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Finding the best United credit cards in 2022 has gotten easier, thanks to a variety of options that fit different needs. With several cards to choose from and a variety of perks that come with each, you’re bound to find one that works for your lifestyle.

Plus, United Airlines is one of the major airlines within the United States, so there’s a good chance you’ll be flying with them at some point. To maximize these United Airlines flights, especially if you plan on flying United often (even if that is further down the road), consider one of the Chase-issued United Airlines credit cards.

Use the best United credit card to get the most out of your travel. United 737 at Denver International Airport. Credit: United

Best United Credit Cards 2022

Here’s a preview of the best United airlines credit cards:

  • For a mid-level premium card with plenty of perks: United Quest℠ Card
  • Most Flexible (2x points and points transfer to United): Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
  • For Those Who Check Baggage, the Best United credit card: United℠ Explorer Card
  • Premium Traveler’s Best United credit card: United Club℠ Infinite Card
  • Business Travelers: United℠ Business Card
  • For the occasional United flyer: United Gateway℠ Card

Best United Credit Card With Plenty of Perks: United Quest Card

The United Quest℠ Card can add plenty of value to your travel, thanks to the numerous perks available.

Purchases earn 3, 2, or 1 United mile per $1 spent. Earn 3x miles on United® purchases, 2x miles on dining, select streaming services & all other travel, 1x on all other purchases.

Cardholders get a United Airlines flight credit of $125 each year (terms apply). In addition to the $125 annual flight credit, cardholders get 2 award flight credits each worth 5,000 miles each anniversary year. Terms apply. Each credit covers the first 5,000 miles needed to book an award flight with United.

The primary United Quest℠ Card cardholder and one companion can each bring two checked bags for free. United Quest℠ Card cardholders have the ability to earn up to 3,000 Premier Qualifying Points (PQPs) per year. That’s almost enough PQPs to qualify for Premier Silver status as you need 3,500 PQPS.

New United Quest Card cardholders can earn 70,000 bonus miles after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months their account is open.

There is no foreign transaction fee but the annual fee is $250.

Related: United Quest Card Takes Off

Best Non-United Airlines Card for Earning United Miles: Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

How can a non-United Airlines credit card make the list for being the best United credit card? There is a touch of irony in this question, yet the answer is really simple. Own a flexible best travel credit card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred review shows us that it has the exact same earning power as the United Explorer Card but earns rewards on every travel and dining purchase.

There are several Chase Sapphire reward categories. The Chase Sapphire Preferred earns unlimited:

  • 5x points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards® (excluding hotel purchases that qualify for the $50 Anniversary Hotel Credit)
  • 3x points on dining (including eligible delivery services, takeout, and dining out)
  • 3x points on online grocery purchases (excluding Target®, Walmart®, and wholesale clubs)
  • Also 3x points on select streaming services
  • 2x points on all other travel purchases
  • 1x point per $1 spent on all non-bonus purchases 

There is a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit. It comes in the form of a statement credit that will automatically be applied to your account when your card is used for hotel accommodation purchases made through the Ultimate Rewards program, up to an annual maximum accumulation of $50.

Plus, on each account anniversary, you’ll earn bonus points equal to 10% of your total purchases made the previous year. So, if you spend $25,000 on purchases, you’ll get 2,500 bonus points.

Chase Ultimate Rewards

United is a Chase Ultimate Rewards travel partner. By owning the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Sapphire Reserve, you can transfer your credit card points to United on a 1:1 basis, free of charge. If your primary focus is rapidly earning rewards miles that can be redeemed for any United flight, this is your best option.

New Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card cardholders can earn 80,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $1,000 when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

Unless you want the free checked bags, priority boarding, or two annual one-time United Club passes that come with the Explorer, the Sapphire Preferred can be the better option for these reasons:

  • You can choose to fly on the cheapest carrier, United or otherwise, so long as they are a Chase partner
  • You can redeem for other travel opportunities and have more flexibility
  • The Chase 5/24 rule only lets you apply for one credit card

Since you can only carry so many credit cards in your wallet, you might consider the Sapphire Preferred over the other cards on this list because you earn for every air travel purchase, regardless of the carrier.

