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Why you may want to buy future United flight credits to earn a 5x miles bonus

Sept. 18, 2020
3 min read
Why you may want to buy future United flight credits to earn a 5x miles bonus
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Airlines are doing some interesting things to raise cash, while many would-be travelers are still on the ground. And while many of these sales and offers won't be a great deal for travelers who aren't sure when they'll fly next, there are exceptions to every rule. Sometimes these offers can make sense in the right situation.

United has brought back the opportunity to deposit future flight credits into a TravelBank account. The airline has offered this type of account at various times in the past. Now, it's incentivizing travelers to put money in by Sept. 23 by awarding five bonus United miles per dollar spent as a special offer. You are limited to $1,000 (5,000 bonus miles) per promotion, per MileagePlus account.

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Screenshot courtesy of United

Once you have funds in your account, they're available for use on United flights for five years. You can make deposits in the following denominations: $50, $100, $250 or $750.

In my tests, United TravelBank funds are available for immediate use -- which is different than some other airline gift cards that have a waiting period before you can use them. However, there are some potential downsides to consider before taking advantage of this offer.

Related: What it's like to fly in the U.S. right now

First, you can't stack TravelBank funds and credit from a previously canceled flight in the same transaction. You also can't use the funds on flights that aren't operated by United or United Express. Additionally, if you want built-in travel protections that may come from purchasing the trip with your credit card, you won't have those if you are using TravelBank funds to pay for the ticket. (Though you could likely still use a purchased trip insurance plan to cover your trip if you do go that route.)

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

I bought a little bit of United TravelBank credit to earn a bonus 5x redeemable United miles per dollar because I fly United frequently enough that I know it'll go to good use well before its five-year expiration date. I also paid with a credit card that has some unused 2020 airline fee credits ... just in case that happens to kick in.

Related: Guide to the United MileagePlus program

It won't make sense for everyone to stock up on United TravelBank credit to earn 5x miles on the purchase, but in my case, I was happy to buy a little bit of United credit -- and earn bonus miles in the process -- that I know I'll use in the coming months and years.

Featured image by NurPhoto via Getty Images

TPG featured card

Best starter travel card
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

Rewards

1 - 3X points
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Intro offer

Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points60,000 points
For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

Annual Fee

$95

Recommended Credit

670-850
Excellent, Good
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.

Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases
Best starter travel card
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

Rewards Rate

3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

    Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points
    60,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $95
  • 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.

    670-850
    Excellent, Good

Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases