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Best United Airlines Credit Cards of 2019

Whether you fly for business or pleasure, you've likely spent time aboard a United aircraft. With hubs in major cities like Chicago, Denver and San Francisco, United Airlines is one of the top three largest carriers in the country. As such, the airline offers a variety of credit cards that cater to all types of travelers. We've highlighted some of the best options below.

Recommended Cards

Best ForCredit NeededAnnual Fee
United℠ Explorer Card
United℠ Explorer CardMost peopleGood/Excellent$95 ($0 first year)
United℠ Explorer Business Card
United℠ Explorer Business CardBusiness ownersGood/Excellent$95 ($0 first year)
United MileagePlus® Club Card
United MileagePlus® Club CardUnited Club accessGood/Excellent$450

Continue reading below for the benefits and features of the top United cards—and for our recommendation on the best non-United card for earning MileagePlus miles. You can also check out our comparison tool at the bottom of the page to see how each card performs for your spending habits and budget.

Best United Airlines Credit Card Overall

The United℠ Explorer Card is our favorite card for United frequent flyers due to its points-earning potential, free checked bag benefit and host of travel perks—among which include a Global Entry credit, two passes to the United Club and priority boarding. For a card with a $95 fee, the United℠ Explorer Card offers considerable benefits compared to its peers.

Travel Benefits for an Excellent Price

If you're a frequent flyer on United, the United℠ Explorer Card offers enough benefits to more than offset its $95 annual fee. For starters, you'll get a free checked bag on every flight, which is a value of $60 per round trip. You'll also get a $100 Global Entry or TSA Precheck reimbursement, two United Club passes (a value of $118), and a 25% discount on in-flight Wi-Fi, food and drink purchases on United flights.

Top Co-Branded Choice for Earning Miles

The United℠ Explorer Card is an excellent choice for travelers looking to accumulate MileagePlus miles. You'll earn 2 miles per dollar spent on hotel stays, restaurants and United purchases and 1 mile per dollar spent on everything else. There's also an excellent welcome bonus with the United℠ Explorer Card: spend $2,000 in the first three months your account is open and get 40,000 MileagePlus miles.

Best United Card for Small-Business Owners

On Chase's Secure Website

United℠ Explorer Business Card

On Chase's Secure Website
Limited Time Offer: Earn 75,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 75,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open
  • $0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95.
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 at restaurants, gas stations and office supply stores
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 on United purchases and 1 mile per $1 on all other purchases
  • Free checked bag - save up to $120 per roundtrip
  • Two one-time United Club℠ passes each year — more than a $100 value
  • Priority boarding for you and companions on the same reservation on United-operated flights
  • Employee cards at no additional cost
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 75,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open
  • $0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95.
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 at restaurants, gas stations and office supply stores
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 on United purchases and 1 mile per $1 on all other purchases
  • Free checked bag - save up to $120 per roundtrip
  • Two one-time United Club℠ passes each year — more than a $100 value
  • Priority boarding for you and companions on the same reservation on United-operated flights
  • Employee cards at no additional cost
Annual Fee
$0 Intro for the First Year, then $95
APR
18.24% - 25.24% Variable
Credit Needed
Excellent

The United℠ Explorer Business Card is a great choice for small-business owners who travel with United. The card offers 2 MileagePlus miles per dollar on all purchases made with United and 1 mile per dollar on all other purchases. You'll also benefit from some of the same perks provided by the consumer version of this card, like a free checked bag and two United Club passes.

Hundreds in Annual Value for Frequent Flyers

If you're a frequent flyer on United, the benefits of the United℠ Explorer Business Card will outweigh the $95 annual fee (waived the first year) after the first few flights. The card provides one free checked bag per flight for you and a travel companion, which is a $120 value per round trip. Plus, you'll get two passes to the United Club, no foreign transaction fees and a 75,000-mile welcome bonus after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.

Best Credit Card for United MileagePlus Club Access

United MileagePlus® Club Card
This card is not available through ValuePenguin.
United MileagePlus® Club Card
This card is not available through ValuePenguin.