You won’t enjoy any of the complimentary United amenities like free checked bags or United Club membership. But, you can earn bonus rewards points much faster. You can then redeem them for United flights even when you earn them through non-United air travel.

Best Chase United Credit Card for Checking a Bag and Earning Miles: United Explorer Card

The United℠ Explorer Card is a good option if you travel more frequently. While this card has a $95 annual fee (waived the first year), you will want this card if you want to earn miles that can be redeemed for United award flights and also want to check a bag for free. As an Explorer cardholder, you will enjoy the following card amenities:

  • First checked bag free for you and one travel companion ($140 savings per roundtrip) when using your card to purchase your ticket
  • Two United Club passes (one-time entry) each card anniversary
  • Priority Boarding for everybody in your travel party as long as you are on the same reservation

The free checked bag benefit alone pays for the $95 annual fee ($0 for the first year) during your first round-trip when you and one travel companion each check one bag. You might decide to pick up this card only for these benefits. Additionally, you’ll get up to $100 statement credit to use towards either a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee.

Cardholders can also enjoy 25% back on United® inflight purchases.

United Explorer Card Rewards

In addition to the above amenities, you will also earn 2x miles per $1 spent on United® purchases, dining (including eligible delivery services), and hotel stays. You’ll earn 1x mile per $1 spent for every non-United purchase. These miles will not expire as long you own a United credit card or keep your MileagePlus account active.

New United Explorer Card cardholders can earn up to 70,000 bonus miles. Earn 60,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Plus, earn an additional 10,000 miles after spending $6,000 total on purchases in the first 6 months your account is open.

Plus, there’s a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.

Reward flights start at 12,500 miles each way for United flights within the continental U.S. and Canada.

Learn more: Airline Credit Cards

Best United Credit Card For Travelers Who Love Perks: United Club Infinite Card

If you LOVE premium travel rewards and are a loyal United flyer, look no further than the United Club℠ Infinite Card. This is the flagship card of the Chase United catalog. The United Club Infinite Card will let you enjoy everything United has to offer!

Let’s begin with the unlimited United amenities that you will enjoy:

  • Complimentary United Club℠ membership ($650 value) for you and eligible travel companions
  • Access to participating Star Alliance airport lounges
  • First AND second bags fly free for you and one travel companion ($320 savings roundtrip)
  • United Premier Access (priority check-in, security screening (where available), baggage handling and boarding privileges)
  • Up to $100 Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fee credit

Cardholders earn 4x miles per $1 spent on United® purchases including tickets, Economy Plus, inflight food, beverages and Wi-Fi, and other United charges. They also earn 2x miles per $1 spent on all other travel, 2x miles per $1 spent on dining, including eligible delivery services, and 1x mile per $1 spent on all other purchases.

Cardholders can also get 25% back as a statement credit on purchases of food, beverages, and Wi-Fi onboard United-operated flights when paying with their Club Infinite Card.

United Club Infinite Card Benefits

In addition to the United amenities, you will also enjoy a few other travel perks including Luxury Hotel and Resort credits, Hertz Gold Plus Rewards® President’s Circle® Elite Status, and primary auto rental collision damage waiver coverage.

New United Club℠ Infinite Card cardholders can earn 100,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

All of these benefits arrive with an annual fee of $525. This is in line with the other premium travel credit cards that offer similar travel benefits.

Best United Credit Card for Business Travelers: United Business Card

If you are a small business owner, check out the United℠ Business Card which also has many of the benefits that the consumer United Explorer card has. Employee cards are free and their spending can be capped if needed. Employee cards also earn miles on purchases.

Additionally, get a $100 United® travel credit after 7 United® flight purchases of $100 or more each anniversary year.

With perks like a free first checked bag (a savings of up to $140 per roundtrip—terms apply), 2 United Club one-time passes per year, and priority boarding privileges, the United Business Card has plenty to offer.

New United Business Card cardholders can earn 75,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months their account is open. Additionally, enjoy a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $99.

