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Best United Airlines Credit Cards of 2019

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any credit card issuer.

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
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 $120 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 bonus 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 up to 100,000 after qualifying purchases.
  • Earn 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open
  • Plus, 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $25,000 total on purchases in the first 6 months your account is open
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 at restaurants, gas stations and office supply stores.
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on United purchases. And 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • Free checked bag - save up to $120 per roundtrip (terms apply)
  • Two one-time United ClubSM passes each year - Over $100 in value per year
  • Employee cards at no additional cost - miles earned from their purchases accrue in your account. Plus, you can set individual spending limits for each card.
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn up to 100,000 after qualifying purchases.
  • Earn 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open
  • Plus, 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $25,000 total on purchases in the first 6 months your account is open
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 at restaurants, gas stations and office supply stores.
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on United purchases. And 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • Free checked bag - save up to $120 per roundtrip (terms apply)
  • Two one-time United ClubSM passes each year - Over $100 in value per year
  • Employee cards at no additional cost - miles earned from their purchases accrue in your account. Plus, you can set individual spending limits for each card.
Annual Fee
$95
Regular APR
18.24% - 25.24% Variable
Credit Needed
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"There are various types of credit scores. Each creditor uses a variety of different types of credit scores to make lending decisions."}
Excellent
Editor's Rating
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"Our team rates credit cards objectively based on independent research, the features the credit card offers users, and how it compares with other available cards in its category. The ratings are the opinion of our editors, and are not influenced by any outside factors, including any compensation the site may receive from certain advertisers."}

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 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.

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
  • United Club membership
  • First and second bags are checkable for free
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • Miles don't expire
  • United Club membership
  • First and second bags are checkable for free
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • Miles don't expire
Annual Fee
$450
Regular APR
15.99%
Credit Needed
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"There are various types of credit scores. Each creditor uses a variety of different types of credit scores to make lending decisions."}
Good
Editor's Rating
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"Our team rates credit cards objectively based on independent research, the features the credit card offers users, and how it compares with other available cards in its category. The ratings are the opinion of our editors, and are not influenced by any outside factors, including any compensation the site may receive from certain advertisers."}

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.

The information related to the United MileagePlus® Club Card has been collected by ValuePenguin and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

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
Regular APR
16.99% - 23.99% Variable
Credit Needed
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"There are various types of credit scores. Each creditor uses a variety of different types of credit scores to make lending decisions."}
N/A
Editor's Rating
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"Our team rates credit cards objectively based on independent research, the features the credit card offers users, and how it compares with other available cards in its category. The ratings are the opinion of our editors, and are not influenced by any outside factors, including any compensation the site may receive from certain advertisers."}

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.

The information related to the United℠ TravelBank Card and Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card has been collected by ValuePenguin and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

Best Non-United Card for Earning United Miles

On Chase's Secure Website

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

On Chase's Secure Website
Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
Annual Fee
$95
Regular APR
18.24% - 25.24% Variable
Credit Needed
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"There are various types of credit scores. Each creditor uses a variety of different types of credit scores to make lending decisions."}
Excellent
Editor's Rating
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"Our team rates credit cards objectively based on independent research, the features the credit card offers users, and how it compares with other available cards in its category. The ratings are the opinion of our editors, and are not influenced by any outside factors, including any compensation the site may receive from certain advertisers."}

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: 60,000 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 $750.

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.
  • 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.
Annual Fee
$550
Regular APR
N/A
Credit Needed
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"There are various types of credit scores. Each creditor uses a variety of different types of credit scores to make lending decisions."}
Good, Excellent
Editor's Rating
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"Our team rates credit cards objectively based on independent research, the features the credit card offers users, and how it compares with other available cards in its category. The ratings are the opinion of our editors, and are not influenced by any outside factors, including any compensation the site may receive from certain advertisers."}

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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FAQs about United credit cards

Below are some common questions people have about the United MileagePlus credit cards.

How do United MileagePlus miles work?

You'll earn United miles by spending with your co-branded credit card and purchasing airline tickets from United. Once you're earned miles, you can use them for airline tickets on United or other travel expenses.

Which United credit card is best?

The best United credit card depends on your spending habits and travel preferences. However, we'd suggest the United℠ Explorer Card for most people. It earns 2 points per dollar on hotel stays, restaurants and United purchases, and it comes with a competitive welcome offer.

Yowana Wamala

Yowana is a product analyst at ValuePenguin, specializing in credit cards, rewards programs and travel. He previously covered mortgages, banking and insurance for the website. Yowana graduated from Columbia University with a B.A. in Political Science.

Comments and Questions

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.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which ValuePenguin receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). ValuePenguin does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

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 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).