9 Best Credit Cards for United Airlines Miles (Up to 80,000 Miles) [2019]

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Chase offers a hand full of different United credit cards and other travel cards that earn United miles on great bonus categories like dining and travel and come with high sign-up bonuses up to 80,000 miles.

These cards all come with different annual fees and with special perks that are designed for different types of travelers. Knowing the differences between these cards will help you choose the product that will benefit you the most and maximize your earnings to get free flights on United.

Here’s a rundown of the 9 best credit cards for United Airline miles.  

I’ll highlight the major perks of each these cards and then give you a quick look at some redemption prices on the United award chart, so you’ll know how far your miles can take you.


The 9 Best United Airlines Credit Card Offers

  1. Chase Sapphire Reserve 
  2. Chase Sapphire Preferred
  3. Chase Ink Preferred 
  4. United MileagePlus Explorer Card
  5. United MileagePlus Club Card
  6. United TravelBank Card
  7. United MileagePlus Explorer Business Card
  8. United MileagePlus Club Business Card
  9. Amex credit cards 

Some key factors you want to be looking at are:

  • Sign-up bonuses
  • Special perks like free bags and lounge access
  • Bonus earning
  • Rental car coverage
  • Annual fees
  • Redemption policies

If you can prioritize those factors based on your own travel goals and personal valuations, then picking the right United credit card will be much easier.

Now it’s time to take a close look at these different cards to see which option is the best United Airlines credit card.


1. Chase Sapphire Reserve 

  • 50,000 Ultimate Rewards after spending $4,000 within the first 3 months
  • $300 travel credit
  • 3X on dining and travel
  • Priority Pass with unlimited guests
  • Redeem points at 1.5 cents per point through Chase Travel Portal
  • TSA Pre-Check/Global Entry $100 credit
  • Primary rental car insurance
  • Annual fee: $450 (not waived first year)

The Chase Sapphire Reserve offers some of the hottest rewards and top benefits out of any travel rewards credit card on the market and it’s why I consider it to be the #1 travel rewards credit card.

The 50,000 point welcome bonus could set you up with 50,000 United miles since it transfer right over. But another great perk about this card is that it allows you to redeem points at a rate of 1.5 cents per point through the Chase Travel Portal.

Many times, it makes better sense to use this portal than to use your United miles for domestic flights so this portal can end up saving you thousands of United miles over time. 

And finally, the Reserve comes with airport lounge access and 3X on dining and travel. Earning 3X on dining and travel with the Reserve is way better than what any United card offers so you’ll earn United miles much quicker with the Sapphire Reserve.

You can read up on more about some of the very valuable Sapphire Reserve benefits here.

Click HERE to learn more about this card!


2. Chase Sapphire Preferred 

  • 60,000 Ultimate Rewards after spending $4,000 within the first 3 months 
  • 2X on dining and travel
  • Redeem points at 1.25 cents per point through Chase Travel Portal
  • Primary rental car insurance
  • Annual fee: $95 (waived first year)

If you don’t want to deal with the high annual fee of the Chase Sapphire Reserve, then the Chase Sapphire Preferred can be a perfect option for you.

It only earns 2X on dining and travel but that’s still better than the United MileagePlus Explorer Card which only offer 2x on United purchases.

With Sapphire Preferred, you’ll be earning more United miles quicker and it’s really easy to earn 50,000 United miles right off the bat if you transfer your sign-up bonus points out to United.

The great thing about both the Sapphire Reserve and the Sapphire Preferred is that you can transfer your points out to any Sapphire partner that you’d like, which include:

Chase Ultimate Rewards Airlines

  • Aer Lingus
  • British Airways Executive Club
  • Flying Blue (Air France/KLM)
  • Iberia Airways
  • Korean Air SKYPASS
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
  • United MileagePlus
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

Chase Ultimate Rewards Hotels

  • Hyatt Gold Passport
  • IHG® Rewards Club
  • Marriott Rewards
  • The Ritz-Carlton Rewards

So if you don’t want to go with the Reserve, then Preferred can be a great option as well.

Click HERE to learn more about this card!


