In This Article
Don't get distracted by bigger offers on other cards. Looking at what's available as a whole and what makes for the best strategy will help your points and miles hobby.
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Whether you’re new to this hobby and you’ve just taken the 10xTravel free course about how to travel the world for next to nothing or you’re a seasoned award traveler, you know how valuable it is to be under 5/24 (five credit cards opened in the last 24 months).
This is the rule that guides our card opening strategies, so you want to scrutinize every card you open that adds to your 5/24 count. Once you’re over the limit, the number of cards you can be approved for narrows.
If you’re over 5/24, applying for any Chase card will result in an instant denial. So let’s talk about some cards that can be great additions to your wallet when you’re under 5/24, specifically the co-branded United Airlines cards.
Based on the current welcome offers on the personal and business United MileagePlus credit cards, there is a total of 335,000 miles available to earn.
|United℠ Explorer Card||Up to 70,000 miles. 60,000 after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening and an additional 10,000 after spending $6,000 total in the first six months|
|United Quest℠ Card||70,000 miles after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening|
|United Club℠ Infinite Card||100,000 miles after spending $5,000 on purchaseswithin the first three months of account opening|
|United℠ Business Card||75,000 miles after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening, plus 75,000 more miles after spending an additional $15,000 total on purchases in the first six months of account opening.|
Pairing these United cards with Chase personal and business credit cards can help you build a solid foundation if you are just starting out in this hobby. To help build out a scenario, let’s say Frank just joined the 10xTravel Insiders Facebook group and hasn’t opened any credit cards in the past 24 months. Although we always recommend looking at the best credit cards, here’s how a strategy of opening Chase and United personal and business cards could look.
First, our newbie Frank opens a Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card to earn 80,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 in the first three months of account opening. For our limit count, this puts him at 1/24.
Let’s say Frank also has a side hustle that allows him to qualify for business credit cards. The next move is to open the Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card for an additional 75,000 Ultimate Rewards points after reaching the minimum-spending requirement.
Because Chase business cards don’t get reported to your personal credit report, they don’t count against his 5/24 total. This means that Frank is still at 1/24 and now has earned 155,000 Ultimate Rewards points.
For his next card, Frank opens the Ink Business Cash® Credit Card for another 75,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $7,500 in the first three months of account opening. Our friend is racking up Ultimate Rewards quickly (he has 230,000 points now) and remains at 1/24.
Frank decides he’s ready to move on to United cards. To keep his 5/24 count low, he opts for the United℠ Business Card first, which means he can earn 75,000 miles after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first three months since account opening.
Once he’s met that minimum spend, Frank feels ready to add a personal card into the mix with the United Quest℠ Card and earn 70,000 MileagePlus miles after hitting the minimum spend. This addition puts his card count at 2/24.
Then, Frank finds the United℠ Explorer Card appealing and chooses to add it to his wallet along with up to 70,000 miles – 60,000 after spending $3,000 within the first three months of account opening and an additional 10,000 after spending $6,000 total in the first six months.
He’s now at 3/24, but he’s not done yet. He opens the United Club℠ Infinite Card and earns 100,000 miles after meeting the minimum spend.
At this point, Frank is at 4/24 and has earned 230,000 Ultimate Rewards points and 315,000 United MileagePlus miles. Based on the amount of time allotted to reach each minimum spend, this strategy could take Frank awhile, but he now has a solid foundation of flexible points as well as airline miles, and more importantly a clear plan to follow.
Why United Airlines?
You might be asking yourself why you should focus on United miles when other frequent-flyer programs provide better redemption rates.
To help answer this question, we compared United to the other airlines that offer credit cards through Chase—Air Canada, British Airways, Iberia, Aer Lingus and Southwest Airlines—to see if it’s possible to earn nearly as many miles within one loyalty program and if they would be as valuable.
To judge the points’ value, let’s say Frank is hoping to redeem his points for a business-class trip to Europe.
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From our strategy breakdown above, we know that Frank would be able to earn 315,000 United miles (in addition to at least 230,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards) without even reaching 5/24.
United doesn’t publish an award chart, so it’s difficult to predict exactly how many miles a one-way business class award flight to Europe will cost you, but the typical redemption rate is about 75,000 miles. Using this estimate, 315,000 United miles would get Frank at least four one-way business class trips to Europe, or two round-trip tickets.
Another benefit of booking award flights through United is that the airline doesn’t charge high taxes and fuel surcharges, and fees are generally low, which saves more cash.
British Airways Executive Club, Iberia Plus, Aer Lingus AerClub
British Airways, Iberia and Aer Lingus each offer one personal credit card through Chase. They also all share a rewards currency called Avios, and you have the ability to transfer miles between the three airlines, thus building up a pool of Avios.
