United Airlines Credit Cards [2024]: Which One is Best for You?

CREDIT CARDS - TRAVEL CREDIT CARDS
If you fly on United, signing up for a branded credit card could help you earn valuable rewards and luxurious perks.
Updated Feb. 20, 2024
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United Airlines is one of the biggest carriers in the world, servicing 355 destinations and 158 million passengers in 2018. Customers keep coming back because of its robust MileagePlus program, which offers elite travel benefits.

If you want to earn free flights and MileagePlus points, you may be considering a United Airlines credit card. There are several options available, including both personal credit cards and business cards. But are they a smart choice for you? Here's what you need to know to decide.

In this article

What United Airlines credit cards offer

If you regularly fly on United Airlines, having a co-branded credit card can help you earn rewards, upgrades, and other travel benefits like helping you avoid checked bag fees on United.

Here are the United credit cards currently available:

Card Welcome bonus Earning rate United perks Annual fee
United℠ Explorer Card Earn 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open 2 miles per dollar spent on dining, hotel stays, and United purchases and 1 mile per dollar on all other purchases
  • Free first checked bag
  • Priority boarding
  • 25% back on in-flight purchases
  • Up to $100 fee credit for Global Entry, TSA PreCheck, or NEXUS 
  • Two United Club one-time passes each year
$95 (waived first year)
United Quest℠ Card Earn 70,000 bonus miles and 500 Premier qualifying points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open 3 miles per dollar spent on United purchases; 2 miles per dollar on dining, select streaming services, and all other travel; plus 1 mile per dollar on all other purchases
  • Up to $125 annual United credit
  • Two 5,000-mile bonus credits each year
  • Free first and second checked bags
  • Priority boarding
  • 25% back on in-flight purchases
  • Up to $100 fee credit for Global Entry, TSA PreCheck, or NEXUS
$250
United Gateway℠ Card Earn 30,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open 2 miles per dollar on United purchases, at gas stations, and on local transit and commuting; plus 1 mile per dollar on all other purchases
  • 25% back on in-flight purchases
$0
United Club℠ Infinite Card Earn 80,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening 4 miles per dollar on United purchases; 2 miles per dollar on all other travel and dining; plus 1 mile per dollar on all other purchases
  • United Club membership
  • Premier Access
  • Free first and second checked bags
  • 25% back on in-flight purchases
  • Up to $100 fee credit for Global Entry, TSA PreCheck, or NEXUS
$525
United℠ Business Card Earn 100,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open 2 miles per dollar spent on United purchases, dining, at gas stations, office supply stores, and on local transit and commuting; plus 1 mile per dollar spent on all other purchases
  • Free first checked bag
  • Priority boarding
  • Two United Club one-time passes each year
  • 25% back on in-flight purchases
  • Employee cards at no additional cost
$99
United Club℠ Business Card Earn 75,000 bonus miles, plus 1,000 Premier Qualifying Points (PQP), after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first three months 2X miles on United Airlines purchases, plus 1.5X miles on all other purchases
  • United Club Membership
  • Premier Access
  • Free first and second checked bags
  • 25% back on in-flight purchases
  • Employee cards at no additional cost
$450

United℠ Explorer Card

With the United Explorer Card, you can earn 2 miles per dollar spent on dining, hotel stays, and United purchases and 1 mile per dollar on all other purchases. Plus, there’s the welcome offer: Earn 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.

And those extra miles can go a long way — currently, you can find one-way domestic flights on United for as little as 12,500 miles.

You’ll also get comprehensive perks and benefits, including:

  • Up to $100 statement credit every four years for TSA PreCheck, NEXUS, or Global Entry
  • Free first checked bag for cardholder and one companion booked on the same reservation
  • 25% back on inflight purchases
  • Two United Club passes — over a $100 value
  • Auto rental damage collision waiver (primary coverage)
  • Baggage delay insurance
  • Lost luggage reimbursement
  • Trip cancellation or interruption insurance
  • Trip delay reimbursement
  • Foreign transaction fees: None

Check out our United Explorer Card review and get more details.

United Quest℠ Card

The United Quest Card offers 3 miles per dollar spent on United purchases; 2 miles per dollar on dining, select streaming services, and all other travel; plus 1 mile per dollar on all other purchases. In addition, you can earn the welcome offer of 70,000 bonus miles after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months, which can help offset the $250 annual fee.

