Asiana Airlines
  • Austrian
  • Avianca
  • Brussels Airlines
  • Copa Airlines
  • Croatia Airlines
  • EgyptAir
  • Ethiopian Airlines
  • EVA Air
  • LOT Polish Airlines
  • Lufthansa
  • Scandinavian Airlines
  • Shenzhen Airlines
  • Singapore Airlines
  • South African Airways
  • Swiss
  • TAP Air Portugal
  • Thai
  • Turkish Airlines
  • United

Want to make the most of points, miles and card perks the next time you fly via the Star Alliance? Here are some of the best cards to use.

See related: Best airline credit cards

United MileagePlus Club Card

If you fly Star Alliance airlines frequently, both Wilson and Bryce Conway, travel blogger and founder of 10xTravel, agree that the United MileagePlus Club Card is a good choice.

“I like this one because you get two free checked bags for you and a companion, and priority check-in, security screening and boarding,” Wilson says. “Plus, there are no foreign transaction fees.”

The United MileagePlus Club Card also offers:

  • 50,000 miles sign-up bonus if you spend $3,000 in the first three months.
  • 2 points per dollar spent on United airfare.
  • 5 points per dollar spent on other purchases

The card also has a hefty $450 annual fee, but in return you get United lounge access – which Wilson estimates is worth up to $650.

Chase Sapphire Reserve card

For a $550 annual fee, you could also try the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, says Callaway. Here the fee is offset with a $300 annual travel credit. And that can include anything from flights to tolls and rideshares.

Chase Sapphire Reserve also offers:

  • 3 points per dollar spent on travel and restaurants
  • 1 point per dollar spent on general purchases
  • 50,000 points if you spend $4,000 in the first three months
  • Up to $100 Global Entry/TSA Precheck credit every four years
  • Priority Pass Select membership

“If you’re traveling a bunch, you can hop into a lounge, rest and enjoy a meal and drinks,” he says.

Chase Ultimate Rewards earned on the Chase Sapphire Reserve can also be transferred to some Star Alliance airline partners – at generous point values:

  • Singapore Airlines: 2.36 cents/point
  • United Airlines: 1.52 cents/point
  • Once transferred to United, you can also use miles to book Lufthansa flights

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

If Reserve’s annual fee is too much for you, two less pricey options to consider include Chase Sapphire Preferred Card:

  • 2 points per dollar spent on travel and restaurants
  • 1 point per dollar spent on general purchases
  • 60,000 points if you spend $4,000 in first three months
  • Receive a 25% bonus when redeeming for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards

United Explorer Card

As the best all-around choice for Star Alliance travelers, both Wilson and Callaway prefer the Chase United Explorer Card.

You get a solid signing bonus of 60,000 miles if you spend $3,000 in the first three months, plus an additional 10,000 bonus miles if you spend $6,000 in the first six months, plus:

  • 2 miles per dollar spent on hotels, restaurants and directly purchased United tickets
  • 1 mile per dollar spent on other purchases
  • Free checked bag
  • Up to $100 credit for Global Entry/TSA Precheck every four years
  • Priority boarding
  • 2 one-time passes to the United Club every year
  • 25% in-flight discount

For infrequent Star Alliance passengers, Hud Callaway, director of user success for RewardStock, also prefers the United Explorer Card.

“It has a lowish annual fee of $95, and it’s waived the first year. For that, cardholders get travel benefits and, typically, a decent signing bonus, he says.

United TravelBank card from Chase

If you don’t travel via Star Alliance that often, opt for a card from one of the partner airlines, Conway said.

The free checked bags “more than” pay for it, he says.

Looking for a free option? That’s the United TravelBank card from Chase, says Callaway. It comes with no annual fee or traditional points and miles. But you get 2% cash back on United purchases and 1.5% on everything else in TravelBank cash to be redeemed solely on United Airlines purchases.

You also get a bonus of $150 in TravelBank cash if you spend $1,000 within the first three months. And you get 25 percent off in-flight purchases.

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The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.

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