United Airlines Credit Cards [2021]: Which One is Best for You?

If you fly on United, signing up for a branded credit card could help you earn valuable rewards and luxurious perks.
Last updated Oct 1, 2021 | By Kat Tretina , Ben Walker
Passengers sitting in airplane seats

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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 40,000 bonus miles after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months 2X miles on dining, hotel stays, and United purchases and 1X miles on everything else
  • Free first checked bag
  • Priority boarding
  • 25% back on in-flight purchases
  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fee credit
  • Two United Club one-time passes each year
$95 (waived first year)
United Quest Card Earn 80,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months 3X miles on United purchases (after $125 annual United credit); 2X miles on all other travel, dining, and select streaming services; and 1X miles on all other purchases
  • $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
  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fee credit
$250
United Gateway Card Earn 15,000 miles after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months (plus, earn 3X on grocery store purchases up to $15,000 in your first year of account membership) 2X miles on United purchases, at gas stations, and on transit and commuting; plus 1X on all other purchases
  • 25% back on in-flight purchases
$0
United Club Infinite Card Earn 75,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months 4X miles on United purchases; 2X miles on other travel and dining (including eligible delivery services), 1X miles on all other purchases
  • United Club membership
  • Premier Access
  • Free first and second checked bags
  • 25% back on in-flight purchases
  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fee credit
$525
United Business Card Earn 75,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months 2X miles on United purchases and dining (including eligible delivery services), at gas stations, office supply stores, and on local transit and commuting; and 1X miles on everything else
  • 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 (waived first year)
United Club Business Card Earn 75,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first three months 2X miles on United 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 2X miles on dining, hotel stays, and United purchases and 1X miles on everything else. Plus, there’s the sign-up bonus: Earn 40,000 bonus miles after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.

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:

  • $100 statement credit for TSA PreCheck 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 — a $100 value
  • Auto rental damage collision waiver (primary coverage)
  • Baggage delay insurance
  • Lost luggage reimbursement
  • Trip cancellation or interruption insurance
  • Trip delay reimbursement
  • No foreign transaction fees

Best Rewards for United

Intro Offer

40,000 miles

Annual Fee

$95

Rewards Rate

up to 2X miles

Benefits and Drawbacks

Benefits

  • 40,000 mile sign-up bonus
  • 2X miles on United purchases, dining, and hotel stays
  • Free first checked bag
  • 2 United Club Passes annually

Drawbacks

  • Has annual fee after year one
  • Best usage limited to United flyers
Card Details
  • Earn 40,000 bonus miles after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
  • 2X miles on dining, hotel stays, and United purchases and 1X miles on everything else

United Quest Card

The United Quest Card offers 3X miles on United purchases (after $125 annual United credit); 2X miles on all other travel, dining, and select streaming services; and 1X miles on all other purchases. In addition, you can earn the sign-up bonus of 80,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months, which can help offset the $250 annual fee.

You also receive these benefits:

  • $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
  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fee credit
  • Reward seat upgrades
  • 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
  • No foreign transaction fees

Free Checked Bags for United Fans

Intro Offer

80,000 bonus miles

Annual Fee

$250

Rewards Rate

up to 3X miles

Benefits and Drawbacks

Benefits

  • 80,000 bonus miles sign-up offer
  • Up to 3X miles on purchases
  • $125 annual United credit
  • First and second bag checked free

Drawbacks

  • Has annual fee
Card Details
  • Earn 80,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months
  • 3X miles on United purchases (after $125 annual United credit); 2X miles on all other travel, dining, and select streaming services; and 1X miles on all other purchases

United Gateway Card

With the United Gateway Card, you can earn 2X miles on United purchases, at gas stations, and on transit and commuting; plus 1X on all other purchases. The sign-up bonus consists of earning 15,000 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
  • No foreign transaction fees

A No Annual Fee Card for United Fans

Intro Offer

15,000 miles

Annual Fee

$0

Rewards Rate

up to 2X miles

Benefits and Drawbacks

Benefits

  • Earn 15,000 bonus miles + 3X on groceries for first year
  • 2X miles on United purchases, gas stations, and transit
  • No annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fees

Drawbacks

  • Limited travel perks
Card Details
  • Earn 15,000 miles after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months (plus, earn 3X on grocery store purchases up to $15,000 in your first year of account membership)
  • 2X miles on United purchases, at gas stations, and on transit and commuting; plus 1X on all other purchases

United Club Infinite Card

The United Club Infinite Card has a $525 annual fee, but its earning potential, benefits, and sign-up bonus can help to offset the cost. You can earn 75,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months and your earning rates include 4X miles on United purchases; 2X miles on other travel and dining (including eligible delivery services), 1X miles 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
  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fee credit
  • Hertz President’s Circle 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
  • No foreign transaction fees

