Whichever card fits you best, now is likely a good time to put in an application, as all three United consumer cards are offering very generous sign-up bonuses. See how far your miles can take you.
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Chase recently updated the sign-up bonuses on all three of its consumer United rewards credit cards.
The popular United℠ Explorer Card is offering a slight downgrade from its previous offer, now boasting 40,000 miles if you spend $2,000 in your first three months.
The United Gateway℠ Card, an entry-level, no-annual-fee card, has also reduced its bonus to 15,000 miles after you spend $1,000 in the first three months.
Meanwhile, the luxury United Club℠ Infinite Card is offering 75,000 miles after you spend $3,000 in the first three months. And the newly launched United Quest℠ Card is offering the highest bonus of them all: 80,000 miles after you spend $5,000 in the first three months.
Each of these cards gives you a chance to earn miles on some of your everyday spending and rewards your United loyalty with unique discounts and perks, but which is the best deal for you?
We’ve broken down the value of the latest bonus offers from Chase and United, along with these cards’ other features to help you decide if you should apply and which card you should choose.
See related: Best travel credit cards
United credit cards: First-year value
The United Explorer card is perhaps the most popular of United’s offerings, including bonus rewards on United purchases and dining. You’ll also pay no annual fee for your first year and a modest $95 annual fee after that.
The United Gateway card charges no annual fee but carries a much smaller sign-up bonus and fewer perks, while the Club Infinite card currently carries both a high bonus and an accompanying high annual fee.
The United Quest is the newest of the cards from the airline, offering a more modest $250 annual fee than the Club Infinite as well as more perks and rewards potential than the United Explorer. It is also currently offering the highest welcome offer of any United card.
Here’s a quick look at how each of these cards’ value stacks up in the first year, taking into account the sign-up bonus and rewards earned via card spend.
United Gateway℠ Card
United℠ Explorer Card
United Quest℠ Card
United Club℠ Infinite Card
|Sign-up bonus||Earn up to 15,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 in the first three months||40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 in the first three months||80,000 miles if you spend $5,000 in the first three months||75,000 miles if you spend $3,000 in the first three months|
|Annual fee||$0||$0 first year, $95 after that||$250||$525|
|Estimated earnings in first year ($15,900 spend)||$517||$886||$1,285||$939|
Whichever card you choose, you stand to make out very well in your first year as a United cardholder. Based on its sign-up bonus and ongoing rewards, however, the United Quest is the clear winner. We currently value United miles at around 1.52 cents apiece, so assuming you can meet the $5,000 spending threshold, this card’s bonus alone is worth around $1,216 in travel with United.
Still, each United card has its own value to offer the right spender. Here’s a quick breakdown of what you can stand to earn with each.
We estimate that the United Explorer card earns an average rewards rate of 1.2 miles per dollar based on the average person’s spending habits. Based on that rate, if you spend $15,900 in your first year, you’ll take home around another $290 worth of rewards via card spend. Add to this travel perks like two United Club one-time passes each cardmember anniversary (typically available for purchase at select locations for $59 each) and an up to $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, and you can see how the card will hold great value for aspiring travelers.
Though it can’t come close to matching the Explorer card’s value (it’s a no annual fee card, after all), the Gateway card holds its own. The card offers a 15,000-mile bonus worth around $228 in United travel and carries an average rewards rate (1.19 miles per dollar) that rivals that of the Explorer card, making it a good long-term value if you don’t mind missing out on perks like free checked bags and priority boarding.
The United Quest is the newest of the United offerings and a solid contender for most valuable United card, especially thanks to its higher earning rate on United purchases and slightly upgraded perks. We estimate those who fly United frequently and will take advantage of a boost toward award flight credits can more than make up for the card’s $250 fee.
Meanwhile, the Club Infinite card also offers an enormous sign-up bonus of 75,000 points after spending $3,000 in the first three months. The card offers a higher rewards rate on general travel spending than the other United cards, so it gets a tiny edge when it comes to earning United miles.
That said, your earnings will surely take a hit due to the card’s high annual fee of $525. This means the Club Infinite card’s perks, including a complimentary United Club membership that would otherwise cost between $550 and $650 per year, will be a key consideration depending on your elite status.
See related: Are credit card annual fees worth it?
United MileagePlus card sign-up bonus history
Chase often updates the sign-up bonus for the United Explorer card, which usually teeters between 40,000 and 70,000 miles. The United Gateway Card, on the other hand, is still quite new, so it’s hard to say how the card’s bonus may change in the coming months. Perhaps the hardest to predict is the Club Infinite Card, which has offered both a 100,000-mile bonus and no bonus whatsoever during its tenure.
