The United TravelBank card beats other Chase United Airlines credit cards but is not the most flexible travel card out there
Does paying an annual fee to earn cash back or travel rewards turn you off?
It's a common lament.
Oftentimes, after you subtract the fees you pay, the cash or travel points you've earned can feel like they're worth a lot less than they seemed at first glance.
Chase Bank offers three credit cards in partnership with United Airlines.
Only one—the United TravelBank credit card—comes with no annual fee.
Other United cards come with hefty fees.We like it better than the United MileagePlus Explorer card and the United MileagePlus Club card, both of which carry annual fees of $95 and $450 respectively.
Being inflexible makes it a less competitive card.Compared to earning cash back or travel rewards with other cards, United TravelBank is much more limited when it comes to redeeming what you've earned.
TravelBank cash is restricted for use on United Airlines' expenses only.
You can use it for anything else.
That's a big limitation, especially when compared to other, more flexible cards.
There are other cards out there with practically identical earning potential, and you can redeem points with them for any kind of travel and with any carrier too!
The verdict with the United TravelBank card is that it beats other Chase/United Airlines cards, but all things considered, there are still better cards out there for earning travel rewards or cash back.
What Makes the United TravelBank Card So Special?
If you travel exclusively with United, you can earn more and get discounts
There are a lot of great credit card offers out there today, so it's worth taking the time to decide whether or not the United TravelBank credit card is right for you.
The only people who should seriously consider this card are those who travel a lot and are always willing to choose United as their airline for all their flights.
United Airlines has hubs across America.If you live near one of United's hubs, the card could be worth it, since you'll almost always find a United flight.
United Airlines hubs include Los Angeles International Airport, O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, and Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey.
Earn more by spending with United.Using the United TravelBank card to purchase plane tickets or other expenses through United Airlines earns 2 cents in TravelBank cash for every dollar spent.
For example, if you bought an $800 United Airlines plane ticket, you'd earn $16 back in TravelBank cash, which is worth $16 real cash!
The catch is, the $16 you earned can only be used to purchase more United Airlines tickets or services.
Save a quarter of the airline costs with its card. When you're at the airport or on your flight, United expenses like seat upgrades, baggage fees, and in-flight food and drink are 25% off with the United TravelBank card.
You'll receive your 25% refund on these purchases as statement credit.
Why Do People Love the United TravelBank card?
People love its straightforward cash back-style earnings
Unlike a lot of travel cards where you earn points to redeem for travel purchases, the United TravelBank card lets you earn TravelBank cash.
TravelBank cash is earned at an unlimited rate of 2 cents per dollar spent with United, and 1.5 cents per dollar spent on everything else (barring certain exceptions, like lottery tickets).
It's a mix of cash back and travel rewards programs. Instead of redeeming United TravelBank cash as points for travel, you use them to purchase tickets with United at a rate of 1:1 for flight costs.
If your TravelBank cash balance is $1,000, it means you have exactly $1,000 to spend on United Airlines plane tickets or other expenses.
More valuable than MileagePlus miles.For purchasing standard airfare, the TravelBank cash you earn is often worth more than the miles you earn through Chase's United MileagePlus credit cards.
Let's take, for example, a flight from Dallas to Chicago costing $196.40.
If you want to purchase the ticket with TravelBank cash, it will cost you exactly that, $196.40.
Purchasing the ticket with MileagePlus miles is a little different.
United offers uniform redemption rates for flights to different places, rather than basing the miles you need to redeem on the ticket price itself.
All normal economy flights within the United States require 32,500 miles, regardless of the cost.
For the same $196.40 ticket, you'd have to spend 32,500 in MileagePlus miles, as well as pay an additional $11.20 fee.
With a one-cent-per-point redemption rate, using miles costs $336.20, which is significantly more than the $196.40 required for the same ticket in TravelBank cash.
You can't use TravelBank cash on United's Saver deals. Using MileagePlus miles has only one leg up on TravelBank cash, and that is for Saver seats, which cost either 10,000 or 12,000 points for US domestic flights.
It's quite unfortunate that you can't use TravelBank cash for United Airlines' Saver ticket offers.
Then again, Saver tickets are so restricted in terms of available routes, dates, and seating that it can be difficult to plan travel using them anyway.
What Are the Downsides to the United TravelBank Credit Card?
People regret limiting their options to just one airline
The main downside, especially when compared to other travel rewards and cash back cards, is that the United TravelBank card only lets you redeem earnings with United Airlines.
Considering you can't even combine or transfer TravelBank cash with United MileagePlus miles when you're making a United purchase, this feels extremely limiting.
The card allows you to fly United only.It's also impossible to redeem the TravelBank cash for United Airlines flights involving a second carrier.
For example, if you have a two-legged flight and one leg is with United while the connecting flight is with Lufthansa, you wouldn't be able to buy your ticket using TravelBank cash.
That's a bummer, especially for frequent travelers to such destinations.