United MileagePlus® Club Card

United MileagePlus® Club Card
This card is not available through ValuePenguin.
United MileagePlus® Club Card
This card is not available through ValuePenguin.
50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open
  • 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
  • United Club℠ membership - up to a $550 value per year
  • Check your first and second bag for free (a savings of up to $240 per roundtrip) when you use your Card to purchase your ticket.
  • Enjoy Premier Access® travel services to ease your way through the airport with priority check-in, security screening (where available), boarding and baggage handling privileges.
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on tickets purchased from United.
  • Earn 1.5 miles per $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $450 annual fee
  • 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
  • United Club℠ membership - up to a $550 value per year
  • Check your first and second bag for free (a savings of up to $240 per roundtrip) when you use your Card to purchase your ticket.
  • Enjoy Premier Access® travel services to ease your way through the airport with priority check-in, security screening (where available), boarding and baggage handling privileges.
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on tickets purchased from United.
  • Earn 1.5 miles per $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $450 annual fee
Annual Fee
$450
APR
16.99% - 23.99% Variable
Credit Needed
Excellent Credit

If your main priority is getting discounted access to United's network of airport lounges, the United MileagePlus® Club Card is the best choice for you. For a $450 annual fee, you'll get access to the United Club, plus 1.5 MileagePlus miles on all purchases and two free checked bags per flight.

Decent Rewards on Everyday Spending

The United MileagePlus® Club Card doesn't have the highest rewards rate of the United cards on airfare purchases, but it offers a decent return on everyday purchases. While the other cards earn 1 mile per dollar on nonbonus spending, the United MileagePlus® Club Card offers 1.5 miles on all purchases.

Consider Other Cards with Lounge Access

Depending on how often you fly United, you may want to consider other cards with a lounge access benefit, like American Express® Gold Card or the Chase Sapphire Reserve®. Both of these cards come with a Priority Pass membership, which gives you access to hundreds of international and domestic lounges.

Best United Card Without an Annual Fee

United℠ TravelBank Card
This card is not available through ValuePenguin.
United℠ TravelBank Card
This card is not available through ValuePenguin.

United℠ TravelBank Card

United℠ TravelBank Card
This card is not available through ValuePenguin.
United℠ TravelBank Card
This card is not available through ValuePenguin.
  • $150 in TravelBank cash after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open
  • Earn 2% in TravelBank cash per $1 spent on airline tickets purchased from United
  • Earn 1.5% in TravelBank cash per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Enjoy 25% back as a statement credit on purchases of food and beverages onboard United-operated flights, when you pay with your United TravelBank Card.
  • TravelBank cash is easy to use. $1 in TravelBank cash = $1 when used toward the purchase of a United ticket.
  • Your TravelBank cash accumulates in your United TravelBank account on United.com. There's no limit to how much TravelBank cash you can earn.
  • $0 Annual fee
  • $150 in TravelBank cash after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open
  • Earn 2% in TravelBank cash per $1 spent on airline tickets purchased from United
  • Earn 1.5% in TravelBank cash per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Enjoy 25% back as a statement credit on purchases of food and beverages onboard United-operated flights, when you pay with your United TravelBank Card.
  • TravelBank cash is easy to use. $1 in TravelBank cash = $1 when used toward the purchase of a United ticket.
  • Your TravelBank cash accumulates in your United TravelBank account on United.com. There's no limit to how much TravelBank cash you can earn.
  • $0 Annual fee
Annual Fee
No Annual Fee
APR
16.99% - 23.99% Variable
Credit Needed
N/A

The United℠ TravelBank Card is a decent pick for United flyers who are more concerned with earning free flights than getting travel perks. As the card name implies, you'll earn TravelBank cash, which can be applied toward United flights, rather than MileagePlus miles. The card earns 2% back in United TravelBank cash on United flight purchases and 1.5% back on all other purchases.

TravelBank Cash vs MileagePlus Miles

A potential downside to the United℠ TravelBank Card is that it doesn't earn MileagePlus miles. One of the benefits of opening a co-branded airline card is earning miles to redeem for free flights on your favorite airline. Miles are a valuable currency because you can often find flight redemptions that net a value of 2 to 3 cents per mile (miles are usually worth 1 cent). TravelBank cash is a lot less flexible, given that $1 in TravelBank cash will always be worth $1 toward a United flight.

Not the Highest Rewards Rate

The United℠ TravelBank Card earns 2% back on United flights and 1.5% back on other purchases, neither of which is the highest return on spending for a card with no annual fee. Consider that the Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card earns 3% back on all flight purchases—regardless of airline—while the Citi® Double Cash Card effectively earns 2% back: 1% when you make a purchase and 1% when you pay your bill.

Best Non-United Card for Earning United Miles

On Chase's Secure Website

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

On Chase's Secure Website
50,000 Ultimate Rewards when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred named "Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption" - Kiplinger's Personal Finance, June 2018
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred named "Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption" - Kiplinger's Personal Finance, June 2018
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards
Annual Fee
$0 Intro for the First Year, then $95
APR
18.24% - 25.24% Variable
Credit Needed
Excellent Credit

If you're looking to earn United miles and don't care about benefits like free checked bags and priority boarding, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is a much better choice for you than the United℠ Explorer Card. With the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, you'll earn 2 Chase Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on travel and dining purchases and 1 point per dollar spent elsewhere.

