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UnitedSM TravelBank Card
REVIEW

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Picture of United<sup>SM</sup> TravelBank Card
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By : Mr Credit Card

The United TravelBank Card is the no annual version in their family of cards. In this review, you will find out:
 

  • How this card is different from other United cards?
  • The Difference between Mileage Plus and TravelBank
  • Why Elite Members Who Need PQD might want to get this card
  • Why the TravelBank Card might be better than the Explorer or Club Card for some United Elite Members?


Let's Explore This Card In Greater Detail.
 

Difference Between United Mileage Plus Miles and TravelBank

The United Mileage Plus miles that you earn when you fly with United and from spending on your United credit card. Travel Bank is a different in that it is a totally different program and it resembles more of a cash back program. You can travel bank points and you use them to offset your cost of a United ticket. The return on these Travelbank points is 1.0% (ie 1000 points gets you $10 in discounts on a United ticket). But because you earn at least 1.5X on regular purchases and 2X on United tickets, your return on the points that you earn is at least 1.5%. Since the best cash back credit cards gives you a 2% return, the 1.5% return makes the TravelBank at least competitive.
 

Key Features

Below are the key features for this card. Note that the PQD waiver feature is probably the most important.
  • Earn 2X TravelBank Cash on tickets purchased from United

  • Earn 1.5X TravelBank Cash on all other regular purchases

  • No Annual Fee

  • No Foreign Transaction Fees

  • Inflight Savings - You get 25% back as statement credit for inflight purchases like food and beverages, Wi-fi when you use this card.

  • Spending on the card counts towards PQD waiver - This points needs a little explaining. To qualify for United's Elite Status, you need to earn enough Premier Qualifying Miles (PQM - which is actual miles flown) or Premier Qualifying Sectors (PQS - actual segments flown) and Premier Qualifying Dollars (PQD - actual amount you pay for tickets). United allows you to totally waive this requirement if you spend $25,000 on your credit card (including this card). Any spending less than this amount will also go towards your PQD spending.

  • Spending on United Tickets count towards PQD Even if you use some TravelBank points to offer ticket cost - One of the big advantages of using TravelBank is that you still earn PQD when you buy a United ticket even if you offset the cost with your TravelBank points. In contrast, if you use United miles to redeem for a ticket, you do not earn PQDs at all.

 

Other United Cards and Analysis

To really understand who this card should appeal to, we need to understand the other cards that United has with Chase and who might or might not want them. They have two other cards, the United Explorer Card and the United Club Card.

What Do All United Cards Have in Common?

But first, it is important to note the most important feature that all United Cards have in common. And that is that they all can earn PQD waivers (even the TravelBank). This is a very important point and we'll come back to this later in our conclusions of the card.

United Club Card - Who Needs It? And Who Doesn't?

Let's start with the United Club Card. The annual fee is $450 and the main attractive is that you get the United Club Lounge Membership. A United Club Lounge membership normally cost $650 a year. Platinum and 1K members get a discount and can get it at $550. Hence, for United economy flyers who check in early and like to hang around at lounges, this card is a good deal (because you are essentially getting a discount on the Lounge membership).

However, if you are the type of flyer that does not bother about hanging in lounges, like to check in and arrive at the gate just in time, then this card will have no appeal. Furthermore, those who fly business or first class and Polaris class will automatically get access to United Lounges. So these group of flyers also have no need for the United Club Card.

Holders of the United Club Card also have baggage fees waived for the first two checked bags. Having said that, if you have Gold Status, you can have your first two bags checked in for free anyway and so this benefit does not help those with Gold Status and above.

United Explorer Card - Who Needs It? And Who Doesn't?

The United Explorer Card has a $95 annual fee. It's main unique benefit for United flyers is that you can have your first checked bag free if you have the card. This is helpful for flyers who do not have elite status as you can save money and easily make back the $95 annual fee just from savings on your first checked bags. However, for those with elite status, this card will not be as useful because the lowest elite status (Silver) gets you one checked bag free anyway.
 

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • 2% TravelBank Cash on tickets purchased from United
  • 1.5% TravelBank Cash on other regular purchases
  • 25% Back as statement credit from inflight purchases
  • No Annual Fee
  • No Foreign Transaction Fee
  •  
  • Spending on card appears to count towards PQD waiver

Cons

  • No First or second Free Checked Bag
  • No United Club Lounge Membership

 

Our Take: United TravelBank is Good For PQD Waivers and Elite Status Members Who Have No use for the Explorer and Club Card

If you read the reviews of this card on most other sites, you will generally get a negative vibe about this card because it supposed lack the "benefits" that United's other card (the Explorer and Club Card) have. the Truth is that the Travelbank card is actually useful to many United travelers. And the main reason is that this card allows you to earn PQD waivers.

So if you fly United and need some help with your PQDs through credit card spending, then the TravelBank Card is definitely a strong consideration. The ideal profile of someone who would want to get the TravelBank is one who:

  • Does Not Value Club Lounge Membership - These will include those of you who fly business and first class and Polaris class since you automatically get access to United's Club Lounges. Or it includes those of you who just check-in and board a plane just on time and don't hang around too much. If you value club access and intend to get a club lounge membership, then you should get the United Club Card.

  • Those who do not need free checked bag perk - That may include those of you who do not travel with any checked bags or those of you with Silver and Gold Elite Status because they provide first and first/second checked bags for free respectively. Those of you who do not have elite status and find value in the free checked bag perk should consider the United Explorer card.

  • Those of you who fly enough and earn enough PQM or PQS but are short of PQD - Many of you find yourself in this situation because of your unique travel circumstances. For example, you make a few long distance international flights but your company only pays for economy flight. So you earn enough PQM but are short on PQD because you do not fly business class. Or some of you have earned enough PQMs for say Platinum but your PQD is still stuck at Gold level. In either case, earning PQD through credit card spending will help you bump up to the status that you want.


Great Card For Earning PQDs For Elite Members Who Are Not Hung Up Over Club Lounge Access

To sum up, the United TravelBank Card is a great no annual fee card for Elite members who only need a United Card to earn some PQDs through credit card spending and do not need other benefits like free checked baggage or club lounge memberships. Since silver elite members already have first bag checked in for free and Gold Elite members have both first and second bags checked in for free, the Explorer and Club card are not useful from this perspective. And unless you are really hung up about club lounge access, then the Club card would also not be useful to elite members. The TravelBank shines because it has no annual fee and allows your spending on the card to be used to waive your PQD requirements.