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United℠ Explorer Card: Who the Card is Best For

United℠ Explorer Card: Who the Card is Best For

A good card for dedicated United Airlines customers.
Editor's Rating: 4.0/5.0

Editor's Rating

4.0/5.0

The United℠ Explorer Card has some great perks and benefits, especially for high spenders loyal to United. Unless you'll be flying on United Airlines more than once a year, some of this card's best features will leave you unimpressed. If you fly United less, don't spend that much on your card, or would rather have more flexibility, we suggest considering general travel credit cards, or even cash back cards – these will usually result in a lower rewards rates at the added benefit of giving you extra freedom.

Good For…Bad For…
  • United travelers who check bags
  • Those who like to pay using their credit card when traveling abroad
  • Individuals who spend less than $25,000 per year
  • Anyone who only travels with United once a year or less

Review: Is The United℠ Explorer Card Worth It?

If you’re frequently flying with United Airlines and spending over $25,000 annually on your credit card, the United℠ Explorer Card is worth your consideration. The card offers a decent rewards rate (between 1.8% and 3.6%) across all purchases.

United℠ Explorer Card
Annual Fee
$0 Intro for First Year, then $95
Purchase APR
17.74% - 24.74% Variable
Credit Needed Excellent Credit
Details
  • 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
  • New! Earn 2 miles per $1 spent at restaurants and on hotel stays
  • New! Up to $100 Global Entry or TSA Pre✓® Fee Credit
  • New! 25% back on United inflight purchases
  • Check your first bag for free (a savings of up to $100 per roundtrip) when you use your Card to purchase your ticket
  • Enjoy priority boarding privileges and visit the United Club℠ with 2 one-time passes each year for your anniversary
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on purchases from United, and 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases

There are other credit cards that can earn you frequent flyer miles with United, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card – however, this card does not provide you with the same airline benefits you get through the United℠ Explorer Card. The only benefit to booking United Flights using the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is the increase in redemption flexibility. While the United miles you earn can only be used to book flights with United and other Star Alliance members, Chase Ultimate Rewards Points (earned with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card) can be transferred to 11 partnered programs, including both hotel and airline brands.

If you fly internationally, the United℠ Explorer Card has no foreign transaction fees, making it a more affordable choice in that regard. Typically, other credit cards will charge a fee of 2.7% to 3% per transaction outside of the United States. Furthermore, the United℠ Explorer Card comes equipped with an EMV chip, which will make it more acceptable abroad (and soon at home).

Bottom Line: We recommend the United℠ Explorer Card for high spenders, who travel with United Airlines at least twice a year (and are checking bags). If you want greater freedom, and the option to travel with other airlines, or to use your rewards to book hotel stays, check out the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.

United℠ Explorer Card Benefits & Features

At its core, the United℠ Explorer Card is all about earning you rewards and perks associated with its affiliated airline. Users can get perks such as free checked bags, bonus airline miles, boarding privileges, and more.

For every $1 you spend on the United℠ Explorer Card towards United tickets, at restaurants and at hotels, you will receive 2 miles. Every other purchase you make will net you 1 mile per $1. Charging at least $2,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of opening your United℠ Explorer Card will net you a bonus 40,000 miles – worth approximately $480. This is a respectable bonus, and in-line with what we’ve come to expect from other top airline credit cards at this price point.

United-Specific Benefits

Carrying a United℠ Explorer Card comes with some extra perks and features, which aren’t related to how much money you spend on the card. We estimate that the total value of the quantifiable bonus perks on the United℠ Explorer Card comes out to be $200.

The most valuable perk is a free first checked bag for you and a traveling companion (on United-operated flights only). To qualify, you must purchase the tickets using the United℠ Explorer Card, and be one of the people traveling on the itinerary. The value of this benefit is estimated to be up to $100 ($25 per checked bag x 2 travelers x 2 flights in one itinerary).

Being a United℠ Explorer Cardholder also entitles you to two United Club passes each year. Each pass grants you admission to a United Club, where you can enjoy complimentary beverages, snacks, Wi-Fi, work spaces, and more. Each pass carries a value of $50 (the cost of buying one directly online).

If you pay for your United travels using this card, you also get to enjoy some luxury treatment, including priority boarding and hotel/resort privileges. In order to get priority boarding on United flights, you must add the MileagePlus® number to your reservation. This benefit applies to both you, and all individuals travelling with you on the same reservation.

Travel Protection

One of our favorite ancillary perks offered by the United℠ Explorer Card is Trip Delay Reimbursement. If a flight with any common carrier (not just United) is delayed more than 12 hours, you will be covered for up to $500 per ticket for things such as meals and lodging, and other reasonable expenses that arise as a result of the delay.

