For the last few months, the United Airlines MileagePlus Amex credit cards (issued by MBNA) has had the unique distinction of offering NO sign-up bonus!
Things are improving, though. 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 £1500 within 90 days to trigger the bonus.
The offer runs until 15th July.
The representative APR is 18.9% variable.
The card was revamped and relaunched in October 2013. 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
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 to earn decent levels of United miles on credit card spend.
However, 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
Please 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 will be running a fully updated review of the United cards in the next couple of weeks as our ‘Credit Card Reviews’ series cycles towards the end of the alphabet.
Want to earn more points from credit cards? – October 2022 update
If you are looking to apply for a new credit card, here are our top recommendations based on the current sign-up bonuses.
In February 2022, Barclaycard launched two exciting new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards with a bonus of up to 25,000 Avios. You can apply here.
You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:
You can see our full directory of all UK cards which earn airline or hotel points here. Here are the best of the other deals currently available.
EDIT: Until 25th October 2022, there is an exceptionally generous sign-up bonus on The Platinum Card. You will receive 60,000 Membership Rewards points – double the usual amount – and £200 to spend at Amex Travel. You need to spend £6,000 within six months to earn the bonus.
British Airways American Express Premium Plus
25,000 Avios and the UK’s most valuable card perk – the 2-4-1 voucher Read our full review
American Express Preferred Rewards Gold
Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & two airport lounge passes Read our full review
The Platinum Card from American Express
60,000 points (SPECIAL OFFER), £200 travel credit and unbeatable benefits – for a fee Read our full review
Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard
15,000 points bonus and 1.5 points for every £1 you spend Read our full review
Earning miles and points from small business cards
If you are a sole trader or run a small company, you may also want to check out these offers:
American Express Business Platinum
40,000 points sign-up bonus and a long list of travel benefits Read our full review
American Express Business Gold
20,000 points sign-up bonus and free for a year Read our full review
British Airways Accelerating Business American Express
30,000 Avios sign-up bonus – plus annual bonuses of up to 30,000 Avios Read our full review
Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa
10,500 points bonus – the most generous Avios Visa for a limited company Read our full review
For a non-American Express option, we also recommend the Barclaycard Select Cashback card for sole traders and small businesses. It is FREE and you receive 1% cashback on your spending.