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United℠ Explorer Card review

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Find United perks without a premium annual fee.

  • Get this card if you want a midtier travel card with United perks.
  • Pick something else if you don’t often fly United and don’t often make travel or dining purchases.
  • Apply with a good to excellent credit score of 670 to 850.


Miles as welcome offer

Up to 2x



Annual fee

for the first year ($95 thereafter)

16.49% to 23.49%

Purchase APR (variable)


Product NameUnited℠ Explorer Card
Card typeVisa
Annual fee$0 intro annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
Purchase APR16.49% to 23.49% variable
Balance transfer APR16.49% to 23.49% variable
Balance transfer fee$5 or 5% of the transaction, whichever is greater
Cash advance rate24.99% variable
Cash advance fee$10 or 5% of the cash advance amount, whichever is greater
Foreign transaction feeNone
Interest free periodUp to 21 days
Late payment feeUp to $39
Returned payment feeUp to $39
Additional cardholder fee$0
Rates & feesrates & fees

Expert review

Kevin Joey Chen

Review by

Kevin Joey Chen is a credit cards writer whose work and analysis have appeared on CNN, U.S. News & World Report, The Dallas Morning News, Lifehacker and He's passionate about helping you get your finances in order and expertly navigate the cutting-edge financial tools available -- including credit cards, apps and budgeting software.

Expert review

The United℠ Explorer Card is a cobranded airline card with a $0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95. It offers 2x miles on United purchases, hotel stays and restaurants and 1x miles on all other purchases.

Currently, you can earn 40,000 bonus miles after you make $2,000 in purchases within the first 3 months from account opening.

The perks

  • 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. 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.

Is the $95 annual fee worth it?

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
CategoriesRewardsHow much you need to spend
Restaurants, eligible hotel stays, United purchases2x miles$3,654
Other purchases1x miles$7,308

Of course, you’ll probably spend in both 2x- and 1x-mile categories, affecting your rewards breakdown.

See spending breakdown
CategoriesRewardsHypothetical spendingMiles earned
Restaurants, eligible hotel stays, United purchases2x miles$1,5003,000
Other purchases1x miles$4,308$4,308

Other United℠ Explorer Card perks that might offset the annual fee

See values from card benefits
BenefitPotential annual value
Free first checked bag (4 one-way flights a year)$120
Annual United Club passes$118
25% back as statement credit$25
Global Entry application fee credit$20
Priority boarding$60

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.

Case study: Megan’s experience

profile pic

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

Name Product Welcome offer Rewards Annual fee Filter values
Luxury Card Mastercard® Titanium Card™
1x points on all purchases with 2% point value when you redeem for airfare and 1% for cash back
Enjoy unique excursions, privileged access to exclusive events and insider opportunities.
Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®
50,000 miles after spending $2,500 in the first 3 months
2x miles on eligible American Airlines purchases, at gas stations and restaurants and 1x miles on all other purchases
$0 intro annual fee for the first year ($99 thereafter)
Earn 50,000 AAdvantage® bonus miles after you spend $2,500 in the first 3 months.
The World of Hyatt Credit Card
25,000 points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. 25,000 points after spending another $6,000 in the first 6 months
9x points at Hyatt hotels as a World of Hyatt member, 2x on gyms, commuting, dining and airlines and 1x on all other purchases
Earn 25,000 points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. 25,000 points after spending another $6,000 in the first 6 months.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months
5x points on Lyft, 2x points on travel and dining and 1x points on all other purchases
This popular travel card's signup bonus is worth up to $750. Get even more value out of your travel, dining, and Lyft rewards by transferring them to miles.
Luxury Card Mastercard® Black Card™
1x points on all purchases with 2% point value when you redeem for airfare and 1.5% for cash back
Receive an annual $100 air travel credit toward flight-related purchases including airline tickets, baggage fees, upgrades and more.

Compare up to 4 providers

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

  • Full name
  • 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

  1. Learn more about how to apply for United℠ Explorer Card.
  2. 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:

  • Flights
  • Hotel stays
  • Car rentals
  • Cruises
  • Merchandise
  • Gift cards
  • Experiences
  • United Club membership
  • United Wi-Fi
  • 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

Bottom line

Consider the United℠ Explorer Card if you want strong perks without a premium price. If you’re not sure it’s right for you, compare other travel credit cards.

Frequently asked questions

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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