Credit Card March Madness Matchup 3: Chase United Explorer vs. Barclays USAirways [EXPIRED]

Posted By Trav

If you haven’t read the original post explaining the rules or voted in Matchup #1 or #2, then I’d suggest you take a minute and read them quickly.

Just remember, you are pretending you can only have 1 credit card for the entire next year and you have no existing credit cards or frequent flyer miles or hotel points.  You are a CLEAN SLATE and are voting for the card you’d want to have more.

In the third matchup, we go airline card vs. airline card, Star Alliance carrier vs. Star Alliance carrier.

On one side, you have the United Explorer card, which promises up to 40k but only makes 30k easy (25k after first spend, 5k after adding authorized user, and then you need to spend $25,000 on the card in one year to get the additional 10k).

On the other side, the USAirways card promises up to 60k, but only gives 40k right out of the gate.  You’ll need to make a transfer to get an additional 10k and the remaining 10k is an anniversary bonus (and will only be given to you after you pay the annual fee).

Does being able to fly one way on an award ticket make you prefer United?  Or are you sold on USAir because they’ll also throw in $99 companion passes and you’ll be getting more miles for the sign up bonus?

Who ya got?  Defend yourself in the comments!

Chase United Explorer

  • Signup bonus:  40k United miles, 30k of which is easy.  (There is also a 60k offer that is targeted for people with miles in their your United account.  If you are planning on applying for it, get some miles in first and wait for the 60k offer.  For our purposes, we’ll use the general 40k offer).
  • No minimum spend requirement
  • 2 free United Club passes
  • No annual fee the first year, $95 annually after that.
  • 3% foreign transaction fee
  • 2x/$1 spent on United tickets, 1x/$1 spent on everything else.
  • You can use your miles for one-way tickets.

Barclays USAirways Dividend Miles Premier World Mastercard (what a mouthful)

  • Signup bonus:  basically 40k right away, 10k for a transfer (eh)
  • No minimum spend requirement
  • 1 $99 companion pass (buy a domestic ticket for $250 or more, a companion can fly on the same flight as you for $99)
  • 1 free USAirway club pass
  • No annual fee the first year, $89 annually after that.
  • 3% foreign transaction fee
  •  2x/$1 spent on USAirways tickets, 1x/$1 spent on everything else.
  • You cannot use miles for a one-way ticket

[polldaddy poll=6041521]


  1. AK says:

    Another valuable feature of the US Air MC is that you get a 5K discount on US metal flights. This applies to their off-peak awards as well.

    1. Trav says:

      @AK- Thanks for the heads up. I try to put as much detail in as I can, but occasionally I miss some parts. That is a huge bonus, especially on domestic flights.

  2. AK says:

    One benefits of the US Air MC that you are missing is that cardholders get a 5K discount on awards that are on US metal. This includes the off-peak awards to Europe and South America. 55K for business class to Europe if you plan the dates right.

    1. Trav says:

      @AK- I love the offpeak award ticket value for Europe and South America, and the 5k off only makes it sweeter!

  3. AT1Dutch says:

    Barclays USAirways World Premier Mastercard – Churnable! Plus the annual bonus about cancels out the annual fee.

    1. Trav says:

      @AT1Dutch- Yes, it is churnable, which is a huge bonus, but for the competition, let’s assume that you can only get the sign up bonus once. However, for anyone looking to get this card for real, be aware that it is churnable, and that means you can receive the sign up bonus multiple times, even without canceling your other card.

      And yeah, the annual bonus just about cancels out the annual fee, always a nice plus if you want to build that credit history length.

  4. Richard Moonick says:

    Don’t forget that the United card allows you to check you (and a companion) check your first bag for free. I hadn’t realized that the USAirways card doesn’t allow you to redeem miles for one-way tickets, thanks for the heads up.

  5. Derek says:

    The $99 companion ticket makes for a nice deal if you pay to travel. I have the silver Delta amex card and also get a ‘free’ companion ticket per year, but have to pay the $95 to get it, but since my wife and I pay for 1-2 tickets/year it makes for a better deal. I don’t know much about United, but I would rather have more points up front.. which will also give me more spending ability to hit other credit card minimum spends.. instead of spending $25k on 1 card to get 10k points.. to me that’s a HUGE waste.

  6. Michael says:

    Could you not just get both cards since they are star alliance and reap all the rewards at once, and spend all the points on a round trip international flight using either of these carriers?

    1. Trav says:

      @Michael- The idea behind the tournament was that you would only get to pick 1 of the cards. Also, you can’t combine points between USAirways and United. Yes, they are in the same alliance, so you can fly on both of them, but you can’t combine 40k+55K and get 95k. You have to keep your miles separate.

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