United℠ Explorer Card Review

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The United℠ Explorer Card is one of our favorite co-branded airline credit cards, and well worth further investigation if you are looking for a new travel rewards card.

United℠ Explorer Card
United℠ Explorer Card
Annual Fee$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
Welcome Bonus 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open
  • 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.
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent at restaurants and on hotel stays
  • Up to $100 Global Entry or TSA Pre✔® Fee Credit
  • 25% back on United inflight purchases
  • Check your first bag for free (a savings of up to $120 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
  • 2X miles per $1 spent on purchases from United
  • 2X miles per $1 spent at restaurants and on hotel stays
  • 1X mile per $1 spent on all other purchases

Welcome Bonus

The United℠ Explorer Card currently offers a welcome bonus of 40,000 bonus miles—after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open

You're eligible for the welcome bonus for the United Explorer Card as long as you don't currently hold the card, and it's been 24 months since you last received a bonus on the card.


Earn Points Quickly

The United℠ Explorer Card allows you to build up a substantial balance of United miles in a short space of time. In addition to the valuable signup bonus, you'll receive 2 miles per $1 spent at restaurants and on hotel stays, 2 miles per $1 spent on purchases from United, and 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases. There is no limit to the number of miles you can earn, and the miles don't expire as long as you remain an active cardmember.

United is also a transfer partner of Chase's Ultimate Rewards program. This means you can transfer Ultimate Rewards points received from the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card to United. Transfers are completed instantly on the Ultimate Rewards website at a 1:1 ratio.

Manageable Annual Fee

The United℠ Explorer Card features a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.. However, if you and a companion make at least one roundtrip per year with checked bags, the card's out-of-pocket expense can be effectively reduced to $0 thanks to the free first-checked bag.

Easy to Redeem for Rewards Travel

When it comes time to redeem your miles for travel rewards, the process is quick and simple. You can use your miles for a flight on any United operated flight with award availability via the United website.

United is a member of Star Alliance, so you can use your United miles for award flights on any airline in the alliance. Airlines in Star Alliance include Singapore Airlines, Lufthansa, Air New Zealand, ANA, Air Canada, and Swiss Air. Having these airlines as options gives you incredible flexibility when redeeming your United miles.

The United award chart isn't the best for all routes, but there are some sweet spots available.

Another benefit to holding the United Explorer Card is that along with United's other co-brand cards, you gain access to additional award fare classes, opening up more seats and giving you a better chance at securing an award ticket.

Free First Checked Bag & Priority Boarding

With the United Explorer Card, you will get travel perks that are becoming increasingly rare—a free first bag checked for you and your travel companions. With baggage fees rising, this perk is valuable and will offset your annual fee provided you fly just a few times per year.

You will also receive priority boarding for you and your companions, so boarding and stowing your bags will be less stressful.

Global Entry/TSA Pre Fee Credit & 25% Rebate on In-Flight Purchases

The United Explorer Card provides a Global Entry/TSA Precheck® credit once every four years, valued at up to $100, and you'll receive 25% back as a statement credit on purchases of food, beverages, and Wi-Fi onboard United-operated flights when you pay with the card.

Final Thoughts

The United℠ Explorer Card is a fantastic travel rewards card for those who love to fly United Airlines and anyone who plans to check bags when they travel regularly. There are no foreign transaction fees associated with this card, so it's a great choice for international travelers.

If you are in the market for a new travel rewards card, the United Explorer Card offers a fantastic signup bonus and a bunch of great perks. Just keep in mind that this card is subject to Chase's 5/24 rule, so if you have more than 5 new credit cards on file during the last 24 months, it's not likely you'll be approved for this card.

United℠ Explorer Card Review
4.6 (92.31%) 13 votes
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  • I would love to get this credit card, signup bonus with authorized user 55,000 miles. Only need to spend $5,000 for enough miles for a saver award to Europe. Unfortunately I am still under the 5/24 rule. I tried for two Chase credit cards last year, Chase Sapphire Preferred and Reserve and turned down both times. I called the Chase Reconsideration and the answer was “NO”.

  • I love any travel card that will offer me lounge access. For that perk alone, I’m in.

  • Thanks for the review and information on this card. It’s very timely for me because I just received a mailer with an offer of 70,000 bonus miles with $3,000 spending in 3 months.

  • It’s nice to see the 50k offer available publicly. Previously, one needed to wait to be ‘targeted’; although admittedly, pretty much every MileagePlus member eventually was.

