50,000+ United bonus miles with credit card strategy

by on Wed April 1, 2015 • 65 Comments

United Airlines credit cardsIf you’re new to earning United miles with credit cards, you can build up your United MileagePlus® account balance quickly with bonus mile offers.

If you get approved for multiple credit cards you might earn 50 – 90,000+ miles (5ok from one card plus 40k from another) if you meet the introductory spending requirements for each.

It starts with applying for both the United MileagePlus® Explorer Card and Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. The Sapphire is special because it earns points you can transfer into your United account at any time (see how it works).

So getting both lets you almost double up on intro bonus miles for your MileagePlus account and gives you flexibility to take advantage of the unique benefits of each card, like point transfer from the Sapphire Preferred and a free first checked bag and priority boarding from the Explorer Card. You can space out your applications – no need to get them all at once.


> See the details here


> See the details here

But first, here’s some background…

It’s OK to apply for multiple credit cards to take advantage of the unique benefits of different cards, since some are better for some types of spending than others. Just note you can only get one bonus offer per individual card with Chase, the exclusive provider of credit cards that earn United miles (i.e. only one United Explorer bonus).

There are no explicit limits on the number of cards you can hold, but you may sometimes be asked to reduce the credit line on one card to support a new one.

At we think the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is among the best credit cards for spending to earn United miles.

A lot of people don’t know it, but the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card earns points you can transfer 1:1 into United miles (see how).

You can also transfer your points into Southwest Rapid Rewards and over 10 other airline and hotel programs. No other personal card that earns United miles has more flexibility, so keep this at the front of your wallet.

It offers 2x points on all travel and dining purchases, including things like taxis and parking — something no United credit card currently being marketed does.

So a good strategy is to put your normal spending on your United card – taking advantage of its annual 10,000 point bonus when you spend $25,000 or more in a calendar year. And use it to buy United flights and enjoy priority boarding and free first checked bag benefits.

Then use the Sapphire Preferred for special category bonuses like dining and travel – and any spending where you want points with the flexibility to transfer elsewhere.

Here’s our strategy for racking up United miles quickly…..

1. Get the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card: 40,000 points. Earn 40,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $500 in travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

In addition to being able to transfer 1:1 into your United account with no fees for the transfer, it earns 2x points on all dining and travel purchases.

You can apply right away too, just make sure you’ll be able to handle the minimum spending required to earn the bonus.

united1702. Apply for the United Mileage Plus Explorer Card: 50,000 miles.  Start with 50,000 bonus miles when you spend $3,000 in purchases in the first 3 months the account is open. And get 5,000 more miles if you add an authorized user to your card with in the first 3 months. Limited time offer ends 6/2/15.

That could be 90,000 or more United miles over a few months if you are approved and meet the minimum spending requirements for each. Both cards waive their annual fees the first year.

The Sapphire Preferred® Card can be the better one all around for earning via spending — the 2x bonus on dining/travel is strong and the points can be used on airlines besides United.

But if you’re not an elite flyer, you’ll probably want to keep the United Explorer for the free checked bag and priority boarding it offers. 2 flights a year with a checked bag more than pay for the annual fee.

To double your rewards, consider having your spouse apply for the credit cards as well if he/she does a fair amount of independent spending.

For  bonus mile seekers who have small businesses, you can also earn more United credit card miles with these offers…

1. Apply for the Ink Plus® Business Credit Card from Chase: 50,000 points (link here -  check here for updates on the offer)

This is a credit card designed for small business owners and like the Sapphire Preferred® Card earns Chase Ultimate Rewards points you can transfer to United. You don’t need a long running business to qualify for the card and some businesses even get one before having the business up and running to put start up expenses in one place.

Your personal credit history is what is used to determine eligibility for the card, so this is an option to earn more miles after finishing the above. See the guide to applying for business credit cards here – ‘Business Credit Cards for One.’

2. Apply for a United MileagePlus® Explorer Business Card: 50,000 miles – limited time (link here)

The rule on ‘one bonus per credit card’ doesn’t apply to having a bonus from both the consumer and business version of the cards. So, if you are a business owner you can apply for the business version of the United Explorer even if you have the consumer card.

So, you have the potential to earn 150,000+ United miles over the course of a year if you decide to hold all of the credit cards — the  Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, United MileagePlus® Explorer Card, the Ink Plus®, and the United MileagePlus® Explorer Business Card.