Discover it Miles and two other no-fee travel cards might pique your interest with no limitations on redeeming rewards
Other cards are more flexible.There are other cards with no annual fees that have similar earning potential, and you're allowed to redeem miles for travel with any carrier you like!
The Discover it Miles card, for example, lets you earn miles on 1.5% of all purchases with no limits.
When you'd like to redeem miles for travel you simply book whatever flight or hotel you want using the card and put your miles toward the purchase.
There are no blackout dates or other restrictions, unlike the United TravelBank card, and your rewards never expire.
TravelBank cash expires after 18 months of card inactivity.
How the United TravelBank card compares to the Discover it Miles card
|United TravelBank||Discover it Miles|
|How high of a credit score do you need?||>630||>648|
|How big of a sign-up bonus do you get?||$150||All miles matched after year one|
|How much do you need to spend to get the bonus?||$1,000 in first 3 months||$1 and up|
|How many points do you get for every dollar?||2 cents for United Airlines purchases, 1.5 cents for all other purchases||1.5 points for all purchases|
|Any restrictions?||2-cent rate is only for United Airlines, and redemption is only with United Airlines.||None|
|If you spent $100 on the card, then how much would the points be worth in dollars?||$2 (if spent on United Airlines), $1.50 (for everything else)||$1.50|
|How much would you need to spend on the card to make up for the fees (excluding APR/rates)?||$0||$0|
Capital One Venture One and the BankAmericard Travel Rewards card are two other competitive products to consider
Two other no-fee credit cards letting you fly any airline you want are the Capital One Venture One and the BankAmericard Travel Rewards cards.
The Capital One Venture One card is a cash back card where you earn 1.25% cash back on all purchases, every day.
The Bankamericard Travel Rewards credit card lets you earn 1.5 points for every dollar you spend and 2 points for travel purchases made through the Bank of America portal.
It basically offers the exact same rate for earning as the United TravelBank card.
For both of these competitors, when it's time to redeem for travel you can book any carrier you like, whenever you like, and the points are redeemed as statement credits.
The Question Everyone's Asking
Is there a sign-up bonus or introductory 0% APR offer?
The sign-up bonus for new United TravelBank cardholders is $150 in TravelBank cash.
In order to qualify to receive the bonus, all you have to do is use the card to pay for $1,000 in purchases within the first three months.
Compared to other no-fee travel rewards cards, the $150 TravelBank cash offer is fairly modest.
Discover it Miles will double your earnings.For example, when you sign up for the Discover it Miles card, all of the points you earn in year one are doubled.
If you just spent $1,000 a month at the 1.5% rate across the board, you'd earn 18,000 points, which would be doubled to 36,000 points (worth $360 at a penny-a-point rate).
The Capital One Venture One card and the Bankamericard Travel Rewards card both reward you with 20,000-point sign-up bonuses (worth $200) for spending $1,000 within 30 days.
No 0% intro APR offer.Unlike many of the top cards offered today, the United TravelBank card doesn't give new cardholders an interest-free opening period as a reward for signing up.
How It All Works
Although there are no annual fees or foreign transaction fees, the high APR will cost you
It seems that with most things in life there is always a trade-off, and the United TravelBank card is no exception.
Low fees are the strongest feature.There are also no foreign transaction fees, an important feature for any card meant for travelers.
High APR means you'll pay more interest.The trade-off is you'll pay a very high interest rate if you use the card to carry an unpaid balance.
The average APR for the United TravelBank card is 20.99%.
The average APR for the Discover it Miles card, which also charges no annual fee, is a full two percentage points less at 18.99%.
If you shop around, you'll find several other credit cards with even lower interest rates.
If you put a $1,000 unpaid balance on the United TravelBank card and maintained minimum payments of $30 a month at 20.99%, it would take 51 months to pay it off.
You'd pay $513.52 in total interest over the 4–5 years it would take to pay it back.
Your United Airlines online account is handy for managing and redeeming United TravelBank cash
The first thing you should do when you sign up for a United TravelBank cash credit card is to set yourself up with a MileagePlus account at united.com if you don't already have one.
This account will tell you exactly how much United TravelBank cash you currently have available, so you can watch it grow over time.
Book and redeem TravelBank cash through United.When it's time to buy a plane ticket for an all-United flight, you purchase directly through the airline.
As you go through the booking process, visit the united.com site and log into your account.
You'll be able to use the TravelBank cash in your balance toward the booking at a dollar-for-dollar value.
Although you can't combine the TravelBank cash you earn with United MileagePlus points, you can combine it with other approved payment methods (e.g. credit cards).
Instead of the United TravelBank card, just get a flexible cash back or travel rewards credit card
If you travel all over the place on business and live in close proximity to a United Airlines airport hub, it might make sense to get the United TravelBank card.
In addition to earning 2% with United, and using TravelBank cash to buy tickets, you also get 25% off food and drink, which could really add up if you are a frequent United flyer.
That said, if you're seriously considering getting the United TravelBank card, earning United TravelBank cash isn't the best reason for doing so.
