Heads up: Product changes coming to some legacy United cobranded cardholders

May 18, 2021

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If you’re a current card owner of one of United’s legacy cobranded credit cards that are no longer available for new sign-up, you may face an automatic product change in the coming months. This could also come with a small fee increase to correspond with the different card product.

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Chase tells TPG that the increased annual fees will range anywhere from $5 to $35, depending on your card. For most cardholders, this shouldn’t be too much of a worry, as you’ll typically get receive better perks in exchange. This new annual fee will be charged to your statement after Sept. 1, 2021 (or on your next card anniversary).

If this upcoming product change applies to you, you will soon receive a notification from Chase about how this fee increase will affect you ahead of the changes that begin on July 1. Let’s dive into what these changes look like and your options if you don’t want to pay a higher annual fee or be changed to a different card.

In This Post

Personal United card changes

(Photo by Eric Helgas/The Points Guy)

The predecessor of the United Explorer Card is the United MileagePlus Card, which is no longer available to new applicants.

If you currently hold the United MileagePlus Card, you’ll automatically get upgraded to the United Explorer with its $95 annual fee. In exchange for this slight fee increase, here are the perks you’ll enjoy:

  • Two annual, one-time United Club passes (more than $100 in value) each cardmember year
  • Priority boarding
  • One free checked bag
  • Up to $100 Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fee credit (every four years)
  • 25% back on United inflight purchases
  • 2x on restaurants and hotels (in addition to the existing 2x on United purchases)
  • No foreign transaction fees

Related: United Explorer credit card review

Those applying for United Explorer Card fresh can get a welcome bonus of up to 65,000 bonus United miles — 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first three months and an additional 25,000 miles after you spend $10,000 on total purchases in the first six months.

However, those who are product changed to this — or any other card — would not receive the welcome bonus as part of a product change. You’d only be eligible for that if you applied outright.

Small business card changes

The old United MileagePlus Business Card and the United Explorer Business Card will be automatically upgraded to the United Business Card. These are the benefits you’ll receive come after the change:

  • Two annual, one-time United Club passes (more than $100 in value) each cardmember year
  • Priority boarding
  • Free checked bag
  • 2x on restaurants, gas stations, office supply stores, local transit and commuting  (in addition to the existing 2x on United purchases)
  • No foreign transaction fees

The new United Business card has an ongoing $99 annual fee (waived the first year).

Related: United Business Card review

What to do if you don’t want the upcoming product change

Although the annual fee increase will be incremental ($5 – $35), there are some options if you don’t want your existing card to be automatically upgraded to a new product.

Your first option is to request a downgrade to the United Gateway Card. United released this no-annual-fee credit card in 2020, and it’s a great way to keep your loyalty to United without paying a higher fee. You may want to avoid canceling your card in some cases since it may impact your credit score. But on top of that, keeping at least one United card in the family can be a good idea because it can open the pathway to less expensive award flights, among other benefits.

The United Gateway has a decent earning rate, as you’ll earn 2x on United purchases, gas, local transit and commuting and 1x on everything else. While light on other benefits, there are no foreign transaction fees and you’ll enjoy a 25% rebate on inflight purchases.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Related: Best credit cards for United flyers

Your next option if you are on the fence about what to do is to contact Chase and discuss options with the issuer. This could include inquiring if there are any offers available on your account. This could be especially poignant if you are on the fence about renewing the card, still are not traveling much and aren’t happy about this product change and higher fee.

In the end, you might decide to either downgrade to the no-annual-fee United Gateway Card and/or apply for a new United card outright for more perks and a welcome bonus. For example, the new United Quest Card is still offering an introductory bonus of up to 100,000 miles. This comes in the form of 80,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening, plus an additional 20,000 bonus miles after you spend a total of $10,000 in the first six months of account opening.

Bottom line

The United MileagePlus Card, United MileagePlus Business Card and the United Explorer Business Card are from United’s old lineup of credit cards. Now, United actively offers six cobranded Chase cards — for a total of four personal cards and two business cards and it is looking to sunset some of the older products.

While these upcoming changes should only affect legacy cardholders, you’ll want to weigh your options and see if this card is worth keeping — or if you want to make a different change. Even though your card will automatically be upgraded starting on July 1, you’ll have until Sept. 1 (or whenever your card anniversary is) to be charged the new annual fee, which will give you at least a couple of months to test how you like the product upgrade before you are charged a higher fee. However, if you would prefer to apply for a different card outright, there’s still time to do that, too.

Featured photo by Isabelle Raphael for The Points Guy.

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