3. Chase Ink Preferred 

The current welcome offer is 80,000 points after you spend $5,000 or more within three months of account opening. That is a huge offer at 80,000 points which translates into 80,000 United miles if you transfer them out to United at a 1:1 ratio,

The Ink Preferred has some fantastic bonus earning categories, too.

That’s enough miles to fly roundtrip to Hawaii — in business class!

You’ll earn 3X on the first $150,000 spent in combined purchases each account anniversary year on:

  • Travel, including airfare, hotels, rental cars, train tickets and taxis
  • Shipping purchases
  • Advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines
  • Internet, cable and phone services

Like the Reserve, getting 3X on travel is better than earning 2miles per dollar on United purchases which is what the United MileagePlus Explorer card offers. So if you’re in need of a business credit card and want to earn United miles you might want to think about going with the Ink Preferred.

The Ink also has offers cell phone protection which can be a valuable perk for many people.

Click HERE to learn more about this card!


4. United Explorer Card

  • Sign-up bonus 40,000 to 70,000 miles (depending on the offer)
  • 2 miles per $1 spent on tickets purchased from United
  • Free Checked Bag
  • Priority Boarding
  • Anniversary United Club Passes
  • Miles Don’t Expire
  • MileagePlus Premier members and traveling on an award ticket can receive Premier Upgrades
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $95 annual fee (waived on some offers)

The Explorer card comes with elite-like perks, such as a free checked bag for the primary cardmember and one companion (valued at $100 for a roundtrip based on United baggage fees). The primary cardmember and companions on the same reservation will also be invited to board United-operated flights prior to general boarding.

Another great perk about every Chase United credit card is that they allow you to earn an additional 25% on MPX App purchases. Learn more about maximizing earnings on the MPX App HERE

Key benefits

Although there’s some good value in the free checked bags perk, that’s a common benefit to find in airline credit cards. So here are a few key benefits that help the Explorer stand out.

  • United Club passes — Every year, you’ll get two United Club one-time passes, which are valued at around $100
  • Increased award seats — This card will provide you with access to more award seats than the public, opening up many more awards and opportunities to use your points.
  • Primary rental car coverage — This is one of the only airline co-branded cards that comes with primary rental car coverage so if you damage your rental car you can be covered and avoid filing a claim with your insurance

This is one of those credit cards that easily pays for itself with its perks like free checked bags and lounge access. That’s important because that means that it will be worth it to hold on to this card in the long-term for a lot of people.

Another consideration for this card and most other United co-branded cards is that the spend you put on your United cards will count toward something called “PQPs.” This stands for Premier Qualifying Points and will help you achieve elite status quicker with United.

United Explorer cardholders will earn 500 PQPs for every $12,000 they spend and there will be a a maximum of 1,000 PQPs earned per calendar year. 

Here are the new qualifications for United Airlines elite status:

Premier levelEarn rate per $1
Premier Silver7X
Premier Gold8X
Premier Platinum9X
Premier 1K11X

For that reason, I consider the Explorer card to be the best United Airlines credit card and recommend it often to people interested in United and its Star Alliance partners.


5. United MileagePlus Club Card

United Airlines Credit Card

  • 50,000 mile sign-up bonus after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
  • Access to United Clubs and participating Star Alliance lounges
  • Priority check-in, security screening, and baggage handling
  • Priority boarding
  • The primary Cardmember and one companion traveling on the same reservation will each receive their first and second checked bags free
  • World of Hyatt: Discoverist Status (the same status offered by the Hyatt card)
  • Hertz President’s Circle Elite Status
  • Miles Don’t Expire
  • MileagePlus Premier members and traveling on an award ticket can receive Premier Upgrades
  • Increased award availability
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $450 annual fee

This card didn’t come with a sign-up bonus for a while, so the 50,000 miles bonus is great to see and adds a lot of value. But the real value with this card comes with the United Club membership. This airport lounge membership is worth over $500 and gives you access to United Clubs and many Star Alliance affiliated lounges.

While the United Club lounge perk is worth more than the annual fee itself, if you don’t visit United or Star Alliance lounges then this might not be the right card for you and you might want to think about going with another United credit card.

