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Earn Up to 100,000 Miles With These United Airlines Credit Card Bonuses

By Eric Rosen

Jul 7, 2021

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One of these credit card bonuses could be your ticket into United's swanky Polaris business class.

Courtesy of United Airlines.

One of these credit card bonuses could be your ticket into United's swanky Polaris business class.

United’s credit cards are offering some of their highest bonuses ever along with plenty of perks.

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It seems like every week another exciting travel credit card bonus launches. Today, the United℠ Explorer Card and the United Gateway℠ Card have just debuted some of their highest-ever introductory offers, with the chance to earn up to 70,000 bonus miles on the United Explorer, in particular. The United Quest℠ Card, meanwhile, continues to offer its own 100,000-mile bonus.

Even if you’re not planning to travel anytime soon, signing up for one of these cards could be the right opportunity to rack up the miles you’ll need for trips when you are ready to venture out into the world again. However, there are plenty of good reasons to apply for one of United’s other credit cards right now, too.

Bonus miles are just the beginning

Each of these cards offers its own set of advantages. Choosing the right one will depend on which bonus is most attractive to you, which annual fee is within your budget, and what kinds of purchases you tend to make from day to day.

United℠ Explorer Card

This middle-of-the-road mainstay is probably the best choice for most travelers given its moderate annual fee and outsized benefits.

  • Current welcome offer: Earn up to 70,000 bonus miles–60,000 after spending $3,000 within the first three months, and an additional 10,000 bonus miles after spending a total of $6,000 within the first six months. For context, the previous United Explorer introductory offer was just 40,000 bonus miles after spending $2,000 in the first three months.
  • Earning: Earn two miles per dollar spent on United Airlines purchases as well as on hotel accommodations and at restaurants, including eligible delivery services. Earn one mile per dollar on everything else.
  • Other benefits: Cardholders and a companion get a free checked bag when flying United and enjoy priority boarding as well as 25 percent back on in-flight purchases of food, drinks, and Wi-Fi. After every account anniversary, they also receive two one-time United Club passes. What’s more, cardholders can count on a statement credit of up to $100 for a Global Entry application (or $85 for TSA PreCheck) once every four years. This card has some excellent travel protections, too, including trip interruption and cancellation coverage as well as lost and delayed baggage insurance.
  • Annual fee: $0 for the first year, then $95

Why apply now?

This current introductory bonus is 30,000 more miles than usual and is also one of the best offers this credit card has ever extended. The miles you can earn by completing the spending requirement would be enough for over a dozen one-way economy tickets on short hops within the United States, or a round-trip ticket in economy from the U.S. to Europe or many cities in Asia. Apart from that, the United Explorer is a strong earner thanks to its dining and hotel bonus categories, and it is one of the few airline cards with an annual fee under $100 that includes a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck benefit. And the annual fee is waived the first year, so it’s basically a no-risk chance to earn a lot of United miles.

United Gateway℠ Card

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Although its initial bonus is lower than the Explorer’s, the fact that this card has no annual fee is a major selling point.

  • Current welcome offer: Earn up to 30,000 bonus miles–15,000 after you spend $1,000 on purchases within the first three months, and an additional 15,000 after you spend $3,000 total within the first six months. That’s 10,000 more miles than previously available and 20,000 more than this card typically offers.
  • Earning: Accrue two miles per dollar on United Airlines purchases, at gas stations, and on local transit and commuting, including rideshares, taxis, tolls, and mass transit.  Earn one mile per dollar on everything else.
  • Other benefits: Cardholders get 25 percent back on food, drinks, and Wi-Fi purchased on United flights. The card also waives foreign transaction fees.
  • Annual fee: $0

Why apply now?

Thinking about an airline credit card, but aren’t sure you want to commit to an annual fee? This starter card is the perfect choice whether you’re just getting into travel rewards or you simply want another way to boost your mileage account. Not only can you carry it year after year without being charged to do so, but it also has great earning potential built in. Sure, you won’t enjoy the same day-of-travel perks like free checked bags that you would with the United Explorer, the United Quest℠ Card, or the United Club℠ Infinite. But if you are a budget-minded traveler and want to save up miles for your next trip, the United Gateway Card is an excellent option.

Speaking of the United Quest Card and the United Club Infinite, although they have not launched new offers of their own, both are worth considering.

United Quest℠ Card

A higher annual fee also brings better benefits.

