15,000 United MileagePlus miles bonus with their free UK credit card

The United Airlines MileagePlus Amex credit cards (issued by MBNA) have the unique distinction of offering NO sign-up bonus for much of the year.

Then, once or twice a year, they run a promotion.  This is one of those times. Via this link, you can now earn 15,000 bonus United miles when you take out their cards.

The cards are free and you only need to spend £1800 within 90 days to trigger the bonus.  This can be achieved across either or both cards.

The offer runs until 30th November.

The representative APR is 18.9% variable.

United credit card

The card was revamped and relaunched exactly a year ago. As is now the model with MBNA cards (Lufthansa, American, Etihad, Emirates etc) it comes as a double-pack with an American Express and a Visa.

Here are the core facts:

Generous (for a free credit card) sign-up bonus of 15,000 United MileagePlus miles

No annual fee

Very good earning rate (for a free card) of 1.25 miles per £1 on the American Express and 0.625 miles on the Visa

United is a Star Alliance member so you can redeem across all 20+ Star airlines – from the UK, this will often involve Lufthansa or Swiss via a connection

It is worth noting that United is the only airline to enforce a particularly poor exchange rate with Starwood Preferred Guest. It does this in order to protect its own credit card. Whilst almost all other airlines transfer at 1:1 from Starwood, United transfers at an amazingly poor 2:1. This means that these MBNA cards are the only realistic way in the UK to earn United miles on credit card spend.

United is not an American Express Membership Rewards partner so you cannot top up your balance that way.

United announced an incredibly bad devaluation of MileagePlus in 2013.  This particularly impacts people outside the USA, since the hardest hit awards were Business Class and First Class redemptions on Star Alliance partners.

Here is a PDF of their award chart with Star Alliance awards on page 3.

A one-way business class award to the Middle East is 45,000 miles (up from 27,500 miles) so the credit card bonus would leave you well short. If you’re heading to the US, a one-way Saver-level award in business to New York would be 57,500 miles. However if Saver seats are not there you are looking at a crazy 150,000 miles for a one-way ticket.

These numbers are not completely out of line compared to Avios requirements, of course, but they are noticeably higher.  Please also note United’s nasty fees for changes or cancellation, or indeed booking less than 21 days before departure.

In the main, because you now can’t get very far on United unless you have a very large miles balance, the main beneficiaries of this deal will be people who already have some MileagePlus miles they want to build up.  I would not recommend jumping in if you do not already have a MileagePlus account.

(To see our complete list of all current credit card bonuses, click here to visit our ‘Credit Cards Update’ page or use the link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

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Comments

  1. It’s a shame the SPG tranfer rate is so poor for United, I took out this card last when the bonus was 12,000 and that combined with Rocket Miles stays and surveys means I’ve managed to get my United balance up from 3,000 to 53,000 but doing lots of surveys isn’t everyones thing!

    I don’t understand why there isn’t a sign-up bonus normally for the card even if it was only a few thousand miles, as you mention the earnings rate is pretty good .

  2. I am at conundrum about where to credit SAS economy tickets in discounted classes.

    M&M gives 125 miles for a European flight (max).
    http://www.miles-and-more.com/online/portal/mam/hr/earn/flight/offer?nodeid=2510338&l=en&cid=1000261

    Aegean gives 600 mies (min) but building a balance and redeeming is an untested item (taxes on par with Lufthansa they write).
    http://en.aegeanair.com/milesandbonus/program-description/earn-miles/#SAS

    United is the third choice with 100% miles, mostly useable for redemptions within the US ($2.50 tax) but when flying intercontinentally it’s cheaper to bundle domestic flight, find reasonably priced cash ticket that earns miles. United intercontinental upgrade to business is 20000 miles + 500USD one-way but the cabin is of low appeal.
    https://www.united.com/CMS/en-US/Marketing/CustComm/Promotions/Pages/AirlinePartnerDetails.aspx?ItemId=317

  3. Think I’ll have a go at the etihad one instead!

  4. Also a thing to note is that United is switching to revenue-based program in 2015.

    • As Raffles says, the points are not free. If one doesn’t want to spend the earned points on United business product then less point of crediting to United. The only benefit I see is Premier Silver (*A Silver) access to Economy Plus seating at check-in. But getting Silver means taking points away from reward seats in other programs.

      Revenue-based miles on United 016 e-tickets, no AMEX MR top up and punitive SPG transfer rate 2:1. Access to United Club is already by PP.

      If Lufthansa M&M and United are cutting earning opportunities and treating miles accumulation as a liability, then it’s no fun to play the points game.

  5. Lady London says:

    Gut feeling that if you are flying the kinds of routes that might work with UA, you could also look at Alaska Air. AS has some nice tie-ups across alliances and routes. IIRC reading recently about a devaluation of some sort but there still seemed to be a lot of worth in the program. I’d certainly consider it if I wanted to add another program.. A colleague is a fan and says they are pleasant to fly..

    • I’ve done a couple of US domestic flights to and from Seattle with Alaska Air and had no complaints.

      I’m not that familar with their frequent flyer program but the main benefit I find with the US airlines is the low taxes, as RIccati mentioned a domestic flight on United booked using miles will cost $2.50 in taxes, LAX to LHR is $5.60 in first..

    • 50% bonus earning miles for MVP Silver (takes only 20,000 miles to earn) on Alaska applies to partner airlines. Works on discounted BA classes such as O. Means collecting 50% more points than Avios.

      Hong Kong – Europe roundtrip is 85,000 in business on CX, compared to 120,000 Avios..

  6. Jimmyjimmy says:

    I believe the card is a good way of stopping mileage plus awards from expiry. Normal expiry is 18 months.
    A quick search suggests spend on the card keeps the points alive. Is this correct?

    • Yes any points credit would do the trick – you’ll see your expiry date on the account move with each credit. eRewards credits do the same thing.

  7. There will be a 20% bonus on converting hotel points to United miles coming up from October 28th as well. The bonus on this promo seems to be getting less each year, 2 years ago it was 30% and last year it was 25%. As well as the bonus getting less according to the T&Cs they’ve excluded anyone not living in the US which is very annoying!

    Points to miles 2014 Terms and Conditions

    1) Eligibility: Offer valid only for MileagePlus® members residing in the United States.

    2) Registration: To qualify for this offer, members must register for the promotion at https://secure.unitedmileageplus.com/reg/PointsToMiles2014/index.html between October 28, 2014 and December 05, 2014 (“Promotional Period”).