A Premium Card for United Flyers

Intro Offer

75,000 bonus miles

Annual Fee

$525

Rewards Rate

Up to 4X miles

Benefits and Drawbacks

Benefits

  • 75,000 bonus miles
  • 4X points on United purchases and 2X points on other travel and dining
  • First and second checked bags are free (terms apply)
  • United Club membership
  • Up to $100 Global Entry or TSA Precheck Credit

Drawbacks

  • High annual fee
  • Benefits focused on travel with United
Card Details
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months
  • 4X miles on United purchases; 2X miles on other travel and dining (including eligible delivery services), 1X miles on all other purchases

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 (waived first year).

The welcome bonus is also generous: earn 75,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. You’ll earn 2X miles on United purchases and dining (including eligible delivery services), at gas stations, office supply stores, and on local transit and commuting; and 1X miles on everything else.

The card comes with other benefits, including:

  • Free first checked bag
  • Priority boarding
  • Two United Club one-time passes each cardmember anniversary — 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

Great value for a low fee!

Intro Offer

75,000 miles

Annual Fee

$99

Rewards Rate

up to 2X miles

Benefits and Drawbacks

Benefits

  • 75,000 mile sign-up bonus
  • 2X miles on United purchases, dining, at gas stations, office supply stores, and on local transit and commuting
  • $100 annual United credit (terms apply)
  • 5,000 bonus miles annually if you also have a personal United card
  • Free checked bag, priority boarding, and 2 United Club passes annually

Drawbacks

  • Earning bonus could be hard for some
  • Best for frequent United travelers
Card Details
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
  • 2X miles on United purchases and dining (including eligible delivery services), at gas stations, office supply stores, and on local transit and commuting; and 1X miles on everything else

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 sign up for the card, you’ll earn 75,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first three months. You’ll also earn 2X miles on United purchases, plus 1.5X miles on all other purchases.

You’ll get other valuable perks like:

  • Free United Club membership — a $550 value
  • First and second free checked bags
  • Premier access travel services
  • Hertz Gold Plus Rewards President’s Circle Elite Status
  • 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

Free Bags and Free Employee Cards

United Club Business Card

United Club Business Card

United Club Business Card

Intro Offer

75,000 bonus miles

Annual Fee

$450

Rewards Rate

up to 2X miles

Benefits and Drawbacks

Benefits

  • 75,000 bonus mile sign-up offer
  • 2X miles on United purchases, 1.5X miles on all other purchases
  • United Club membership
  • Free employee cards

Drawbacks

  • Has annual fee
Card Details
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first three months
  • 2X miles on United purchases, plus 1.5X miles on all other purchases

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 credits
  • $100 in statement credits for hotel charges
  • Access to over 1,200 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
Amex Platinum Card $695 (See rates and fees) (Terms apply)
  • Earns Amex Membership Rewards points
  • Access to 1,200 airport lounges
  • Up to $200 in Uber credits
  • $100 in hotel credits
  • TSA PreCheck or Global Entry credit
  • Gold Status with the Marriott Bonvoy program and Gold Elite Status with the Hilton Honors program
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 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
  • No foreign transaction fees
Capital One VentureOne Rewards $0
  • Shopping discounts
  • Auto rental collision damage waiver (secondary coverage)
  • Travel and emergency assistance services
  • No foreign transaction fees

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 a $550 value.

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 Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve Card, or the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Card.

Best Rewards for United

Intro Offer

40,000 miles

Annual Fee

$95

Rewards Rate

up to 2X miles

Benefits and Drawbacks

Benefits

  • 40,000 mile sign-up bonus
  • 2X miles on United purchases, dining, and hotel stays
  • Free first checked bag
  • 2 United Club Passes annually

Drawbacks

  • Has annual fee after year one
  • Best usage limited to United flyers
Card Details
  • Earn 40,000 bonus miles after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
  • 2X miles on dining, hotel stays, and United purchases and 1X miles on everything else

Author Details

Kat Tretina Kat Tretina is a freelance writer based in Orlando, Florida. Her work has been published by publications like The Huffington Post, Entrepreneur, MarketWatch, and more. She specializes in producing content around paying down debt, increasing income, and maximizing credit cards. You can view her work at www.KTretina.com, or contact her on Twitter @KatTretina.
Ben Walker Ben Walker is a credit cards and travel writer at FinanceBuzz who loves helping others achieve their travel goals through financially-sound decisions. For nearly a decade, he has been using credit card points and miles for the sole purpose of traveling the world. Ben has been featured in The Washington Post, MSN, Debt.com, and Finder.com.