Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Travel Wins -- United Explorer Mileage Plus and Global Entry

While planning the trip to Scotland, Delta had discontinued enough of its flights from Lexington to Chicago (ORD) that I was better off using United. I'm not a huge fan of airline credit cards, because the miles you get are usually worth less than the dollars you get from other credit cards. However, United was offering a lot of bonus miles to apply, and enough perks to tempt me towards their card. The features that drew me in:
  • One free checked bag for each ticket purchased, when flying with the card holder. I don't like checking bags for most trips, but sometimes one has to do so (carrying tools for work, etc.). One bag each way on a return flight almost pays for the card by itself.
  • 2 United Club Passes a year. COVID has made this less useful, but most airports still have United Clubs (or generic clubs) where members can relax, get some free junk food, and a much more comfortable chair. I didn't end up using the club on the Scotland/Ireland trip because I didn't have any layovers worth it, but I have used it on a business trip in the past and will again.
  • Global Entry. The card will pay you back for the cost of Global Entry or TSA PreCheck once every 4 years.

Global Entry is essentially the Customs versions of TSA PreCheck; you pre-register and pass a background check with Customs, and then you have to go in and let them take pictures of your face for biometrics and scan your fingerprints. I ended up flying out to Mobile (as part of a trip to Gulf Shores) to register, since the Covington office was booked solid for months (and I was going that way anyway). On the other hand, you also get for free, and Global Entry lasts for 5 years betweeen renewals.

I thought TSA Pre-Check was nice, where we could skip the lines and not take off shoes. Then I actually used Global Entry. To check in at Customs, you walk up into the kiosk, and show it your face. If you're lucky, then it gives you a slip of paper with your name that lets you skip the customs line and leave security (which I did get). If you're not lucky, you still get to skip most of the line and step to the front for talking with the nice customs people. I managed to get out of Customs in O'Hare in Chicago in 15 minutes coming back from Scotland, and would have made 5 had I known what I was doing.

I had been using the Delta card when Paula and I were flying to Houston, because Delta has a direct flight from LEX to Houston. However, with them pulling out of trips to ORD, I haven't used it enough the last year to justify the costs. I'm going to cut it off and fly United as exclusively as I can.

I don't get sponsored, and in general I don't do affiliate links, but I will admit that I'm going to give you a referral link. If you're interested in applying for the United Explorer Mileage card, and you use this link, I get free miles.

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