Thursday, March 30, 2017

The United Business Credit Card: Is It Best for Frequent Flyers?

Editor’s Note: American Express is a partner of Fundera.

The United MileagePlus® Explorer Business card from Chase has a lot to offer frequent flyers.

Between a solid signup bonus, lounge access, and free checked bags, United loyalists will find a lot to love with this United business credit card.

But how does it stack up against other top business travel cards?

We’ll break down the pros and cons of the United business credit card and compare it to leaders in its category.

The United MileagePlus Explorer Business Card: An Overview

The United business credit card starts off with a great signup bonus—50,000 United miles when you spend $3,000 in the first three months.

As for ongoing rewards, you’re looking at 2 miles per $1 spent on tickets purchased through United and on select bonus categories—including restaurants, gas stations, and office supply stores. Plus, you’ll get 1 mile per $1 spent elsewhere.

You’ll also get an extra 10,000 miles every year that your spending tops $25,000.

United miles’ value varies by how you redeem. If you turn a high-dollar-cost flight into an award flight, you can get 5 cents or more out of every mile—pretty good!

However, this requires redeeming strategically and likely compromising on which flight you take.

According to BoardingArea, United miles are worth about 1.4 cents each, so your signup bonus can be valued at around $700, and your ongoing rewards at 2.8% in bonus categories and 1.4% elsewhere. Depending on how strategically you redeem, though, your mileage—pardon the pun—will vary.

Aside from the rewards rate, the United business credit card offers more United perks—like a free checked bag for you and a companion, two United Club passes every year, and priority boarding.

There’s no foreign transaction fee or charge for additional employee cards, but there is a $95 annual fee (waived the first year).

Overall, it’s a solid business credit card if you’re a frequent United flyer.

But if you prefer flexibility or aren’t tied to this airline, it may not be the best option.

Get the United business credit card if:

  • You place at least a $50 value on United Lounge passes
  • You have enough flexibility that you can strategically redeem United miles
  • You check a bag on United flights at least twice a year

Skip the card if:

  • You don’t usually fly United (a general travel credit card will get you better value)
  • You want really nice travel perks (the Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN offers best-in-class benefits)
  • You want easy-to-earn, easy-to-redeem travel rewards (the Chase Ink Business PreferredSM has an excellent rewards rate)

How Does the United MileagePlus Compare to Other Travel Cards?

United MileagePlus vs. the Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN

The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN is the gold standard in business credit cards when it comes to travel perks.

For a $450 annual fee, you get a yearly $200 airline fee credit (which can be used for baggage fees, in-flight food and drink, and other non-ticket airline expenses), a credit for TSA Pre-check or Global Entry, Gogo and Boingo internet to keep you connected while traveling, and unlimited access to the American Express network of over 1,000 lounges (which includes Centurion, International American Express, Priority Pass Select, and Delta Sky Club lounges).

It’s a pricey card, and its ongoing rewards rate is nothing to write home about—2 Membership Rewards points per $1 spent on travel booked through Amex, 1.5 points per $1 on qualifying purchases of $5,000 or more (up to 1 million points), and 1 point per $1 elsewhere. (Membership Rewards points are worth about 1.7 cents each, per BoardingArea).

Its signup bonus, though, has the United MileagePlus card beat: the Business Platinum earns 50,000 points when you spend $10,000 when you spend $10,000 or 75,000 when you spend $20,000 in the first three months.

At a value of 1.7 cents per point, that’s a bonus of $850 if you spend at least $10,000 or $1,275 if you spend at least $20,000.

Our verdict: The American Express Business Platinum wins out if you strongly value perks like airport lounge access or free in-flight Wi-Fi.

However, if you’re a frequent United flyer—especially if you check bags on United flights—your loyalty is better rewarded with the MileagePlus.

United MileagePlus vs. the Chase Ink Business PreferredSM

While the United MileagePlus and Amex Platinum stand out for their perks, the Chase Ink Business PreferredSM offers fewer benefits but better rewards.

To start off with, it has a signup bonus of 80,000 Ultimate Rewards points when you spend $5,000 in the first three months—a much lower spending threshold than the Amex Platinum.

BoardingArea values Ultimate Rewards Points at 1.7 cents apiece, but again, you can dramatically increase their value by redeeming strategically. If you transfer your points to one of Chase’s airline and hotel partners (which include United), you can get a value upwards of 5 cents apiece. Using the 1.7 cents per point figure, though, you’re looking at a signup bonus worth $1,360.

The card also offers 1 point per dollar on most purchases and 3 points per $1 spent on:

  • Travel (including hotel stays, plane tickets, and transportation like rental cars, trains, and taxis)
  • Shipping purchases
  • Internet, cable, and phone services
  • Advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines

It does come with a $95 annual fee, but like the Amex Platinum and MileagePlus, it has no employee card or foreign transaction fee.

Our verdict: If you like flexibility in redeeming awards, or aren’t particularly wedded to United as an airline, the Chase Ink offers a better rewards rate.

Compared to the MileagePlus, the Chase Ink’s rewards are both easier to earn and easier to redeem. However, if you want solid perks like waived bag fees or lounge access, the United MileagePlus is the way to go.


Is the United loyalist in you telling you to get the United business credit card?

Or do you need to look more at the numbers to find the best travel business credit card for you? Compare all your options fully before you make your choice!

The post The United Business Credit Card: Is It Best for Frequent Flyers? appeared first on Fundera Ledger.

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