United Business Card Rewards

United℠ Business Card cardholders earn 2x miles per $1 spent on United® purchases, dining (including eligible delivery services), at gas stations, office supply stores, and on local transit and commuting. Earn 1x mile per $1 spent on all other purchases.

Cardholders receive a 5,000-mile “better together” bonus each anniversary when they have both the United Business Card and a personal United® credit card. You won’t have to worry about foreign transaction fees. This card also features Chase’s contactless payment technology.

Best United Credit Card for the Occasional United Flyer: United Gateway Card

The United Gateway℠ Card comes with some exciting ways to earn miles, all without an annual fee to worry about. Cardholders earn 2x miles per $1 spent on United® purchases, at gas stations, and on local transit and commuting including rideshare services, taxicabs, train tickets, tolls, and mass transit. All other purchases earn 1x mile per $1 spent.

Cardholders also get 25% back as a statement credit on purchases of food, beverages, and Wi-Fi onboard United-operated flights when you pay with your Gateway Card. And, you can bring this card with you when you travel abroad because there are no foreign transaction fees either on this contactless card.

If you want to use your miles to book flights, note that there are no blackout dates for primary cardholders.

New United Gateway℠ Card cardmembers can earn 20,000 bonus miles after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of the account opening.

Learn more: Airline Credit Cards

Summary of the Best United Credit Cards 2022

Owning a United credit card is the easiest and most cost-effective way to earn award miles that can be redeemed for free award flights. There is a United credit card for every budget that will enhance your United travel experience. If you want to make every purchase count, none of these cards will steer you in the wrong direction.

I’ve used my Chase business credit cards to earn valuable travel rewards, such as when I’m flying on United. Photo by United

Up to 70,000 Bonus Miles With the United Explorer Card

If you fly on United Airlines often, you’ll want to check out the Chase United℠ Explorer Card.

New United Explorer Card cardholders can earn up to 70,000 bonus miles. Earn 60,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Plus, earn an additional 10,000 miles after spending $6,000 total on purchases in the first 6 months your account is open.

Plus, there’s a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.

Let’s take a deeper dive into what this Chase United credit card is offering.

Learn more: Airline Credit Cards

Earn 2 Miles Per $1 On Hotels and Restaurants

You will begin earning unlimited 2 miles per $1 on the following purchases:

  • United® purchases
  • Hotel stays
  • Dining, including eligible delivery services

All remaining bonus categories will earn 1 mile per $1 spent. With these bonus category editions, you now have more incentive to make the United℠ Explorer Card your primary travel rewards credit card.

However, if you’re not married to flying United, the Chase Sapphire Preferred already earns points per $1 on restaurants and Ultimate Rewards points are transferable. Plus, if you have to rent a car or book any other travel purchases, you can still earn points with the Chase Sapphire Preferred bonus and transfer your points on a 1:1 to your United MileagePlus account.

Learn more: Airline Credit Cards

$100 Global Entry or TSA PreCheck Fee Credit

A credit for Global Entry is probably the most popular benefit for travel rewards credit cards of every stripe. This benefit reimburses your application fee every four years and saves you $100. You won’t have to wait through the long lines to re-enter the United States for international travel and the TSA security lines for domestic flights.

If you don’t have a valid passport or don’t have time to visit a Global Entry enrollment center, this new benefit also reimburses the $85 application fee for TSA PreCheck. You’ll still have to go through the regular Customs security line when you travel abroad, but you can breeze through airport security for domestic travel.

25% Back on United In-Flight Purchases

Get 25% back on United® inflight purchases when you pay with your United℠ Explorer Card:

  • Food
  • Beverages
  • Onboard Wi-Fi

You’ll also earn 2x miles per $1 on these in-flight purchases too. For other purchases, you can earn 1 mile per $1 spent.

Learn more: Airline Credit Cards

Additional Chase United Explorer Card Benefits

In addition to the benefits listed above, you’ll also enjoy these benefits:

  • Your first bag flies for free (up to $140 per roundtrip)
  • Priority boarding
  • No blackout dates
  • Upgrades on award tickets
  • Two United℠ Club one-time passes
  • No foreign transaction fees

If you crave experiences as much as the United travel benefits, you will also continue enjoying access to Inside Access once-in-a-lifetime events including celebrity meet and greets, redeeming MileagePlus miles for MileagePlus events, and on-site benefits with the Visa Signature Luxury Hotels and Resorts Collection when you book a stay with your United℠ Explorer Card.

