50K Citi AAdvantage or 50K United MileagePlus Explorer Business Card?
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50K Citi AAdvantage or 50K United MileagePlus Explorer Business Card?

 

Is the 50K Citi AAdvantage or 50K United MileagePlus Explorer Business Card a Better Deal? TravelSort reader Albion asks on the Best Travel Credit Cards page "Where exactly do you see the 50,000 offer for the United MileagePlus Explorer Business card, because all i see is 30,000. And would you personally choose the Citi AAdvantage or the United MileagePlus Explorer Business card?"

Where to Find the 50K United MileagePlus Explorer Business Card

You can go directly to the public 50K United MileagePlus Explorer Business card offer. Or if on the United site, go to the bottom of the page and click on "Products and Services" then click on Credit Cards to see the 50K offer, which is only for the business card.

 

Comparing the 50K Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select and 50K United MileagePlus Explorer Business Card Offers

The Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select offer is:

  • Earn 50,000 AAdvantage miles after $3000 spend within the first 3 months of account opening
  • No foreign transaction fees 
  • Earn 2X miles per dollar spent on eligible American Airlines purchases
  • First checked bag free for you and up to 4 companions on the same reservation on domestic American Airlines trips
  • Earn 10% of your redeemed AAdvantage miles back, up to 10,000 AAdvantage miles per calendar year
  • $95 annual fee is waived the first year
The United MileagePlus Explorer Business card offer is:
  • Earn 50,000 MileagePlus miles after $2000 spend within the first 3 months of account opening
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Earn 2X miles per dollar spent on eligible United airlines purchases
  • Earn 2X miles per dollar spent on restaurants, gas stations and office supply stores
  • First checked bag free for you and one companion on the same reservation on United operated flights when purchasing tickets with your United MileagePlus Explorer Business card
  • $95 annual fee is waived the first year

As you can see, both cards have no foreign transaction fees and waive the first year annual fee. You earn the bonus after $3000 spend for the Citi AAdvantage card, but after $2000 spend for the United MileagePlus Explorer Business card, but for most people, a $1000 difference in minimum spend won't be a deciding factor.

You do get waived first checked bag fees for up to 4 companions with the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select, so if you frequently travel with family on domestic flights and check bags, that could make a difference.

In terms of category bonuses, the United MileagePlus Explorer Business card offers 2X not just on United airfare, but also for restaurants, gas stations and office supply stores. This shouldn't matter to anyone who has the Chase Sapphire Preferred (2X on restaurants), Chase Freedom (5X on gas stations at least one quarter per year) and Ink Plus (5X on office supply purchases).

An especially good benefit of the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select is the 10% mileage refund when you redeem AAdvantage miles for award travel, up to a maximum of 10,000 AAdvantage miles per AAdvantage account per calendar year. The United MileagePlus Explorer Business card offers 10,000 bonus miles if you spend at least $25,000 on the card in a calendar year, but I can think of many more rewarding uses for $25,000 in spend.

 

Which Awards Are Best to Book with MileagePlus Miles?

After the United MileagePlus Award Chart Devaluation, international first class and business class on Star Alliance partners such as Lufthansa First Class, Asiana First Class and SWISS Business Class are significantly more expensive--award rates rose as much as 86%. That makes these awards the least inflated, compared to the pre-devaluation amounts, all awards below for roundtrip travel:

  • Hawaii, Mexico, Caribbean, Central America, "Northern" South America awards: these business class awards have not increased over pre-devaluation amounts
  • "Southern" South America awards: 110K miles roundtrip (10% increase for both United and partner business class awards)
  • Australia (most likely via Asia) business class: 160K miles for partner business class, 140K miles for United business class
  • South Asia or North Asia in United First Class for 160K miles, United Business Class for 140K miles or partner business class for 160K miles
  • Europe in United First Class for 160K miles or United Business Class for 115K miles
  • Japan in ANA Business Class for 150K miles or United First Class for 160K miles or United Business Class for 130K miles
Note that if you do want to book partner first class, such as Asiana First Class, you'll typically need fewer miles booking with Aeroplan or Avianca LifeMiles. 
 
 
Which Credit Card, 50K Citi AAdvantage Card or 50K United MileagePlus Explorer Business Card?
 
Personally, even with the 2016 AAdvantage award chart devaluation, I'd recommend the 50K Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select card, which also provides a 10% rebate on AAdvantage miles redeemed (up to 10,000 AAdvantage miles per calendar year). Even with the significant AAdvantage award chart increases, AAdvantage miles are still a better deal than MileagePlus miles for partner awards such as these:
  • Business Class to Europe: 57,500 AAdvantage miles each way vs. 70,000 United MileagePlus miles each way
  • First Class to Europe: 85K AA miles vs. 110K United miles, each way
  • Business Class to Japan: 60K AA miles vs. 75K United miles, each way
  • First Class to Japan: 80K AA miles vs. 110K United miles, each way
  • Business Class to South Asia: 70K AA miles vs. 80K United miles each way
That's not to say there aren't still certain advantages with United miles, since MileagePlus offers better routing rules and allows one stopover and two open jaws on roundtrip awards, and with United miles, you don't run into as many restrictions with awards transiting a third region as you do with AAdvantage miles. So it does depend on your specific trip and what you're trying to accomplish with a given award.
 
Finally, it's worth pointing out that even if you value United MileagePlus miles for your awards, you'd be better off applying for the Ink Plus if you don't already have the card and can meet the $5000 spend requirement to earn the bonus, since you can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards to United MileagePlus instantly, and Ultimate Rewards points, which don't expire as long as you have an Ultimate Rewards linked credit card open, can also transfer to other partners such as Singapore KrisFlyer, Korean Air Skypass, and Hyatt Gold Passport, among others.
 
Which miles do you prefer taking into account the upcoming AAdvantage award chart devaluation, AAdvantage miles or MileagePlus miles?

Related Posts

Etihad A380 First Class Apartment Award Availability

Cathay Pacific First Class Awards: Earn Asia Miles or AAdvantage Miles?

60K Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select (Targeted)

50K CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select Offer Returns

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