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|Issuer Customer Experience:||4.0|
In a Nutshell:
Boasting a solid set of cardholder perks that should more than cover its annual fee, the United Quest card will offer terrific value for semi-frequent flyers who plan on sticking with the airline long term.
Average Yearly Rewards Value (Including sign-up bonus averaged over three years, annual credits and $1,325 monthly spend)
Chase Customer Service Ratings
Other Notable Features: First and second checked bag free for you and a companion, priority boarding for you and companions on same reservation, $125 in statement credits on first $125 in United purchases, two 5,000-mile anniversary award flight credits, up to $100 credit for TSA Precheck or Global Entry application fee, 12 months of complimentary DashPass subscription, no foreign transaction fee, 25% back on in-flight United purchases, extended warranty protection, auto rental collision damage waiver, lost luggage reimbursement, trip delay and trip cancellation/interruption reimbursement
If you’re a semi-frequent United flyer looking to save up miles for your next trip, there’s a good chance the New United Quest℠ Card will be not only the best United Airlines credit card for you, but possibly the best airline credit card of all.
Boasting an enormous sign-up bonus, generous rewards rate on United and other travel purchases, valuable perks and unique annual bonuses, the United Quest Card should offer solid value in both the short and long term, even given its $250 annual fee, and it makes for a terrific middle ground between the United℠ Explorer Card, geared toward casual United travelers, and the United Club℠ Infinite Card, geared toward fans of luxury travel.
The card’s fee will limit its value for occasional flyers, however, and you’ll inevitably face some limitations if you opt for a co-branded airline rewards card over a general travel rewards card. Plus, at this price level you may be able to find an even more lucrative card that comes with additional luxury perks and still offers ways to redeem rewards with United.
See related: United Quest card video review
Like all co-branded airline cards, the United Quest card offers the most bang for your buck on flights booked directly with the airline.
To start, you’ll get up to $125 in statement credits each account anniversary year for United purchases – essentially a 100% rebate on the first $125 you spend with United each year. This makes up for half of the card’s $250 annual fee on its own. After you’ve reached $125 in United purchases in a year, you’ll earn 3 miles per dollar on all further United spending.
At a glance, it may seem unfair of the issuer to offer no rewards on United purchases until you’ve reached a $125 spending threshold, but keep in mind that these credits are actually far more valuable than the 375 points you’d earn if you simply started with a 3-point-per-dollar rewards rate on United spending. In fact, we estimate United miles are worth around 1.52 cents apiece, so 375 points would only amount to around $6 in United travel. To accumulate $125 worth of rewards without this perk, you’d need to spend around $2,750 on United purchases.
The United Quest card also rewards general travel purchases, not just United purchases. You’ll get 2 miles per dollar on nearly everything related to travel, including non-United airfare, trains, local transit, cruise lines, hotels, car rentals, taxicabs, resorts, rideshare services and tolls. The 2-mile-per-dollar rate also applies to dining and select streaming service purchases, including spending with Disney+, Hulu, Netflix, Sling, Spotify and more.
Being able to earn miles even on outside travel purchases gives the United Quest Card an edge over some competing airline cards. Comparable co-branded cards from Southwest and American Airlines, for example, only offer bonus rewards on airfare purchases if you book directly with the carrier. The inclusion of a dining category also gives the United Quest Card extra value, since eating out makes up a decent portion of the average person’s budget.
That said, you’ll need to be at least a semi-frequent traveler to squeeze maximum rewards value from the United Quest card.
United Quest card spending example
To get a sense of how much you can earn, let’s say you took 10 flights with United per year at an average cost of $250. You’d earn 7,125 points on those purchases – that’s 3 points per dollar times $2,375 (since you won’t earn rewards on your first $125 in United spending). If you also spent $2,000 on general travel purchases, $2,400 on dining out, $550 on streaming services and $8,500 on all other purchases, you’d earn a total of 25,525 points per year, worth about $387 in United travel. Add in the $125 in statement credits you’d earn on that spend and subtract the $250 annual fee and you’d wind up with a total of around $262 worth of rewards per year.
But let’s say you only took a few flights with United, spending around $1,250 per year with the airline. If all your other spending stayed the same – $2,000 per year on other travel, $2,400 per year on dining out, $550 per year on streaming services and $8,500 on general purchases –you’d end the year with around 21,775 points, worth about $330 in United travel. Factor in the $125 in statement credits you’d earn on your United purchases and you’d have a total of about $455 in earnings. Subtract the $250 annual fee, though, and you’d wind up with just $205 in net earnings – less than you’d earn on the same total spend with a run-of-the-mill 1.5% flat-rate cash back card.