Redeeming Your United MileagePlus Miles

Domestic United award flights start at 12,500 miles for most flights within the mainland U.S., Alaska, and Canada. However, you can book a flight that is 700 miles or less for 10,000 miles each way.

Make sure you log into your account before browsing award seat availability, otherwise you might end up paying for the more expensive Everyday Award seat instead of the discount Saver Award seat.

Upgrade to the United Club Credit Card to Avoid Close-In Booking Fees

The United Explorer Card is a great option if you fly United on a regular basis. But, you will still have to pay close-in booking fees on award flights you book within 21 days of departure.

If this is a regular occurrence for you, consider upgrading to the United MileagePlus Club Card. You can avoid this pesky fee and enjoy a few additional benefits. These include unlimited United Club lounge membership and two free checked bags for you and your travel companion.

Transfer Ultimate Rewards Points as Necessary

United is a 1:1 transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards. You can transfer points in 1,000 point increments to your United MileagePlus account for free when you need to book an award flight but don’t have quite enough miles at the moment.

Even if you just own the United℠ Explorer Card to book your United flights and enjoy the free Global Entry and checked baggage benefits, owning the Sapphire Preferred or Sapphire Reserve lets you earn bonus points on all travel and dining purchases. By using these cards, you’re always earning the most points and miles possible on every purchase!

Learn more: Airline Credit Cards

Summary of the United Explorer Card

With the United℠ Explorer Card, you can earn 2x miles per $1 spent on hotels and dining in addition to United® purchases. United also reimburses your Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee and gives you 25% back on United® inflight purchases.

Use the best United credit card to get access to lounges like this United Club Terrace at LAX. Photo by United

Check Out the United Business Card

United Airlines business travelers can now earn miles faster with the United℠ Business Card. New United Business Card cardholders can earn 75,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months their account is open. Additionally, enjoy a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $99.

You won’t have to worry about foreign transaction fees and you can order additional employee cards, free of charge. This card also features Chase’s contactless payment technology.

Plus, you can receive a 5,000-mile “better together” bonus each anniversary when you have both the United Business Card and a personal United® credit card.

Award flights start at 12,500 miles each way for economy seats. The bonus is worth several domestic round-trip flights.

Get 2x Miles on Purchases Related to Business

United Business Card cardholders earn 2x miles per $1 spent on United® purchases, dining (including eligible delivery services), at gas stations, office supply stores, and on local transit and commuting. Earn 1x mile per $1 spent on all other purchases.

Get Two One-Time United Club Passes

Each year, you get two one-time United Club℠ passes. You get two passes at account opening and on your card anniversary. These are worth more than $100.

Inside the United Club, you can enjoy complimentary snacks and beverages. Plus, you can also take advantage of business-friendly amenities including free wifi and private workspaces.

Enjoy These United Travel Benefits

The United℠ Business Card offers these air travel benefits:

  • Priority boarding for you and all companions on the same reservation on United-operated flights
  • Free first checked bag for you and one travel companion (save up to $140 per roundtrip – terms apply)
  • 2 one-time United Club passes each year
  • No blackout dates when booking award flights

Additionally, get a $100 United® travel credit after 7 United® flight purchases of $100 or more each anniversary year.

As a MileagePlus Premier member, you can enjoy complimentary space-available upgrades on United-operated flights. There are no foreign transaction fees to worry about.

Plus, all United credit cardmembers can access exclusive MileagePlus and Inside Access events. Additionally, you can also enjoy elite hotel stays at the Luxury Hotel and Resort Collection.

Redeeming Your United Miles

Your best redemption option will be United’s Saver Awards. These are the lowest price options for economy and premium cabin award flights.

If Saver Awards aren’t available for your travel dates, you can redeem your miles for an Everyday Award. These award flights require more miles. However, you can avoid blackout dates that non-MileagePlus cardholders may experience.