And you’ll end up with cards you’ll want to keep. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card should be ‘go to’ for a lot of spending, and the United Explorer’s bag fee savings are likely to add up, while the business versions of the cards let you separate business from personal spending.

Also note if you have an older United credit card like the United Select Visa, you can retain that card and its features — they won’t cancel that account  if you apply online for a new United card and take advantage of the bonus.

What about your credit score?

Your credit score generally drops about 5 points or so with a new card application, but often recovers that and more within a year as you’re showing you are responsibly handling additional credit.

When it comes to approvals for credit cards there aren’t a lot of benefits to keeping your score much above about 720, so if your score is well above that there may not be a lot of extra benefits from having a perfect 800+ score.

You should feel comfortable applying unless you plan to take out a mortgage or large loan shortly, and even then small credit inquiries are  one of the lesser things lenders consider.


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65 thoughts on 50,000+ United bonus miles with credit card strategy

  1. Jorja

    I have a Mileage Awards card and would like to upgrade to a United Mileage Plus Explorer Card. Will I receive the 50,000 bonus miles for doing so?


      @Jorja – As long as you apply for a brand new Explorer with the intro deal, you will be eligible. Then you can either keep or cancel your Awards card.

  2. Denise

    If I have multiple Chase Reward credit cards (ie. Freedom and Sapphire Preferred), will the points earned on each card get combined under my Chase Ultimate Rewards account, or will each credit card hold/accumulate their own points and stay separated? Since I’d much rather use my Freedom card for categories that offer x5 vs the Sapphire Preferred which could only x2 or x1 on those same categories, I’d like these points to go to an universal account (Chase Ultimate Rewards) to be combined. If these points do not get combined, can I transfer the rewards from the Freedom card to my Sapphire Preferred card to keep all points under one account?

    I’ve recently got approved for these credit cards and since I wasn’t a Chase credit card holder prior to that (I was a Capital One Venture card holder and just expanded my horizons!), I’m unsure as to how the points system works with the Chase Ultimate Rewards. I’m also planning on getting the United MileagePlus Explorer once I reach my spending limit with my Sapphire Preferred and Freedom card to make sure I’m getting the sign-up bonuses.


      @Denise – Yes you can combine all of the Ultimate Rewards points at any time. Chase will account for them separately – you’ll see points listed for each card – but you can easily move them back and forth among accounts any time.

  3. Nick Michael

    From Nov 2014 – March 2015 I flew many United flights. If I sign up for a chase preferred card tomorrow can I cash in on all of those past flight miles?


  4. Cyn Har

    I would like to have a United Explorer card. Can I transfer my balance from an Amazon Chase care to my new United card ? I am not a Milage Plus member yet. Thank You


      @Cyn – No you can’t transfer from one Chase card to another.

      Also we don’t recommend carrying any balance on a rewards card, as the interest you pay offsets any rewards. Better to find a low rate card for that balance first.

  5. Anna

    Would my Husband and i qualify for 50.000 bonus points each if we open separate accounts, if we each spend $2,000 in the first 3 months?


      @Anna – Yes if you apply separately under your own credit then it’s possible for each of you to earn a bonus if you meet the requirements.

  6. Anna

    If my husband and each open our own United Explorer Card, will be both qualify for 50,000 after spending $2,000 in the first three months. Is there a way to get checks attached to these accounts?

  7. Heather Hanson

    Thank you for your clear & helpful explanations!
    I have a (possibly stupid) question. I signed up for the UnitedPlus Explorer card and spent the $1,000 w/in three months, but I can’t figure out how to make the miles show up in my United account. How do I link my credit card account with my United mileage account?
    I haven’t seen anyone else with this question, which makes me think that the answer must be simple… Thanks again for your help!



      @Heather – It’s possible they set up your card with a different MileagePlus account number. Give Chase a call on the number on the back of your card to see which account your card is linked to.

      Otherwise, usually the miles post with the statement that includes the period when you hit the threshold. If not then, the statement afterward.

  8. Matt

    I have reached the $2,000 spending requirment in the first month of having the consumer United mileage plus card. My fiancé has the business United mileage plus card and also reached the $2,000 requirement. Our statements close in about 1 week. It says it may take up to 6-8 weeks for miles to appear but in your experience does it really take that long? I’m curious how soon these bonus miles will really show up, assuming no abnormal issues with our accounts.


