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Which United Airlines credit card should you choose?

Whether you're a frequent or occasional flyer, these are the United card options you should consider

Summary

Whether you’re a frequent or occasional flyer, these are the United Airlines credit card options you should consider

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If you regularly fly United Airlines or live in or near Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Newark or San Francisco – the airline’s hubs – you’re likely to benefit by considering a United Airlines branded card.

Not only can a United card help you earn and redeem MileagePlus miles faster, but you also get a few handy perks, including free checked bags.

United offers four different branded credit cards – two personal cards and two business cards. How do you know which would serve you best?

We spoke with three travel veterans about their favorite United-branded cards for both frequent and occasional flyers, as well as the best all-around travel card.

See related: United MileagePlus Dining Guide

Here’s the roundup:

Best United Airlines credit cards

Guide to United Airlines credit cards

Compare fees, rewards, perks and extras:  

United Explorer Card

Annual fee
  • $95, waived the first year
Sign-up bonus
  • 40,000 miles if you spend $2,000 in first 3 months
In-flight discount
  • 25%
No foreign transaction fees
  • Yes
Extra bonus on certain categories
  • 2 miles per dollar spent on United Airlines, hotel and restaurant purchases
  • 1 mile per dollar spent everywhere else
Limit on miles earned
  • No
First checked bag free
  • Yes, for you and a companion on the same reservation
Priority boarding
  • Yes, for you and companions on the same reservation
Reduced mileage awards
  • No
Redeem miles rebate
  • No
Benefits
  • 2 United Club one-time passes
  • Tickets bought using miles eligible for free upgrades
  • Trip delay, baggage and auto rental insurance
  • Concierge service
  • Chase’s Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection perks, including breakfast for 2, free Wi-Fi and meal/spa credits
Global Entry/TSA Precheck credit
  • Yes, up to $100 every four years
Card network
  • Visa

Chase United Club Infinite Card

Anual fee
  • $525, waived the first year
Sign-up bonus
  • None
In-flight discount
  • 25%
No foreign transaction fees
  • Yes
Extra bonus on certain categories
  • 4 miles per dollar spent on United purchases
  • 2 miles per dollar spent on dining
  • 2 miles per dollar spent on all other travel (including other airlines)
  • 1 mile per dollar on all other purchases
Limit on miles earned
  • No
First checked bag free
  • Yes, 2 bags for you and 2 for a companion on the same reservation
Priority boarding
  • Yes, for you and companions on the same reservation
Reduced mileage awards
  • No
Redeem miles rebate
  • No
Benefits
  • United Club and Star Alliance lounge membership
  • Priority check-in and screening
  • Waived fees on last-minute tickets bought with miles
  • Miles tickets eligible for free upgrades
  • Trip delay, baggage and auto rental insurance
  • Concierge service
  • Chase’s Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection perks, including free breakfast for 2, free Wi-Fi and meal/spa credits
Global Entry/TSA Precheck credit
  • Yes, up to $100 every four years
Card network
  • Visa

Chase United Business Card

Annual fee
  • $99
Sign-up bonus
  • 100,000 miles after spending $10,000 in first 3 months
In-flight discount
  • 25%
No foreign transaction fees
  • Yes
Extra bonus on certain categories
  • 2 miles per dollar spent on United Airlines, restaurant, gas and office supplies purchases
  • 2 miles per dollar spent on transit and commute purchases, including taxis, tolls and rideshares
  • 1 mile per dollar spent on everything else
Limit on miles earned
  • No
First checked bag free
  • Yes, for you and a companion on the same reservation
Priority boarding
  • Yes, for you and companions on the same reservation
Reduced mileage awards
  • No
Redeem miles rebate
  • No
Benefits
  • 2 United Club one-time passes
  • 5,000 bonus miles on your account anniversary if you have both a United Business Card and personal United card
  • $100 annual United travel credit after 7 United flight purchases of $100 or more
  • Trip, baggage and car rental insurance
Global Entry/TSA Precheck credit
  • No
Card network
  • Visa

