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With vaccines rolling out across the country, airlines may be filling the skies again in just a few months, and we’ll likely see some great offers to get travelers back onto planes. When that happens, it’ll be ideal to have a stash of frequent flyer miles. And for those looking to quickly boost their balances, United Airlines currently has some great sign-up bonus offers on its three personal credit cards.
Right now, the United Explorer Card is offering up to 65,000 bonus miles, 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. There’s no annual fee on this card for the first year, then a $95 annual fee starting the second year you have it.
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 a whopping 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 three of these cards earn United MileagePlus miles, which are easily redeemed on United as well as for flights on the airline’s 20+ 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 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.
Related: CNN Underscored’s review of the Chase Sapphire Preferred.
However, 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 (which would cost you $59 each otherwise), 25% back on United inflight 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 inflight 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 inflight 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 three 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.
Related: The best Chase credit cards to get for cash back and travel rewards.
Use these United credit card offers to stash away miles
Getting an airline credit card right now is definitely an investment in the future, since you likely won’t be able to use most of its benefits at the moment, though hopefully that will change shortly. But you can theoretically 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 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.
Learn more about the United Explorer Card.
Learn more about the United Gateway Card.
Learn more about the United Club Infinite Card.
Check out CNN Underscored’s guide to the best credit cards of 2021.
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