A comparison of the United Airlines credit cards

If you’re a United Airlines flyer, you may be searching for the credit card that best serves your needs. There are plenty to choose from, after all.

United offers some of the best airline credit cards in the free world — one of them, in my opinion, being THE best airline card (and it doesn’t even have a big annual fee). And even better, two of the United cards are offering increased bonuses for a limited time.

All of the Chase United Airlines cards are affected by the Chase 5/24 rule. If you’re looking to earn United miles, it’s important to know your options. It’s also important to know which perks you’ll get with each version. For example, only some United cards save you money on baggage fees or get you into United Club airport lounges.

Here’s a rundown of what you’ll get with each card.

Best United Airlines credit cards

  • United℠ Explorer Card: Best all-around United Airlines credit card
  • United℠ Business Card: Best welcome bonus with a United Airlines credit card
  • United Club℠ Infinite Card: Best credit card for United elite flyers
Card Name Sign-Up Bonus Annual Fee
United℠ Explorer Card 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. $95 (waived for the first year)
United℠ Business Card 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. $99 (waived for the first year)
United Club℠ Infinite Card This card is not currently offering a welcome bonus. This card has a $0 intro annual fee, then $525

Chase United Explorer

Best all-around United Airlines credit card

With the United Explorer Card, you’ll earn 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.

The United Explorer card also comes with:

  • 2 United Airlines miles per dollar you spend on purchases from United Airlines
  • 2 United Airlines miles per dollar spent at restaurants and hotels when you book directly
  • 1 United Airlines mile per dollar you spend on everything else

There’s a $95 annual fee with this card, but it’s waived the first year.

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Why we like it

We estimate United miles value to be at least 1.3 cents each. That means you should easily receive $520 in United flights from this bonus. However, you could get even more value when redeeming for first or business class flights.

The United Explorer comes with priority boarding and two one-time United Club lounge passes per cardmember year. Plus, you’ll get an up to $100 credit every four years for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck membership, which is a huge time saver at U.S. airport security checkpoints. Everyone on the MMS team has either TSA PreCheck or Global Entry (you can read about TSA PreCheck vs. Global Entry here).

Cardholders will also get priority boarding, free checked bags, access to more United Airlines award seats and more.

Once you received your card, be sure to check if you’re targeted to earn a bonus on grocery spending.

Who is this card for

This is my favorite airline credit card. It enhances every step of your travel experience with perks like waived checked bag fees and more award seat availability. The access to more award seats has come in handy more times than I can count. Being a United Explorer cardholder has not only made it easier to earn United miles but to use them too. I think this is an absolute must for United Airlines flyers. Read our Chase United Explorer review.

Why this card is the best all-around United card

With a very manageable annual fee that’s even waived the first year, if you’re looking for a United card, this is your best bet. Not only will you get free checked bags, but you’ll have access to more award seats, which are the main reasons I keep this card year after year. 

United℠ Business Card

Best welcome bonus with a United Airlines credit card

Small-business owners can do business well with the United Business Card. You’ll earn 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.

With the United Business Card you’ll also get:

  • 2 United Airlines miles per dollar on purchases from United
  • 2 United Airlines miles per dollar on local transit and commuting
  • 2 United Airlines miles per dollar at gas stations, office supply stores and restaurants
  • 1 United Airlines mile per dollar you spend on everything else

You’ll pay $99 per year to hold this card (waived the first year)

Why we like it

Like the personal version of the United Explorer Card, United Business cardholders get benefits like free checked bags for them and a traveling companion when they use the card to pay for their reservation, priority boarding, two one-time United Club lounge passes and more. And they get my favorite perk, access to more United Airlines award seats.

You’ll also receive a $100 United travel credit annually, after seven flight purchases of $100 or more. The card even comes with an annual bonus of 5,000 miles when you also hold a personal Chase United credit card

Who is this card for

You won’t find a United card welcome bonus larger than this one. You can fly to lots of places with 60,000 miles. Although the United Airlines award chart recently moved to “dynamic pricing” for awards, you should have enough miles for at least two coach flights within the U.S., a one-way business-class ticket to Europe or a round-trip coach flight to Hawaii.

Why this card is the best for the welcome bonus

You must have a small business to be eligible for this card but lots of folks qualify for a small business card without realizing it. If you earn income for performing a service like driving for Uber or selling goods on eBay, you could qualify. You’ll also need to be under Chase’s 5/24 limit to apply for the card, but Chase doesn’t report small-business cards to your personal credit report so the United Business credit card won’t add to your 5/24 count.

Read our full Chase United Business Card review.

United Club℠ Infinite Card

Best credit card for United elite flyers

With the United Club Infinite Card, you get:

  • 4 miles per dollar on United purchases
  • 2 miles per dollar on dining
  • 2 miles per dollar on all other travel
  • 1 mile per dollar spent everywhere else

This card has a $0 intro annual fee, then $525. 