United Explorer card recent changes
The United Explorer card has offered the chance to earn up to 70,000 bonus miles in the past, but its standard offer tends to hover around 40,000 miles.
|Change date||Sign-up bonus|
|Current||40,000 bonus miles if you spend $2,000 in first three months|
|July 2, 2021|
|Feb. 25, 2021|
|Jan. 14, 2021||40,000 miles if you spend $2,000 in first three months|
|Nov. 9, 2020|
|Oct. 1, 2020||40,000 miles if you spend $2,000 in first three months|
|Aug. 4, 2020||60,000 miles if you spend $3,000 in first three months|
|May 4, 2020||40,000 miles if you spend $2,000 in first three months|
|Jan. 23, 2020||60,000 miles if you spend $3,000 in first three months|
United Gateway card recent changes
The United Gateway card is similarly offering a lower offer than it has in the past.
|Change date||Sign-up bonus|
|Current||15,000 miles after you spend $1,000 in the first three months|
|July 2, 2021|
|Feb. 25, 2021||20,000 miles if you spend $1,000 in first three months|
|Previous||10,000 miles if you spend $1,000 in first three months|
United Quest card recent changes
The United Quest card is a new product, so there are no recent changes to its sign-up bonus.
United Club Infinite card recent changes
The United Club Infinite card has shifted back and forth between offering a sizable sign-up bonus (with an accompanying high annual fee) and offering no sign-up bonus (but charging no annual fee in the first year). Unfortunately, the current bonus of 75,000 miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months falls short of the 100,000-mile high-water mark. However, that bonus has always required a $5,000 spend.
|Change date||Sign-up bonus|
|Current||75,000 miles if you spend $3,000 in first three months|
|Oct. 1, 2020||No sign-up bonus (annual fee waived for the first year)|
|Aug 4, 2020||100,000 miles if you spend $5,000 in first three months|
|May 19, 2020||No sign-up bonus (annual fee waived for the first year)|
|March 16, 2020||100,000 miles if you spend $5,000 in first three months|
Who is eligible for the sign-up bonus?
These United card sign-up bonuses are only available to new cardholders and previous cardholders who have not received a new cardmember bonus for a given card in the past 24 months. Of course, you must qualify for the cards first, which are designed for cardholders with a credit score in the excellent range (at least 740).
Chase has come down hard recently on applicants who open many accounts at once. Though it’s not an official policy, Chase enforces a “5/24” rule on new credit card applications. This means your application will likely be denied if you have opened at least five credit card accounts in the past 24 months with any issuer (not just Chase). The rule seems to apply to any credit card account that shows up on your credit report, including co-branded store cards. (On the plus side, business credit cards that don’t report to your personal credit report do not affect your chances of being approved.)
Best ways to spend 80,000 miles
Not only can you use United miles to travel all around the world on United flights, but you can redeem them for flights on one of 28 United’s Star Alliance partners or 11 additional airline partners (39 partners total) for a good value. MileagePlus miles are very valuable – worth 1.52 cents per mile by our estimates – but the value can vary greatly depending on how you use your miles.
United MileagePlus redemption options
|Redemption option||Average mile value (cents)||Value of 80,000-mile bonus|
|Saver airfare – economy||1.4||$1,120|
|Saver airfare – business/first class||2.7||$2,160|
|Everyday airfare – economy||1||$800|
|Everyday airfare – business/first class||1.4||$1,120|
You can typically get more than 1 cent of value out of your miles with an economy-level Saver fare, and Business class Saver fares offer an exceptional value at around 2.7 cents per mile on average. In fact, the pricing on Business class Saver awards is so reasonable that cardholders who normally couldn’t afford business class could easily rack up enough United miles to fund a round-trip ticket to Europe or Asia in business class.
That said, United has shifted away from its fixed awards chart in favor of a dynamic award pricing model. This means how far your bonus takes you will depend on when you book and your destination and travel dates. With prices constantly changing, it’s much more difficult to plan ahead and save miles for a trip goal.
Is now the time to apply for a United credit card?
Right now, only the premium United Quest and United Club Infinite cards are boasting decently high bonuses. If you are interested in either of these cards, now is a great time to apply.
As for the United Gateway and United Explorer, you might be better off waiting for a better bonus to come around. That said, if you are looking for a United card with a lower (or no) annual fee, both products have plenty to offer frequent United flyers.
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.