You also receive these benefits:

  • Up to $125 annual United credit
  • Two 5,000-mile bonus credits each year
  • Free first and second checked bags
  • Priority boarding
  • 25% back on in-flight purchases
  • Up to a $100 fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck
  • Premier upgrades on reward seats
  • Auto rental damage collision waiver (primary coverage)
  • Baggage delay insurance
  • Lost luggage reimbursement
  • Trip cancellation or interruption insurance
  • Trip delay reimbursement
  • Purchase protection
  • Extended warranty protection
  • Foreign transaction fees: None

Check out our United Quest Card review and get more details.

United Gateway℠ Card

With the United Gateway Card, you can earn 2 miles per dollar on United purchases, at gas stations, and on local transit and commuting; plus 1 mile per dollar on all other purchases. The welcome offer consists of earning 30,000 bonus miles after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months. Since this card has a $0 annual fee, there’s no annual cost to worry about offsetting with your earnings.

Other benefits include:

  • 25% back on in-flight purchases
  • Auto rental damage collision waiver (secondary coverage)
  • Trip cancellation or interruption insurance
  • Purchase protection
  • Extended warranty protection
  • Foreign transaction fees: None

Check out our United Gateway Card review and get more details.

United Club℠ Infinite Card

The United Club Infinite Card has a $525 annual fee, but its earning potential, benefits, and welcome offer can help to offset the cost. You can earn 80,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months and your earning rates include 4 miles per dollar on United purchases; 2 miles per dollar on all other travel and dining; plus 1 mile per dollar on all other purchases.

The United Club Infinite also offers these benefits:

  • United Club membership
  • Premier Access
  • Free first and second checked bags
  • 25% back on in-flight purchases
  • 10% discount when you book United Economy Saver award flights within the continental U.S. or between the continental U.S. and Canada.
  • Up to $100 credit for Global Entry, TSA PreCheck, or NEXUS fees
  • IHG Rewards Platinum Elite status
  • Premier upgrades on award tickets
  • Auto rental damage collision waiver (primary coverage)
  • Baggage delay insurance
  • Lost luggage reimbursement
  • Trip cancellation or interruption insurance
  • Trip delay reimbursement
  • Purchase protection
  • Return protection
  • Extended warranty protection
  • Foreign transaction fees: None

Check out our United Club Infinite Card review and get more details.

United℠ Business Card

If you’re a small business owner and a frequent flyer for work, the United Business Card could be one of the best airline credit cards for your wallet. For a business credit card, it offers a lot of perks with a low annual fee of only $99.

The welcome offer is also generous: earn 100,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. You’ll earn 2 miles per dollar spent on United purchases, dining, at gas stations, office supply stores, and on local transit and commuting; plus 1 mile per dollar spent on all other purchases.

The card comes with other benefits, including:

  • Free first checked bag
  • Priority boarding
  • Two United Club one-time passes each cardmember anniversary — over a $100 value
  • Trip cancellation and interruption insurance
  • Baggage delay insurance
  • Lost luggage reimbursement
  • Trip delay reimbursement
  • Auto rental damage collision waiver (primary coverage)
  • Purchase protection
  • Extended warranty protection

Check out our United Business Card review and get more details.

United Club℠ Business Card

The United Club Business Card has a high annual fee, but its comprehensive rewards and benefits may offset its cost.

When you apply and are approved for the card, you’ll earn 75,000 bonus miles, plus 1,000 premier qualifying points (pqp), after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first three months. You’ll also earn 2X miles on United Airlines purchases, plus 1.5X miles on all other purchases.

You’ll get other valuable perks like:

  • Free United Club membership — up to $650 value per year
  • First and second free checked bags
  • Premier access travel services
  • Trip cancellation and interruption coverage
  • Baggage delay insurance
  • Lost luggage reimbursement
  • Trip delay reimbursement
  • Auto rental damage collision waiver (primary coverage)
  • Purchase protection
  • Price protection
  • Return protection
  • Extended warranty

Check out our United Club Business Card review and get more details.

Other cards United flyers should consider

While United Airlines credit cards may be beneficial for some customers, they’re not going to be the best credit cards for everyone. If you prefer to shop around with different airlines to find the cheapest flight rather than remaining loyal to a single airline, the United credit cards are likely not the best choice for your travel purchases.

Instead, consider applying for a general travel rewards card that isn’t specific to one brand. You may pay a higher annual fee in some cases, but you’ll get more flexibility in how you can redeem your points — plus other credit cards may offer more robust benefits that can also enhance your travel experience.

For example, if you sign up for The Platinum Card® from American Express, you’ll earn 5X points per dollar spent on eligible airfare (on up to $500,000 per calendar year, after that 1X) and eligible hotel purchases, and 1X points per dollar on all other eligible purchases. The ability to earn that much on airline purchases is a huge perk, potentially allowing you to earn more points than you could with a United-branded credit card.