There are loads of other cash back cards that offer users the chance to earn 1–5% in cash back, plus you can spend the points you earn any way you like.
Travel cards offering more flexible redemption options, including redeeming points and miles through United or any other airline, are available to you.
So, it doesn't really make sense to sign up for a card that only lets you earn cash back at 2% with one airline, and restricts your ability to redeem points earned to just one carrier.
Unless you're incredibly loyal to United Airlines, go with one of the more flexible cards instead of the United TravelBank card.
You'll be able to use your card to earn and redeem with tons of different airlines, and interestingly, that includes United too.
Do you have a United TravelBank credit card or a competing travel rewards card?
How has your card worked out for you so far?
Let us know in the comments below!
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I get started?
To get started, you need to apply for the United TravelBank card with Chase bank.
There's a place on Chase's website where you can find information about the card.
Click the "Apply Now" button on the left and it will take you to the application page.
It might make sense to register for a MileagePlus account with United Airlines before you apply, especially if United is your airline of choice.
Although you can't use them together, your United TravelBank cash is stored in the same online site as MileagePlus, so use your account to link them.
If you don't have a MileagePlus account, you will automatically be assigned one after applying for the United TravelBank card.
How do I close my account?
You can cancel your card by calling 1-800-935-9935.
Another method is to send a message to the bank through your online account.
One thing to consider is closing your account will hurt your credit score, just like closing any normal line of credit would.
Having available credit and keeping utilization low looks good to the credit bureaus, and your score will reflect that.
Plus an aged line of credit carries more weight on a credit report.
Another thing to remember is to make sure you've cleared your balance and used all of your TravelBank cash for United purchases.
The TravelBank cash is good for up to 18 months even if you don't use the card.
How do I contact a human for customer support?
J.P. Morgan Chase bank has over 5,100 branches across the US, and you can find the one closest to where you are via the website branch locator.
You can also call the customer service line at 1-800-935-9935.
Can you have a United TravelBank card and a United MileagePlus Explorer card at the same time?
Yes, you can have both of these Chase/United partner cards at the same time.
One thing to consider before signing up for multiple cards is what is known as the "5/24 rule" in the credit card industry.
If you've signed up for five credit cards in the last 24 months, you will probably be declined for new credit card account, so pace yourself accordingly.
Is the United TravelBank credit card a Visa?
The United TravelBank credit card is a Visa Signature card.
When you make a purchase with the card, you will get all the benefits associated with any other Visa Signature account.
Is there a complimentary travel insurance that comes with this card?
Yes, like every Visa Signature account, there is travel insurance.
Trip cancellation reimbursement insurance is provided for trips booked using the card.
Does this card cover rental car insurance?
Yes, as a Visa Signature account, when you use the card to rent a car you are automatically covered by car rental insurance.
Does the card provide purchase coverage?
Yes, all Visa Signature accounts provide two types of purchase coverage.
First, there is reimbursement for anything you bought within the past 90 days that's been stolen or damaged.
Second, price-drop protection will reimburse you the difference if you find a lower price for something you bought on the card within 90 days.
What purchases or expenses do not earn TravelBank cash?
Although you earn 2 cents per dollar for United travel purchases, and 1.5 cents on pretty much everything else, there are a few limitations.
You can't earn TravelBank cash on lottery tickets, traveler's checks, casino chips, balance transfers, paying credit card fees, or interest payments.
Is the United TravelBank card good for balance transfers?
Unfortunately, this card is not ideal for balance transfers.
The United TravelBank card doesn't have a 0% balance transfer APR introductory period, usually 6–21 months long, unlike a lot of other credit cards which do.
The card also charges a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 5% of the transfer, whichever is bigger.
The high APR is also an issue since the goal of a balance transfer is usually to move a balance from a high-interest account to one with a lower APR.
This makes it a poor choice for balance transfers.
Can I still earn points on the card when I travel overseas?
Your card still earns points and functions the same overseas, and charges no foreign transaction fees, which is par for the course for a card geared towards travelers.
So, all qualified expenses count toward your TravelBank cash balance even when your purchases are made abroad.
What can I use my credit card for?
You can use your United TravelBank credit card to make purchases or pay for expenses or services with any vendor accepting Visa payments.
This includes online purchases as well as purchases from brick-and-mortar locations.
How can I check my credit card balance?
Everyone who signs up with a credit card or bank account with J.P. Morgan Chase gets access to an online account platform.
You can check your balance, make payments, and track expenses using the online account.
There is also a free app that's been created for J.P. Morgan Chase customers, which you can use to check your credit card and other account balances.
Are there any upgrades on this credit card?
Unfortunately there is only one membership tier for the United TravelBank card.
If you'd like to pay an annual fee for more features, you can get either the United MileagePlus Club credit card or the United MileagePlus Explorer card from Chase.
The United MileagePlus Club card has an annual fee of $450 and gets you two free checked bags on flights, priority boarding, and membership with United's airport lounges.
The United MileagePlus Explorer card gets you one free checked bag per flight, priority boarding, and two passes per year to United airport lounges.