Hot on the heels of American Express and Delta announcing a no-annual-fee airline card, United Airlines and Chase introduced their own no-annual-fee airline credit card, the United℠ TravelBank Card.
The United℠ TravelBank Card is geared toward casual flyers who like the opportunity to earn free flights in a relatively short amount of time, but aren't necessarily burning up the runways with their frequent travel and don't require a lot of the perks and features that come with airline cards that charge annual fees.
This new card is an easy-to-carry alternative to the United MileagePlus® Explorer and the United MileagePlus® Club cards, both of which offer more bells and whistles, but also come with annual fees – $95 and $450, respectively – that can be real obstacles for many consumers and likely aren't a great value for the every-so-often traveler.
The United℠ TravelBank Cardd is a streamlined card with $0 annual fee and an easy-to-understand rewards program that's a breath of fresh air for anyone who embraces simplicity and bristles at lengthy legalese. You earn 2 percent in TravelBank cash for every $1 spent on United Airlines tickets purchased directly from the airline. You earn 1.5 percent TravelBank cash on all your other purchases. In addition, cardholders receive a $150 bonus credit in their "bank" if they use their card for at least $1,000 of qualified purchases in the first three months.
The credits you accumulate in your "TravelBank" can be used at any time toward ticket purchases on United Airlines. The best part? $1 TravelBank cash equals $1 toward your ticket. It doesn't get simpler than that.
Sweetening the deal a bit, United℠ TravelBank Card cardholders also enjoy a 25 percent statement credit on all in-flight food and beverage purchases made using your card on your United Airlines flight.
If you are a looking for a simple credit card airline rewards program that will earn you discounted, or even free, tickets in a short period of time, consider these points about the United TravelBank Card:
The travel rewards program for the United℠ TravelBank Card is easy to understand and satisfies the need for immediate gratification. Perhaps the best part, though, is the lucrative rewards-earning opportunities without an annual fee.
You get 2 percent TravelBank cash back on every United Airlines ticket purchased directly with the airline. You get a robust 1.5 percent for all other purchases, which is the rate at which many, if not most, regular flat-rate cash-back credit cards earn. Spend at least $1,000 on qualified purchases – that's a low bar when it comes to signup bonus spending thresholds – in the first three months and receive a $150 bonus credit in your "bank." It's that simple.
Those credits can add up in a hurry and there is no limit on how much you can "bank." There are also no restrictions on when you can redeem your banked credits toward United Airline ticket purchases.
We also love the fact that you get a 25 percent statement credit on your in-flight purchases. It's a good feeling to know you'll be getting a rebate on anything you might spend on food or beverages during a long flight.
And, lastly, feel free to use your TravelBank dollars to jet abroad since you won't pay foreign transaction fees if you use the United℠ TravelBank Card while overseas.
The United℠ TravelBank Card should probably not be the only card in your wallet. The rewards offered are simply too narrow. Instead, consider combining this card with another cash-back rewards card that offers bonus rewards in categories in which you often shop. Since there's no annual fee, there's no harm in carrying the United℠ TravelBank Card as a go-to for its 1.5 percent back on your purchases, but racking up bonus rewards with a card that earns more in particular categories would be a nice touch.
Remember, too, that the credits you accumulate in your "bank" for each dollar spent, can only be used on United Airlines ticket purchases and the 25 percent statement credit is only on in-flight purchases made while flying United.
One other thing to keep in mind: this card doesn't offer you free baggage check. Many airline rewards cards offer a free first bag as a perk for their cardholders. That said, most of those cards also charge an annual fee.
You will also want to make sure you make your monthly payment on time, as there is a fee of up to $37 on late payments.
United℠ TravelBank Card vs. Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
The United℠ TravelBank Card targets casual flyers and limits reward redemption to the purchase of United Airline tickets. Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express's Starpoints®, on the other hand, can be redeemed at more than 1,300 participating hotels and resorts in both the SPG and Marriott families in over 100 countries and for flights on more than 150 airlines with SPG flights, all with no blackout dates (American Express is a CardRatings advertiser. Terms apply. See Rates and Fees). When it comes to rewards, you'll earn up to five Starpoints® per $1 spent at participating SPG and Marriott hotels and one point on all your other purchases.
The United℠ TravelBank Card has $0 annual fee. Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express has an introductory offer of $0 annual fee the first year but then is $95 a year after that.
When it comes to bonuses, you can earn 25,000 bonus Starpoints® after you use your new Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express to make $3,000 in purchases within the first three months. With the United℠ TravelBank Card, you can earn $150 credit to your "bank" after making $1,000 in qualified purchases over the first three months.
You might consider carrying both cards if you really want to pad your travel fund. If you're committed to United Airlines for your transportation and SPG or Marriott for your hotel stays, the combo of these two cards could be a solid fit for your wallet, especially since you'll get the benefits of both, but only one charges an annual fee.
United℠ TravelBank Card vs. Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
Both the United℠ TravelBank Card and Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card tout your ability to rack up rewards in a short period of time and both offer bonuses to get the ball rolling. The key difference is in how much a cardholder anticipates spending on their card and how much flexibility you expect when it comes time to redeem.
With the United℠ TravelBank Card, you can earn a $150 credit to your "bank" after making $1,000 in qualified purchases over the first three months. The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card, targeting a bigger spender, offers 50,000 miles (equal to $500 in travel) once you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months.
While the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card might offer bigger rewards at two times the points on every purchase, the United℠ TravelBank Card seems better suited for someone on a budget and with visions of taking a flight or two a year perhaps to visit family and when you don't need points for hotel stays or other travel expenses.
The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card waives the annual fee the first year but charges $95 per year after that. That said, you can rack up points quickly with this card and you can redeem them for a variety of travel needs without having to worry about brand loyalty or black-out dates.
United℠ TravelBank Card vs. Discover it® Miles
Neither the United℠ TravelBank Card, nor the Discover it® Miles charges an annual fee or foreign transaction fees, attractive qualities in a credit card for travelers on a budget.
With Discover it® Miles, you earn 1.5 miles for every $1 spent on qualifying purchases, but it's really the signup bonus that makes this card special. Discover will MATCH every mile you accumulate during your first year after activating the card. There is no limit, meaning this total could be substantial depending on how much you spend. It basically means that earning 30,000 miles in your first year means you've earn 60,000 miles. Put another way, you essentially earn three miles per $1 spent during your first year.
And those miles are redeemable for statement credit to cover your travel-related expenses, which means they can cover a variety of travel needs. Keep in mind, though, the signup bonus is a delayed gratification situation. If you're hoping to open a credit card and use a signup bonus to travel soon afterward, Discover it® Miles doesn't offer than opportunity.
This card is designed for folks who are casual travelers, but still appreciate a free flight when they can snag one. The United℠ TravelBank Card gives you the chance to accumulate rewards on everyday purchases at a rate that's comparable to regular flat-rate cash-back cards. Plus, you can earn a bonus without having to spend a huge amount upfront and without having to pay an annual fee. The lack of foreign transaction fees is also nice if you're dreaming of getaway abroad.
The rewards program is perfectly designed for people who like to keep things simple and for anyone who gets excited about the chance to score airline tickets at little or no cost – as long as you're a loyal United Airlines flyer, that is.