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Kevin Joey Chen is a credit cards writer at finder.com. He's passionate about helping you get your finances in order and travel the world like a pro. He's taken an extended trip around Europe as a digital nomad, gaining firsthand experience with exchange rates, ideal (and not-so-ideal) credit and debit cards, foreign transactions and budgeting strategies. He earned his BA from UC Davis and has written across many niches at Finder, including cryptocurrency, personal loans, car insurance, real estate and money transfers.
Here’s why the United℠ Explorer Card may be the “just right” option for travelers seeking a United credit card:
The United℠ TravelBank Card offers solid rewards on every purchase and has no annual fee. However, it lacks depth in United perks. You won’t find complimentary checked baggage or United Club passes, for example.
The United MileagePlus® Club card is the premium option with a $450 annual fee. It includes United Club membership, excellent baggage perks and a good rewards rate on every purchase.
The United℠ Explorer Card hits the sweet spot with a signup bonus worth $520, according to our 2019 valuation. It offers a strong suite of United perks and a credit for your Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee.
Its annual fee — for the first year and $95 thereafter — falls in line with other midtier travel cards.
How strong are the United℠ Explorer Card’s rewards?
The card is similar to the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, which offers accelerated rewards on travel and dining. If you spend big in these categories, the United℠ Explorer Card might impress you too.
If you’re a different type of spender, you might like a travel card with flat-rate rewards. Alternatively, look for a card with accelerated rewards in your preferred categories.
No annual fee for the first year. You won’t pay a fee for the first year after your account opening. You’ll pay a $95 annual fee after that.
Signup bonus. Spend $2,000 with the card in the first 3 months from signup to earn 40,000 bonus miles. In total, this is worth up to $520 in travel according to our valuation based on the provider website and how you redeem your points. These miles can go a long way, as you can find one-way Saver Award flights within the mainland US, Alaska and Canada for as low as 10,000 miles.
United perks. Get limited access to United Club airport lounges, discounts on eligible in-flight purchases, special baggage rates and priority boarding.
Discounts on eligible in-flight purchases. Get 25% back as statement credit when you buy food, beverages or Wi-Fi with your United℠ Explorer Card on a United flight or a United’s partner airline.
First checked bag free. Purchase a trip on a United flight or a United partner airline with your United℠ Explorer Card so you and one travel partner on the same reservation can each check one bag free.
Priority boarding. Purchase a trip on a United flight or a United’s partner airline with your card to get priority boarding for you and travel partners on the same reservation. You’ll board in Group 2 before general boarding. MileagePlus Premier members, preboarding and Group 1 board first.
Free United Club access twice a year. Get two United Club one-time passes each card year. Normally, a one-time pass costs $59.
Rewards. Earn 2x miles at eligible restaurants and on hotel stays booked directly with the hotel. Earn 2x miles on such United purchases as flight tickets and in-flight food, beverages and Wi-Fi. Earn 1x miles on all other purchases.
According to our valuation at the time of writing, United miles are worth an average 1.3 cents each when redeemed for flights. You’ll need to earn 7,308 miles to break even, which you can do with spending in reward tiers.
See spending breakdown
How much you need to spend
Restaurants, eligible hotel stays, United purchases
Of course, you’ll probably spend in both 2x- and 1x-mile categories, affecting your rewards breakdown.
See spending breakdown
Restaurants, eligible hotel stays, United purchases
Other United℠ Explorer Card perks that might offset the annual fee
See values from card benefits
Potential annual value
Free first checked bag (4 one-way flights a year)
Annual United Club passes
25% back as statement credit
Global Entry application fee credit
According to these calculations, you could get $343 of value from the card’s benefits. This doesn’t include potential value from perks like Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection stays, purchase protection and travel insurance.
You’ll also like
Inside Access experiences. As a United℠ Explorer Card member, you can buy access to unique experiences.
Here are a few experiences you might find with Inside Access
Sqirl with Chef Jessica Koslow: $100 a person. This private dinner includes “a selection of signature and specially curated items,” according to Inside Access.
Ski with Champions Lindsey Vonn and Jonny Moseley in Vail: $100 to $1,000 a person. Enjoy a private buffet dinner and Q&A with the ski champions. The next day, you’ll hit the mountain and ski with Lindsey and Jonny. Then, join Jonny for an après-ski event.
Super Bowl packages: $6,290 to $12,140 a person. Get tickets to the game and an exclusive pregame party with food and beverages. Plus, get a VIP ticket to the Super Bowl Experience and entry to the Bud Light Super Bowl Music Fest Concert.
The Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection. Book a stay with your card for complimentary daily breakfast for two, complimentary Wi-Fi, early check-in, late checkout on availability and an exclusive benefit, depending on the property.
United MileagePlus events. Redeem your miles for such special events as private winemaker dinners, live theater shows and museum experiences.