To qualify for Trip Delay Reimbursement your travel must be booked (at least in part) using the United℠ Explorer Card. All expenses you wish to be reimbursed must also be purchased using the card.

The card also gives users better than average auto rental insurance, which is commonly offered by credit cards. If you decline the rental company’s collision insurance, and use your United℠ Explorer Card to pay for the entire cost, you will receive primary coverage. Primary coverage means it will kick-in before any personal auto insurance you have, which can potentially save you from having your premiums be raised.

All other travel protection benefits on this card are pretty standard, when it comes to credit cards.

How Does the United℠ Explorer Card Compare to Other Credit Cards?

The best way to figure out whether a credit card is good or not, is to compare it against what else is out there – are there other credit cards that provide the same or better benefits at a reduced cost? The answer almost always depends on what each individual consumer is hoping to get out of their rewards credit card. Below we profiled the United℠ Explorer Card against some of its leading competitors.

United℠ Explorer Card vs Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

If you spend between $8,000 and $25,000 per year using your credit card, and don’t care about missing out on the United-specific benefits of the United℠ Explorer Card, you should consider the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. If you meet the above condition, this card can earn you far more United miles – at least indirectly. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card earns users Chase Ultimate Rewards points – highly valuable rewards that can be transferred to a number of different partner programs, including United. Additionally, if you manage to spend $4,000 in the first 3 months you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, you can earn a bonus greater than the one available through the United℠ Explorer Card.

United℠ Explorer Card vs United MileagePlus® Club Card

United MileagePlus® Club Card
This card is not available through ValuePenguin.

The United MileagePlus® Club Card is all about luxury – this card is for individuals who travel with United 2+ times per year, and want to enjoy free access to the United Club. The annual fee on the United MileagePlus® Club Card is $450 – that is on the higher end of the annual fee scale. Frequent flyers who can take advantage of the Club access will be coming out ahead in value, since the cost of an annual United Club Membership is $550 alone. The United MileagePlus® Club Card also offers a second set of checked bags free, but this alone is not a reason to choose the Club version over the Explorer. The costs of checked bags are $25 for the first one and $35 for the second – you'd have to fly at least 3-4 times per year with 2 checked bags for the Club card to be worth it over the Explorer card on the basis of luggage alone.

Comparison Tool

As mentioned, the choice of "best credit card” is always highly dependent upon an individual’s spending profile. Our tool below allows users to input their estimated monthly purchases across a number of different categories, and then calculates for them their custom rewards rate. This tool does not incorporate some benefits which are harder to quantify, such as the free checked baggage benefit on the United℠ Explorer Card.

Assumptions Based On Monthly Spend of: $1,430 Edit
General:
U.S. Gas Stations:
U.S. Supermarkets:
Airlines:
Hotel:
U.S. Restaurants:
Office:
Utilities:
Computing:
Card Annual Fee 2-yr Net Rewards Rate

The Net Rewards Rate is equal to the Rewards Value over two years divided by the total spending. The total spending is equal to the values entered into the tool and multiplied by 24 months. See the rewards Value note to see details on how it is calculated.

The estimates here are ValuePenguin's alone. They are not those of the card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. All estimates are based on the spend assumptions entered above (which you can edit).

Bonus Value

The bonus field shows our estimate for the value of the card’s welcome bonus. If the bonus is point or mile based, we multiply the total bonus points/miles by our estimate for their value to arrive at a dollar equivalent. We display $0 if there is no bonus or if the user doesn’t qualify for the bonus based on the current spending entered into the tool. All estimates are based on the spend assumptions entered above (which you can edit).

The estimates here are ValuePenguin's alone. They are not those of the card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer.

2-yr Rewards Value

The Rewards value is calculated by adding together the rewards earned from charging purchases to the card over two years and any welcome bonuses (if applicable). They are then multiplied by our estimated point/mile value, with any annual fees (if applicable) subtracted. All values are based on our own estimates for the dollar value of any points, miles or bonuses earned using a card and on the spend assumptions entered above (which you can edit).

The estimates here are ValuePenguin's alone. They are not those of the card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer.

Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95. 3.49%
$675
75,000 Bonus Points after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
$1,198
Graph Card Read Review More Details and Value Calculation

Terms and Limitations Apply

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Point Value Rewards Value
Spending Rewards 68,640 x $0.009 = $618
Bonuses
75,000 x $0.009 = $675
Less Annual Fees -$95
Total Net Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months 1,198

*The value estimate is calculated using ValuePenguin.com rewards point value.