The Amex Platinum card also offers premium benefits that the United cards don’t offer, such as:

  • Up to $200 a year in Uber Cash
  • Up to $200 back in statement credits each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection bookings (which requires a minimum two-night stay) with American Express Travel when you pay with your Amex Platinum
  • Access to over 1,400 airport lounges
  • Gold Elite Status with the Marriott Bonvoy program and Gold Status with the Hilton Honors program
  • Select benefits require enrollment

There are many different travel rewards credit cards from different card issuers that offer fantastic rewards and benefits. Here are three of our favorite credit card offers:

Card Annual Fee Other notable benefits
The Platinum Card® from American Express $695 (Terms apply)
  • Earns Amex Membership Rewards points
  • Access to 1,200 airport lounges
  • Up to $200 a year in Uber Cash
  • Up to $200 in hotel credits (which requires a minimum two-night stay)
  • Up to $100 every 4 years for Global Entry or up to $85 every 4.5 years for TSA PreCheck
  • Gold Status with the Marriott Bonvoy program and Gold Elite Status with the Hilton Honors program
  • Foreign transaction fees: None
  • Select benefits require enrollment
Chase Sapphire Reserve® $550
  • Earns Chase Ultimate Rewards points
  • $300 annual travel credit
  • TSA PreCheck or Global Entry credit
  • Access to over 1,000 airport lounges
  • Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection perks
  • Lyft ridesharing benefits
  • Foreign transaction fees: None
Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card $0
  • Shopping discounts
  • Auto rental collision damage waiver (secondary coverage)
  • Travel and emergency assistance services
  • Foreign transaction fees: None

Maximizing value with point transfers

Another perk of travel cards is point transfers. With this approach, you can transfer your points to a hotel chain or airline’s loyalty program. Completing a point transfer can sometimes give you more value for your points than you’d get with other redemption methods. In some cases, your points can have a higher value when transferred to an airline’s loyalty program, helping you snag better deals on flights.

United credit cards don’t offer this option — you can only use your points with United — so using a general travel card could allow you to better maximize your rewards.

FAQs

What is the best United Airlines credit card?

The best United Airlines credit card is the one that most aligns with your lifestyle and travel preferences. If you want free checked bags on United flights, consider a card like the United Explorer, United Quest, or United Club Infinite. Or, if you want to avoid an annual fee, the United Gateway is your best bet.

How many miles does it take for a free flight on United?

You typically need 10,000 miles or more for a one-way award flight with United, but it’s possible to find one-way flights for as low as 5,000 miles. For example, a one-way flight between Salt Lake City, Utah, and Denver, Colorado, or between Salt Lake City and Los Angeles, California, could cost around 5,000 miles.

Do United miles expire?

United MileagePlus miles don’t expire, so there’s no timer on when you have to use your miles or renew them with a qualifying activity.

Bottom line on credit cards for United passengers

When deciding which of the best travel credit cards is right for you, consider your travel and spending habits. If you tend to stick with one airline and travel at least a couple of times a year, the United credit cards could offer a lot of value. If you tend to check your luggage, you could save hundreds of dollars per trip. And if you value lounge access, getting a free United Club membership is up to a $650 value per year.

But if you tend to travel with just a carry-on and like to shop around to get the lowest fares, you’re likely better off with a general travel rewards card. You can maximize your points or cash back by opting for cards such as the Amex Platinum, Chase Sapphire Reserve, or the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Card.

Methodology

To select the best United Airlines credit cards, we compared a variety of co-branded cards with benefits for United passengers. We compared rewards rates, welcome offers, perks, and annual fees to recommend the best cards for frequent United customers.

Best Rewards for United

4.5

United℠ Explorer Card

Current Offer

Earn 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open

Annual Fee

$95 (waived first year)

Rewards Rate

2 miles per dollar spent on dining, hotel stays, and United purchases and 1 mile per dollar on all other purchases

Benefits and Drawbacks
Card Details

Author Details

Kat Tretina Kat Tretina is a personal finance expert focusing on practical financial matters, including student loans, debt repayment, side hustles, insurance, and healthcare. Drawing from her personal experience, she aims to simplify complex financial topics and provide individuals with the information they need to make informed decisions.
Ben Walker, CEPF, CFEI® Ben Walker, CEPF, CFEI®, is a Senior Credit Cards Writer at FinanceBuzz. For over a decade, he's leveraged credit card points and miles to travel the world. His expertise extends to other areas of personal finance — including loans, insurance, investing, and real estate — and you can find his insights on The Washington Post, Debt.com, Yahoo! Finance, and Fox Business.

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