Key benefits

Some of the other benefits I like this about this card are:

  • Close-in fees waived: The primary Cardmember will receive a close-in booking fee waiver on award tickets booked less than 21 days before departure
  • Two checked bags free: Unlike the MileagePlus Explorer card, the United Club Card give you two free checked bags for the primary Cardmember and one traveling companion on the same reservation.
  • United Premier Access benefits: The Club card provides you with even more elite status benefits than the Explorer Card. With this card you’ll get:
    • Designated check-in lines
    • Priority security lanes
    • Priority boarding and
    • Priority baggage handling

The Hyatt Discoverist status is also nice to have but doesn’t add very much other than getting you free premium internet, 2pm check out, and possibly a preferred room.


6. UnitedSM TravelBank Card

United Airlines Credit Card

  • $150 in United TravelBank cash after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
  • Earns 2% back on United purchases
  • Earns 1.5% back on all other purchases
  • All cash back can only be redeemed through the United TravelBank
  • 25% back on United in-flight food and drink purchases
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • No annual fee

This is the newest United credit card to be offered by Chase. There are not a lot of travel cards that come with no foreign transaction fees and no annual fee so that’s a major plus for this card. The card also comes with a decent earning rate of 1.5% back on all purchases and 2% back on United purchases. But this United Airlines credit card does not earn United miles that you can use on award tickets.

Instead, this card earns United TravelBank cash. These are funds that you can use on United or United Express-operated flights. So you lose out on the ability to redeem miles for outsized value on luxurious business class and first class cabins. But you get the flexibility of being able to use your TravelBank cash on flights without having to worry about award availability.

Ultimately, this is a card for people who like to keep things simple with their rewards.


7. United MileagePlus Explorer Business Card

United Airlines Credit Card

  • 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
  • 2 miles per $1 spent on purchases at restaurants, gas stations, and office supply stores
  • 2 miles per $1 spent on tickets purchased from United
  • Free Checked Bag
  • Two United Club one-time passes
  • Priority boarding
  • Miles Don’t Expire
  • MileagePlus Premier members and traveling on an award ticket can receive Premier Upgrades
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $95 annual fee (waived)

The United MileagePlus® Explorer Business Card is a solid alternative to the personal version of the Explorer credit card. That’s because it comes with a solid sign-up bonus of 50,000 points and the annual fee is waived for the first year. 

The extra points on restaurants, gas stations, and office supply store is a nice added plus for this card as well. While this card also comes with primary rental car coverage, keep in mind that it’s limited to car rentals made for trips on business. So you could lose out on coverage if you’re not aware of that restriction.

I like this card as an alternative for when the personal card does not offer a waived annual fee. Sometimes the bonuses on these cards will be the same but only the business version will offer a waived annual fee.


8. United MileagePlus Club Business Card

United Airlines Credit Card

  • $100 statement credit
  • Access to United Clubs and participating Star Alliance lounges
  • Priority check-in, security screening (where available),
  • boarding and
  • baggage handling privileges
  • The primary Cardmember and one companion traveling on the same reservation will each receive their first and second standard checked bags free
  • World of Hyatt: Discoverist Status (the same status offered by the Hyatt card)
  • Hertz President’s Circle Elite Status
  • Miles Don’t Expire
  • MileagePlus Premier members and traveling on an award ticket can receive Premier Upgrades
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $450 annual fee

The business version fo the MileagePlus Club Card doesn’t come with a sign-up bonus like the personal version. It also doesn’t earn bonus spend on business purchase categories like the United MileagePlus® Explorer Business Card.

Unless you just really need a business credit card, I’d go with the personal version of this United Airlines credit card since it comes with a sign-up bonus of 50,000 miles rather than a mere $100 statement credit. Also, if you’re trying to earn United miles via your spend on restaurants, gas stations, and office supply stores then you are probably better off with the United MileagePlus® Explorer Business Card.


9. Amex credit cards

American Express credit cards that earn Membership Rewards can be very valuable. These cards include:

Here is a list of American Express cards that can earn you Membership Rewards and some of the best offers that have been offered with the cards recently.

  • EveryDay Card (25K)
  • EveryDay Preferred Card (30K)
  • Green Card (25K)
  • Premier Rewards Gold Card (50K)
  • Platinum Card from American Express (100K)
  • Business Platinum Card from American Express (100K)
  • Business Rewards Gold Card (75K)

These earn points that can be transferred to a lot of travel partners, some of which are Star Alliance members. That means that you can use your Amex points to book United flights with partner airlines like Aeroplan, ANA, and Singapore Airlines. 

