United℠ TravelBank Card Review
Frequent flyer mile credit cards have been going out of style recently, and deservedly so. As many airlines have lost their customers trust by rapidly devaluing their frequent flyer programs, credit card issuers have begun offering more valuable travel rewards that aren’t tied to miles with a single airline. Chase and United hope to win back some of these cardholders with their new United℠ TravelBank Card.
How This Card Works
While being co-branded with United, this card doesn’t offer rewards in its MileagePlus frequent flyer program. Instead, you earn something called TravelBank cash. This is the equivalent of store credit that can be used to pay for any flight operated by United or United Express and purchased from United.com. When purchasing a ticket, you can even combine TravelBank cash with other forms of payment.
New applicants receive $150 in United TravelBank cash after making $1,000 in purchases within three months of account opening. You also earn 2% back in TraveBank cash on purchases from United including tickets and fees, and 1.5% on all other purchases. And when you make inflight purchases of food or beverages on United-operated flights, you’ll receive 25% back as a statement credit.
Other benefits include auto rental insurance, trip cancellation, and trip interruption coverage. When shopping, your eligible purchases are covered against theft and accidental damage for 120 days, and you have a 90 day price protection policy. There’s no annual fee for this card, and no foreign transaction fees.
First, this card earns rewards that aren’t subject to the complex rules and unpredictable changes of airline frequent flyer programs. For example, United has already announced that many of its awards will cost more miles starting in November, but those kinds of changes won’t affect TraveBank cash. And when airline tickets go on sale, you can also use your TravelBank credits to pay for reduced price tickets.
It’s nice to earn 2% cash back on all United Airlines purchases, not just tickets, and the 1.5% rate of return elsewhere is fairly competitive for a card with no annual fee. The 25% savings on in-flight purchases is a small benefit, but it’s great to see that this card has no foreign transaction fees. In contrast, many credit cards still impose an unnecessary 3% fee on all charges processed outside of the United States. For a card with no annual fee, it comes with a generous amount of travel insurance and purchase protection policies. Finally, the $150 sign-up bonus is very valuable and is often enough for a free, round-trip ticket in economy class.
Earning cash back is always superior to earning store credit that can only be used with a single merchant, with restrictions. For example, United TravelBank cash can only be used for ticket purchases on flights operated by United or United Express carriers, which excludes flights that United sells that are operated by either its Star Alliance or its non-alliance partners. You also can’t use TravelBank cash for baggage fees, change fees, upgrades, or other charges imposed by United - it’s only valid for the purchase of new tickets. It’s also disappointing that this card doesn’t include some of the other benefits offered by Chase’s United MileagePlus cards, such as a free checked bag or priority boarding.
There are competing credit cards that offer 1.5% - 2% returns either as cash back or as statement credits towards any travel purchases. In most respects, these rewards would be better than earning United TravelBank credit that’s somewhat restricted. But with no annual fee, no foreign transaction fees, and strong cardholder benefits, some travelers may still find the to be worth considering.
Editorial Note: The information related to United℠ TravelBank Card has been collected by Credit Cards House and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.
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Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.