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United TravelBank from Chase is an approachable credit card with no annual fee and a straightforward rewards program that’s more than enough to earn it a slot on our list of the best travel rewards credit cards on the market. Every dollar in purchases made with this card earns TravelBank cash, which you can then redeem for airline tickets on United.com’s booking portal or the United Reservations phone hotline.
The United TravelBank Card doesn’t have the attractive fringe benefits or luxury perks of higher-end travel rewards credit cards, including stablemates like the Chase United MileagePlus Explorer Card and Chase United MileagePlus Club Card. But it’s a great option for regular fliers for whom it’s no trouble to remain loyal to United Airlines.
Here’s what you need to know about the United TravelBank Card’s features, benefits, disadvantages, and overall suitability for your travel needs.
When you spend at least $1,000 in eligible net purchases within the first 3 months your account is open, you get $150 in bonus TravelBank cash, which can be redeemed for United airfare at United.com and the United Reservations phone hotline.
Earn unlimited 2% United TravelBank cash per $1 spent on airline tickets purchased from United. Purchases must be made directly with United, on United.com or the United Reservations phone hotline. United airfare purchases made through third-party travel booking sites, such as Expedia and Booking.com, don’t qualify for the 2% rate.
Earn unlimited 1.5% TravelBank cash per $1 spent on all other eligible purchases. TravelBank cash automatically accumulates in your TravelBank account, and there’s no limit to how much you can earn. TravelBank cash doesn’t expire as long as you maintain your account in good standing and with qualifying activity under the terms of the TravelBank program.
You can redeem your accumulated TravelBank cash for United airline tickets purchased directly from United (flights signed with United and United Express). $1 in TravelBank cash is worth $1 toward eligible United airfare purchases.
You don’t need to wait until you’ve accumulated enough TravelBank cash to cover the full cost of a flight. You can combine TravelBank cash with other eligible forms of payment, including credit card payments, during the redemption process.
25% Rebate on In-Flight Food and Beverage Purchases
As long as your account remains open and in good standing, you’re entitled to a 25% rebate on in-flight food and beverage purchases charged to your card on United and United Express flights. The rebate comes as a statement credit.
This card has some additional travel and shopping benefits backed by Visa and Chase. You don’t need to pay anything out of pockets to be eligible for these benefits, though there may be costs associated with invoking them.
- Trip Cancellation and Interruption Coverage: This card comes with a nice travel insurance policy that provides up to $1,500 in reimbursement for nonrefundable travel purchases forfeited when you cancel or cut short your trip due to certain covered reasons.
- Rental Car Insurance: When you decline your rental car company’s offer of coverage and pay for your rental in full with your card, you’re covered for loss and damage claims (secondary to your primary auto insurance policy) up to certain predetermined limits. Check your cardmember agreement for details.
- Purchase Assurance: This benefit covers the replacement or reimbursement of stolen or damaged items purchased in full with your card for 120 days from the date of purchase. It’s capped at $500 per claim and $50,000 per account.
- Price Protection: When you find a lower advertised price on an already-purchased item within 90 days of purchase, you’re reimbursed for the difference up to $500 per item and $2,500 per year.
United TravelBank has no annual fee or foreign transaction fee. Balance transfers cost the greater of $5 or 5% of the transferred or advanced amount. Cash advances cost the greater of $10 or 5%.
This card requires good to excellent credit.
- No Annual Fee. The United TravelBank card has no annual fee. That’s great news for penny-pinching travelers who want to maximize their return on spending.
- Solid Return on Regular Spending. This card has a solid return on regular spending – 1.5% on all purchases, with no caps or restrictions on how much you can earn. That’s in line with some of the best cash back credit cards on the market.
- Solid Sign-Up Bonus. This card’s sign-up bonus is worth $150 in TravelBank cash. It requires just $1,000 in spending over 3 months to achieve. You can probably clear the threshold on your next family vacation.
- Discounts on Certain In-Flight Purchases With United. When you charge in-flight food and beverage purchases to your TravelBank card on United and United Express flights, you’re entitled to a 25% rebate, payable as a statement credit. This is a nice value-added perk for fliers who don’t have time to fill up or kick back at the airport. If you fly often and regularly order food in the air, it could be worth tens or hundreds of dollars each year.
- Straightforward, Flexible Redemption. Redeeming your TravelBank cash is a cinch – simpler and more straightforward than redeeming United MileagePlus miles, for sure. All you need to do to cash in your TravelBank dollars is log into your MileagePlus account and book airfare directly through United. If you don’t have enough TravelBank cash to cover the full cost of your flight, you can combine other payment methods to complete the transaction.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees. If you regularly fly United overseas, you’ll love the lack of foreign transaction fees on this card. This is a relatively rare benefit for an annual-fee-free credit card – and a welcome one for frugal globetrotters.
- Limited Travel Benefits. The United TravelBank card’s travel benefits aren’t particularly generous. Besides the 25% in-flight food and beverage discount, there’s not much here beyond the standard Visa-backed travel benefits package. If you’re looking for a fuller lineup of travel perks, look to a premium alternative like The Platinum Card from American Express or the Citi Prestige Card.
- Earnings Capped at 2%. There’s no way to earn more than 2% back on spending with this card. That’s a drawback relative to some no-annual-fee cash back cards, such as Chase Freedom and Discover it. Both earn up to 5% back on regular spending.
- TravelBank Cash Is Not Like Regular Cash. TravelBank cash isn’t nearly as versatile as regular cash. In fact, it’s only good for one thing: United airfare purchased directly from United Airlines. Since earning free or reduced air travel with United is the whole purpose of this card, that’s not really a deal-breaker. But it would be nice if you could redeem TravelBank cash with other travel partners, such as hotels, or – gasp – non-travel items.
- Must Redeem Through United.com or United Reservations. You can only redeem your TravelBank cash through United.com or the United Reservations phone hotline. While the redemption process itself is straightforward, a better menu of redemption options would be welcome – for instance, the ability to redeem through third-party booking sites.
United TravelBank is a great first travel rewards credit card. It’s easy to use, easy to understand, and pretty much free of red tape.
But there are some catches. The ideal user is someone who’s quite loyal to United Airlines, or at least okay with flying United more often than not. TravelBank cash is misleadingly named, too – it’s not really “cash” if you can’t use it for anything other than airfare purchases.
Perhaps these are quibbles. If you’re looking for an alternative to traditional airline credit cards, which can be mind-numbingly confusing to understand and frustrating to use (especially come redemption time), United TravelBank might be your ticket to free or reduced-cost air travel.