United℠ Explorer Card Review: Great for United Loyalists

United℠ Explorer Card Review: Great for United Loyalists

The United℠ Explorer Card is a smart choice for consumers who want to earn miles on all their purchases while enjoying a handful of elite perks when they fly with United.

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Quick facts:

  • Sign-up bonus: Earn 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open..
  • Rewards: Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on dining, hotel stays and United purchases. 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • Annual fee: $0 Intro for the First Year, then $95
  • Up to $100 Global Entry/TSA Precheck credit
  • First checked bag free
  • Priority boarding privileges

Pros

  • Generous bonus offer
  • Free checked bag, priority boarding and fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Precheck included
  • $0 foreign transaction fees
  • Get two one-time United Club passes
  • Earn miles on all your spending

Cons

  • Annual fee after the first year
  • High APR for purchases
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Is the United℠ Explorer Card worth it?

If you fly with United Airlines fairly often or plan to in the future, the United℠ Explorer Card should definitely be on your radar. This airline credit card gives you the chance to earn a generous bonus right away, yet you can also earn 2x miles in popular spending categories like dining, hotel stays booked directly with hotels and, of course, United purchases.

The United℠ Explorer Card also comes with frequent flyer perks that can make travel more comfortable or help you save money. In addition, the card waives the annual fee for the first year, so you can try out all the benefits before you decide whether to invest in this card for the long haul.

Earn 40,000 bonus miles

Earn 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open..

If you're able to earn the full bonus, you'll have enough in rewards for approximately $960 in airfare. This is based on a ValuePenguin valuation of 1.6 cents each for miles in the United MileagePlus program, which is slightly higher than the average value of 1.3 cents each for airline miles in general.

This bonus is also slightly higher than you'll get with many other airline credit cards on the market today. Just keep in mind that, like other types of credit card offers, bonus offers for airline cards tend to go up and down over time.

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What it's worth: Around $480 in United airfare

Who's eligible to earn this offer? According to the fine print for the United℠ Explorer Card, this card is not available to current cardmembers who already have it, as well as previous cardmembers who received a bonus on their card within the last 24 months. You should also be aware of approval rules from Chase — according to the Chase 5/24 rule, you cannot be approved for a new Chase credit card if you’ve had five or more cards or accounts opened with any issuer within the last 24 months.

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Earn 2X miles on United, restaurant and hotel purchases

The United℠ Explorer Card offers airline miles for each dollar you spend, and you can even earn bonus miles in several specific categories.

Cardholders can Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on dining, hotel stays and United purchases. 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases.

While it's always a plus when an airline credit card offers bonus miles in any category outside of airfare, keep in mind how this card compares with other popular travel credit cards. The list below shows the average rewards per dollar spent with various cards based on estimated earning rates and average consumer spending, which ValuePenguin sourced from the U.S. Bureau of Labor.

You'll notice that flexible rewards credit cards, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, tend to offer a higher rewards value for every dollar spent because their points can be transferred to a variety of airline loyalty programs. Airline credit cards, on the other hand, offer a slightly lower rewards proposition, yet they come with airline-specific benefits that tend to provide the most value for frequent flyers.

Average rewards earned per $1 spent

$0.044
American Express® Gold Card
$0.03
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
$0.025
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
$0.021
United Club℠ Infinite Card
$0.02
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
$0.019
United℠ Explorer Card
$0.018
Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card
$0.015
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card

What are United℠ Explorer Card miles worth?

Miles in the United MileagePlus program are worth approximately 1.6 cents each, yet you may get more or less value for your miles depending on how you redeem. For example, you may be able to glean more value for your miles if you use them for international flights than you will if you mostly travel within the United States.

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Redeeming miles

Unfortunately, United Airlines doesn’t post an award chart that lists the exact number of miles you'll need for a specific itinerary. Instead, they use dynamic award pricing that sets flight awards at different rates based on factors such as travel dates and overall demand, with award pricing varying greatly. In our own sampling below, we found Saver economy awards for as little as 8,000 miles and Business class awards for as much as 175,000 miles.

A couple of tips for finding the best deal for United miles:

  • United lets you search destinations and find the minimum number of miles you'll need for an award. This can be helpful if you're saving up miles and want to know the bare minimum you'd need for the flight you want.
  • United also has a Flight Award Deals page that can be immensely helpful. This page lets you enter destinations or your home airport to find out if any specific award deals are being offered. Flight awards on this page change frequently, so you'll want to check back often.

