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How the United TravelBank card works (without earning miles)

by on Wed September 6, 2017 • 8 Comments
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unitedtravelbank170The United℠ TravelBank card is a new no annual fee card option for United flight rewards. It earns cash back into a TravelBank for redemption on United flights, has no annual fee, and no foreign transaction fees.

There’s also a 25% statement credit on in-flight food and beverage purchases with the card, but like many things United the card isn’t dead simple, and there are some details to keep in mind, both positive and negative, when considering it for your wallet.

The key thing to remember is this card does NOT earn United MileagePlus miles. For that, you’ll need a MileagePlus earning credit card like the MileagePlus Explorer, or a card that earns points you can transfer into MileagePlus like the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

What are the card features?

  • $150 in TravelBank cash after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open
  • Earn 2% in TravelBank cash per $1 spent on airline tickets purchased from United
  • Earn 1.5% in TravelBank cash per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Enjoy 25% back as a statement credit on purchases of food and beverages onboard United-operated flights, when you pay with your United TravelBank Card.
  • TravelBank cash is easy to use. $1 in TravelBank cash = $1 when used toward the purchase of a United ticket.
  • Your TravelBank cash accumulates in your United TravelBank account on United.com. There’s no limit to how much TravelBank cash you can earn.
  • $0 Annual fee

How do you earn rewards?

Rewards are earned as a percentage of spending on the United TravelBank card. Cardholders earn 2% back on airline tickets purchased directly through United and 1.5% back on all other purchases in the form of TravelBank cash, redeemable for United flights. These rewards get deposited into a TravelBank account you can access while logged in on United.com.

What are the earning multipliers?

The United TravelBank card is fairly simple. The only purchase category that earns more back is United ticket purchases which earn 2% back. All other purchases earn 1.5% back.

What are the rewards worth?

The rewards earned from the United TravelBank card are worth exactly what they seem. If you earn $100 toward your TravelBank, it is worth $100 toward United flights. All United tickets purchased directly from United earn 2% back and all other purchases earn 1.5% back into the TravelBank.

Is there a sign up bonus?

Yes, there is a sign-up bonus. The sign up bonus is $150 into your TravelBank after you spend $1,000 or more on eligible purchases within the first three months of opening your account.

How do you use the TravelBank rewards?

You can choose to use your TravelBank rewards when you reach the payment page for a flight on United.com. It’s not necessary to select ‘travel bank’ at the beginning of your flight search.

Rather, you can select to pay with your TravelBank at the end of the booking process on the payment page in the United payment types section. You must be logged into your United MileagePlus account to use the TravelBank, which is a little confusing, since the TravelBank has nothing to do with United miles.

travelbankpayment

It’s possible to view the amount you have in your TravelBank by logging into the homepage of United.com.

travelbankscreenshot

Does this earn United miles?

The big catch of the United TravelBank card is that it does not earn United MileagePlus miles. Rather, it earns cash rewards that may be used to book United flights on United.com.

Can you combine the TravelBank with United miles?

It is not possible to combine TravelBank funds with United miles.

Can you mix cash and TravelBank?

Yes, cash and TravelBank can easily be combined. If you have $75 in your TravelBank and would like to purchase a $200 ticket, you will be able to cover the additional ticket cost that isn’t covered by your TravelBank, in this case $125, with cash.

Do you earn miles when you use the TravelBank?

Yes, you earn MileagePlus miles and Premier Qualifying Miles as long as the fare you purchase with the TravelBank funds allows it. It’s just like using cash to pay for your ticket.

Is there a fee to refund or change TravelBank tickets?

There is no special fee to change TravelBank tickets. You’ll pay the same change or refund fee you would if you purchased a ticket in cash, which varies with every fare.

Does the TravelBank expire?

The TravelBank can expire. In order to keep your TravelBank from expiring, you must have activity on your account at least once every 18 months.

Can you use TravelBank funds to pay for award ticket fees?

Unfortunately, you won’t be able to use your TravelBank to pay for award ticket fees. TravelBank is currently only applicable for the purchase of non-award tickets.

How is this different from the Explorer Card?

Both the United TravelBank card and the United MileagePlus Explorer card allow the cardholder to earn rewards that can be used for United flights, but they work a little differently.

The TravelBank card earns cash back that is banked with United and can be redeemed for United flights in any amount – the difference between the TravelBank funds and the flight cost is paid in cash.

The United Explorer card earns United MileagePlus miles. United miles can be redeemed for flights with United and dozens of partner airlines, like Air Canada and Lufthansa, while the TravelBank rewards can only be used on United flights.

So for example, if you see a ticket on United.com that has both United and Lufthansa flights involved, you can’t use your TravelBank rewards.

