March 9, 2018
Review: United MileagePlus Explorer Credit Card
All the major US airlines offer various credit card tiers. These usually range from cards with no annual fee all the way up to cards with a $450 annual fee. The United MileagePlus Explorer from Chase is United’s mid-tier credit card and offers a host of fantastic perks that absolutely make it worthwhile if you fly United even a handful of times each year.
The United Explorer comes with 50,000 United MileagePlus miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months of account opening. You can earn an additional 5,000 miles after adding your first authorized user and making a purchase with the authorized user’s card in the same three months.
Cardholders earn 2x United miles per $1 spent on tickets purchased from United and 1x United mile per $1 spent on everything else. Your United award miles won’t expire as long as your credit card remains open. Cardholders who spend $25,000 or more in a calendar year receive 10,000 bonus miles.
United miles are one of the best airline specific reward points to book free travel. You can redeem United miles for free flights on United Airlines, its Star Alliance partners, and its non-alliance partners. The number of miles you need varies based on your class of travel and travel zones. Look into United’s full Award & Upgrade chart for specifics. Here’s some examples:
- United/Star Alliance Economy North America-Europe: 30,000 miles one-way
- United Business North America-Europe: 60,000 miles one-way
- Star Alliance Business North America-Europe: 70,000 miles one-way
- Star Alliance First North America-Europe: 110,000 miles one-way
- Star Alliance Economy North Asia/Japan-South Asia: 20,000 miles one-way
- Star Alliance Business North Asia/Japan-South Asia: 45,000 miles one-way
- Star Alliance First North Asia/Japan-South Asia: 65,000 miles one-way
Free First Checked Bag
The primary card member and one companion traveling on the same reservation will each receive their first standard checked bag free as long as the United Explorer is used to pay for the tickets. United normally charges $25 for each passenger’s first checked bag.
The primary card member and companions on the same reservation will receive Boarding Group 2 priority boarding.
Booking United Awards
Enjoy expanded award availability when you use miles to book any United-operated flight, any time, at the applicable Everyday Award level – with no restrictions or blackout dates.
Upgrades on Award Tickets
The primary card member who is also a MileagePlus Premier member and traveling on an award ticket can take advantage of Complimentary Premier Upgrades on United-operated flights, when available.
United Club Passes
Card members receive two one-time use United Club passes upon account opening and each year on their card member anniversary.
Premier Qualifying Dollar Waiver
Cardholders who spend $25,000 or more in a calendar year receive a waiver from the PQD requirements of United elite status, up to Premier Platinum.
The United Explorer has no annual fee the first year. After that it’s $95 per year. There are no foreign transaction fees.
Should You Get It?
The United MileagePlus Explorer can make sense if you fly United on a somewhat regular basis. Earning 2x miles per $1 on United flights isn’t great since the Chase Sapphire Reserve earns 3x Ultimate Rewards Points per $1 on travel and the Chase Sapphire Preferred earns 2x UR points per $1 on travel. Those Chase points can be transferred to United at a 1:1 ratio and can also be transferred to 11 other airline and hotel partners. That makes either Chase Sapphire card a better option for earning United miles than United’s own Explorer card.
However, the Explorer’s perks redeem the card. It comes with waived bag fees and priority boarding. You save $25 for yourself and one companion every time you fly United. If you fly United even a couple times a year, the Explorer can help you save money.
The Explorer is also a great tool for earning United elite status. High spenders who can put $25,000 on the card each year receive a PQD waiver up to Platinum status. That gives you tremendous freedom to fly United’s Star Alliance partners to earn United elite status without having to spend $9,000 through United for Platinum Premier status.
The Explorer is great for those who fly enough to save more than $100 through the waived bag fees or for road warriors chasing United elite status who need the PQD waiver.