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United Airlines already has three personal credit cards on the market, but it isn’t standing pat. The airline recently introduced a brand-new fourth card — the United Quest Card — that’s now accepting applications, and it comes with an impressive sign-up bonus that’s worth a look.
Right now the United Quest Card is offering up to 100,000 bonus miles, broken down into two tiers: 80,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open, plus an additional 20,000 bonus miles after you spend $10,000 in the first six months.
This new card has a $250 annual fee, but it also comes with several credits and elite perks — more on that below. But if $250 is too pricey, you might instead consider one of the other United credit cards that are also offering increased sign-up bonuses at the moment.
The United Explorer Card has no annual fee for the first year, then a $95 annual fee starting the second year you have it, and new card holders can earn up to 65,000 bonus miles, also broken down into two tiers: 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open, plus an additional 25,000 bonus miles after you spend $10,000 in the first six months.
Or, for those who only fly United once in a while even when travel is at normal levels, the no-annual-fee United Gateway Card currently offers new card holders an increased 20,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 in purchases in the first three months after opening the account.
And if you’re a United road warrior, the luxury United Club Infinite Card is offering an impressive 75,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. This card sports a pricey $525 annual fee but features complimentary access to the worldwide United Club lounge network, along with a number of other high-end perks.
All four of these cards earn United MileagePlus miles, which are easily redeemed on United as well as for flights on the airline’s 20-plus Star Alliance partners. While United uses a dynamic pricing structure instead of a fixed award chart to price award tickets, the airline’s website is adept at finding partner airline inventory, which makes it easy to see route options, find seats and confirm your next award trip.
United Quest card: The new kid on the block
While the 100,000 bonus miles is the first thing most people will notice about this new credit card, the United Quest Card also comes with a number of perks that can be rewarding if you’re a regular United flyer.
First, every year you have the card (including the first year) you can get up to $125 in statement credits for United purchases that you charge to your card. This can even include tickets, so it’s easy to use this entire credit each year just by buying one flight that costs $125 or more. And if you can use the entire credit, you’re effectively only paying $125 annually for the card.
Then, starting with the second year you have the United Quest Card, whenever you take a United or United Express flight that you book with United miles, you’ll get 5,000 miles back in your account, up to two times each year you have the card. The award flight doesn’t even have to cost 5,000 miles to get the 5,000 miles back, so if you book United awards even twice a year, you can benefit from this perk.
You can also rack up even more United miles just by using the card. The United Quest Card earns 3 miles for every dollar you spend on United purchases; 2 miles per dollar at restaurants, on select streaming services and all other travel; and 1 mile per dollar on all other purchases.
And when you’re traveling on a United-operated flight, you’ll be able to check both a first and second bag for free when you have the United Quest Card. This perk even extends to a companion traveling with you on the same reservation, which can mean a substantial savings.
Other perks of the United Quest Card include a fee credit of up to $100 for a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck membership, priority boarding when flying United, 25% back on United in-flight purchases, the ability to earn 500 Premier Qualifying Points (PQPs) for every $12,000 you spend on purchases with the card (up to 3,000 PQPs in a calendar year) and no foreign transaction fees.
Overall, it’s a decent package for people who are relatively loyal to United but aren’t road warriors who expect to fly constantly once the pandemic winds down and travel resumes. Those who do plan to be on a United plane at least once a month should probably consider the United Club Infinite Card instead, while casual travelers who just want to earn United miles should take a look at this next option…
United Explorer card: Flight perks and rewards
With domestic United award tickets starting as low as 5,000 miles one-way, 65,000 bonus points from the personal United Explorer Card could cover 13 tickets at the lowest rate, meaning you could take your whole family on a sorely needed vacation once the pandemic has finally waned.
You’ll earn 2 miles for every dollar you spend on United with the United Explorer Card, as well as at restaurants (including eligible delivery services) and on hotel stays booked directly with the hotel. The card then earns 1 mile per dollar on everything else you buy.
However, these earning rates aren’t generally best in class. For instance, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card earns 2 points per dollar on dining and all travel — not just United flights or hotels — and you can transfer Chase points to United miles at a 1-to-1 ratio, as well as to 12 other airline and hotel partners.
