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United℠ Explorer Card

United℠ Explorer Card review: Worth it for frequent United travelers

Excellent, Good

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What Chase says about this card

United℠ Explorer Card
  • 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 PreCheck™ 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

UNITED℠ EXPLORER CARD BENEFITS

If United is your airline of choice, then the United℠ Explorer Card is a "must have" for your wallet, if only for the solid travel perks.

The benefits kick in immediately when you arrive at the airport. You get one free checked bag for both you and a companion, as well as free trip cancellation/interruption insurance. (Pro tip: You really don't know how valuable trip cancellation/interruption insurance is until that first time something completely unexpected happens and you need it.)

Of course, you also get priority boarding, as well as 25% back on all in-flight purchases. If you fly frequently, this can really add up.

You also receive two complimentary United Club passes per year on your account anniversary. This is always a nice perk in case you have to wait for an extended period for your flight to board. This perk alone can save you over $100 a year.

Looking to expedite the check-in process? Cardholders are also eligible for up to $100 as a statement credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck™ every four years as reimbursement for the application fee for either program when charged to your card.

If you book your rental car using your United Explorer Card, you also get included auto rental collision damage coverage. Simply decline the collision coverage offered by the rental company. This is good on most rental cars in the United States and around the world.

And the cherry on top? United℠ Explorer Card is presently offering 40,000 bonus miles when you spend at least $2,000 in the first three months after your account is opened. Depending on your travel dates and destination, this bonus alone has the potential to pay for multiple one-way flights.

On an ongoing basis you'll earn two miles per dollar spent on purchases from United, at restaurants, and on hotel stays, and one mile per dollar on all other purchases.

CardRatings Editor's Analysis: Pros & Cons

  • Receive two complimentary United Club passes per year on your account anniversary. Enjoy complimentary beverages, snacks, and amenities like workspaces, free WiFi and more.
  • Cardholders are eligible for up to $100 as a statement credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck™ every four years as reimbursement for the application fee for either program when charged to your card.
  • New cardholders can earn 40,000 miles once spending $2,000 in the first three months of card membership.
  • If you are not a devotee of United Airlines or you simply don't travel very often, you'll likely want to consider a more general rewards card instead.

UNITED℠ EXPLORER CARD FOREIGN TRANSACTION FEE

United℠ Explorer Card does not charge foreign transaction fees. If you travel frequently overseas for business or pleasure, this perk can be a huge savings for you or your company.

Many credit card companies charge foreign transaction fees, with many averaging around 3%. So, as an example, if you make monthly trips to Europe on business and spend just $1,000 during each trip on meals, entertainment, etc., you could easily find yourself paying several hundred dollars each year on foreign transaction fees alone. With the United℠ Explorer Card, there are no fees, so that money stays in your bank account.

UNITED℠ EXPLORER CARD POTENTIAL DOWNSIDES

If you are not a devotee of United Airlines or you simply don't travel very often, this is probably not the card for you. While there is a $0 annual fee for the first year, it jumps to $95 a year after that.

The rewards program is fairly average, offering two miles for every dollar spent on United, hotel, and restaurant purchases, and one mile for each dollar spent on other purchases. It can add up, but only if you travel frequently.

On the outside chance you would use the United℠ Explorer Card to transfer a balance from another card, you should be aware there is no balance transfer promotional interest rate and the normal APR is 16.49% to 23.49% Variable. There is also a fee on all balance transfers: Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.

Top Features

Rewards Bonus Rewards Regular APR
Earn 2 miles per $1 spent at restaurants, on hotel stays and on purchases from United. 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. 16.49% to 23.49% Variable

HOW THE UNITED℠ EXPLORER CARD COMPARES TO OTHER CARDS

United℠ Explorer Card vs. Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

(This card is not currently available on CardRatings)

United℠ Explorer Card is the go-to card for loyal United Airlines travelers, but the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card matches up well if you tend to travel on various airlines. Both have a $95 annual fee but United℠ Explorer waives the fee for the first year.

