A thread recently appeared on FlyerTalk asking about the best credit card for everyday use if the main goal is to redeem points for United Airlines flights.
“I have about 100k in annual spend (20k of which is dining and travel). I currently have Silver status on United,” the author whose username is e4west inquired.
The question made me think about a few suggestions to give the original poster, and they are not all co-branded United Airlines cards. (The point accumulation calculations do not include sign-up bonuses, which can vary, and are based on the OP’s yearly spending only.)
Chase Sapphire Reserve
The OP stated that two of his/her largest spending categories are dining and travel. That’s perfect because the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card earns 3X points per dollar spent exactly in those two categories. The card earns Ultimate Rewards points, which can be transferred to an array of Chase’s travel partners, including United. After the bonus is factored in, spending $100,000 per year on this card will net the OP 140,000 UR points, which can be redeemed for two economy flights or one business class flight to Europe. The card does come with a $450 price tag, but it also offers $300 in travel credits, $100 Global Entry/TSA PreCheck enrollment fee, Priority Pass lounge and other perks.
Chase Sapphire Preferred
If the high annual fee is intimidating, then the Chase Sapphire Preferred might be a better choice. This card costs $95 per year (waived for the first year) and earns 2X points in the same categories—travel and dining. In this case, the OP will earn 120,000 UR per year based on his/her annual spending patterns. Not bad, but getting 1X point per dollar spent in all other categories is on the low side of the earning potential.
United MileagePlus Club Credit Card
United Club Credit Card earns 2X MileagePlus miles per dollar spent on United purchases and 1.5X miles for every dollar spent in all other categories. The poster did say he/she has Silver status, which means frequent travel with the airline. The card also offers complimentary United Club membership, which would come in handy for someone flying as a Silver member.
Let’s assume half of the dining and travel spending goes toward United travel. In this case, the OP can earn about 155,000 United miles. The card has a $450 annual fee, and the main factor to consider here is whether the OP would use the Club membership. United Club credit card members also receive a close-in booking fee waiver on award tickets booked fewer than 21 days in advance, which is $75.
United MileagePlus Explorer Credit Card
Again, if the $450 fee is out of reach, then the MileagePlus Explorer Credit Card might be a good alternative. The card earns 2X miles per dollar spent directly with United and 1X mile per dollar spent elsewhere. The annual cost to carry this card is $95. One of the perks is that cardholders who spend at least $25,000 on the card annually will earn a bonus of 10,000 miles. In this scenario, the OP will earn about 120,000 United miles, if at least $10,000 is spent on United flights.
Chase Freedom Unlimited
This no-fee credit card works best in conjunction with either the Sapphire Preferred or the Sapphire Reserve cards. On its own, Chase Freedom Unlimited is a cash-back card, and the points cannot be transferred to Chase’s airline and hotel partners. But…if used parallel to one of the mentioned premium cards, then the points become fully transferable.
So why would the OP want this card? Because it earns 1.5X points per dollar spent on every purchase, no matter the category, and costs absolutely nothing. Let’s say the OP pairs this card with the Chase Sapphire Reserve, then he/she will earn a whopping 180,000 Ultimate Rewards points annually! Not a bad haul, I say, especially because UR points have more value than MileagePlus miles. If the $450 annual fee isn’t a problem, this is the best card combination, in my opinion.
What cards would you recommend as best for someone looking to redeem miles on United Airlines? Please comment with your suggestions below.