  • Isn’t the free bag only free if you use the card to pay for your airfare?

  • This card has a very impressive set of benefits indeed, and the two lounge passes are the icing on the cake.

  • I wish the Lounge passes didn’t expire so quickly..

  • Really wish to see a United co-branded card in Canada.

  • any chance to get this card from outside US?

  • Worth it for the 50k alone.

  • Interesting post! Does the United card offer any kind of trip delay insurance? And, if so, is it only for UA flights, or for all flights booked with the card? Thank you!

  • This card has some good benefits though I wish the earning rate was higher.

  • I just got this card…sadly I got in when the bonus was only $30K, so jump on this!

    All around, it’s a pretty nice card for earning some extra United miles. In particular, check out the Mileage Plus app if you sign up for this card; there are a lot of brick-and-mortar stores that you can use the app at to get extra miles, and having the co-branded card automatically gets you a 25% bonus.

    • Thanks for the information on MileagePlus app bonus info! I’m planning to apply for this card so I’ll be looking into that!

  • amzsinger@gmail.com says:

    I personally don’t love this card and will stick with Sapphire preferred

  • 2 lounge passes is pretty weak. No way I would value a United club at 50 per visit, 10 max for a newspaper, a cup of coffee, a banana and a miller light or bud which is the only free beer they have.

    • Have 2 cups of coffee, 4 bananas, and 10 miller lights. 🙂 The LAX lounge has some decent food…. and it much quieter than the rest of the airport..

  • It’s so easy to spend $3,000 in the first 3 months but 50 000 miles can get you quite far if you spend them wisely. Very good deal indeed, thank you for sharing.

  • Well, that’s interesting to know. I admit I wouldn’t have known this about the card with United since I am really looking at the Chase Sapphire.However, 2 lounge passes, Air Canada as a partner, Lufthansa as a partner (my in laws are from Germany so maybe more love from them? lol!) Really something to look. PLUS, United does let you redeem miles towards getting a TSA PreCheck number. Quite a few pluses to look at. Thank you for info I would never have looked for on my own!

  • This card has really good benefits though it doesn’t compare to the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Preferred!

  • Miguel A Jauregui says:

    I should add that I also find the Chase United card customer service very pleasing. There have been a few times where I forgot to use my United card for paying the reward ticket $5.60 charge, and they still refunded me the baggage fee. I’ll continue to make that my primary card and therefore, my primary airline.

  • Having the Sapphire Reserve and its awesome earnings on spending, I have a difficult time finding a reason to ever use my Explorer card. When I travel, even when going internationally for a couple months at a time, I have checked a bag twice in 6 years (but I was flying First Class domestic both times, so checking the bag carried no extra charges anyway). However, for anyone who checks bags with frequent sufficiency, the AF will be paid for quickly and that benefit can make this card a very good deal indeed. At that point, the 2 Club passes are just icing on the cake.

    The reason I’ll personally end up keeping the card though, is the fact that, when searching for award tickets, you’ll see more award seats available than folks who don’t have the card as long as the card is linked to your frequent flyer number. (Even seeing saver availability when a non-card-holder would see none). That is an excellent ongoing benefit!

  • if you spend a great deal on the card every year, the united club card may be a much better deal as you get 1.5 miles per dollar spent

  • Just found out flights from Hawaii’s out islands via Honolulu are now 6k miles cheaper. Gonna get my sister to apply for this one.

  • I cancelled this card since I had too many cards and wasn’t flying United that much. Big mistake. The option value of having this card just for Priority Boarding as well as free checked bags is worth keeping the card and paying the annual fee. Even if you only have use once per year, it will be worth it. Also, the United club passes are worthwhile, and it keeps your United points fresh.

  • amzsinger@gmail.com says:

    I wasn’t really happy with this card. I rarely fly United so the perks didn’t offset the cost. Plus it’s really difficult to use UA miles. I’m much more satisfied with my Sapphire Preferred and if I need miles I can transfer them to United.

    • amzsinger@gmail.com says:

      i didn’t really like this card either. Tried it for a year and changed to Sapphire Preferred. I’m much happier with the flexibility of this card!

  • The club passes are not valid on domestic flights. You must fly international to use the pass. I had a first class domestic ticket from an upgrade. The attendant said no to my first class ticket, and then I pulled out the club pass. She also said no. It was so embarrassing when I was refused entry with a long line of people behind me.

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