As you can see, if we leave aside the card’s extra perks and focus only on rewards earned via card spend, it’s clear that your loyalty to United and the frequency with which you fly the airline will be key to the card’s ongoing value.
One of the downsides of airline credit cards is that you can only use your rewards with the co-branded carrier, and the United Quest card is no different.
You can redeem your miles for discounted flights aboard United or one of its Star Alliance partners, or for upgrades on purchased flights. Since United uses dynamic award pricing, the number of miles you’ll need for a flight depends on where you are going, your travel dates and how many seats are available.
To get a sense of how far your miles can take you, visit United.com and search for a destination and departure date with the “Book with miles” option selected. You can also check out United’s featured awards chart to see some of the best deals for booking a one-way flight with miles.
Here’s just one example: We searched for United fares from Newark to Orlando in September and found a round-trip award flight available for 14,600 miles. To earn that many miles, you’d need to spend either $14,600 on general purchases, $7,300 in one of the card’s 2X bonus categories, $1,825 on United purchases (United MileagePlus members automatically get 5 miles per dollar on United purchases, in addition to the 3 miles per dollar you’d earn with the United Quest card) or some combination of the three.
Your miles can also be used towards upgrades on United or Star Alliance partner flights. To see how many miles you would need for an upgrade, check the upgrade awards chart. Upgrades start at 7,500 miles, with an upgrade from Economy to United First or Business class costing 10,000 miles for a domestic flight.
United also offers flyers several other ways to use their miles, including redeeming them for hotels, gift cards, Apple merchandise, or other shopping. However, redeeming this way will almost certainly give you less value for your miles (between 0.5 and 0.7 cents per mile, versus 1.52 cents per mile by our estimates).
If you’d appreciate more flexibility in how you can redeem your miles – whether that’s with another airline, for outside travel purchases, cash back or more – a general travel rewards card may be a better fit than a co-branded card.
See related: Cash back vs. points
Terrific sign-up bonus
Along with its valuable credit on United purchases and other perks, one of the United Quest card’s biggest selling points at the moment is its sign-up bonus. The card is currently offering a chance at a whopping 100,000 miles: You’ll earn 80,000 miles after spending $5,000 in your first three months as a cardholder and can earn 20,000 miles on top of that if you spend a total of $10,000 in your first six months.
Assuming an average value of 1.52 cents per mile, we estimate this sign-up bonus is worth about $1,520 in United travel. That not only blows most mid-tier airline rewards cards out of the water, but it’s also one of the most valuable bonuses on any rewards card in our cards database.
That said, the spending requirement is very high. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, for example, is currently offering a sign-up bonus of 100,000 points when you spend just $4,000 in your first three months. Plus, that card only charges a $95 annual fee and you could transfer your points at a 1:1 ratio from Chase to United, since the airline is an Ultimate Rewards transfer partner.
Relatively high annual fee
While it’s not nearly as expensive as some luxury travel rewards cards, the United Quest card’s annual fee is still relatively high annual fee at $250. This alone shouldn’t be a deal-breaker, though, since the United Quest card’s benefits and rewards can easily cover the cost for the right cardholder.
But if you’re only an occasional traveler, the United Explorer may be a better option. That card only charges a $95 annual fee ($0 for your first year) and still gets you one free checked bag, up to $100 in statement credits to cover a Global Entry or TSA Precheck application every 4 years, 2 one-time passes to the United Club and more.
See related: When is a credit card annual fee worth it?
Along with the terrific $125 in statement credits you can receive for United purchases, the United Quest card offers a number of valuable perks for frequent flyers, including:
- Up to two 5,000-mile anniversary award flight credits – Starting on your first cardmember anniversary, you’ll get a 5,000-mile credit added to your account when you take a flight booked with rewards. This credit can be earned twice, for a total of up to 10,000 miles. Assuming a 1.52-cent-per-mile valuation, we estimate this perk alone is worth over $150.
- Free first and second checked bag – You and one companion on your itinerary can get up to two free checked bags. For two people checking two bags each way on a round-trip ticket, this benefit could offer a savings of up to $320 per trip.
- Priority boarding – You and anyone on your itinerary will get a jump on general boarding groups when you fly with United.
- 25% discount on in-flight purchases – You’ll get 25% back as a statement credit when you pay for in-flight extras like food, premium beverages or internet access.
- Global Entry or TSA Precheck fee credit – Every four years, you can get a statement credit of up to $100 to cover the application fee of either Global Entry or TSA Precheck.
