Hi everybody! I’ve been taking a break from blogging because, frankly, I’ve been kind of bored with points and miles this year. But Chase has a bad new credit card out–it’s called the United TravelBank card–so I recently caught up with myself for an interview about it.
Wow, a new airline credit card from Chase! It has no annual fee and 2% cash back! Sounds great, where do I sign up?
Hold on a second here. First of all, it’s not really cash back… it’s “TravelBank cash back”. As always, in situations like this, I recall this classic Simpsons exchange:
Homer: One adult and four children.
Woman: Would you like to buy some Itchy and Scratchy Money?
Homer: What’s that?
Woman: Well it’s money that’s made just for the park… And it works just like regular money, but it’s, er…”fun”.
Bart: Do it, Dad.
Homer: Well, OK, if it’s fun.
TravelBank cash is just like regular cash, except it’s, er… “fun”. Specifically, as per Chase, $1 in TravelBank cash = $1 when used toward the purchase of a ticket on flights operated by United and United Express. So you’re tied in to using any earnings for United flights.
Okay, but at least I get 2% back with this card, right?
The 2% is only for United purchases. Everything else is 1.5%. Not only are there a lot of no-fee 2% and 1.5% cash back cards out there, there are also a bunch of 1.5%+ travel cards that let you redeem points on any travel purchase, not just United flights. 1.5% back on United flights is a terrible deal.
Okay, but at least I get some sweet United perks with this card, right? Early boarding, waived baggage fees, that kind of thing?
Care to elaborate a bit?
You get 25% off in-flight purchases with United. That’s all. I simplified that to “No”.
I know, right? You’d think they’d throw some kind of airline perk in there to soften the blow of having a crappy reward scheme.
How about the sign-up bonus?
You get $150 worth of
Itchy and Scratchy money TravelBank cash after a $1,000 minimum spend. So theoretically I can imagine a scenario where you’ve got a definite upcoming United spend and you could really use that $150 and for whatever reason you don’t want any of the other cards with a $150+ sign-up bonus. A $1,000 minimum spend isn’t terrible. (EDIT: @FreePassengers on Twitter points out another possible use, which would be if you want to downgrade from an annual fee United card and not have to cancel your card.)
All of which is to say, I could imagine a scenario in which one would conceivably want to sign up for this card. But for most of you this card is no good.