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If you buy a lot of United tickets, you should be aware of a little advertised program called the united.com Club, which is a relic of pre-merger Continental Airlines when it was called The Travel Club. Basically it’s a way to get a small amount of cash back in the form of airline credit every time you book a ticket at united.com.
When you pay the $25 annual fee, every time you book a ticket online at united.com, you get a $5 credit put into your TravelBank account, which can then be used toward future travel purchases on United and United Express.
If you purchase a ticket for another person, you still get the credit as long as you are signed in through MileagePlus when you make the ticket purchase. The credits cannot be applied toward award booking fees and taxes on award tickets – only on paid fares. TravelBank funds can be combined with credit cards to complete a ticket purchase, so you don’t have to have the entire amount of a ticket in your account in order to apply these funds towards a ticket purchase.
Though it’s not a huge amount of cash back, and must be applied toward future United travel, if you plan on booking more than 5 trips this year on united.com, you’ll make your money back on the annual membership. Booking directly with United.com is beneficial because you get a 24-hour grace period to cancel the tickets and you can deal directly with United if there’s an issue with the flight vs. booking through an online travel agency which can create another layer of frustration when trying to get things done (on the flipside, if you have a good travel agency they can work on your behalf, so it all depends).
That being said, you can earn even more back when booking via a points shopping mall. For example, Chase Ultimate Rewards shopping mall offers 2 points per dollar spent via Travelocity. If you were booking a $350 flight, you’d get an additional 700 Chase points, which I value around $14, so much better than getting $5 towards future flights with the united.com club.
The rebate portals are generally less lucrative for airfare purchases. Bigcrumbs.com will only give $2.80 back for flight bookings on Travelocity, so in the case of airfare I would personally book via a shopping mall or united.com club.
Of course when it comes time to actually purchase the airfare, make sure you use a card that gives a bonus on travel/airfare purchases (see this post for a rundown on category bonuses). I personally put all airfare on my Amex Premier Rewards Gold card since it offers 3 points per dollar plus a 15,000-point bonus when you hit $30,000 in annual spend. If you were to spend $30,000 in airfare a year (for example if you have a small business and put all of your company travel on the card), you’d end up with 105,000 points – not including any from shopping portals. The Sapphire Preferred gives 2.14 points per dollar (2x base plus a yearly 7% dividend) on travel and the United Explorer and Club cards give 2 United miles per dollar for united.com purchases.
Key terms and conditions:
- An annual membership fee of $25.00 applies. This fee is subject to change without advanced notice.
- With every united.com ticket purchased, united.com Club members will earn a 5.00 USD credit to their TravelBank. You must be enrolled in united.com Club prior to making the flight purchase to receive the credit. This per ticket credit will be deposited in 3-5 business days upon confirmation that the itinerary has been flown. The MileagePlus account that is used to sign in to united.com will receive united.com Club credits after travel has been completed.
- united.com Club is open to MileagePlus members with a primary mailing address in the United States (including American Samoa, Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands and Guam).
- united.com Club membership is valid for one year from the date of enrollment and may be renewed.
- united.com Club members will automatically be enrolled to receive MileagePlus statement notification emails. united.com Club members will no longer receive MileagePlus paper statements.