United TravelBank Card
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The newest Chase and United credit card partnership, launched in September 2017, is its most bare-bones offering yet. The United TravelBank Card has no annual fee but none of the perks that typically come with an airline rewards card.
This is fine for infrequent travelers looking to earn a few rewards, but probably not worth it to others.
The fifth in a line of Chase and United co-branded cards, the United TravelBank Card pays rewards in the form of TravelBank cash, which can be redeemed toward flight purchases or airline incidentals. It’s also the first no-fee United credit card.
The card pays a respectable 2% in TravelBank cash when you purchase United tickets and 1.5% TravelBank cash for all other purchases. It also offers a 25% rebate as a statement credit on your card when you use it to buy food or beverages on board a United-operated flight.
Chase and United also are offering a new cardholder bonus of $150 in TravelBack cash after you make $1,000 in purchases during your first three months.
For someone who flies a few times a year and prefers to do so on United, this card could be an OK way to save money on travel expenses.
To earn enough TravelBank cash for a free round-trip flight (the average cost of a domestic round-trip flight is $351.85, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation), you’d have to spend about $18,000 on United flights or $24,000 on non-United purchases. You may ultimately find more value using a different credit card.
In exchange for not paying an annual fee, you’re also giving up the perks that come with other United co-branded airline cards, like a free checked bag on each trip, United Club passes, priority boarding and bigger sign-up bonuses. Ultimately, the lack of perks is what cost this card points in our eyes.
The card does come with Visa Signature benefits, which include discounts and upgrades at hotels in the Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection.
If you fly regularly on United, you’ll likely be better off with the United Mileage Plus Explorer Card, which has a $95 annual fee. This includes a free first checked bag for you and a companion on your reservation, which could save up to $100 round trip, plus priority boarding. You’ll also receive two United Club passes on your card anniversary. The earnings rate is the same as the TravelBank Card, so if you fly at least once a year with a companion and checked luggage on a round-trip United flight, the Mileage Plus Explorer is the better choice.
Who should get this card
This card could be a good choice for someone who likes flying United, wants to earn rewards toward free flights but doesn’t want to pay an annual fee.
Fees and APR
• There’s no annual or foreign transaction fees with this card.
• You’ll pay a variable APR of 16.99% to 23.99% based on creditworthiness.
• Late payments won’t affect your APR, but there is a late fee of up to $37 if you miss a payments or make a late one.
Extras, perks and using rewards
Cardholders get a 25% rebate of their food and beverage purchases made onboard a United flight.
This card is a Visa Signature card so it comes with discounts and upgrades at hotels that are part of The Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection. It provides some auto and travel insurance, including roadside dispatch and lost luggage reimbursement.
TravelBank cash can be redeemed on the United website by logging into your Mileage Plus account. There’s no minimum amount required to redeem and you can use your TravelBank cash for full or partial payment of airline tickets.
How this card compares
The United Mileage Plus Explorer Card is a better choice than the United TravelBank Card for most. Even though it comes with a $95 annual fee, you’ll earn that back if you and a companion fly at least once a year and each have a checked bag. It has the same rewards rate as the TravelBank Card, but also gives you priority boarding and two United Club passes a year.
The Citi / AAdvantage Gold World Elite Mastercard has a $50 annual fee, and gives a generous 25,000 miles for just $750 in purchases within the first three months. The biggest downside with this card is it pays an unimpressive 1 mile per $1 spent on all purchases. There is no checked-bag perk, either, so if you usually travel with a big suitcase, look for an airline card that includes at least one free checked bag.