Both cards offer a sign-up bonus, but the Sapphire Preferred® offer is a bit higher at 60,000 points (earned once spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months of opening an account). This bonus is worth as much as $750 toward travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

Beyond the bonus, the rewards programs are similar, with both cards offering two points/miles per dollar spent on travel and dining and one point/mile per dollar on other purchases.

The United℠ Explorer Card offers numerous perks specific to United Airlines (detailed above). The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card might not offer United specific perks, but the real benefit of Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is that you aren't tied to one specific airline when it comes to redeeming your rewards. This card has a number of travel loyalty partners, including United, offering you more freedom in how you travel.

Neither card charges foreign transaction fees.

The information related to Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card has been collected by CardRatings and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card.

United℠ Explorer Card vs. Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card

(This card is not currently available on CardRatings)

In many ways, the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card is, for fans of Delta Airlines, what the United℠ Explorer Card is for fans of United Airlines. Both offer perks that reward brand loyalty.

Both cards waive their annual fee for the first year with Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card jumping to $99 a year after that and United℠ Explorer Card jumping to $95. Both cards also offer perks on their respective airlines, such as one free checked bag (United℠ Explorer also offers a free checked bag for one companion), priority boarding, and discounts on in-flight purchases (United℠ Explorer 25%, Amex Delta 20%).

They each have decent welcome offers, too. Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card users can earn 35,000 miles after spending $1,000 in the first three months of membership. This compares to United℠ Explorer's offer of 40,000 miles for $2,000 in spending in the same time frame. Amex Delta takes things a step further with a $100 Delta flight credit, earned once spending $10,000 in purchases in a calendar year.

United℠ Explorer Card vs. Discover it® Miles

(This card is not currently available on CardRatings)

If you tend to fly a variety of airlines or tend to use different modes of transportation to get to your destination, Discover it® Miles has some features that United℠ Explorer Card doesn't offer.

To begin with, Discover it® Miles has no annual fee. United℠ Explorer Card waives the fee for the first year but then it jumps to $95 annually.

The rewards programs and sign-up bonuses for the two cards are very different. While United℠ Explorer Card has different tiers, offering either two miles or one mile per dollar spent, Discover it® Miles offers a flat 1.5 miles for every dollar spent on every purchase.

The United℠ Explorer Card's sign-up bonus of 40,000 miles kicks in when you spend at least $2,000 in the first three months after your account is opened. The Discover card offers something rather unique. It will match every mile you accumulate during the first 12 months after you open your account. If you accrue 30,000 miles in your first year, you'll get 60,000 miles on your anniversary.

With Discover it® Miles, miles can be redeemed for travel vouchers, statement credits or even cash. There is no limit on how many miles and bonus miles you can earn and no minimum redemption amount.

Neither card charges foreign transaction fees.

IS THE UNITED℠ EXPLORER CARD A GOOD CARD?

If United Airlines is your airline of choice and you tend to travel frequently on business or pleasure, the United℠ Explorer Card is well worth the annual fee of $95 (after the first year) and should be a fine addition to your wallet. The numerous perks, along with the absence of a foreign transaction fee could save you hundreds of dollars a year, as well as time and aggravation.


See Rates and Fees for the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card

United℠ Explorer Card compared to other airline cards

Card Name
Rewards
Bonus Rewards
Regular APR
Ratings/Apply
Earn 2 miles per $1 spent at restaurants, on hotel stays and on purchases from United. 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases
40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
16.49% to 23.49% Variable
Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent at gas stations and restaurants. Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases
Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after $2,500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
15.99% - 24.99% (Variable) 
Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles per $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases. Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on purchases at telecommunications merchants, cable and satellite providers, car rental merchants and at gas stations. Earn 1 AAdvantage® mile per $1 spent on other purchases.
Earn 65,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $4,000 in purchases within the first 4 months of account opening.
15.99% - 24.99% (Variable) 
2 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases and Rapid Rewards® hotel and car rental partner purchases. 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
15.99% - 22.99% Variable 
Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for each $1 spent at grocery stores, including grocery delivery services. Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases. Earn 1 AAdvantage® mile for every $1 spent on other purchases
Earn 10,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles and receive a $50 statement credit after making $500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.
15.99% - 24.99% (Variable) 

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