No foreign transaction fees. You’ll pay no transaction fee for using your card abroad or on a foreign website.
Visa Signature Concierge. Call 24 hours a day for help with reservations, finding gifts, securing tickets to exclusive shows and more.
Travel and purchase coverage. Pay for your trip or retail purchase with your United℠ Explorer Card to qualify for coverage.
Trip cancellation and trip interruption insurance
Baggage delay insurance
Lost luggage reimbursement
Trip delay reimbursement
Auto rental collision damage waiver
Extended warranty protection
Case study: Megan’s experience
Megan Horner Credit Cards Publisher
I was able to take two roundtrip flights just using the sign up bonus on this card. One was from San Francisco to Austin and the other was from San Francisco to Atlanta, both pretty long flights. I ended up saving $800 total, which is the most mileage I’ve gotten out of a sign up bonus.
Unfortunately, I haven’t gotten a ton of usage from the United-specific perks — like free checked bags and priority boarding. Mostly because you have to buy directly from the airline to get these perks, and I often find cheaper United flights through third-party travel sites. Also, you have to be a primary user to get these perks. So even though my husband’s an authorized user, he can’t use the perks if he flies United without me.
The lounge passes are pretty sweet though. Just know that once you start visiting lounges, you might start thinking it’s worth getting a card that offers more or unlimited lounge visits — I definitely did. The other perk I’ve used is the Global Entry credit, which also gives you TSA Precheck, and it’s another one I won’t go back on. All in all, there are some good perks, even if you’re not an exclusive United flyer.
What to watch out for
Annual fee: $95 starting your second card year. Consider whether you’ll use the card enough to justify its annual fee.
Purchase directly from hotels to earn 2x miles from hotel spending. You might not earn accelerated rewards when you book through third-party travel sites.
Use your United℠ Explorer Card to qualify for statement credit, purchase protection and travel insurance. You won’t qualify if you use a different card.
Compare travel credit cards
What should I know before I apply?
To apply for the United℠ Explorer Card, you must be at least 18 years old (19 in Alabama and Nebraska, 21 in Puerto Rico).
Information you’ll need
Mailing address and residential status
Date of birth, mother’s maiden name and Social Security number
Phone number and email address
Total gross annual income and primary source of income
Optional: MileagePlus number
What credit score do I need?
You’ll have a better chance of being approved for the United℠ Explorer Card if you apply with a good to excellent credit score of 670 or higher.
What do customers say about the United℠ Explorer Card?
Cardholders often say they’re pleased with priority boarding and free checked baggage. Others say they’ve had difficulty with approval for their travel-insurance claims.
JPMorgan Chase Credit Card is not accredited by the Better Business Bureau (BBB). However, it currently earns an A+ rating from the agency.
The bank has an average customer-review score of just over 1 star. It has more than 2,100 complaints, most of which have been answered or resolved according to the BBB.
How to apply for the United℠ Explorer Card
Learn more about how to apply for the United℠ Explorer Card.
Complete the application with details like your name, address, annual income and Social Security number. Then review your application and submit it.
How long will it take to get my United℠ Explorer Card?
Because conditional approval is automated on the Chase website, you’ll often get a decision immediately. In some cases, you’ll need to wait a few days to a few weeks to receive a response.
If you’re approved, look for your card in the mail within seven to 10 days.
I got the card. Now what?
Make payments on time. You can pay your card bill online at the Chase website. You can also enroll in autopay.
Avoid interest payments. After the close of each billing cycle, you have a grace period of 21 days to pay your balance. If you do, you won’t pay interest on your purchases. Of course, this assumes you haven’t carried a balance from the previous billing cycle.
Avoid fees. Late and returned payments come with hefty fees of up to $39. Balance transfers and cash advances also come with fees.
Contact customer service. If you have questions, you can contact Chase support by phone, email or Twitter.
How do I redeem miles using the United℠ Explorer Card?
Miles earned miles during a billing cycle automatically transfer to your United MileagePlus account at the end of the cycle.
Head to the United website and log in to your MileagePlus account to redeem your miles. Redemption options include:
United Club membership
TSA PreCheck application
Transfer or donate miles
Dine at select airports
Magazines and newspapers
Dining gift cards, certificates and discounts
Redeeming miles for flights gets you a strong redemption rate on your rewards. Based on the miles redemption site at the time of writing, United miles are worth an average 1.3 cents each when redeemed for flights.
You may receive a lower rate if you redeem for other options. For example, redeeming miles for hotel stays yields an average value of 0.7 cents a mile
You’ll receive your miles six to eight weeks after you qualify.
No, there are no blackout dates for United℠ Explorer Card members.
No, United miles never expire.
Yes. You’ll pay a $7.50 fee for each 500 miles you transfer. You’ll also pay a $30 fee for each transaction.
Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.
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