United Explorer card launches with airport gate giveaways


The United Explorer card rolled out with new rewards — and at-gate prize giveaways for passengers on three flights at the airline’s hub airports.

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Instead of waiting impatiently for their flight to Maui on Tuesday, United flyers at a San Francisco Airport gate were spinning a prize wheel to win gift cards, travel blankets and eye shades.

It was all part of a promotion for the Chase United Explorer card, which recently added several benefits aimed at improving the travel experience.

The United Explorer card’s increased 2x rewards for charges at restaurants and for hotel stays spurred the gate takeovers and giveaways as a way to highlight flyers “being rewarded,” Chase spokeswoman Ashley Dodd says.

Promotions then and now

Credit card and airline promotions have changed over the years.

Before the Credit CARD Act of 2009, college students used to sign up for a credit card to get the free T-shirt or hat.

In 2011, National Australian Bank (NAB) used a series of guerrilla marketing stunts to stand out from the crowd. One of these involved planting “lost wallets” for people to find. The bank said of its “honesty experiments,” “Australians are an honest lot. They deserve credit cards to match.”

At SXSW this year, Barclays had a “Ride and Dine” bus with a chef cooking meals for select Uber Visa cardholders to highlight that card’s 4x points on restaurant purchases.

Airlines are even more known for unusual or extraordinary promotions. You may remember Canada’s WestJet video of Christmas wishes fulfilled while flyers were in the air.

Southwest Airlines, to mark last year’s solar eclipse, offered a handful of prime eclipse-viewing flights. Flyers on these flights received special viewing glasses and cosmic cocktails.

Surprises at the gate and on the plane

While the United Explorer card gate takeovers aren’t nearly as elaborate as the WestJet or “Ride and Dine” bus promotions, the gift cards and other surprises no doubt made the day of those aboard the lucky flights.

At the giveaway at the San Francisco airport gate, a grandmother flying to Maui to visit her grandchildren won a $100 gift card on the prize wheel.

At the first United gate takeover at LAX last week, a couple returning from their honeymoon won $100 and $200 gift cards and were upgraded to first class for the flight.

There will be one more United Explorer gate takeover at one of the airline’s hubs later this summer.

After the prize drawings and boarding, passengers learned they were each getting 25,000 United MileagePlus miles. Those 25,000 points will cover a free round-trip domestic U.S. economy class Saver Award fare in the future.

Winning a gift card or getting 25,000 airline miles just for being aboard a certain plane, that’s a great way to start a flight. Earning rewards on your everyday spending – which you can do with a host of rewards cards – is a great way to build a stash of cash back or pile of points for your next trip.

See related: New United Explorer card offers 2x miles on hotels and restaurants

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