The chart below shows how many miles you may need for some specific itineraries, but you should keep in mind that you may or may not find these deals if you look. Generally speaking:

  • You'll get more value for your United miles if you redeem them for domestic economy flights instead of premium cabin flights within the U.S.
  • However, you'll tend to get even better value if you redeem your rewards for a long haul international award.
Route
Fare class
Cash price
Miles needed
Mileage value (in cents)
Chicago to San FranciscoEconomy Saver award$998,000 miles + $5.601.17
Business Everyday award$34234,000 miles + $5.600.99
Washington, D.C. to SeattleEconomy Saver award$16812,500 miles + $5.601.3
First Everyday award$40739,500 miles + $5.601.02
Denver to TokyoEconomy Saver award$1,21635,000 miles + $5.603.46
Business Everyday award$6,603175,000 miles + $5.603.77
Newark, N.J. to Punta Cana, Dominican RepublicEconomy Saver award$13617,500 miles + $46.900.51
Business Saver award$27930,000 miles + $46.900.77

Other United℠ Explorer Card benefits

While the airline miles you can earn are an important benefit when you're choosing an airline credit card, you should also think about other cardholder perks you might want. Fortunately, the United℠ Explorer Card comes with quite a few benefits that can help you save money or have a more comfortable, more convenient travel experience overall.

When you sign up for the United℠ Explorer Card, you get important travel protections such as:

  • Baggage delay insurance
  • Lost luggage reimbursement coverage
  • Trip delay reimbursement
  • Trip cancellation and interruption insurance
  • Travel accident insurance

The United℠ Explorer Card also comes with auto rental coverage that lets you decline the rental company’s collision insurance and pay with your credit card instead. Note that, unlike most credit card car rental benefits, this coverage is primary and not secondary: This means you can use it first and in place of your own insurance. This coverage is also good for up to the actual cash value of the vehicle for theft and collision damage.

You can use the United℠ Explorer Card for purchases outside the United States when you travel, and you'll never pay an added foreign transaction fee.

This card gives you a credit (up to $100) when you use it to pay for your Global Entry or TSA Precheck membership. The credit for either program is good every four years.

You and companions on your itinerary will all qualify for priority boarding when you fly on United-operated flights. Just make sure you add your frequent flyer number to your reservation.

The primary cardmember with the United℠ Explorer Card gets a free checked bag on United-operated flights, but only when they pay for airfare with their card. This perk is also good for one companion on the same itinerary.

Pay for food, beverages and in-flight Wi-Fi on United-operated flights with your United℠ Explorer Card and you'll get a statement credit for 25% off your purchase.

Cardmembers also get two one-time passes into a United Club, which are worth $100 in retail value. This benefit is applied to your United account your first year and every year thereafter on your cardmember anniversary.

The United℠ Explorer Card also gives you the chance to earn Premier qualifying points (PQPs), which you accrue to earn elite status in the United MileagePlus program. Specifically, you can earn 500 PQPs for every $12,000 you spend on purchases with your card (up to 1,000 PQPs in a calendar year).

Qualify for free daily breakfast for two, complimentary Wi-Fi access, dining or spa credits and other privileges when you book a hotel through the Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection and pay with your United℠ Explorer Card.

Qualify for purchase protection against damage or theft for 120 days after purchase. This coverage is good for up to $10,000 per claim and up to $50,000 per year.

Cardholders are also eligible for extended warranty coverage on eligible purchases that come with a manufacturer's warranty. This coverage adds another year of warranty protection on manufacturer's warranties of three years or less.

The United℠ Explorer Card also comes with one year of DashPass membership, which gets you $0 delivery fees on DoorDash orders of $12 or more (enrollment is required).

What credit score do you need for the United℠ Explorer Card?

The United℠ Explorer Card requires very Excellent/Good credit, which could include any FICO Score of 640 or higher.

How does the United℠ Explorer Card compare to other cards?

If you're considering the United℠ Explorer Card, you should also take a look at other airline and travel credit cards, including the options below.

United℠ Explorer Card vs. Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

Verdict: Flexible rewards but fewer travel perks

On Capital One's Secure Website

The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card offers a fairly generous bonus, along with flexible rewards. The miles you earn with this card can be redeemed to cover any travel purchase charged to your card, as well as for Amazon.com purchases or purchases made through PayPal. In the meantime, you can also transfer your Capital One miles to a handful of airline and hotel partners.

However, the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card doesn’t waive its annual fee for the first year, and you won't get the sweet travel perks that you get with the United℠ Explorer Card. If you’re loyal to United, the United℠ Explorer Card will provide much more value.

How does it compare?

  • Annual fee: $95 (Worse)
  • Welcome bonus: Enjoy a one-time bonus of 60,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $600 in travel (Worse)
  • Rewards earned/$1 spent: $0.020 (Better)
  • Other benefits: Fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Precheck membership, no foreign transaction fees (Worse)

United℠ Explorer Card vs. Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Verdict: More valuable rewards for those who prefer flexibility

On Chase's Secure Website

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is definitely worth considering if you want more flexibility in how you redeem your rewards. United is a Chase transfer partner, so you can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards® points to your United account (and to other airline and hotel programs) at a 1:1 ratio. However, you can also redeem your rewards for travel through Chase, gift cards, merchandise, statement credits and cash back. This card also comes with a much more generous bonus offer, and you earn 2x points on dining and all travel purchases.

On the downside, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card will be less beneficial for flying: You don't get any specific frequent flyer perks or fee credits for Global Entry or TSA Precheck membership.

How does it compare?