- Complimentary DashPass membership – You’ll get a free 12-month membership to DashPass, the DoorDash delivery subscription service, which gives you unlimited free deliveries on DoorDash orders over $12 (subscriptions typically cost $9.99 per month).
- No foreign transaction fees – You won’t face any extra fees when you use your United Quest card to make purchases abroad.
- Earn Premier Qualifying Points – On top of the miles you’ll earn via card spend, the United Quest card can also get you closer to United elite status. You’ll earn 500 Premier Qualifying Points (PQPs) for every $12,000 you spend, up to a maximum of 3,000 PQPs every calendar year.
This is an impressive list of perks and if you take full advantage of them, you should easily be able to cover the card’s annual fee.
However, one notable exclusion from this list is access to United Club airport lounges. The United Quest card not only lacks an ongoing United Club membership – it’s also missing the one-time lounge access passes that come with the United Explorer card. If lounge access is one of your must-haves, the luxury United Club Infinite card may be a better fit.
How does the United Quest card compare to other travel cards?
Though the United Quest card comes with a giant sign-up bonus and plenty of compelling perks for United loyalists, it carries a steep annual fee and locks you into redeeming your rewards with United and its partner airlines. On the flipside, it lacks some of the top-tier benefits you can find on luxury travel cards.
These alternatives either cost less, offer additional perks or are part of a more flexible rewards program:
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card
Citi Premier® Card
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100,000 points if you spend $4,000 in first 3 months
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80,000 ThankYou® points if you spend $4,000 in first 3 months
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One of the most versatile and rewarding travel rewards cards on the market, the Chase Sapphire Preferred not only offers a comparable sign-up bonus and rewards rate on dining and general travel when compared with the United Quest card, but it’s also less than half the cost. It’s also far more flexible, as you can redeem your Ultimate Rewards points for travel purchases, statement credits, gift cards and more at a 1-cent-per-point value, or book travel through the Ultimate Rewards portal and get a 25% boost in point value (making this card’s bonus worth $1,250 if you redeem for travel through Chase). You can even transfer your points to a number of travel partners, including United, JetBlue, British Airways and more to stretch your rewards even further.
If you’re open to flying with Delta instead of United, the Delta SkyMiles Platinum Amex card is worth a look. The card not only offers a 3-mile-per-dollar rewards rate on directly purchased Delta airfare – the same rate you’d get on United purchases with the Quest Card – but also gets you 3 miles per dollar on direct hotel bookings and 2 miles per dollar on restaurant and U.S. supermarket purchases, giving this card terrific everyday value. Plus, each year for as long as you’re a cardmember, you’ll get a companion certificate to bring a friend or family member along on an eligible round-trip domestic flight. That perk alone should cover the card’s annual fee.
The Citi Premier card offers a whopping 3 points per dollar at restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, hotels and air travel, making it easily one of the most versatile travel rewards cards on the market. Rewards-savvy cardholders will love that this card lets you pool points with popular no annual fee cash back cards like the Citi® Double Cash Card and Citi Custom Cash℠ Card, which can help you maximize travel rewards across a huge variety of spending categories. You can also book flights with United through the Citi travel portal or transfer to one of 15 Citi ThankYou transfer partners at a 1:1 ratio.
Who should get the United Quest card?
- Semi-frequent travelers who prefer to fly with United Airlines or one of its Star Alliance partners.
- Cardholders who dine out frequently and want to earn United miles on some of their everyday spending.
- Travelers who think they’ll take at least two United award flights per year and can make the most of the card’s two 5,000-mile anniversary award flight credits.
- Travelers who frequently check bags and can take advantage of the card’s perk of two free checked bags for themselves and a companion on the same itinerary.
How to use the United Quest card:
- Use the card for all spending with United Airlines and their Star Alliance partners to take advantage of the bonus point category, the $125 annual United credit and the two free checked bags for the cardholder and one companion on the same itinerary when flying United.
- Try to take at least two United flights booked with miles to earn the two 5,000-mile anniversary award flight credits.
- Use the card for all non-United travel purchases, as well as all restaurant and qualifying streaming service purchases.
- Pay your TSA Precheck or Global Entry application fee with the card to get a credit of up to $100 once every four years.
Is the United Quest card worth it?
If you travel semi-frequently with United, the United Quest card should easily pay for itself. Indeed, the $250 annual fee can be covered just by the up to $125 in statement credits you can earn each account anniversary year for United purchases and the up to 10,000-mile-credit you can earn back for taking United flights booked with miles. Add to this the rewards you’ll earn via card spend and the value of other perks like free first and second checked bags and credits for Global Entry or TSA Precheck and it’s clear that, used wisely, the United Quest card is absolutely worth the price of admission.
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