I stumbled across the best perk of my United credit card, and I can't figure out why Chase doesn't shout it from the rooftops

United airlinesShutterstock / verzellenberg

  • If you have a United card issued by Chase, one of the best perks you can use is expanded access to economy-class saver awards on flights operated by United and United Express carriers.
  • Cardholders need to log in to their United account before searching for flights with their miles. They'll be prompted with the text "Exclusively available to you as a MileagePlus Chase Cardmember."
  • Without this benefit, it can be extremely difficult to redeem miles on United flights for the lowest award levels.
  • Chase card members who have cards like the United Explorer Card or the United Explorer Business Card can take advantage of this perk.
  • Read more personal finance coverage.

There are few things that can be more frustrating than trying to redeem your airline miles for an award flight but not finding any workable options.

Sure, most airlines claim that you can now use your miles for any flight, but they leave out the fact that you might have to pay at least twice as much as the "saver" rates for the vast majority of them.

But I've stumbled across a strategy anyone with a United card issued by Chase can use to open up a substantial number of low-priced awards.

Keep in mind that we're focusing on the rewards and perks that make these credit cards great options, not things like interest rates and late fees, which will far outweigh the value of any points or miles. It's important to practice financial discipline when using credit cards by paying your balances in full each month, making payments on time, and only spending what you can afford to pay back.

United credit cards have a hidden feature

When you have a United credit card from Chase, such as the United Explorer card or the United Explorer Business card, you'll receive expanded access to saver awards in economy class on flights operated by United and United Express carriers. And in my experience, you won't have just a little bit better of a chance of finding an award at the lowest mileage level - it will pretty much be your only chance.

And better yet, it's not uncommon to find up to nine available awards on a single flight, so long as you're a Chase cardholder. In contrast, it's normally extremely difficult to find just one or two available saver-level award seats.

You can read everything Chase publishes about its United Explorer and United Club cards and still not learn about these cards' most valuable feature. But once you have the card, and you start looking to use your miles, you'll often see a little note next to the best priced flights saying that it's "Exclusively available to you as a MileagePlus Chase Cardmember."

Just be sure to log in to your United account before searching for an award reservation.

Which cards are eligible for this benefit?

Chase offers four versions of its United MileagePlus card to new applicants. First, there's the personal and small business versions of the Explorer card, both with annual fees of $95. Then there's the personal and small business versions of the United Club card, which both have annual fees of $450.

However, what's even less well-known is that United offers the expanded economy-class saver-award availability benefit to all Chase United credit card holders, not just to those who hold one of these four cards offered to new applicants.

For example, when I called to cancel my Explorer card, I was offered a no-annual-fee version simply called the United MileagePlus card. The basic MileagePlus card has very few features compared with the Explorer card, but it still retains the critical access to expanded saver award availability in economy class. With no annual fee, I will continue to hold this card indefinitely, while rarely using it for purchases.

I'm not aware of any other credit card that offers customers expanded access to award seats at the lowest mileage levels. Chase and United have done a brilliant thing by making United miles far more valuable to those who also have a United credit card, but it's baffling that these companies barely lift a finger to let anyone know about it.

Click here to learn more about the United Explorer card.

Click here to learn more about the United Explorer Business card.

Disclosure: This post is brought to you by the Personal Finance Insider team. We occasionally highlight financial products and services that can help you make smarter decisions with your money. We do not give investment advice or encourage you to adopt a certain investment strategy. If you take action based on one of our recommendations, we get a small share of the revenue from our commerce partners. This does not influence whether we feature a financial product or service. We operate independently from our advertising sales team.

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Please note: While the offers mentioned above are accurate at the time of publication, they're subject to change at any time and may have changed, or may no longer be available.

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