Earn Rebates On United Flights By Joining The United.com Club

Travis is my first new contributor to the blog, who will be writing a post every Wednesday to start. The idea behind adding guest contributors is to add different perspectives to the blog. Travis has a unique approach towards travel, given that he travels almost exclusively with his wife and young children, which is in stark contrast to my travels, which are usually alone.
You can find more posts by Travis here:


The new United seems to have trouble with branding.  Take the united.com Club and the United Club.  Two completely unrelated programs have virtually the same name.  Perhaps United should hire Vanilla Ice to explain the difference, just as he explained that Ice Ice Baby has a completely different bass line than Under Pressure.

We sampled it from them but it’s not the same capitalization.  Theirs has a capital U.  Ours has a lower case u.  It’s not the same.”  

The United Club of course is the name for United’s lounges.  You buy a membership, you get some cheese and crackers.

The united.com Club is United’s loyalty program that rewards you for booking flights directly on their website.  In exchange for the $25 annual membership fee, you get a $5 rebate on every flight you book while logged into your account.  Each of these $5 rebates is deposited into your TravelBank account and can be used to pay for future United flights.

united.com Club
united.com Club

Despite the ridiculous branding and confusing names, the program is actually really simple.  And depending on how many tickets you book each year, it can be a reasonably good deal.  If you play travel agent for your family and friends, this is one option to get a little kickback.

Earning Travel Bank Credits

There is one and only one benefit to buying a $25 annual membership to the united.com Club – earn a $5 credit on every itinerary booked while logged into your account.

It doesn’t matter if the trip costs $100 or $1000.  It doesn’t matter if the itinerary is for you, for your son, for your grandma, or for your brother’s first-grade teacher’s uncle who lives 8 states away.  It doesn’t matter if it is a one-way, round-trip, or multi-city itinerary. And it doesn’t even matter if it’s an revenue ticket or an award flight.

You earn $5 for each ticket booked while logged into your account and issued on 016 stock.

For me, this is about scalability.  In my single days I probably wouldn’t have cared about getting a $5 rebate on a flight. But now this quickly becomes 4 x $5 = $20 for each trip my family takes, or 8 x $5 = $40 if the trip can be booked as one-ways.  And most domestic trips can.

A family of 4 that takes just one trip per year can make a 60% return on the $25 annual membership fee with just one trip.

It’s worth noting that the system does have some bugs.   For example, if you book multiple passengers on the same itinerary, you sometimes only get one credit.  And sometimes it just doesn’t pay out at all.

I know of folks who keep a list of all of their missing credits and then once the list gets long enough, they call in to have them manually posted.   Once upon a time, I probably would have done this too.  But nowadays, I just don’t think it’s worth it – I know that I make a pretty good return on my $25 annual investment and leave it at that.

Redeeming Travel Bank Credits

The credits are awarded fairly quickly after the trip is flown.  Your travel bank balance is displayed in the “My Account” area of the website.  Using Travel Bank funds to pay for a trip is painless.  You search for flights on United.com just as you always do, and then when you get to the payment screen, you will have the option of applying travel bank funds to the purchase price.  Just click ‘Apply’ and it will reduce the amount owed appropriately.

Travel bank shows up as a payment option
Travel bank shows up as a payment option

Travel bank funds are treated as a form of payment, as opposed to a discount.  This is significant because it allows you to earn Premier Qualifying Dollars (PQD’s) on the full amount of the ticket, including the balance covered by Travel Bank.  It also means that if you refund the ticket, the funds go back into your travel bank.  (As opposed to most discount certificates which technically go ‘poof’ once they are redeemed.)

Travel bank funds can even be combined with discount certificates.  And also with travel credits.

My general strategy is to let my travel bank funds accumulate to a reasonable level and then apply them all at once.  I figure that I’m more likely to put in the effort to chase down $100 in credits if I need to refund a ticket, as opposed to $5 which I would probably forget about.  But if you truly like to earn and burn, you can certainly use the credits as quickly as you earn them.

The trade-off of course is that by booking directly with United you can’t book through an online travel agency (OTA) or earn bonus rewards points by booking through a portal.  Essentially United is offering you some of the commission that they would have paid the OTA.  I generally prefer to book directly with the airline anyway but you should do your own evaluation.

Have you ever been a member of the united.com Club?  How has the program worked for you?