  • Current welcome offer: For a limited time, earn up to 100,000 bonus miles—80,000 after spending $5,000 in the first three months, and an additional 20,000 miles after spending a total of $10,000 in the first six months.
  • Earning: This card is a strong earner, raking in three miles per dollar on United purchases; two per dollar on all other travel including tickets purchased on other airlines, hotels, and more; two miles per dollar on dining and select streaming services like Netflix and Hulu; and one mile per dollar on everything else. 
  • Other benefits: Cardholders receive $125 in annual United purchase credits to put toward airline expenses, including tickets or things like baggage fees. Quest cardholders get two free checked bags for themselves and a companion on the same ticket, priority boarding, and 25 percent back on those in-flight purchases. They receive the same Global Entry/TSA PreCheck benefit as Explorer cardholders, too. Finally, they will get 5,000 miles back in their MileagePlus account after taking a United- or United Express–operated award flight booked with their miles—up to two times every anniversary year.
  • Annual fee: $250

Why apply now?

United just launched this new card in April, so it hasn’t been available long. The reason you might opt for it over some of the others on this list is that it is currently offering a higher welcome bonus with more miles—an offer that might not be around much longer. The card also features some outstanding benefits, including those annual flight credits and award mileage redeposits that can more than make up for its annual fee. It’s a good choice if you have or had another of the United cards but are looking for a quick boost to your MileagePlus account. 

United Club℠ Infinite Card

Want even more premium perks? This card comes with United Club membership, among other advantages.

  • Current welcome offer: Earn 75,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first three months. This card previously waived its $525 annual fee for the first year but came with no bonus miles for hitting a spending requirement.  
  • Earning: Get four miles per dollar spent on United Airlines purchases and two per dollar on travel and dining at restaurants, including eligible delivery services. Earn one mile per dollar on everything else.
  • Other benefits: The United Club Infinite’s most valuable perk: It includes United Club membership, so you can enjoy the airline’s lounges when you fly. Cardholders and a companion on the same reservation get a first and second free checked bag on United flights, plus Premier Access for priority check-in, security screening, and boarding at the airport. They also receive a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application statement credit once every four years and enjoy 25 percent back on in-flight purchases, as with the United Explorer.
  • Annual fee: $525

Why apply now?

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United Club membership might not have the same allure as usual at the moment if you’re not flying frequently. However, if you’re a regular United passenger and don’t currently have lounge access, or you usually purchase membership anyway, you might as well get this card and enjoy the facilities thanks to it. United Club membership usually costs $550–$650 depending on your elite status tier, so even with a $525 annual fee, you’re saving money. You can also expect a few elite perks like Premier Access and free checked bags. Not only that, but for a long time, this card was simply waiving the first year’s annual fee as its welcome offer, so the chance to earn a bonanza of bonus miles should appeal to a lot of United loyalists.

Just note that this card won’t get you into the airline’s swanky Polaris Clubs, but it will get you into its serviceable United Clubs, as well as into most of its Star Alliance airline partners’ business-class lounges around the world.

What can you do with United miles?

There are plenty of opportunities to redeem United miles beyond flying, including cashing them in for merchandise, gift cards, charitable donations, United Club memberships, and even cruises, among other possibilities. However, you don’t tend to get great value from your miles when doing so.

Instead, the best use of United MileagePlus miles is for award travel on the airline and its partners, such as Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines, and Turkish Airlines. In general, you’ll need fewer miles for United’s own flights, especially for long-haul travel in premium classes. The airline has also been posting some flash sales on tickets with prices as low as 3,000 miles each way on short routes, such as from Boston to Washington, D.C., Houston to New Orleans, or Los Angeles to San Francisco. At those prices, the United Club Infinite’s sign-up bonus could net you 25 one-way flights. Typically, though, 75,000 miles should be enough for a round trip between North America and Asia in economy on United or partners such as ANA and EVA, or a one-way business-class award seat from the U.S. to South America or Europe on United’s own flights.

Even under normal circumstances, United boasts some of the best airline credit cards around thanks to lucrative mileage earning opportunities and day-of-travel benefits such as free checked bags and priority boarding. Now that all four United credit cards–the United Explorer, United Gateway, United Quest, and United Club Infinite–are offering some of their highest bonuses ever, it could be the right time to apply and sock away those miles for a future trip.

While the offers mentioned above are accurate at the time of publication, they are subject to change at any time, and may have changed or may no longer be available.

This article was originally published February 25, 2021, and updated July 1, 2021.

>> Next: United Just Launched a New Credit Card With up to 100,000 Bonus Miles

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