Also with the MileagePlus Explorer the cost of an award ticket is based on an award chart rather than variable based on the price of the cash ticket. Additionally, the TravelBank can be used as long as seats are available for sale for a specific flight, but award tickets booked with miles are capacity controlled.

The TravelBank card doesn’t offer any United free bag or priority boarding benefits, but it does offer 25% off in flight food purchases, something the Explorer Card doesn’t offer.

Can you have a TravelBank and Explorer Card?

There’s no reason why you can’t have the TravelBank and the Explorer card as long as you plan your applications carefully. Chase recently implemented a rule that has been deemed ‘5/24’ meaning that if you have gotten more than five credit cards in the last 24 months, it is unlikely that you will be approved for new cards. The Explorer card definitely falls under this rule and it is likely that the TravelBank card will too.

Will you get free bags with the TravelBank card?

You won’t get free bags unless you use a United Explorer Card to pay for part of the ticket. It’s possible to pay with both the TravelBank and the Explorer Card, since you can select as many or as few TravelBank Rewards on each ticket you buy. So for example, you could pay for a $200 ticket with $150 in TravelBank Rewards and $50 with your Explorer Card.

How does it compare to other no annual fee cards?

One of the great things about the United TravelBank card is that it doesn’t have an annual fee, but it’s far from the only other no annual fee card out there. The most interesting thing the TravelBank card brings to the table is the fact it’s a no foreign transaction fee card that earns 1.5% – 2% back on purchases, and offers $1,500 worth of trip insurance every time you pay for a trip with your card.

That’s pretty close to the popular Bank of America Travel Rewards card, which earns 1.5% back on everything, plus 2% back on purchases made on the Bank of America travel site, but the kicker is you can use the Bank of America Travel Rewards for flights on any airline.

The United TravelBank’s advantage comes in the form of up to $1,500 worth of trip insurance with every trip you buy with the card that can cover the pre-paid, nonrefundable part of your fare if you can’t make a trip due to severe illness or injury.

Delta has a new no annual fee SkyMiles card from American Express that earns real Delta SkyMiles, instead of a separate travel rewards currency, which is a plus. But it earns only 1 mile per dollar spent on most purchases, so you’d need to value your SkyMiles at over 1.5 cents each to get comparable value vs the TravelBank card.

It also doesn’t waive foreign transaction fees, and doesn’t include trip insurance.

Some other key cards to take a look at are the Chase Freedom, Discover IT Miles, and the American Express EveryDay card. Each of these cards has its own positives and negatives and may be a better or worse fit for you depending on your credit card needs and spending patterns.

The Discover IT Miles, like the United TravelBank card, is effectively a cash back card. It earns 1.5 miles per dollar spent on all purchases and those miles can be used to redeem for flights on any airline, not just United. These miles can also be redeemed for other travel purchases like hotels and rental cars, or even for cash.

The Chase Freedom also acts like a cash back card unless you have a premium Chase credit card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve, in which case you can combine the points with your Sapphire. The Freedom earns 1 point per dollar spent on all purchases and offers categories that rotate quarterly that earn 5 points per dollar spent. These categories aren’t the same every year but have included gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, and Amazon in the past.

It doesn’t waive foreign transaction fees, but some versions have trip insurance. There’s no way to tell in advance if your Freedom has trip insurance, since it’s determined by your credit line, with higher credit lines getting a Visa Signature version that includes trip insurance coverage.

The American Express EveryDay card can be used to redeem points like cash, but also offers the ability to transfer Membership Rewards points to airline partners including British Airways, Air Canada Aeroplan, and more. While this is much more complicated, there’s also the potential to get  more value out of points by utilizing transfer partners.

There are also many other no annual fee card options available.

Is this a chip and PIN card?

No, the UnitedTravel Bank card is not Chip *and* PIN like these cards, but it does have an EMV chip.

The following two tabs change content below.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Miles dont expireas long as card is open
Learn more

Partner Offer

50,000 bonus points

Intro Offer

$0 introductory annual fee the first year, then $95

Annual Fee

Yes

Foreign Transaction Fee Waived

Yes - transfer to United MileagePlus, Southwest Rapid Rewards, Marriott Rewards, and more

Points Can Transfer to Airline Miles ?

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8 thoughts on How the United TravelBank card works (without earning miles)

  1. FreePassengers.com

    If I want to downgrade my United Explorer card to the TravelBank card, will the new card prevent my miles from expiring the same way being an active Explorer cardholder does?

    Reply
  2. Snow

    With this card, can I still book award ticket as long as there is available seat, which is a benefit offered by explorer card?

    Reply
  3. Kevin

    Does spending on the United TravelBank card count towards the PQD waiver like the United Club and Explorer cards have? For example, spending $25,000 on existing Chase United cards waives the PQD requirements up to Platinum.

    Reply

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