With any long-haul award flight, you won’t pay fuel surcharges that international carriers charge.

Although you might fly economy to stretch your miles further, you might find a better value in booking business class or the premium Polaris Business award seats. Owning the United℠ Business Card makes it easier to accumulate miles to book premium flights more often.

Summary of the United Business Card

The United℠ Business Card allows you to earn miles for business purchases, comes with flight perks for United-operated flights, and has zero foreign transaction fees. You can also get employee cards at no additional cost. Since United is one of the major airlines, you can count on having travel destination options.

Johnny at United’s media day from LAX-ORD in Oct. 2019. Credit: Johnny Jet

United Airlines Is Eliminating Their Award Chart

Editor’s Note: This change took effect in late 2019. 

It is no surprise that airline companies copy each other when it comes to their customer-based loyalty programs. Unfortunately for consumers, in recent years, most of the changes among the most popular airlines have been for the worst.

The latest in a long string of disappointing program downgrades is the announcement from United Airlines that they are eliminating their award charts.

United Airlines Award Chart Elimination: What You Should Know

The United Airlines award chart elimination means that United Airlines is switching to a system in which award seats will be available based on demand. They will likely be somewhat tied to the cash price instead of the current tiered structure.

United Airlines is already notorious for rude in-flight attendants and various wrongdoings that include severe delays with no food or water for stranded passengers, flight cancellations with no re-routes, killing dogs (according to The Economist, the airline killed nine times as many animals as American and Delta last year), forcibly removing passengers from flights for no reason, and more.

Now, with the United Airlines award chart elimination, the airline stands to sink even lower in customer approval ratings.

What Should Members Expect Due to the United Airlines Award Chart Elimination?

When the changes take effect in November 2019, members can expect to see an increase in the cost of high-value awards, rendering their hard-earned miles severely undervalued. If this goes the way of Delta’s award charts removal, what will happen is that the cheapest airfare will correspond to the cheapest miles/points price.

However, if one mile takes on the value of a penny, there is more value in paying cash for the same route.

This is likely the way things are heading. United is telling customers that this change will increase value to its members. However, the numbers don’t lie. This change will most certainly impact miles/points-holders in a negative way.

How high will prices rise?

With no award prices listed, there will be no limit on how high award prices will reach. For popular routes during peak holidays, the airline can charge whatever number they want. Then, they can take a “the price is the price” approach.

United wants to be more competitive. But with the worst approval rating, the airline already has a lot of digging to do if they want to get out of their grave. If they really had customers in mind, they would improve their employee training.

They would also fix problems constantly discussed in the news and make awards pricing better, not nonexistent.

The airline marketplace is already competitive. Stripping loyalty programs will only further disgruntle members and cause them to look elsewhere.

Are There any Silver Linings in this United Airlines Award Chart Elimination?

One positive change the airline announced as part of its program restructuring is the elimination of close-in booking fees for members based on elite status. Prices range from $25 to $75. This change is also set to take effect on November 15, 2019.

Many MileagePlus members have complained about this fee, therefore this is the one positive change that members can rejoice in. This change has been a long time coming. The airline currently charges a fee for booking award travel less than 21 days before departure.

What about the partner airline award chart?

At this time, United has no plans to remove the partner airline award chart, but that could change. Overall, if loyal customers no longer find value in premium-cabin awards, they will look elsewhere for upgrades and value. Before the new prices take effect, use your points/miles. It would be a real loss to have your miles decrease in value when you could have redeemed them for the best rates.

If you are looking for ways to earn points or miles that have more versatility for travel and provide trip insurance (i.e., you’ll have options should your preferred airline decide to eliminate their award chart or make other changes), check out the following posts on The Best Travel Credit Cards, our comparison review of two top travel credit cards, the Chase Sapphire Preferred vs Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, and our list of the 7 Best Credit Cards for International Travel.

Use Chase Pay When Booking Your Next United Airlines Flight

Here’s another merchant that now accepts Chase Pay — United Airlines. A new partnership has made it easier to use your Chase United Visa credit card to book your airfare and check out online.

