Credit Cards

Two Airline Credit Cards That Need A Benefit Update

Ultimate Rewards
Written by Charlie

There are two airline credit cards that really need a benefit update, thanks to better options by their own issuer! Find out what they are and the alternatives!


Over the last couple of years, we have seen something of a shift from card issuers in how they manage reward points. While they still offer co-brand cards that give great value for things like airlines and hotels, their own products are becoming somewhat competitive with the value provided to many consumers.

Two Airline Credit Cards That Need a Benefit Update

Which brings us to the the two airline credit cards that I feel need a major benefit update. They are the United Club card and the United MileagePlus Explorer, both from Chase.

Why They Need An Update

Two of the key selling points for customers to retain these cards year after year have always been tied to mileage earning. The United Club card (with an annual fee of $450) offers great things like United Club membership and priority access when flying United, and those are some of the chief benefits.

Mileage Earning Bonuses

But, the other chief benefit was the constant 1.5 United miles per dollar on all spending. That put this card in a special place for people wanting to earn the most United miles on all their purchases.

On the lower fee end of the spectrum, we have the United MileagePlus Explorer. It also dangles a mileage earning benefit to cardholders in an effort to have them keep it and use it. It is the ability to earn 10,000 United miles after spending $25,000 in a year. If you spend exactly $25,000, that means you are essentially earning 1.4 miles per dollar on any spending you do.

Why do those cards need a benefit update or boost? It is become Chase has, in a way, hamstrung those benefits on their co-branded card by offering cards that give even better value.

Better Alternatives – By Chase

Look at the Chase Freedom Unlimited. This is a card that gives you 1.5% cash back on every dollar you spend. When tied to a Chase Ultimate Reward earning card, that becomes 1.5 Ultimate Reward points per dollar. And it is NO ANNUAL FEE! In one fell swoop, you can get a card that has the potential to be earn 1.5 United miles with no annual fee of its own (when the points are transferred to a UR card and transferred to United).

Then we can swing to the Chase high end card and look at the wonderful Chase Sapphire Reserve. When it comes to travel redemptions, it is awesome because you are getting 1.5 cents per point in redemption. If you paired that with the Chase Freedom Unlimited, you would be getting a straight 2.25% value for travel on all of your spending!

Example On Mileage Uses

If you were to rack up United miles for the purpose of redeeming for business class on, say Lufthansa, between the US and Europe, you would be needing to earn 140,000 United miles for such a roundtrip. Imagine if you earned that with Ultimate Reward points and redeemed using the Chase Sapphire Reserve. That turns into $2,100 worth of travel! With the frequent business class sales the pop up, it is quite reasonable to just get your business class ticket by “buying” it with points instead of using miles! Oh, and you would earn miles by going that route!


Sure, there are other benefits for both United cards but the earning bonus is something that is definitely marketed to encourage people to keep the card. With better earning alternatives right in the Chase stable, I think it is time for Chase and United to develop a benefit upgrade for these cards. A companion ticket would be great, even if it required some spending to earn it!

Additional benefits: Just to make sure I am being fair, both United cards have valuable benefits for United flyers like lounge access and priority access (for the United Club card) and free bags and enhanced award availability for the MileagePlus cards. But, since United advertises the mileage earning, I think it is time to kick that benefit up a notch.

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About the author


Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.


  • Plus, the with the lower Chase United card, you actually have to use the card to pay for United tickets to get the free checked bag. That’s way worse than any other airline’s checked bag benefit, and too difficult to keep track of when it’s time to buy the ticket

  • Just cancelled my wife’s United card. Completely worthless compared to Sapphire and JPM Reserve and even more so for those with elite status. Will be cancelling a lot more annual fee cards this year if they don’t shape up.