Chase is launching a revamped version of United Airlines’ no-annual-fee travel credit card offering far more valuable rewards and ways to earn more from local, on-the-ground travel.
According to a letter sent to existing United TravelBank Card holders, the airline’s most basic travel card will become the United Gateway Card on Sept. 21. Instead of earning TravelBank Cash on their purchases, cardholders will earn United’s frequent flyer miles—one of the more valuable currencies among the major U.S. airlines. Plus, cardholders will get 2 United MileagePlus miles for every dollar they spend on gas and commuting expenses, in addition to United flights.
Since the current card only offers bonus rewards on purchases with United, the additional opportunities to earn bonus miles may make the card more appealing to use when air travel is uncertain at best. Even for cardholders grounded during the pandemic, gas and other routine transit expenses can help them rack up United miles for future vacations.
Instead of earning 2% back in TravelBank cash on United tickets, cardholders will earn 2 MileagePlus miles per $1 spent with the airline. Based on The Balance’s calculations, each mile is worth an average of 2.28 cents when used for flights, more than double what some competitors’ airline miles are worth and far more valuable than the 1 cent afforded by TravelBank cash.
To illustrate the relative value, let’s say you spent $1,000 on United flights. With the United TravelBank Card, you’d earn $20 in TravelBank cash rewards to use toward future flights. With the new United Gateway Card, you’d earn 2,000 miles worth about $45 toward flights, based on our average valuation.
The TravelBank card—closed to new applicants since May—has been an outlier among the other United-branded credit cards, which all participate in the frequent flyer program.
Besides the 2% in TravelBank cash on United flights, cardholders have been earning 1.5% back in TravelBank cash on everything else. With the new Gateway card, even though any charges outside the bonus categories will only earn 1 mile per $1, the miles are so much more valuable than the TravelBank cash, cardholders still come out ahead.
The new Gateway card will be more competitive with other no-annual-fee airline cards that reward everyday spending categories with extra miles. The Delta SkyMiles Blue American Express Card offers bonus miles at restaurants and the JetBlue Card pays extra rewards at restaurants and grocery stores.
The new card will be sent to existing cardholders by Oct. 31. It will add a few travel benefits such as roadside assistance and travel and emergency services, but price protection will be removed. Until then, cardholders can continue using their TravelBank cards, and can access and add to their TravelBank accounts.
A Chase spokeswoman confirmed the contents of the letter in an email to The Balance. She declined to comment on when the new card will be made available to new applicants and on what will happen to TravelBank cash balances that aren’t big enough for a flight when the new cards are issued.