How do you use Chase Pay to check out?

You book your airfare as usual, but you’ll see the Chase Pay symbol in the options to pay.

Using Chase Pay means you can still earn United miles or Chase rewards with your purchase. “With Chase Pay, our cardholders’ transactions will be more efficient while retaining all the benefits of their United branded credit card,” said Luc Bondar, president of MileagePlus Holdings and vice president of loyalty at United Airlines.

United has also said they will be adding Chase Pay to the United app in the upcoming months.

Which Chase credit cards can you use?

You can use any credit card that is tied to your Chase Pay — once you download the app, Chase automatically connects your cards for you.

Also check out: What is the Best United Airlines Credit Card?

What exactly is Chase Pay?

Chase Pay is a digital platform for Chase customers that allows them to pay online and through the app. The Chase Pay app can be used at various in-store locations such as airport restaurants and shops, gas stations, retailers, and grocery stores. Here’s a complete list of merchants that accept Chase Pay.

Chase customers can use their debit or credit card to pay quickly and securely. Popular Chase credit cards include the Chase Sapphire application rules.

Reasons to use Chase Pay

Your credit card information will never be shared with the merchant because Chase Pay uses a “token” (algorithmically generated numbers) in lieu of your credit card. This means your data will never be passed to merchants when you shop online or with the app.

The app also allows you to order food at participating restaurants ahead of time so it’s ready for you to pick it up.

There are also various deals, called Chase Offers, which you can take advantage of by using the app. For example, you can get $10 off a restaurant order or extra points for using Chase Pay at a particular store.

There are also discounts for using it at Shell and 76 gas stations along with the benefits that come with Chase credit cards.

How to access Chase Pay

There are two ways to log in — one is through your computer. Log into your Chase account as usual and in the top left menu and click on “Pay and Transfer.”

Then click on the Chase Pay option.

Chase Pay app

Download the Chase Pay app to your phone and log in with your existing Chase credentials. After it’s downloaded, turn on your Chase location settings so you can see which merchants around you accept Chase Pay.

It also gives you the option to use your Ultimate Rewards points to pay for items. Keep in mind there are other ways to get maximize your points, including booking travel or purchasing items through the Ultimate Rewards portal.

Get more details about Chase Pay on

Do You Fly With a Carry-On? You’ll Want to Know United’s No Carry-On Policy

When I travel, I’m sometimes forced to take United Airlines baggage fees because they happen to have more flights going to particular destinations from SFO.

In my experience, customer service on United isn’t as friendly as JetBlue or Alaska. Let’s not forget their string of public disasters, namely, the passenger who was dragged off the jet. Their latest involved a dog that died in the overhead bin—yikes. They’re definitely not winning any travel brownie points with me.

So, I’m even less inclined to fly with them after I experienced their new and totally uncool no carry-on policy for Basic Economy.

Paying a fee for something that was once free

There’s something to be said about paying for something that used to cost nothing. Mentally, it just doesn’t sit well with me.

Recently, I flew to Orlando and discovered I had to pay $25 each way for my tiny carry-on bag. I not only paid a total of $50 for my bag, but I also had to check it in. This no carry-on policy went into effect in July, which means you can only bring a small personal item on the plane.

The ticket for the flight was cheaper than the other flights that came up in my initial search. However, with the added $50 it came out to be about the same cost as the other flights.

This new fee reminds me of low-budget airlines and their nickel and diming tactics. They lure you in with a super cheap fare, but the added fees for bags and seats make it the same price as the other flights. Spirit Airlines does this with their Bare Fare ticket, which charges you a fee for bringing on a personal item and carry-on.

Can you claim you have no carry-on bag when checking in online?

Nope. I wondered the same thing and tried this on my return flight from Orlando when I checked in online. During my check-in, I clicked that I had zero carry-on bags.

I got a message that told me I had to verify that I had no bags (except for a personal item) to the agent at the ticket counter. The message basically told me I couldn’t finish checking in until I saw the agent at the ticket counter. Plus, my ticket had a big “BE – NO CARRY ON” (Basic Economy) marked clearly at the top.

