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While travel isn't a priority for most people right now, eventually airlines will be flying again, and we'll likely see some great offers to get travelers back onto planes. When that happens, it'll be helpful to have a stash of frequent flyer miles, and for those looking to quickly boost their balances, United Airlines currently has two credit card offers worth considering.
Right now, the personal United Explorer Card is offering a 40,000-mile sign-up bonus when you spend $2,000 in the first three months after you open the account. There's no annual fee on this card for the first year, then a $95 annual fee starting the second year you have it.
For small business owners, the United Business Card is offering an even higher 60,000-mile sign-up bonus when you spend $3,000 in the first three months after you open the account. This card also has no annual fee for the first year, then you'll pay a $99 annual fee starting in the second year.
Both the United Explorer Card and the United Business Card earn United MileagePlus miles, which are easily redeemed on United as well as for flights on the airline's 20+ Star Alliance partners. While United now uses a dynamic pricing structure instead of a fixed award chart to price award tickets, the airline's website is adept at finding partner airline inventory, which makes it easy to see route options, find seats and confirm your next award trip.
United credit cards: Flight perks and rewards
With domestic United award tickets starting as low as 5,000 miles one-way, even just 40,000 bonus points from the personal United Explorer Card could cover 8 tickets at the lowest rate, meaning you could take your whole family on a sorely-needed beach vacation once the current crisis has passed.
You'll also earn 2 miles for every dollar you spend on United with the United Explorer Card, as well as at restaurants and on hotel stays booked directly with the hotel. On the United Business Card, you'll earn the same 2 miles per dollar on United purchases, along with on local transit and commuting, and at gas stations, office supply stores and restaurants. Both cards earn 1 mile per dollar on all other purchases.
While there are a number of bonus categories on these cards, the earning rates aren't best-in-class. For instance, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card earns 2 points per dollar on dining and all travel — not just United flights — and you can transfer Chase points to United miles at a 1-to-1 ratio.
However, with both the United Explorer Card and the United Business Card, you'll also get a free checked bag for you and one for a companion on the same reservation, a pair of one-time United Club lounge passes each year (which would cost you $59 each otherwise), 25% back on United inflight purchases, and priority boarding on United-operated flights.
Those hoping to sign up for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck will also appreciate the up to $100 fee reimbursement on the United Explorer Card — enough to fully cover the cost of applying — while the United Business Card offers the chance to earn an annual $100 United travel credit after you make seven United flight purchases of $100 or more each card anniversary year.
Also, with either card, you can normally earn 500 Premier Qualifying Points (PQPs) toward United elite status (up to Platinum level) for every $12,000 spent on either card, up to a maximum of 1,000 PQPs per calendar year. But these earning rates and limits are currently doubled from May 1 through the end of 2020, so you'll be able to bank as many as 2,000 PQPs this year if you time it right.
Remember, CNN Underscored recommends that you only make purchases you would make otherwise with cash, checks or a debit card. Don't find yourself in debt paying credit card interest.
Both cards also have no foreign transaction fees, so it's safe to use them overseas once international travel resumes. And as a final added extra, you'll earn 5,000 bonus miles each year on your United Business Card anniversary when you have both the personal United Explorer Card and the United Business Card.
You should always be mindful of applying for too many credit cards in rapid succession, and consider the rules banks employ for people who quickly pick up a lot of cards. For instance, Chase — the bank that issues United credit cards — won't approve any new credit cards for people who have already gotten five or more credit cards across all banks in the previous 24 months. This is colloquially known as Chase's 5/24 rule.
These United credit card offers are available now
Getting an airline credit card right now is definitely an investment in the future, since you likely won't be able to use most of its benefits at the moment. We've also seen higher sign-up offers on these cards before, so you may want to hold off for a larger bonus down the line.
But it could make sense to pick up one of these two cards — or even both — to earn the sign-up bonuses, especially since you can use the miles down the road not just for United flights, but for flights on any of United's airline partners as well. So take a look at these offers if you want to lock down 40,000 bonus miles on the United Explorer Card or 60,000 bonus miles on the United Business Card.
Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.
Note: While the offers mentioned above are accurate at the time of publication, they're subject to change at any time and may have changed, or may no longer be available.