Comments

  1. Hi Nick.

    Yes, award flights count. I just had a $5 credit from an award flight post last month. My understanding is that any ticket on 016 stock counts, theoretically.

  2. Geez… I’ve never even heard of this program (given the name, probably never suspected it was different from United Club).

    @ Travis — thank you!

  3. I’ve found it works great too if your round-trip is made up of two one-way fares…buy them two one-ways and you get $10 off instead of $5 for the trip. 😉

    @Travis, I’m not sure if any 016 ticket stock purchased on united.com works. I’ve found that whenever I purchased things via a site like Hipmunk (that I couldn’t price out strictly on united.com) wouldn’t earn me the $5 back.

  4. Nevermind, found it in the T&C’s

    – united.com Club membership is valid for one year from the date of enrollment and may be renewed.

  5. @Andrew. That’s interesting about coming into united.com from Hipmunk. Were you logged into united.com, possibly from a different browser window at the time?

    I think I’ve booked a couple tickets that way, not sure if I got the credit or not. If I didn’t, I probably figured it was just another random glitch. 🙂

  6. These 2 sentences make no sense to me:
    –In my single days I probably wouldn’t have cared about getting a $5 rebate on a flight
    –I know of folks who keep a list of all of their missing credits…Once upon a time, I probably would have done this too. But nowadays, I just don’t think it’s worth it

    Either it’s worth it, or it isn’t. If it’s worth paying $25 for $5 off, then it’s worth calling them when they don’t credit you that $5. If it’s not, then you still don’t care about getting a $5 rebate.

  7. one of United’s best-kept secrets. They don’t advertise it at all and almost nobody knows about it.
    Once upon a time it was a Continental program I believe (the travel bank) which was more advertised.
    I love it! For my $25 I get well over a $100 every year.

  8. Sorry for the confusion Lisa.

    I was just saying that I don’t worry about the occasional credit that doesn’t post. I get a positive ROI on my $25 annual membership fee, and I leave it at that. Sure, I could call in and track down every missing $5, but as long as I come out ahead on the year with ZERO work, I’m happy.

  9. I was a member in 2013. Typically book travel for me and my wife so 2 tix on same confirmation number. Since we are Premier Gold when we do online check in it asks if we want to be put on the upgrade list. We say yes and then one ticket is given a new confirmation number. After travel is completed, I only get $5 credit not $10. I have to go back to united to get the credit and sometimes it takes multiple tries. It was a pain in the rear to do that. Didn’t rejoin for 2014.

  10. I’ve been using it for years and usually wind up with $50 to apply to flights at the end of the year, and that’s after “rebating” my initial $25 buy-in. I’ve never had a problem and my flights always post, so I think its pretty good……except for the name.

  11. Does anyone have experience with whether booking through the United App (on iPhone, in my case) yields the $5 credit, if you are a United.com Club member?

  12. Back in the day, this was a CO program. Never worked well. I almost always had to call or email to get credit and $5 was just not worth it. It was also supposed to be a “club” with specials and extras which never materialized. I dropped out after a couple of years.
    Some credit cards require you to pay “in full” using the credit card in order to get the benefits attached (flight insurance, death benefits, etc…..) By using a credit towards the flight and then paying with the credit card, people raised the possibility that credit cards would consider that you “did not pay in full” using the card and therefore loose the benefits. Not sure if that was ever settled but it was a turn off for me.

  13. I just wrote 1kVoice to request credit for 4 award tickets I bought. They told me this is not valid on award tickets. Hmm, what should I do now?

  14. While it has been my experience that it works on award tickets, I am not sure that it is a published benefit. I expect that this is one of those quirks that is common in United-land — when it works automatically, you can take advantage of it, but when it doesn’t, you can’t really complain about it because they’ll just tell you it was never supposed to work that way.

    Did you book all 4 award tickets in one reservation? As I noted above, I have the best luck getting the credits to post automatically when I book only one traveler in each reservation.

    Wish I could offer more help!

  15. I booked one traveler per reservation. Two people for two one-ways each. None of them myself. I responded with the T&C’s showing award tickets are not excluded, we’ll see what they say when they get back to me.

  16. If you book two tix for the same itinerary and you add both to the upgrade list during online checking one will get a new booking number. You won’t autmatically get $5 credit for the ticket with the new booking number. This was too much of a PIA for me and I did no renew.

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