There was definitely no way I could be slick and walk through the gate with my carry-on bag.

How to bypass this no carry-on policy

If you fly United a lot and want to book Basic Fare tickets and avoid the carry-on fee, your only option is to sign up for an airline miles credit card, specifically, their Explorer or MileagePlus Club Card. This makes me wonder if United took away the right to bring on a carry-on just so they can leverage it as a credit cardholder benefit.

If you already have Premier status, you can also avoid the fee.

You should also note that if you’re traveling with friends or family, they won’t be able to carry on their bags. Only the primary cardholder will be able to bring on the carry-on to the plane.

Other members in your party will need to pay the applicable bag fee, plus a $25 gate handling fee.

Summary: United’s new carry-on policy is a real bummer

Because I primarily use Chase Sapphire Reserve perks as my go-to credit card for travel, I probably won’t sign up for the United MileagePlus Club credit card. The main reason being that I like more flexibility and cost. This move to charge travelers to pay a fee for their carry-on and check it in makes United less appealing for budget travelers like me, who only fly with a carry-on bag.

United’s premium transcontinental seats. Credit: United

United Announces Changes for MileagePlus Premier Status Members

Editor’s Note: This change took effect in 2019.

United has announced changes for those with MileagePlus Premier® status. Some changes are already in effect, while we will see others in the coming months. The changes already in effect now are positive.

But those coming in 2019 are more of a mixed bag that mainly affects United Premier 1K members. Here’s what you need to know about these changes.


Already effective, Premier 1K members board during pre-boarding, ahead of Group 1. Premier Gold members will now be boarding with Group 1 (previously Premier Gold members boarded with Group 2).

Baggage Allowance

Also already in effect, all Premier members will receive the same standard weight allowance for bags that they check-in (70 lbs). Additionally, all Premier members flying United Business, United First, or United Polaris business class will be allowed up to three bags with a maximum weight of 70 lbs per bag.

Those with Premier Gold status that are flying United Economy between the US and Europe will also have a three bag allowance (max 70 lbs each). Premier Silver members flying between the US and Europe will be able to bring two bags (max 70 lbs each).

Previously, Premier Silver members flying United Economy well allowed only one bag (max 50 lbs). Premier Gold members were allowed two bags (max 50 lbs) when flying United Economy.

United also recently raised their checked baggage fees.

MileagePlus Premier Qualification Requirements

Effective January 1, 2019, MileagePlus Premier Qualification requirements changed slightly in a couple of ways.

Those who shot for Premier 1K status will need to meet a Premier qualification dollar (PQD) requirement of $15,000 (up from $12,000). The Premier Qualifying Miles (PQM) that you earn from P-class fares were reduced from 200% to 150%.

MileagePlus Premier Upgrades

On January 1, 2019, United changed the way that Premier 1K members earn additional upgrades. For every 25,000 PQMs or 30 Premier Qualifying Segments (PQS) after qualifying for Premier 1K status, United adds one Global Premier Upgrade (GPU) into your account. After qualifying for Premier 1K status, you can no longer earn additional Regional Premier Upgrades.

The change only affects the way Premier members earn incremental upgrades after already reaching Premier 1K status.

This change is somewhat of a mixed bag since RPUs are no longer going to be possible to earn after qualifying for United 1K status. However, those that fly just 25,000 miles over what is required to earn 1K previously would have earned 2 RPUs but no GPUs. Now, they will be able to earn 1 GPU.

Depending on how you value these upgrade instruments, you could come out ahead.


Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Enjoy benefits such as a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3x on dining and 2x on all other travel purchases, plus more.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.

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Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.


2 Comments On "The Best United Airlines Credit Cards (Bonuses Up to 100k & More)"
  1. Parviz Ighani|

    I just bought a ticket with United Airlines and got approved for a United Explorer credit Card. I also got cards for my wife and children. When my wife travels on Dec. 4, 2019 will she be able to check in a bag for free? Does she have to show her credit card? Please explain what we can do to be exempt from baggage charge. Thank you
    Parviz Ighani

    1. Johnny Jet Editorial|

      As long as the flight is bought with the United Airlines credit card you’re good to go!

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