Why we like it

This card comes with a United Club membership (worth up to $650). If you enjoy United Airlines lounges and their free food and drinks when you fly, this is a great card to have. With the membership, you can access United Clubs and Star Alliance lounges. Plus, you can bring two guests (or one adult and dependent children under 21 years of age) to a United Club or one guest to a Star Alliance lounge.

Note that United Airlines lounge access restrictions state that you need to be flying United Airlines or one of its partners the same day to gain entry to United Clubs.

You’ll also get perks like first and second bags checked free when you pay for your ticket with the card (save up to $280 per round-trip flight), priority check-in and boarding and, of course, more access to available award seats. Some cardholders have even be targeted to receive bonus miles on grocery spending.

Who is this card for

This card only makes sense for those of you who will use the heck out of the United Club lounge access. Otherwise, you’re better off going with one of the other United cards that offers a welcome bonus and charges a lower annual fee.

Why this card is best for United elite flyers

The only glaring advantage this card has over the United Explorer Card is the United Club lounge access. There are other goodies but they’re not useful to everyone. A United Club membership costs more than you’ll pay for this card’s annual fee, so opening this card is a way to get United Club access at a discount.

Who should and shouldn’t get a United credit card?

As you might expect, United Airlines’ credit card benefits do no good to someone who doesn’t fly United. Most perks you’ll receive, such as priority boarding, one free checked bag, even exclusive award availability, only benefit you if you’re a United Airlines flyer.

Some United cards come with United and Star Alliance airport lounge access. But you must have a same-day boarding pass for United OR one of its partners. In other words, if you don’t fly United or its partners, these cards will do you no good.

However, even if you fly United just a couple of times per year, you could save $120+ in checked bag fees. And the miles you earn with the card can be used to fly United Airlines partners — they’re good for much more than just United flights.

Can you have more than one United Airlines credit card?

There are a total of five co-branded United credit cards — and you can have them all. That means you can earn as many welcome bonuses as are on offer. We don’t recommend keeping all the United cards, though. Many overlapping benefits make the annual fees you’d pay far from worth it.

I have the United℠ Explorer Card (in my opinion the single best airline credit card because of its diverse perks), and that serves all my United Airlines flying needs. I may eventually opt for the United Club Infinite card for its stellar lounge access and cancel my current United card.

Which card is best for United elite flyers?

Far and away the best United card for elite flyers is a premium card like the United Club Infinite. If you’re elite with United Airlines, you fly them often and will likely use their airport lounges (or the lounges of partner airlines). Plus, you’ll get 4 United miles per dollar for your spending (more than any other United card).

And because COVID-19 has really funked up this year for travel, United is allowing you to earn 4,000 Premier Qualifying Points by spending on your card. Unfortunately, this will only help you to achieve Platinum status with United, not 1K status.

How we choose the best United Airlines credit cards

Welcome bonus: The fastest way to a free vacation is by earning large welcome bonuses. Earning a single bonus could net you a round-trip coach flight to Asia, a lie-flat business class seat to Europe or many other things.

Rewards for everyday purchases: If you fly United Airlines with frequency, you’ll want a card that gives you a large return on United purchases — and United miles for everyday spending. If you choose one that earns rewards to match your daily spending patterns, it’s an especially great way to steadily accumulate points for your next trip.

Perks and benefits: This is the true meat of a credit card. Ongoing perks like free checked bags, lounge access, priority boarding, etc. can save you hundreds and hundreds each year, not to mention enhance your travel experience.

Other ways to earn United Airlines miles

Don’t forget, United Airlines is a Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partner. This means you can transfer these flexible points directly to the airline if you have these popular credit cards:

  • Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve®

These cards often have a better earnings rate than United Airlines credit cards. Plus, if you have any of the Chase Ultimate Rewards cards mentioned above, you can combine points from these no-annual-fee Chase Ultimate Rewards cards and move them to United Airlines as well:

  • Ink Business Cash Credit Card
  • Ink Business Unlimited Credit Card
  • Chase Freedom® (no longer available to new applicants)
  • Chase Freedom Unlimited®
  • Chase Freedom Flex℠

Bottom line

Anyone looking for a United Airlines card has five options to choose from. Let us know your favorite among the bunch! And subscribe to our newsletter for United Airlines travel tips and tricks to getting the most from your miles.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases.

  • 2X points on dining at restaurants including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.

  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel.

  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.

  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash’s subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.

  • Earn 2x total points on up to $1,000 in grocery store purchases per month from November 1, 2020 to April 30, 2021. Includes eligible pick-up and delivery services.

Intro APR on purchases

N/A

Regular APR

15.99%-22.99% Variable

Annual Fee

$95

Balance Transfer Fee

Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.

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