Chase United Club Business Card

Anual fee
  • $450
Sign-up bonus
  • 100,000 miles after spending $10,000 in first 3 months
In-flight discount
  • 25%
No foreign transaction fees
  • Yes
Extra bonus on certain categories
  • 2 miles per dollar spent on United Airlines purchases
  • 1.5 miles per dollar spent on everything else
Limit on miles earned
  • No
First checked bag free
  • Yes, 2 bags for you and 2 for a companion on the same reservation
Priority boarding
  • Yes, for you and companions on the same reservation
Reduced mileage awards
  • No
Redeem miles rebate
  • No
Benefits
  • United Club and Star Alliance membership
  • Priority check-in and screening
  • Concierge service
  • Trip, baggage and car rental insurance
  • Discoverist status in World of Hyatt loyalty program
  • President’s Circle Elite status in Hertz Gold Plus Rewards loyalty program
  • Chase’s Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection perks, including free breakfast, free Wi-Fi, dining/spa credits and upgrades
Global Entry/TSA Precheck credit
  • No
Card network
  • Visa

Lifetime Globalist

How to qualify
  • 1,000,000 base points over the course of your membership
Base-point rate
  • 6.5 points/$1
Benefits
  • Receive Globalist benefits indefinitely, with no requirement to qualify for status each year

 

Best United Airlines credit card for frequent flyers

The unanimous choice for frequent flyers: The United Club Infinite Card from Chase. The new card replaced an older version of the United Club Card, but it offers even better rewards and perks designed with luxury travelers in mind.

Not only does it give you membership in the airline’s United Club lounges, but if you travel internationally, you will be able to access lounges for any airlines that are part of the Star Alliance, including Aer Lingus, Singapore Airlines and Lufthansa.

  • The Club card also gives you two free checked bags per person for you and a traveling companion on the same reservation, along with priority check-in, priority security screening and priority boarding.
  • It also comes with a Global Entry or TSA Precheck credit of up to $100 every four years.

In addition to a high rewards rate on United, dining and travel purchases, the Club Infinite card gives you 1 mile per dollar spent on all purchases. You can use these miles for flights, in-flight food and beverage purchases, to buy Wi-Fi while flying or for hotel stays and car rentals.

There is one major downside to this card: It comes with a $525 annual fee. But on the bright side, the fee is waived in the first year – a rare benefit on a luxury card.

See related: Are you a VIP jerk? 10 things NOT to do in airport lounges

Best United Airlines credit card for occasional flyers

Fly occasionally but you want a few perks when you travel?

Your best choice is likely the Chase United Explorer card, which was revamped in June 2018.

“You get all of the perks for a lower fee,” says Bryce Conway, travel blogger and founder of 10XTravel.

The Explorer card gives you one free checked bag for you and a companion on the same reservation, plus priority boarding. You also receive two one-time passes to the United Club lounges on each anniversary of opening your account.

“It’s a neat benefit, and the passes now come electronically,” says Julian Kheel, former editor at The Points Guy. “You don’t even have to remember to bring them. They’re in an app on your phone.”

This is a risk-free way to sample the United lounges, including the food and drink offerings, to see if you might want to join, says Walter Travers, a card blogger known as the Credit Card Maestro.

Also, the card includes:

  • 2 miles per dollar spent on hotels and dining
  • 2 miles per dollar spent on United purchases
  • 1 mile per dollar spent on everything else
  • Up to $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA Precheck every four years

Currently, new cardholders can earn a sign-up bonus of 40,000 miles after spending $2,000 in the first three months.

“This is a good card for the regular traveler,” says Kheel.

See related: The ultimate guide to airport security options

Best all-around United Airlines credit card

Which United card is the best all-around travel credit card? It all comes down to how much you travel.

Unless you’re spending a lot of time in airports and need a nice lounge retreat, the United Explorer card was the pick of our travel gurus. For the casual traveler, the $525 annual fee (waived first year) on the Club Infinite card can be too much to part with.

“If you’re going to fly United at least once a year, it makes sense to get the United Explorer card,” Kheel says. One checked bag per person each way “easily offsets” the $95 annual fee (waived first year).

United also offers business versions of the Club card and a comparable business card to the Explorer – the United Business Card. If you’re traveling for business, it pays to look at those cards, too, says Kheel.

But whether you choose the Explorer or the Club card, you’ll get special perks with over 900 properties featured in Chase’s Luxury Hotel & Resorts Collection – including free breakfast for two, food or spa vouchers, special check-in/checkout times and free Wi-Fi.

You’ll also have access to free upgrades when you buy a ticket with miles.

And both cards give you priority boarding and free checked bags for you and a traveling companion, “which is pretty awesome,” says Travers.

Editorial Disclaimer

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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