Who Is This Credit Card Best For?
If you’ve been wanting to dip your toes in the travel rewards game, but don’t want to pay the steep annual fees or mess with complicated rewards programs, this card is one to consider. However, you’ll need to be a United Airlines fan because you can’t use the rewards you earn on the card anywhere else. In fact, we recommend this card for people who live near one of United’s hubs, since this will give you the most opportunities to use it.
No annual fee
No foreign transaction fee
Small welcome bonus
Limited rewards program
- No annual fee: The card doesn’t offer great value compared to some other travel rewards cards, but you won't have to make up for an annual fee.
- No foreign transaction fee: On your next international trip, you can swipe away without worry of foreign transaction fees. This is standard on most travel credit cards, but it’s still worth noting.
- Small welcome bonus: You can find better opening offers from other travel cards that also don't have annual fees.
- Limited rewards program: We hope you like flying on United and United alone, since that’s the only airline you can use these rewards for. (United’s other credit cards earn miles that can be used for partner flights as well as redeemed for hotel stays, car rentals, and more.)
Bonus for New Cardholders
If you spend at least $1,000 within the first three months of getting this card, you’ll get $150 in TravelBank cash. TravelBank is a separate rewards program administered by United, and once you reach the spending requirements, it’ll take a further six to eight weeks for the rewards to post to your account.
Any bonus is nice when you’re not paying an annual fee, but other travel cards without an annual fee have bonuses worth as much as $300.
If you fly United Airlines frequently, it might be better to sign up for one of the more premium United credit cards, such as the United Explorer card. Although it and the other United cards have annual fees, the rewards and perks can make up for the fees.
Earning Points & Rewards
This card earns cash in the TravelBank program, not MileagePlus, the airline’s main loyalty program and the one associated with other credit cards.
You’ll earn 2% TravelBank cash for every $1 you spend on United flights, and 1.5% TravelBank cash for all other purchases.
Your TravelBank cash rewards transfer to your TravelBank account at the end of each statement period. Once they’re in your TravelBank, your rewards won’t expire as long as you have some activity on your account at least once every 18 months.
Note that, unlike MileagePlus or other airline frequent flyer programs, you can’t earn TravelBank cash by flying. Your rewards earnings are limited to whatever you earn by making purchases with this credit card.
There are cards with no annual fee that offer 2% cash back on all purchases, which may be a better value. With a card like that, not only will you earn more rewards on non-United purchases, but you can spend your rewards on anything you want (including United tickets).
The TravelBank rewards program is a lot simpler than United’s MileagePlus rewards program. There are no options for redeeming your rewards for anything other than United and United Express airfare, and the value of your points won’t vary based on which flight you redeem your points for (as they would if you had MileagePlus rewards).
You’ll be able to use any TravelBank cash rewards saved up to purchase part or all of your flight. Simply, $1 in TravelBank cash equals $1 worth of travel on United or United Express flights.
For example, if you want to purchase a $400 flight, it will cost you $400 in TravelBank cash. Or you could pay, say, $233 in TravelBank cash and $167 in regular cash if you only had $233 worth of TravelBank cash in your account.
While we like the simple nature of this program, your rewards will on average be worth more with a credit card that earns MileagePlus miles. Because that program lets you redeem for some flights that are more expensive in dollars than they are in points, we value them at 2.19 cents each. TravelBank points are worth 1 cent each.
To see how the United TravelBank Card’s points stack up, check out our in-depth analysis of what credit card points are worth.
How to Get the Most Out Of This Card
There are two ways to use this card effectively. First, as with any bonus offer, make sure you’re able to spend $1,000 within the first three months in order to earn the $150 TravelBank cash bonus.
Second, use your card every time you purchase a flight from United, since this is how you’ll earn the highest rewards rate. You’ll have to spend $25,000 on United airfare or $33,334 on other purchases to earn enough TravelBank cash for a $500 plane ticket.
United TravelBank Card’s Excellent Perks
The card only offers one benefit that editors at The Balance have deemed as superior to the standard perks offered on most travel cards.
- Coverage for trip cancellation or interruption: You can be reimbursed for up to $1,500 per trip for non-refundable passenger fares if you have to cancel or interrupt your trip due to circumstances beyond your control, such as sickness or injury.
United TravelBank Card’s Other Features
- 25% back on United in-flight purchases
- Rental car collision insurance (secondary to your own policy)
- Insurance for stolen or damaged purchases
- Lowest advertised price match
You can expect an average customer service experience with Chase, the issuer of the United TravelBank credit card. In a 2020 J.D. Power survey, the company was ranked fourth out of 11 major credit card issuers, scoring 809 out of a possible 1,000. The industry average score was 810.
One customer service offering that Chase has that stands out is a credit score and monitoring service, called Chase Credit Journey. This service is free for anyone regardless of whether they have a Chase account or not.
Most of Chase’s security features are standard for the industry. One notable addition is the credit monitoring you get through the Chase Credit Journey tool. If you get an alert that your credit report has changed but you haven’t opened any accounts yourself, it can help you identify potential fraud.
United TravelBank Card’s Fees
None of the United TravelBank’s fees are out of the ordinary, especially for a travel rewards credit card. For example, there is no foreign transaction fee, but as with other travel cards, this is not one you’d want to use for balance transfers because those transactions are more expensive than they would be with some other cards.