FoundersCard United discount: useful, but with some limits

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I recently wrote about signing up for a free 6-month trial of Founders Card and my first impressions. One of the benefits that I thought could be pretty useful is a discount on United flights that is advertised to be good for 2-8% off. My initial experience with this benefit is that the actual discounts are mostly less than 2% (because the discount only applies to the base fare, not taxes), but I did find some situations where the savings were not insignificant. The major bummer for me is the inability to use travel certificates or Travel Bank money to pay for flights booked with a corporate discount.

How it works

FoundersCard provides a link to use to register for the United corporate discount program. You need to first enroll with your Mileage Plus number at United. FoundersCard says it then takes up to 2 weeks to complete the enrollment and that when enrollment is complete and you are logged in to your Mileage Plus account, you will see an option on the home page at United.com to book business travel. In my case, it took about a week and a half for this ability to show up when logged in at United.com.

When I am not logged in, this is what I see at United.com when looking to book a flight.

When I log in to my Mileage Plus account, I now have a drop-down in what was a blank space above the “Find flights” button where I an choose Business Travel (as shown) or Personal Travel.

How are the United discounts using the FoundersCard corporate rate?

As it happens, I do have a flight that I need to book for a business trip. As a point of comparison, here are the prices if I choose personal travel.

And here are the prices when using the corporate discount program.

Here were the price changes:

  • Basic economy flights that were $174 dropped to $171 (difference of 1.7%)
  • Economy flight that was $249 dropped to $232 (difference of 6.8%)
  • Economy flights that were $214 dropped to $210 (difference of 1.9%)

Funny enough, the flight that dropped by the most significant margin is the one I’d love to be able to book since it would line up the best with my plans, but it would give me no backup in the case of irregular operations, so I am probably going to book the early morning flight.

Unfortunately though, when booking through the corporate discount, United says that I can not use vouchers or TravelBank funds. That stinks. I have a $1500 bump voucher set to expire in October and TravelBank funds from airline incidental credits. With so much airline credit on hand, I just can’t see buying a ticket without using some of that up. I’ll therefore pay $4 extra and book the economy fare.

The discount looked similar on other domestic routes I checked. See another example before and after discount below:

Before corporate discount:

After corporate discount:

Again, the savings are relatively small but better than nothing in most cases.

I did find that the differences could be more substantial for international fares if you typically pay for premium economy or business class. For instance, here was an example round trip from Newark to Paris in September before the discount:

With the corporate rate, Premium Economy drops $95 round trip (a difference of more than 4%) while business class is reduced by $54 round trip.

Those differences are unlikely to make United the must-book choice, but if you were already looking to book these flights at the full prices, a couple of round trips like these (particularly in Premium Economy) could make a membership worthwhile. I saw discounts of $200+ on some $10K round trips in business class to Asia. Once again, if you’re already paying for that at the sticker price, this saves you a bit, but it isn’t likely to make a big difference for most readers.

Bottom line

The FoundersCard United discount falls in line with my overall first impressions of FoundersCard: it could be useful if you have a small business and you’re currently paying for flights regularly. Over the course of a year, a weekly flyer could probably save the cost of FoundersCard membership with just this benefit. On the other hand, if you only pay for a couple of paid flights per year, this discount isn’t going to make any difference at all. There is one exception there: FoundersCard also currently offers a deal with United to get 5,000 bonus miles when you book and fly a paid flight by September 30, 2021. I’m hopeful that you do not need to have booked through the corporate discount to get that bonus since I’m going to book my flight as personal travel in order to be able to use my existing travel voucher. Since I was going to book a flight anyway, getting an extra 5,000 miles from an offer through a free trial sounds good to me. If I had more flexibility and could book the $66 fares two days later, I would be thrilled with that extra 5K miles.

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