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United expands contactless food and beverage sales with new PayPal integration

Oct. 06, 2021
3 min read
United expands contactless food and beverage sales with new PayPal integration
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There's a new way to pay for food and drinks on United.

The Chicago-based carrier unveiled a new integration with PayPal on Wednesday, Oct. 6, allowing travelers to use the company's mobile app as a form of payment in flight.

If you have the PayPal mobile app downloaded on your phone, you can open it to display a QR code that's tied to your account. When a flight attendant gets to your row, you'll be able to display the QR code and purchase any of the buy-on-board offerings, which will be charged to your selected payment method within the PayPal app.

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This new technology is rolling out on select flights departing from the airline's Chicago O'Hare (ORD) hub in November, followed later this year by all flights across the network where contactless payment is available.

(Photo courtesy of United)

Due to the pandemic, United exclusively accepts contactless payment for onboard purchases. When a flight attendant passes by your row, you're asked if you want to purchase a snack or drink. If you do, the crew pulls up your profile on a mobile tablet and charges your stored payment method. Receipts are emailed, keeping the purchase process completely touchless — in line with guidance from the Cleveland Clinic.

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(Photo courtesy of United)

Until now, you needed to pre-select and update your preferred method of payment in the United mobile app before travel if you wanted to purchase an item in flight.

With the new PayPal integration, however, you don't need to be connected to Wi-Fi or pre-authorize a saved credit card to make inflight purchases. While this is definitely an improvement, I'm personally surprised that the airline hasn't invested in accepting contactless mobile payments, like Apple Pay, which can also be processed without an internet connection.

Related: Here's what food and drinks you can expect on your next flight

Either way, this is the latest enhancement to United's inflight food and drink experience. In late July, the airline debuted a new pre-order option, giving all flyers the ability to reserve their preferred snack and drinks from the buy-on-board menu.

If you order an item in advance, it’ll be “reserved” for you specifically — you won’t have to worry about the crew running out before reaching your row.

Featured image by (Photo courtesy of United)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

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10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
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  • Intro Offer
    Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

    80,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $550
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
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Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more