Annual Fee $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
APR 17.49%-26.49% Variable
*Rates and Fees

Card Details

  • Earn 75,000 Bonus Points after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
  • Earn 6 points for each dollar of eligible purchases at participating SPG® and Marriott Rewards® hotels and 2 points on all other eligible purchases.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on International purchases.
  • Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card account anniversary. Award can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 35,000 points) at a participating hotel. Select hotels have resort fees.
  • Enjoy complimentary, unlimited Boingo Wi-Fi on up to four devices at more than 1,000,000 Boingo hotspots worldwide. Enrollment required.
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
United℠ Explorer Card
$0 Intro for First Year, then $95 2.98%
$560
40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open
$1,023
Graph Card Read Review More Details and Value Calculation

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Estimated Rewards Value Dollars*
Spending Rewards 39,840 x $0.014 = $558
Bonuses
40,000 x $0.014 = $560
Less Annual Fees -$95
Total Net Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months 1,023

*The value estimate is calculated using ValuePenguin.com rewards point value.

Annual Fee $0 Intro for First Year, then $95
APR 17.74% - 24.74% Variable

Card Details

  • 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
  • New! Earn 2 miles per $1 spent at restaurants and on hotel stays
  • New! Up to $100 Global Entry or TSA Pre✓® Fee Credit
  • New! 25% back on United inflight purchases
  • Check your first bag for free (a savings of up to $100 per roundtrip) when you use your Card to purchase your ticket
  • Enjoy priority boarding privileges and visit the United Club℠ with 2 one-time passes each year for your anniversary
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on purchases from United, and 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
$0 Intro for the First Year, then $95 3.00%
$625
50,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
$1,028
Graph Card Read Review More Details and Value Calculation

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Estimated Rewards Value Dollars*
Spending Rewards 39,840 x $0.013 = $498
Bonuses
50,000 x $0.013 = $625
Less Annual Fees -$95
Total Net Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months 1,028

*The value estimate is calculated using ValuePenguin.com rewards point value.

Annual Fee $0 Intro for the First Year, then $95
APR 17.74% - 24.74% Variable

Card Details

  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® named a 'Best Travel Credit Card' by MONEY® Magazine, 2016-2017
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel.
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards
Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®
$0 Intro Annual Fee for the first year then $99 3.11%
$702
Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage bonus miles after $2,500 in purchases the first 3 months
$1,066
Graph Card Read Review More Details and Value Calculation

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Estimated Rewards Value Dollars*
Spending Rewards 34,320 x $0.014 = $463
Bonuses
50,000 x $0.014 = $675
1,000 x $0.014 = $14
1,000 x $0.014 = $14
Less Annual Fees -$99
Total Net Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months 1,066

*The value estimate is calculated using ValuePenguin.com rewards point value.

Annual Fee $0 Intro Annual Fee for the first year then $99
APR 17.49% - 25.49% Variable

Card Details

  • First checked bag free for you and up to four traveling companions
  • Priority boarding
  • 25% discount on in-flight purchases
Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express
$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95. 3.02%
$720
Limited Time Offer: Earn 60,000 Bonus Miles after you make $3,000 in purchases on your new Card within your first 4 months. Offer expires on 9/19/2018.
$1,037
Graph Card Read Review More Details and Value Calculation

Terms and Limitations Apply

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Point Value Rewards Value
Spending Rewards 34,320 x $0.012 = $412
Bonuses
60,000 x $0.012 = $720
Less Annual Fees -$95
Total Net Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months 1,037

*The value estimate is calculated using ValuePenguin.com rewards point value.

Annual Fee $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
APR 17.49%-26.49% Variable
*Rates and Fees

Card Details

  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 60,000 Bonus Miles after you make $3,000 in purchases on your new Card within your first 4 months. Offer expires on 9/19/2018.
  • Earn 2 miles for every dollar spent on eligible purchases made directly with Delta. Earn 1 mile for every eligible dollar spent on purchases.
  • Check your first bag free on every Delta flight - that's a savings of up to $200 per round trip for a family of four.
  • Settle into your seat sooner with Priority Boarding.
  • Enjoy a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express
$195 2.51%
$840
Limited Time Offer: Earn 70,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card within your first 3 months. Offer expires on 9/19/2018.
$862
Graph Card Read Review More Details and Value Calculation

Terms and Limitations Apply

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Point Value Rewards Value
Spending Rewards 34,320 x $0.012 = $412
Bonuses
70,000 x $0.012 = $840
Less Annual Fees -$390
Total Net Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months 862

*The value estimate is calculated using ValuePenguin.com rewards point value.