Here are all of the American Express travel partners:

Airlines

  • Delta Skymiles
  • Club Premier AeroMexico (1,000 = 1,600 premier points)
  • Aeroplan Air Canada
  • Flying Blue Air France/KLM
  • MilleMigilia Club Alitalia
  • ANA
  • Asia Miles
  • Avios British Airways
  • El Al (1,000 = 20 Matmid points)
  • Emirates Skyrewards
  • Etihad Guest
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Iberia Plus
  • JetBlue TrueBlue (250 points = 200 TrueBlue points)
  • KrisFlyer Singapore Airlines
  • Virgin America (200 points = 100 Elevate points)
  • Virgin Atlantic

Hotels

  • Choice Privileges
  • Hilton Honors (1,000 points = 2000 Honors points)
  • SPG (Starwood Preferred Guest) (1,000 points = 333 Starpoints)

Other United Airlines credit credit options

There are other options for credit cards by United but you can only obtain these cards via a downgrade or product change after holding your card for one year.

There’s the no annual fee MileagePlus Rewards Card which only earns 1 mile per $2 spent and then there’s the MileagePlus Awards Card which comes with a $60 annual fee and earns 1 mile per $1 dollar spent.

The no annual fee version is great for keeping your line of credit open and allowing your account to age and as of the time of this writing, it offers you increased award inventory and a 25% bonus on the MPX App!

On the other hand, the MileagePlus Awards card is not very appealing to me. It does offer priority boarding but doesn’t come with free checked bags or United Club passes, and it also has foreign transaction fees. Considering that the Explorer Card is only $35 more and offers so much more in terms of benefits, I would not recommend the MileagePlus Awards Card.

Basic economy privileges

Note that every United credit card discussed above except for the TravelBank and MileagePlus Rewards Card will allow you to bring your carry on if you decide to purchase a basic economy fare with United.

Chase credit card application rules

Chase has some very specific credit card restrictions when applying for some of their most coveted credit cards.

Every United Airlines credit card is affected by the Chase 5/24 Rule which prevents you from being approved if you’ve opened up five or more accounts within the past 24 months (subject to certain exceptions).

There are also a number of other rules to be aware of like the 2/30 rule and 24 month rule.

  • You can check out this article to find out everything you need to know about these rules.

United redemption possibilities

It’s always good to at least have an idea as to how you’d like to use your points before signing up for a credit card. That way, you can plan out your future redemptions and ensure that your points won’t go to waste.

Without getting too deep into the United award chart and all of the complexity that it can entail with the excursionist perk, here are some sample redemptions so that you can see how many miles you might need to acquire for trips you might want to take. These are rates for flying on United (not partners).

Domestic

  • Economy: 25,000
  • Business/First: 50,000 (70,000 on select routes)

Hawaii

  • Economy: 45,000
  • Business: 80,000 (100,000 on select routes)
  • First: 100,000 (110,000 on select routes)

Mexico

  • Economy: 35,000
  • Business: 60,000
  • First: 80,000

South America (southern)

  • Economy: 60,000
  • Business: 120,000
  • First: 160,000

Europe

  • Economy: 60,000
  • Business: 120,000
  • First: 160,000

Japan

  • Economy: 70,000
  • Business: 140,000
  • First: 180,000

These are only a handful of possible redemption options but they should give you an idea on what you can expect to pay for certain awards. If you want to view more award prices, you can check out the full United award chart here. (Scroll down for the Star Alliance award chart that will be used on partners.)

Arc De Triomphe
Get to Paris for only 30,000 miles one way in economy.

So what is the best United Airlines credit card?

The best United credit card will be one that suits your goals.

For me, I prefer the flexibility of the Sapphire cards but for the co-branded United card, I’d go with the MileagePlus Explorer card for its high sign-up bonus and valuable perks like free checked bags and lounge pass.

If you really like lounge access then the Club card might be for you.

And finally, if you want to keep things simple with you rewards and avoid having to deal with redeeming airline miles, then the TravelBank Card could be the right card for you.

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