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 20,000 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 $260. The spending minimum should also be relatively easy to attain for most consumers.

On top of that, the card is also offering 3x miles per dollar on grocery store purchases (up to $1,500 per month) through Sept. 30, 2021, as part of the current welcome bonus.

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

Earn 3x points on groceries through Sept. 30, 2021, on the United Gateway Card. (Photo by Sundry Photography/Shutterstock)

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

  • 3x on grocery store purchases, up to $1,500 per month (through Sept. 30, 2021)
  • 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 3.9% return on the 3x limited-time grocery spending and 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


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.  

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points


CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

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More Things to Know
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases within your first year of account opening.
  • Earn 2X points on dining including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel. Plus, earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
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Regular APR
15.99%-22.99% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
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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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