The Aer Lingus Visa Signature® card, the British Airways Visa Signature® card and the Iberia Visa Signature® Card all offer a welcome bonus of 100,000 Avios after spending $5,000 in the first three months of account opening. If you combine them together, that would be a total of 300,000 Avios.
Let’s not forget that all these are personal cards and add to your 5/24 count.
If Frank were to stick to a similar strategy of starting with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, the Ink Business Unlimited® card and the Ink Business Cash® card and then applying for the three Avios-earning cards, his credit card count would be at 4/24 and his point total would be 210,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards and 300,000 Avios. Note that he’d be 15,000 miles short of the possible total with the United cards.
When it comes to the value of Avios over United miles, we have to consider two things: the award charts and the costs of taxes and fees. The three airline programs that earn Avios have different award charts. British Airways and Iberia tend to have the most useful award charts given their membership in the OneWorld alliance.
For this example, I searched the British Airways website. Because British Airways charges by the distance of each segment, redeeming Avios for a nonstop flight is typically the best option. A nonstop one-way flight from New York (JFK) to London (LHR) in business class costs 60,000 Avios, which is less than the miles required to fly from New York to Europe with United.
Keep in mind that if you are traveling farther, say from the West Coast, the number of Avios required will increase.
With your total of 300,000 Avios, you can book five one-way business class tickets assuming your travel distance falls between 3,001 and 4,000 miles. However, the big difference here is the cost variance in the taxes, fees and carrier surcharges. British Airways is known to have high fees (around $700 per direction) whereas the cost of fees on the United flight to Europe is between $5.60 and about $50. Although you could get one extra ticket, you’d spend around $3,500 in taxes and fees to book all five tickets, versus around $200 for the four tickets on United.
Air Canada Aeroplan
Air Canada offers one personal credit card through Chase that would help you earn points in their frequent-flyer program, Aeroplan. The current welcome offer on this card is two flight reward credits up to 50,000 points each after spending $4,000 in the first three months of account opening.
These flight reward credits can be redeemed toward a single passenger ticket only, so you can’t combine the flight certificates for a flight that costs more than 50,000 points. However, you can top off your flight reward with Aeroplan points to book award flights that cost more than the 50,000-point limit.
At most, these flight rewards are worth 100,000 points, which is far less than the 315,000 United miles Frank could earn.
If Frank still stuck with the same strategy of starting with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, the Ink Business Unlimited® and the Ink Business Cash® and then applied for the Aeroplan® Credit Card, he would have a total of 230,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards and 100,000 Aeroplan points with a 2/24 count. He still has room to add other Chase cards to his wallet, but can’t build the same wealth of miles within one loyalty program.
Before we rush to discredit this possible strategy, let’s see what 100,000 Aeroplan points can get us.
Air Canada uses a combination of a distance-based and a zone-based award chart and allows you to redeem your points for Air Canada-operated flights, airlines within the Star Alliance and non-alliance partner airlines.
Below is an example of the points you would need to fly from North America to Europe, which is included in Air Canada’s Atlantic Zone.
The lowest-priced award flights are the ones through partner airlines, but even those options cost 60,000 points for a one-way business class flight. Although this is less expensive than a similar flight booked with United MileagePlus, Frank can’t use the two 50,000-point flight rewards from the Aeroplan® Credit Card because they don’t cover the cost of the ticket. He could always transfer the Chase Ultimate Rewards he’s earned to cover the point difference, but that defeats the purpose of comparing the Chase co-branded airline cards.
So, applying for the Aeroplan® Credit Card can’t get you even one business class flight to Europe without having to transfer some of your hard earned Chase points.
Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
Let’s start with the obvious here. Southwest Airlines doesn’t fly to Europe, so that makes the comparison difficult. However, I wanted to include Southwest in the evaluation—not because you have to choose between the United and the Southwest cards, but because you can choose both.
If you recall from the beginning of this article, even after Frank had applied for the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, the Ink Business Unlimited®, the Ink Business Cash® and the four United cards, his card count is still only 4/24.
This leaves room for Frank to apply for the Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card to earn 80,000 Rapid Rewards points after spending $5,000 in the first three months as well as one of the Southwest personal cards to earn 40,000 Rapid Rewards points after spending $1,000 in the first three months.
If all of the Rapid Rewards were earned in the same calendar year, Frank would now also have the Southwest Companion Pass which is a fantastic addition to his already strong foundation of Chase Ultimate Rewards points and United miles – he can now book flights with Southwest Rapid Rewards points, United miles, and have a large stash of Chase Ultimate Rewards as well.
