No-annual-fee card that earns United miles: United Gateway Card review

Apr 10, 2021

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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with new information.


United Gateway Card overview

The United Gateway Card is a no-annual-fee airline credit card, ideal for those looking to dip their toes in the United MileagePlus program. With 2x miles per dollar on United, gas station and local transit and commuting purchases, both beginners or casual travelers can boost their stash of United miles with this card. Card Rating*: ⭐⭐⭐

*Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG’s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.

The best travel credit card for you doesn’t always have to be the fanciest one on the market or come with an annual fee. If you fly with United Airlines or its Star Alliance partners, owning this no-annual-fee card can be an easy way to earn and redeem award miles. The United Gateway Card comes with a solid array of bonus categories that extends beyond just United flights, which could help beginners rack up miles — even if they aren’t constantly in the air.

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Let’s take a look at the details of this credit card.

Related: Are airline credit cards worth it anymore?

In This Post

Who is this card for?

The United Gateway Card works well for points-and-miles beginners or infrequent travelers who live near a United hub. With no annual fee, you’re almost guaranteed to be in a net positive with this card. If you’re merely trying to earn and redeem MileagePlus miles for reward bookings, the Gateway card might be the right card for you.

If you’re looking for more elite-like perks on United, you’ll probably want to consider the United Explorer Card, the United Club Infinite Card or perhaps the all-new United Quest Card instead. Although these cards all come with annual fees, you’ll enjoy different perks with each card such as a free checked bag, or 5,000-mile award redemption discount or perhaps access to United Club lounges that may better suit what you’re looking for.

However, with the Gateway Card, you’ll still enjoy 25% back on inflight purchases and trip cancellation/interruption insurance.

Something else to keep in mind is that this is a Chase-issued credit card, meaning that it adheres to the 5/24 rule. If you’ve added five or more credit cards to your wallet in the past two years, you almost certainly won’t be approved for the United Gateway Card. Additionally, this card will count toward your 5/24 slots.

If you’re planning on applying for other Chase credit cards soon, make sure this card is truly worth taking up one of those slots — especially considering the rest of Chase’s rockstar credit card lineup that includes both entry-level favorites such as the Chase Freedom Unlimited and luxury travel cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve®.

Related: Yes, I have 19 credit cards; here’s why

Sign-up bonus: As much as $260 in value

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

With the current welcome bonus for the United Gateway card, you’ll earn 15,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 on purchases over your first three months. Since we value United miles at 1.3 cents each, the sign-up bonus is worth $195. The spending minimum should also be relatively easy to attain for most consumers.

Although not the most impressive sign-up bonus we’ve seen offered on a card, it’s on par with other no-annual-fee airline credit cards. Depending on how you use these miles, you could potentially outsize the stated value of the sign-up bonus.

How to earn miles

The Gateway Card offers a decent number of earning categories, from United purchases to everyday expenses:

  • 2x miles on United purchases
  • 2x miles on gas stations
  • 2x miles on local transit and commuting, including ridesharing services, taxis, train tickets, tolls and mass transit
  • 1x miles

Since TPG valuations put United miles at 1.3 cents each, you’re looking at a 2.6% return on the 2x categories. For a no-annual-fee credit card, that’s a respectable list of bonus categories.

How to redeem miles

Use the miles earned on the United Gateway Card to book a Polaris business class seat. (Photo by David Slotnick/The Points Guy)

MileagePlus miles no longer expire, so you can rest assure that you’ll be able to use your rewards soon or even in the distant future if you aren’t traveling again quite yet.

United is part of Star Alliance, the largest airline alliance in the world. This means you can use your hard-earned MileagePlus miles to book partner airlines through United’s website, such as Air Canada and Lufthansa. There’s no shortage of destinations you can travel to with United miles.

Beyond using your miles for reward flights, you also have the option to use them for gift cards, merchandise, other travel bookings and more. However, we generally don’t recommend these other redemption options as you likely won’t get as much value.

Related: How to get maximum value from the United MileagePlus program

Perks

While you’re not going to get United’s top-notch premium perks with the Gateway card, there are still some considerable benefits for a no-annual-fee travel card:

Which cards compete with the United Gateway Card?

If you’re not particularly loyal to United Airlines, you have several options for other no-annual-fee travel cards. You can look for options with other airlines or a general travel card that offers flexibility for those that are brand-agnostic.

Among the competitors, the no-annual-fee (see rates and feesDelta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card lets you earn 2x miles on Delta and dining purchases at restaurants and 1x on everything else. There’s a lower welcome offer, but it’s slightly easier to achieve: Earn 10,000 bonus miles after spending $500 on purchases in your first three months of card membership.

Most airlines offer their own version of a no-annual-fee card, so it’ll boil down to which loyalty program you want to accrue your miles with.

(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)

If you decide that you don’t want to earn miles with just one airline, consider opening a general travel card with no annual fee instead.

The no-annual-fee Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card offers a simple, yet practical rewards rate: 1.25x miles per dollar on all purchases. You can then transfer your miles to Capital One’s 13 airline and two hotel transfer partners or redeem your miles at 1 cent each for any travel purchases on your statement.

Of course, if you’re willing to pay a $95 annual fee, applying for the United Explorer Card might make sense for some travelers. On top of a larger welcome bonus, you’ll get up to a $100 credit for your Global Entry or TSA Precheck application and a free checked bag for you and one companion traveling on the same reservation and two, one-time United Club passes each year. Even if you only fly United a couple of times per year, the checked bag benefit alone can make the annual fee worth it.

Bottom line

If you’ve been considering diversifying your miles portfolio with a United credit card, the Gateway might be a great way to get started with the MileagePlus program. As we all start looking ahead to planning trips later this year, this new card is certainly worth considering if you are a travel beginner who wants to earn United miles on everyday purchases.

Additional reporting by Stella Shon.

Featured image courtesy of United.

For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Blue Card, please click here.  

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases within the first three months of card membership. Plus, earn a $200 statement credit after your first Delta purchase within the first three months. Offer ends 7/28/21.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

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More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles after spending $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months and a $200 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months. Offer expires 7/28/2021.
  • Limited Time Offer: Plus, get a 0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months from the date of account opening, then a variable 15.74%-24.74%. Offer expires 7/28/2021.
  • Accelerate your path to Medallion Status, with Status Boost®. Plus, in 2021 you can earn even more bonus Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) to help you reach Medallion Status.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Intro APR on Purchases
0% on purchases for 12 months
Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
$250
Balance Transfer Fee
N/A
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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