  • Annual fee: $95 (Worse)
  • Welcome bonus: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. (Better)
  • Rewards earned/$1 spent: $0.025 (Better)
  • Other benefits: $0 foreign transaction fees, trip cancellation and interruption insurance, primary auto rental coverage, baggage delay insurance, trip delay reimbursement, purchase protection, extended warranties (Worse)

United℠ Explorer Card vs. United Club℠ Infinite Card

Verdict: Best airline perks for the frequent United flyer

On Chase's Secure Website

If you’re a serious United flyer who wants as many perks as possible, the United Club℠ Infinite Card offers more benefits, though for a higher $525 annual fee. This card offers a similar suite of travel insurance benefits as the United℠ Explorer Card — plus, you also get a United Club membership (a $650 value), a first and second checked bag free and Premier Upgrades on award tickets.

The initial bonus is higher on this card than on the United℠ Explorer Card, and you also have the potential to earn more miles on your spending. With the United Club℠ Infinite Card, you Earn 4 miles per $1 spent on United purchases, 2 miles per $1 spent on all other travel and dining and 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases.

How does it compare?

  • Annual fee: $525 (Worse)
  • Welcome bonus: Earn 75,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening (Better)
  • Rewards earned/$1 spent: $0.021 (Better)
  • Other benefits: United Club membership, first and second free checked bag, travel insurance benefits, fee credit for Global Entry/TSA Precheck, $0 foreign transaction fees, Premier upgrades, Hertz Gold Plus Rewards President's Circle, discount on in-flight purchases (Better)

Should you apply for the United℠ Explorer Card?

The United℠ Explorer Card is definitely worth applying for if you want the chance to earn miles in the United MileagePlus program. This airline credit card also comes with quite a few perks that can come in handy whenever you travel, including primary auto rental coverage, trip cancellation and interruption coverage and more. However, you'll get even more bang for your buck if you fly with United often and can take advantage of perks like priority boarding and a free checked bag.

Either way, it never hurts to compare other airline credit cards and travel credit cards to find the right fit.

How to use the United℠ Explorer Card

  • Use your card to pay for all your United flights, hotel stays booked with hotels and restaurant purchases in order to maximize bonus miles.
  • Add your frequent flyer number to your United flights to ensure you earn miles and qualify for benefits like priority boarding and a free checked bag.
  • Pay for Global Entry or TSA Precheck membership with your credit card, then see your fee automatically reimbursed — plus, receive that reimbursement every four years when you renew.
  • Pay your credit card in full each month to avoid the high APR for purchases.
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United℠ Explorer Card FAQs

How long does it take to get the United℠ Explorer Card?

While timelines vary, it could take up to two weeks to get your Chase credit card in the mail after you're approved.

How do you get TSA Precheck with the United℠ Explorer Card?

To get TSA Precheck membership, head to TSA.gov to apply. Pay the membership fee for TSA Precheck with your United℠ Explorer Card, and you’ll see your membership fee reimbursed. You can use this benefit every four years.

Does the United℠ Explorer Card cover car rental insurance?

The United℠ Explorer Card comes with primary auto rental coverage good for up to the actual cash value of the vehicle for theft and collision damage for most rental agreements in most countries.

Does the United℠ Explorer Card have foreign transaction fees?

The United℠ Explorer Card doesn't charge foreign transaction fees.

Does the United℠ Explorer Card have travel insurance?

The United℠ Explorer Card comes with quite a few travel insurance benefits: These include primary auto rental coverage, baggage delay insurance, lost luggage reimbursement coverage, trip delay reimbursement, trip cancellation and interruption insurance and travel accident insurance.

Does the United℠ Explorer Card pay for Global Entry?

Yes, the United℠ Explorer Card reimburses your Global Entry application fee. To get Global Entry membership with your credit card, head to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website to apply. Pay the membership fee for Global Entry with your United℠ Explorer Card, and you’ll see your membership fee reimbursed. You can use this benefit every four years.

How do you get United Club passes with the United℠ Explorer Card?

The United℠ Explorer Card automatically comes with two United Club passes each year you have the card.

What credit score do you need for the United℠ Explorer Card?

You'll need Excellent/Good credit to qualify for this airline credit card, which usually entails a FICO Score of 640 or higher.

Can you add an authorized user to the United℠ Explorer Card?

Yes, you can add an authorized user to your United℠ Explorer Card without any additional charge. You may even be able to earn bonus miles for doing so.

Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Visit americanexpress.com to learn more.

These responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which ValuePenguin receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). ValuePenguin does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

How We Calculate Rewards: ValuePenguin calculates the value of rewards by estimating the dollar value of any points, miles or bonuses earned using the card less any associated annual fees. These estimates here are ValuePenguin's alone, not those of the card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer.

Example of how we calculate the rewards rates: When redeemed for travel through Ultimate Rewards, Chase Sapphire Preferred points are worth $0.0125 each. The card awards 2 points on travel and dining and 1 point on everything else. Therefore, we say the card has a 2.5% rewards rate on dining and travel (2 x $0.0125) and a 1.25% rewards rate on everything else (1 x $0.0125).

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Editor's Rating

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