United is the Best Choice
From this comparison of Chase cards that earn you airline miles, United comes out on top for a few reasons.
The first reason is the ability to maximize your 5/24 status. You can really max out the value of your 5/24 card slots here because even after applying for a combined total of seven personal and business cards, your card count is still at 4/24.
The second reason is the sheer number of miles within one frequent-flyer program (in addition to Chase Ultimate Rewards) you can earn with this card opening strategy. None of the other Chase co-branded airline cards earn you close to 315,000 miles.
With such a high volume of United miles, you can potentially travel four times in business class and save the Chase Ultimate Rewards you’ve earned for other purposes like hotel bookings or award flights with any of Chase’s other airline transfer partners.
The last reason is that United is a part of Star Alliance, which typically charges far less in taxes, fees and carrier surcharges than other alliances. Although 75,000 miles for a business-class seat to Europe might not be the best deal in the world, paying $50 in fees rather than $740 starts to look a little better.
Choosing United also gives you a plan after opening the Chase Sapphire Preferred and some Chase Ink Business Cards. A clear path forward that will set you up for success is much better than having points scattered across a variety of different programs.
United Award Sweet Spots
Now that we’ve (hopefully) convinced you why the United cards deserve some serious consideration if you’re under 5/24, let’s take a look at some of the best award flights you can book with the miles you earn.
United has two types of award tickets: Saver and Everyday. Saver tickets are your best bet for getting the most value out of your miles.
The Excursionist Perk is a feature of the MileagePlus program that provides a free one-way segment within a multi-city itinerary made up of three or more one-way segments (with conditions).
These conditions include:
- The Excursionist Perk cannot be in the MileagePlus defined region where your travel originates. (For example, if your journey begins in North America, you will only receive the Excursionist Perk if travel is within a region outside of North America.)
- Travel must end in the same MileagePlus defined region where travel originates.
- The origin and destination of the Excursionist Perk are within a single MileagePlus defined region.
- The cabin of service and award type of the free one-way award is the same or lower than the one-way award preceding it.
- If two or more one-way awards qualify for this benefit, only the first occurrence will be free.
It sounds complicated, but here’s an example of how it can be used. If traveling to Europe is your plan, oftentimes you want to visit multiple cities in Europe on one trip. The Excursionist Perk lets you add an additional flight within Europe for free.
If you depart from New York and travel to Paris, you can add a free segment from Paris to Brussels and then return home from Brussels to New York all without adding to the cost of your trip.
Fly United Polaris Business Class to Asia
United announced its new Polaris business class in 2017, and since then it’s been a slow rollout of this product across the aircraft. All of the Polaris business class seats have direct aisle access, so if you’re traveling solo, it offers an added layer of privacy.
Lufthansa First Class
Because Lufthansa is a Star Alliance member, you can book flights with the airline using United miles.
Lufthansa’s first-class product is a tricky one to book because award availability is released to partners only 14 days prior to departing, but if you can wait until the last minute to book your travel, it will definitely be worth it. Even though United uses dynamic pricing, you can typically find a first-class flight for about 121,000 miles.
ANA First Class to Japan
ANA First Class has both great seats and great service, and because it’s part of Star Alliance, you can book your award flights using United miles. If you can find Saver awards on this airline, you’ll be able to book your flight in first class for just 121,000 United miles. These seats are incredibly private and are accompanied by fantastic in-flight meals and service.
For someone who is under 5/24 and just starting out, it’s hard to argue against the value of this card opening strategy when 315,000 United miles are on the table in addition to at least a possible 230,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards.
United might not have the best deals. However, of the other Chase airline cards that earn you miles, United can earn you the most, and you will pay less in taxes and fees. Once you’ve earned enough MileagePlus miles, the airline has some great sweet spots and perks to help you get the most value out of your rewards. Go, Frank, go!
New to the world of points and miles? The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is the best card to start with.
With a bonus of 80,000 points after $4,000 spend in the first 3 months, 5x points on travel booked through the Chase Travel Portal and 3x points on restaurants, streaming services, and online groceries (excluding Target, Walmart, and wholesale clubs), this card truly cannot be beat for getting started!
Cards in This Article
after you spend $6,000 in the first 3 months
after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
after you spend $5,000 in purchases on your card in the first 3 months
Up to 70,000
Earn 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Plus, earn an additional 10,000 miles after you spend $6,000 total on purchases in the first 6 months.
Chase Ultimate Rewards Points
after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months after account opening
bonus cash back
after you spend $7,500 in 3 months
bonus cash back
after you spend $7,500 in 3 months
Editors Note: Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.