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 the MBNA website, you can now earn 12,000 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. This can be achieved across either or both cards.
The offer ends on November 15th.
The representative APR is 18.9% variable. The cards have no annual fee.
As is 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 12,000 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.
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 from the UK is 45,000 miles so the credit card bonus would leave you well short. This is cheaper than an Avios redemption on a peak date. If you’re heading to the US, a one-way Saver-level award in business to New York would be 57,500 miles – roughly the same as the Avios requirement on a peak date (60,000 Avios).
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 would not recommend jumping in if you do not already have a MileagePlus account.
Want to earn more points from credit cards? – January 2021 update
If you are looking to apply for a new credit or charge card, here are our January 2021 recommendations based on the current sign-up bonus.
British Airways American Express
5,000 Avios for signing up, no annual fee and a companion voucher for spending £20,000 Read our full review
British Airways American Express Premium Plus
25,000 Avios and the UK’s most valuable credit card perk – the 2-4-1 companion 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
30,000 points and an unbeatable set of travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review
Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard
15,000 points bonus and the most generous non-Amex for day to day spending 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:
American Express Business Gold
20,000 points sign-up bonus and free for a year Read our full review
American Express Business Platinum
40,000 points sign-up bonus and a long list of travel benefits Read our full review
British Airways Accelerating Business American Express
Earn both Avios and BA On Business points with your business spending Read our full review
Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa
The most generous Avios Visa or Mastercard for a limited company Read our full review
Disclaimer: Head for Points is a journalistic website. Nothing here should be construed as financial advice, and it is your own responsibility to ensure that any product is right for your circumstances. Recommendations are based primarily on the ability to earn miles and points and do not consider interest rates, service levels or any impact on your credit history. By recommending credit cards on this site, I am – technically – acting as a credit broker. Robert Burgess, trading as Head for Points, is regulated and authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority to act as a credit broker.