United MileagePlus reward points are among the most desirable in the airline industry. United is a large airline that flies all over by itself and add in some incredible partner airlines you can use MileagePlus points to book on Lufthansa, Singapore, Air Canada, SWISS, and many more.
Not surprisingly United branded credit cards are also very desirable to own. The Explorer card and Club card offer many perks, but come with an annual fee. Even if you don’t spend a ton on the cards, they maybe worth holding onto despite the annual fee. There are advertised perks as well as a powerful lesser known perk that could be worth holding onto for it all on its own.
- Sign Up Bonus
The enticing introductory offer allows you to pick up a big chunk of miles quickly. Meet a minimum spend requirement and have a large number of miles instantly make a travel dream come closer to reality. The Explorer card has a base sign up bonus at 40,000 miles, however it has been seen as high as 70,000 miles. The Club card includes a $100 statement credit. Both cards offer a personal and business versions allowing you to apply for both and get double the sign up bonus.
In addition you gain an additional 10,000 points if you spend $25,000 per calendar year with the Explorer card.
- Club Passes
The Club card includes United Club membership. The Explorer card includes 2 club passes per year. Amenities in the lounge include complimentary food and drinks, high speed wifi, and ability to take a shower before your flight. These can come in valuable as a way to recharge during a long layover.
- Priority Boarding and Free Checked Bags
With limited overhead bin space, priority boarding has become a high priority for many travelers. United card holders enjoy priority boarding for all flights.
Free checked bags are becoming almost a myth unless you have airline status. Owning a United card allows you one free checked bag with the explorer card and two free checked bags with the club card when using the card to book your ticket.
- Increased Availability On Award Flights
What use are all of those airline points if you can’t use them? Airlines don’t allow every seat to be booked using points. Only so many seats are available. However, United offers much greater availability to its card holders opposed to those who may have earned points through Chase or some other means.
Below is an example using United’s website for award availability. Searching for a trip from LAX to Zurich, we see in the first screenshot that there is only one option using 30,000 reward points an it has a less than desirable arrival time in Zuirch.
Once you log in with your MileagePlus account you can see your options increase dramatically. You now have 4 more options at the 30,000 point economy level. These are designated with a note indicating that they are available because you are a United MileagePlus card holder.
If you don’t use your United Airlines branded card that often and it could be tempting to cancel it in order to avoid an annual fee. This is especially tempting if you have Chase cards that can transfer to United. This could be a mistake though as the power of a United branded card is important for any traveler that flies on United even sporadically. In particular the flexibility of increased award availability is a valuable tool that can well be worth the annual fee.