Chase Ultimate Rewards vs MileagePlus Miles

One of the advantages of getting a Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is that the Ultimate Rewards points can be transferred to 13 travel partners, which includes United. You'll get a 1:1 ratio on transfers to United. Alternatively, when you redeem your Ultimate Rewards points through Chase's travel portal, you'll get 25% more value.

Excellent Welcome Bonus

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card also comes with a great sign-up bonus: 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points ($500 cash value) after spending $4,000 in the first three months of account opening. Points are worth 25% more when you redeem for travel on the Chase portal, so this is a potential value of $625.

Best Non-United Card for Lounge Access

On American Express' Secure Website

The Platinum Card® from American Express

On American Express' Secure Website
Earn 60,000 points after you spend $5,000 on purchases on your new card in your first 3 months
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
  • Enjoy Uber VIP status and free rides in the U.S. up to $15 each month, plus a bonus $20 in December. That can be up to $200 in annual Uber savings.
  • 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
  • 5X Membership Rewards points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.
  • Enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
  • Receive complimentary benefits with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts. Learn More.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline.
  • Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue on your Platinum Card®. Enrollment required.
  • $550 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
  • Enjoy Uber VIP status and free rides in the U.S. up to $15 each month, plus a bonus $20 in December. That can be up to $200 in annual Uber savings.
  • 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
  • 5X Membership Rewards points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.
  • Enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
  • Receive complimentary benefits with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts. Learn More.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline.
  • Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue on your Platinum Card®. Enrollment required.
  • $550 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Annual Fee
$550
*Rates and Fees
APR
N/A
Credit Needed
Excellent/Good

Like the United MileagePlus® Club Card, The Platinum Card® from American Express is a premium credit card that offers lounge access as a benefit included in the card's annual fee. However, the United MileagePlus® Club Card provides access to United Club lounges, while The Platinum Card® from American Express offers a Priority Pass membership and access to American Express's Centurion Lounge collection.

Worth the Annual Fee for Travelers

For a $550 annual fee, The Platinum Card® from American Express comes with a host of travel benefits aside from lounge access. These include a $200 annual airline fee credit and $15 in monthly Uber credits. You'll also get a $100 Global Entry voucher, car rental loss and damage insurance, SPG Gold Elite status, and Hilton Honors Gold Status.

Industry-Leading Rewards Rate

The Platinum Card® from American Express also has an excellent welcome bonus and rewards rate on travel purchases. The card earns 5 Membership Rewards points on flights booked directly with airlines or on American Express's travel portal. If you spend a lot on airfare, this is a great card for maximizing those purchases.

Compare United Airlines Credit Cards

If you're unsure which of the credit cards we recommended fits your needs, you can use the comparison tool to see how each card performs based on your budget. Simply click on the gear symbol to adjust the spending categories.

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Yowana Wamala

Yowana is a Junior Research Analyst at ValuePenguin, specializing in travel and rewards programs. He previously covered mortgages and banking for the website before graduating from Columbia University with a B.A. in Political Science.

Comments and Questions

Opinions, analyses, reviews, or recommendations expressed here are the author's alone, and have not been reviewed or endorsed by the issuer. We may be compensated through the issuer's Affiliate Program. For a full list of our advertisers see our disclosure page

* See the online credit card application for details about terms and conditions. Reasonable efforts are made to maintain accurate information. However all credit card information is presented without warranty. When you click on the "Apply Now" button, you can review the credit card terms and conditions on the issuer's website.

Info about the following cards: Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express, Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express, Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express, Hilton Honors Surpass® Credit Card, American Express® Blue Sky, American Express® Green Card, The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express, The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express, The Plenti® Credit Card from Amex, Blue from American Express®, Platinum Card® from American Express Exclusively for Mercedes-Benz, Bluebird, Centurion® Card from American Express, Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, Starwood Preferred Guest® American Express Luxury Card, Amazon Business American Express Card, and Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card has been collected independently by ValuePenguin. The issuer did not provide the details, nor is it responsible for their accuracy.

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program.

These responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

How We Calculate Rewards: ValuePenguin calculates the value of rewards by estimating the dollar value of any points, miles or bonuses earned using the card less any associated annual fees. These estimates here are ValuePenguin's alone, not those of the card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer.

Example of how we calculate the rewards rates: When redeemed for travel through Ultimate Rewards, Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card points are worth $0.0125 each. The card awards 2 points on travel and dining and 1 point on everything else. Therefore, we say the card has a 2.5% rewards rate on dining and travel (2 x $0.0125) and a 1.25% rewards rate on everything else (1 x $0.0125).