      @Matt – Generally they post just after the statement in which you hit the spending, or the statement after. So you may see them next week, or in about a month. Sometimes when you hit the spending requirement too close to the statement closing date they don’t post until the following statement.

  9. Florida

    If two separate people opened a United Mileage Plus Card, could round trip airfare to Europe be paid by using miles from one card for one way and miles from another for return flight? Can payment be divided between to United Mileage cards? I would have enough miles for 1 way but not enough for return.


      @Florida – Yes you could use separate accounts to each book a separate one way ticket. There’s no penalty or extra miles charge for that. Just make sure each account has enough for a full one way ticket.

  10. Joseph

    If I am an authorized user on a chase united card and the card was in fact for my benifits only but I am ONLY an authorized user who gets the mileage , points, perks? Can it be me?


      @Joseph – Unfortunately no, you need to be the primary cardholder to get the benefits. All points are deposited in the primary cardholders MileagePlus account and the boarding / bag benefits are intended for when the primary cardholder is flying with you.

  11. steve

    My wife and I and our kids 22, 19, and 17 recently flew Luftansa and we received 5400 miles each as we signed up with Miles and More program that Luftansa has. I signed my wife and myself up and will do the same for the kids in case we have an opportunity to use there miles on another trip. Would it be better for me to sign up for a Miles and More Credit card with the annual fee and the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, or something like the United Miles Plus Explorer card and also the Chase Sapphire Preferred card. I dont travel that often mostly due the cost of the flights but am envisioning domestic travel in the next 6 months. I want to be able to use the 5400 miles I have already accrued through Luftansa. Also, I see using miles through Southwest is very easy and I like flying Southwest because of the 2 free bags, but can you tell me how easy or difficult it would be to fly United or Luftansa using miles?

    Thanks so much!



      @Steve – For domestic flying it’s hard to beat Southwest for ease of use and decent value with points.

      For your 5400 points each, only the points in your own Lufthansa account will be combinable with the miles from the Miles and More credit card, since Lufthansa doesn’t allow gifting of miles. Your wife could earn miles with the credit card, but would need to apply for her own account and pay the separate annual fee.

      So basically, the Miles and More credit card would help top off the 5400 points in your account.

      You’ll need 6,800 more points to get a one-way ticket on United within the US (12,000 total).

      You’ll probably find the flights / dates you want about half the time, depending on the route. Whatever you see on United’s website as a ‘Saver’ level award is available for booking with Lufthansa miles.

      In contrast with Southwest just about every flight has an award seat available at the low ‘Wanna Get Away’ fare price, and there are no change fees. You can even refund an award at any time.

      Which is a long way of saying the Sapphire Preferred – which earns points you can transfer into Southwest and United – might be your best bet.

  12. Reggieblue

    I have had the Explorer card issued for more than 24 months, and received the bonus (maybe 30k 2-3 years ago) upon receiving the card. The terms of the current 50k offer say those who would be ineligible include “previous cardmembers of this consumer credit card who received a new cardmember bonus for this consumer credit card within the last 24 months.” I received my bonus previous to 24 months ago, so I was thinking I could cancel my Explorer card and reapply for the 50k bonus for a new card. But in your article I you write “You can apply for multiple credit cards to get the bonus mile offers. Just note you can only get one bonus offer per individual card with Chase, the exclusive provider of credit cards that earn United miles (i.e. only one United Explorer bonus in your history).” I read “history” to mean my entire history with Chase, not just the last 24 months. Can you clarify your understanding of Chase’s current 50k bonus offer? Thank you.


      @Reggieblue – The intent of the deal is not to give the bonus to people who currently have the card. Canceling and then very quickly re-applying isn’t the spirit of the deal.

      1. Reggieblue

        Thanks for your response.
        Just to give more context…both my wife and I have the Explorer card. It doesn’t make sense to me that we both pay the $95 annual fee, for what is essentially redundant benefits (we can already check 2 bags free on one card, and we can book United tickets and get double miles on one card for either or both travelers), so I thought I would cancel my card before the annual fee gets charged again. Then, while flying United, I saw the 50k offer, and figured I would give reapplication a try.
        I will cancel this week and reapply before the 9/2 deadline.
        I’ll let you know how it goes.

      2. JACK

        I dont care about any spirit. I’m a scammer trying to work the angles. Yes, I apply for Cards, get Bonus miles, then cancel Cards and later re-apply. Im proud of my scam.