But with the United Explorer Card, you’ll also get a number of perks when you’re flying United that you can’t get with the Chase Sapphire Preferred. The card features a free checked bag for you (and one for a companion on the same reservation), a pair of one-time United Club lounge passes each year (that would cost you $59 each otherwise), 25% back on United in-flight purchases and priority boarding on United-operated flights.
Also, you can earn 500 Premier Qualifying Points (PQPs) toward United elite status (up to Platinum level) for every $12,000 spent on the United Explorer Card, up to a maximum of 1,000 PQPs per calendar year. But remember, CNN Underscored recommends that you only make purchases you would make otherwise with cash, checks or a debit card. Don’t find yourself in debt paying credit card interest from trying to chase airline elite status.
The United Explorer Card also has no foreign transaction fees, so it’s safe to use it overseas once international travel resumes. And those hoping to sign up for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck will also appreciate the up to $100 fee reimbursement on the card.
United Gateway card: An airline card for beginners
If you aren’t much of a regular traveler but want to earn some airline miles, you might consider the relatively new United Gateway Card, which replaced the old United TravelBank Card. It doesn’t have all the perks of the United Explorer card, but it also doesn’t have an annual fee, so you can earn United miles without having to pay each year just to have the card.
When it comes to earning miles, the United Gateway Card does have a number of bonus categories. It earns 2 miles for every dollar you spend on United Airlines purchases, at gas stations and on local transit and commuting. The card earns 1 mile per dollar on all other purchases.
The one perk that carries over from the United Explorer card to the United Gateway card is a 25% rebate on all United in-flight purchases. Surprisingly, the card also carries no foreign transaction fees, which is somewhat unusual for a no-annual-fee card, but certainly welcome.
United Club Infinite card: Elite VIP perks
If you’re a United fanatic and flew on the airline constantly before the pandemic, or you plan to make it your primary carrier as travel begins to resume, then you may find the benefits of the United Club Infinite Card are well worth the cost.
With the United Club Infinite Card, you’ll earn the same 2 miles per dollar on restaurants and eligible food delivery services as you do with the United Explorer card. But in addition, you’ll get 2 miles per dollar on all travel (not just hotels) and 4 miles per dollar on United purchases, along with 1 mile per dollar on everything else you buy.
Plus, not only does the United Club Infinite Card offer a complimentary United Club membership, but it also comes with not one but two free checked bags for both you and a companion on the same reservation when you’re flying United, along with Premier Access — which includes priority check-in, security screening (where available), boarding and baggage handling — and 25% back on United in-flight purchases.
You’ll also have access to several of the same benefits as the United Explorer card, including up to a $100 fee reimbursement when applying for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, the ability to earn 500 Premier Qualifying Points toward United elite status (up to Platinum level) for every $12,000 spent on the card, up to a maximum of 1,000 PQPs per calendar year, and no foreign transaction fees.
And as a final added extra, if you have any of the four personal United credit cards and also the United Business Card, you’ll earn 5,000 bonus miles each year on your United Business Card anniversary.
Just be mindful of applying for too many credit cards in rapid succession, and consider the rules banks employ for people who quickly pick up a lot of cards. For instance, Chase — the bank that issues United credit cards — won’t approve any new credit cards for people who have already gotten five or more credit cards across all banks in the previous 24 months. This is colloquially known as Chase’s 5/24 rule.
Use these United credit card offers to stash away miles
You may not be able to use most of the benefits of an airline credit card at the moment, but travel is beginning to resume and planes are returning to the skies. Even if you don’t think you’ll be flying in the next few months, you can pick up one of these cards now, earn the sign-up bonus and use the miles down the road not just for United flights but for flights on any of United’s airline partners as well.
So if you want to lock down up to 100,000 bonus miles on the United Quest Card, up to 65,000 bonus miles on the United Explorer Card, 20,000 bonus miles on the no-annual-fee United Gateway Card or 75,000 bonus miles on the United Club Infinite Card, take a look at these offers and consider if they make sense for you.
Check out CNN Underscored’s guide to the best credit cards of 2021.