Annual Fee $195
APR 17.49%-26.49% Variable

Card Details

  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 70,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card within your first 3 months. Offer expires on 9/19/2018.
  • Earn 2 miles per dollar spent on eligible purchases made directly with Delta. Earn 1 mile for every eligible dollar spent on purchases.
  • Check your first bag free on Delta flights -that's a savings of up to $200 per round trip for a family of four.
  • Settle into your seat sooner with Priority Boarding.
  • $195 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Citi® / AAdvantage® Gold World Elite™ Mastercard®
$50 2.04%
$338
Earn 25,000 American Airlines AAdvantage bonus miles after $700 in purchases the first 3 months
$701
Graph Card Read Review More Details and Value Calculation

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Estimated Rewards Value Dollars*
Spending Rewards 34,320 x $0.014 = $463
Bonuses
25,000 x $0.014 = $338
Less Annual Fees -$100
Total Net Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months 701

*The value estimate is calculated using ValuePenguin.com rewards point value.

Annual Fee $50
APR 13.99%, 17.99% or 21.99% Variable

Card Details

  • Save 25% on eligible in-flight food and beverage purchases
  • No blackout dates on award travel
  • No spending limit
Barclaycard Arrival® Plus World Elite Mastercard®
$89 1.58%
$0
Enjoy 60,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 90 days and paying the annual fee
$543
Graph Card Read Review More Details and Value Calculation

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Estimated Rewards Value Dollars*
Spending Rewards 68,640 x $0.01 = $721
Less Annual Fees -$178
Total Net Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months 543

*The value estimate is calculated using ValuePenguin.com rewards point value.

Annual Fee $89
APR 17.74%, 21.74% or 24.74% variable based on your creditworthiness

Card Details

  • Enjoy 60,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 90 days and paying the annual fee
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase
  • Book travel your way—no airline, seat or hotel restrictions—and redeem your miles for travel statement credits
  • Get 5% miles back to use toward your next redemption, every time you redeem
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • International Chip and PIN for use at self-service chip terminals around the world
  • Miles don't expire as long as your account is open, active and in good standing
  • See Rates & Fees
Expedia®+ Card from Citi
No Annual Fee 1.02%
$107
Earn 15,000 Expedia+ rewards bonus points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening
$350
Graph Card Read Review More Details and Value Calculation

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Estimated Rewards Value Dollars*
Spending Rewards 34,320 x $0.007 = $244
Bonuses
0 x $0.007 = $0
15,000 x $0.007 = $107
Total Net Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months 350

*The value estimate is calculated using ValuePenguin.com rewards point value.

Annual Fee No Annual Fee
APR 14.99%, 16.99% or 22.99% Variable

Card Details

  • Automatic Expedia+ silver status
  • No annual Fee
  • One Elite Qualifying Hotel Night towards +gold status for every $2,500 in card spend on any purchases
Expedia®+ Voyager Card from Citi
$95 0.79%
$178
Earn 25,000 Expedia+ rewards bonus points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening
$270
Graph Card Read Review More Details and Value Calculation

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Estimated Rewards Value Dollars*
Spending Rewards 39,840 x $0.007 = $283
Bonuses
0 x $0.007 = $0
25,000 x $0.007 = $178
Less Annual Fees -$190
Total Net Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months 270

*The value estimate is calculated using ValuePenguin.com rewards point value.

Annual Fee $95
APR 13.99%, 15.99% or 21.99% Variable

Card Details

  • Automatic Expedia+ gold status
  • No FX Fee
  • $100 annual statement credit for airline incidentals on qualified airlines or Wi–Fi Carries or for the Global Entry application fee

Comments and Questions

Opinions, analyses, reviews, or recommendations expressed here are the author's alone, and have not been reviewed or endorsed by the issuer. We may be compensated through the issuer's Affiliate Program. For a full list of our advertisers see our disclosure page

* See the online credit card application for details about terms and conditions. Reasonable efforts are made to maintain accurate information. However all credit card information is presented without warranty. When you click on the "Apply Now" button, you can review the credit card terms and conditions on the issuer's website.

Info about the following cards: American Express® Gold Card, Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express, Hilton Honors Surpass® Credit Card, American Express® Blue Sky, American Express® Green Card, The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express, The Plenti® Credit Card from Amex, Blue from American Express®, Platinum Card® from American Express Exclusively for Mercedes-Benz, Bluebird, Centurion® Card from American Express, Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, and Starwood Preferred Guest® American Express Luxury Card has been collected independently by ValuePenguin. The issuer did not provide the details, nor is it responsible for their accuracy.

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program.

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.

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.

Advertiser Disclosure: Some of the offers that appear on this website are from companies which ValuePenguin receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where offers appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). The site does not review or include all companies or all available products. For more information please see our Advertiser Disclosure.