  13. Dazed

    I used to have the Chase united explorer visa card and got the bonus and cancelled about a year ago. If Ire-apply, will I get a bonus again? Or is it once a lifetime?


      @Dazed – Officially no, though with banks you are a ‘new’ customer after a certain period of time. Probably longer than a year though.

  14. Loraine Green

    Will bonus miles offered and qualified for on a new card, where first year fee is waived, be lost if card is cancelled before first card fee is due?

  15. William Charles

    You can get a 50k united offer by applying at any Chase branch, if you signed up for a lesser offer then sending them a secured message to match it will work.

  16. Marty

    We’re new at this. Last year we applied for and rec’d Explorer cards for myself and spouse. We spent $1,000 ea within the first 3 months and we showed 30,000 United Miles on each statement. Our latest statement does not show any mileage. We do not fly often, but were encouraged by a friend to get these cards. I had health issues and we have not flown anywhere as yet, Will we lose our miles if we cancel our accounts?

    1. MileCards

      @Marty- Your credit card statement usually only shows the miles you earned in that specific month. If you want to see the total miles in your account you should go to to take a look.

      If forgot your password for that you can take care of it here:

      Your miles are safe even if you cancel the card. Just beware that if you don’t earn or use any miles for 18 months, they will expire.

      But if at any time you earn or use miles (via a credit card, online shopping, or whatever…not just flying) the clock on the 18 months will reset and you’ll extend the life of your miles another 18 months.

      1. Marty

        So earning and using miles (via credit card, online shopping…etc) extends the life of miles. Didn’t use the card much after qualifying for the miles, so we’d probably need to use it again soon. Thanks.

        1. MileCards

          @Marty – That’s right. Every time you earn or use you extend the life of your miles by another 18 months.

          1. Alex

            After received explorer card bonus, if I cancel card and use an old basic no-fee mileageplus card to earn some miles once a year, will the entire mileageplus account be protected against expiration?

          2. MileCards

            @Alex – Yes, miles earned or spent in any way will reset the clock for another 18 months each time.

  17. Drew

    I have had a United FF account for many years. I originally opened it when I got a United Mileage Plus Awards Card about 10 years ago. If I close this card and open another one, can I get another 30,000 mile bonus to my current FF account?

    If not, do you think I could merge my current account with a new one I could open to receive the bonus later?

    1. MileCards

      @Drew – You should be able to get it without closing the card, as the Explorer Card is considered a separate product from the Awards card. Also you may want to stop by a Chase branch and see if a 50,000 mile offer is available. Or, try reading the link below for a way to check if you are targeted for the bigger 50,000 mile offer:

  18. Laurie

    Dumb question maybe – do I have to have a United FF# and then when I open each card the bonus points go into my FF account? I am looking to book a ticket to the Dominican in March and the ticket is 70,000 points. If I open both the Chase Sapphire and United Miles Plus then can I combine the 40,000 and 30,000 for the 70,000?

    1. MileCards

      @Laurie – Yes exactly – if you get the Sapphire Preferred you can send those points into your United MileagePlus account to combine.

  19. jenny

    what if I want to earn double or triple miles with Chase Sapphire card-but I like to use my travel agent to buy my tkts from, and he/she must issue those tkts?
    The info on the Sapphire preferred card is not clear as to whether I MUST buy my tkts from the Sapphire online booking site to earn the extra miles on each airline tkt purchase. Nor is it clear as to whether I get 2 miles per $, or 3 miles per $ spent on airline ttks?
    If I have my travel agent book and issue my air tkts., do I only earn 1 miles per $ spent?

  20. Jerry

    Just so you know I was able to get the 30,000 mile United Explorer offer increased to 50,000 miles. Just sent a secure message and told Chase I saw the 50,000 mile offer in a Chase branch after applying online for the 30,000 mile offer.

  21. Betsy

    We will be traveling to China in the next 12-18 months to adopt a child and will likely fly on Air China b/c of direct flights to Beijing out of our home airport. Do you know if these credit card points are useable with United affiliates like Air China?

    We would put all our regular monthly spending on the card and pay it off each month. Both my husband and I have good credit but I have no monthly income (stay at home mom). Which card/strategy do you recommend?

