United, American, and Southwest are All Offering Big Credit Card Signup Bonuses

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Underappreciated Benefits of the United Explorer Card

The United MileagePlusR Explorer Card has a special limited-time offer of 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. This is often available targeted, logged into your account, but not for everyone — right now it’s publicly available.

I recommend getting an airline credit card when you fly a carrier regularly but not enough for elite status. United offers the richest travel benefits proposition of the major U.S. airlines for its co-brand: first checked bag free when you use your card to purchase your ticket; priority boarding (which is super important if you book a Basic Economy fare, because it avoids the prohibition on full-sized carry on bags), and 2 one-time United Club passes each year for your card anniversary. Since they send out a couple of these passes a year to each cardmember that’s why you can so often find lots of them on eBay.

What’s often overlooked is that cardmembers get access to last seat availability when redeeming awards at the MileagePlus Standard Award level. Unlike Delta and American, last seat availability isn’t offered to everyone. However also unlike Delta and American and even Alaska there are only two award levels, the most you’ll pay for a domestic one-way award is 25,000 miles regardless of saver award inventory. That’s a lot less than Delta and American.

One benefit of the card for MileagePlus elites is that co-brand cardholders are eligible for upgrades on domestic MileagePlus award travel. Furthermore the card offers primary collision damage waiver for rental cars, and has no foreign currency transaction fees. And cardholder miles don’t expire as long as the credit card account is open.

Cardholders will still get their checked bag and priority boarding benefits even when purchasing basic economy fares — and the boarding benefit allows them to also avoid the ban on full-sized carry ons.

Southwest’s 50,000 Point Offer On Its Cheaper Card

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card has a signup bonus right now of 50,000 points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. You also receive 3,000 points after your cardmember anniversary every year. Usually it’s the more expensive ‘Premier’ card that offers this bonus.

Points count towards the Southwest Companion Pass. And if you prefer not to use them for travel you can redeem them at a penny apiece for gift cards as well.

I’m a big fan of Southwest’s policy that “Bags fly free” and also that there are no change fees., and your points don’t expire as long as your account is open.

I don’t love the Southwest boarding process, mostly because it means people line up to get on the plane before they start boarding (ok, people do that on every airline but I still like not needing to). I do like the people, though, everyone I’ve met at Southwest has been uniformly friendly. And the Southwest story carries a special place for me since I got to know their founding President Lamar Muse 15 years ago.

Here are bloopers and outtakes from the greatest airline video ever made, the Southwest ‘Just Plane Fun’ shuffle created in response to the Chicago Bears Super Bowl Shuffle.

Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ MasterCard® has an offer for a limited time to earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after making $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.

There’s a $0 annual fee the first year, then $95. Cardmembers receive one free checked bag and group 1 boarding.

50,000 American Miles in One Go

Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ MasterCard® has an offer for a limited time to earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after making $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.

There’s a $0 annual fee the first year, then $95. Cardmembers receive one free checked bag (on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and up to four companions traveling with you on the same reservation) and group 1 boarding on American Airlines domestic flights.

Like the United card, you keep your travel benefits even on Basic Economy fares and get to circumvent the ban on full-sized carry ons.

A transatlantic business class one-way is just 57,500 miles (the same price as United for its own metal, whereas United charges 70,000 miles one-way for partner awards). I value my AAdvantage miles primarily for redeeming Etihad awards, I have about half a dozen First Apartment awards in the queue now.

United MileagePlusR Explorer Card
Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ MasterCard®
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community Milepoint.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Editorial note: any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer. Comments made in response to this post are not provided or commissioned nor have they been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any bank. It is not the responsibility of any advertiser to ensure that questions are answered, either. Terms and limitations apply to all offers.

Comments

  1. Love all these cards, have had all of them in the past, and the AA card now. But it would be helpful to note for readers that the United and Southwest cards are subject to Chase 5/24 restrictions.

  2. I may be keeping the UA card just for the last seat availability at a semi reasonable cost of 2x the miles.

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