    1. MileCards

      @Betsy – Yes, United miles can be used on Air China flights. Just do an award search for PEK to your preferred airport and you will see Air China flights as part of the results on

      Sounds like getting the Sapphire Preferred and Explorer for your husband is a good start.

  22. Rookie

    What does one say in the secure message to Chase in order to get them to bump your miles up to 50K? I’m trying to maximize my chances of success.

  23. gogogirl

    In addition to the prior post…I just read about the Starwood card and think I should apply for that one also and get rid of my all the cards in my wallet. Help me determine the timeline. Is it just meet the spending requirement?

    My husband and I have credit score over 800, pay our balance monthly, and travel frequently for personal and business using hotels and airlines. I have several cards that I can cancel immediately(AmericanExp Costco, Frontier Mastercard, Southwest Chase Visa, Discover,plus the 2 United Plus card) so I can benefit from these other ones, Wish I would have done my homework prior!

    1. MileCards

      @gogogirl- Really the primary reason to wait between applications is just to make sure you’ll have enough spending to hit the spending requirement for each bonus.

      There is a chance that a lot of applications in a short period of time could flag some banks, and some people get denied for having too many credit inquiries in a short period. As with everything in life, balance works well.

      You should be fine applying for the business credit cards after the Sapphire, as the Sapphire is a consumer card with a different approval process.

      As for the Starwood card – if you like hotel rewards at Starwood hotels, then yes it’s a great one to use as your primary card for spending, and leave the others for the bonuses and fee waivers.

  24. gogogirl

    I wold like to take advantage of these mileage offers on the 4 cards. So far I received the United Explorer card in October and after sending a secure message I was offered up to 65,000 miles(even after asking for 50000 offer)!

    I am not clear when the soonest I can apply for each card. I will apply for the Sapphire next, right? You said to wait a month. Is that from my first purchase date or application date? I applied October 3rd but purchase was done on the 8th. I am anxious to do it asap.

    Then what is the timeline for applying for the Ink Bold from Chase and United Explorer business card? Can i do either of these as well as the Sapphire application?

    We currently have United Mileage Plus cards for personal and Business. I would like to cancel both of these before I have to pay the business cards annual fee November 26th.

    Thank you for all of your help with this! I am trying to accrue some mileage to send our family to on vacation. The sooner the better. lol.

  25. Bruce

    I have a Continental/Presidential Plus card. Are the Premium Seats available to me if I do not have Elite Status?

    Thank you

    1. MileCards

      @Bruce- Unfortunately no, the premium seats are only available for purchase if you don’t have elite status, even with the Presidential Plus card.

  26. Rusty

    When I inquired recently you advised I get the Sapphire Preferred first as I expressed interest in both cards. Do you maintain I stick to that order of attack? (I am eligible for the higher offer from United per following your hyperlink btw.)

    Additionally, what are the most efficient ways to attain the $25,000 spending requirement? If I follow your suggested schedule I will have between the end of February and December to do this (if I remember correctly I’d read that the “year” really just means through the first calendar-year-end of ownership. Hope I’m wrong!).

    1. jcamarena

      You said, “…using Amazon Payments to send family up to $1,000 per month, which can be resent back to you…”

      Do you mean that we can get up to 1,000 points per dollar on Amazon payments, and the family member can immediately return the money to your account using Amazon payments, but we still get the points?

      Am I clear on this?

  27. tgienger

    Interesting post. I picked up the Cont OnePass card back in August when they emailed me it for 50K, then just recently applied & approved for the SapphirePref card for another 50K. I have a legitimate (according to IRS) small business (really more of a hobby), so I think I’ll try to add the Ink Bold card sometime in 1st Q of 2012 for another 50K. Getting 150,000 in points for just 3 cards seems pretty amazing to me!

    My wife still has the old United Select Visa, which seems to have better 2X and 3X earnings than any of the current cards, even the Sapphire Preferred. Do we need to do anything to keep this card? I’d hate for it to be converted to lesser earnings….


    1. MileCards

      @tgienger – Good work. You don’t need to do anything to keep that United Select Visa — just don’t let your wife apply for an Explorer card. They are grandfathering the old Select for any existing cardholders.

      But if you really want to rack up points, consider having your wife apply for the Sapphire Preferred as well. You can combine Sapphire points across accounts, or just deposit them in a common Mileage Plus account.

      Also, we heard Chase may be changing the offer on the Ink Bold next week; hopefully it’s not reduced, but stay tuned.


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