Is the United MileagePlus® Explorer card worth it? | September 2018

Review: United℠ Explorer Card – September 2018

We value our editorial independence, basing our comparison results, content and reviews on objective analysis without bias. But we may receive compensation when you click links on our site. Learn more about how we make money from our partners.

The United℠ Explorer Card is a good choice if you’re a regular United flyer and can wait for Saver Awards to use your miles.

  • Get this card if… you fly with United Airlines often.
  • Pick something else if… you don’t fly with United often.
  • Recommended good to excellent credit range of 680 or higher.
Product NameUnited℠ Explorer Card
Card TypeVisa
Annual Fee$0 annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
APR (Annual Percentage Rate) for Purchases17.74% to 24.74% variable
Balance Transfer Fee$5 or 5% of the transaction, whichever is greater
Cash Advance Rate26.74% variable
Cash Advance Fee$10 or 5% of the cash advance amount, whichever is greater
Foreign Transaction FeeNone
Interest Free PeriodUp to 21 days
Minimum Interest$0
Late Payment Fee$37
Returned Payment Fee$37
Additional Cardholder Fee$0
Minimum Age18 years of age
Welcome BonusEarn 40,000 miles after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months
Reward Value per Dollar1 miles
Rewards Points ExpiryNever

The basics

It’s always fun to consider the value you’ll get out of an airline card. Here, the United℠ Explorer Card offers a lot to consider.

First, think about the miles you’ll earn: You have a shot at a signup bonus worth 40,000 miles (just spend $2,000 on purchases in the first three months). You’ll also receive 1x miles on United purchases, at restaurants and on hotel accommodations purchased directly from hotels. On everything else you buy, you’ll earn 2x miles.

Airline miles can be tricky because their value can vary wildly. With United, you can find flights worth $110 that cost 25,000 miles — giving a paltry rate of 0.4 cents per mile. But you can also find flights worth $663 that cost 30,000 miles, for an impressive 2.2 cents per mile. The key is to leverage United’s Saver Awards, through which you can purchase award flights at a heavy mile discount.

Bottom line: If you’re willing to search to maximize your miles, the United℠ Explorer Card might be for you. Otherwise, go with a simpler card like the Barclaycard Arrival® Plus World Elite Mastercard®, which offers travel statement credit.

The United℠ Explorer Card offers United benefits you might like. If you typically check your bags, you’ll enjoy getting one checked bag free for you and a companion on each flight. And it certainly doesn’t hurt having priority boarding.

Of course, these perks come with a $95 annual fee (waived for the first year). That could be a fair price if you’re a regular United flyer. If you’re not, consider another airline card or a general travel card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® credit card.

Should I get the card if I don’t fly on United often?

If you don’t fly United often, you’ll earn only 2x miles in most categories. But you’ll earn 1x miles at restaurants and on eligible hotel accommodations, which could help you accumulate rewards even if you don’t fly much.

If you don’t spend much in any of those categories, consider another travel card that gives you accelerated points or miles for categories you frequently spend in.

The perks

  • SIGNUP BONUS: Lots of miles.
    You’ll receive 40,000 miles if you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. And if you add an authorized user and make a purchase on your card within the first three months, you’ll earn 5,000 bonus miles. On top of that, you’ll earn a $100 statement credit after your first purchase.
  • MILES: More miles on United ticket purchases.
    Earn 1x miles on United purchases, including airline tickets, in-flight refreshments, seat upgrades and baggage fees. Also, earn 1x miles at restaurants and on hotel accommodations purchased directly from hotels. Earn 2x miles on everything else you buy.
  • $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA Precheck®.
    Every four years, you’ll receive a $100 statement credit to reimburse you for your Global Entry or TSA Precheck® fee. Just use your United℠ Explorer Card to pay for the charges.
  • 25% statement credit for eligible United purchases.
    When you use your United℠ Explorer Card to pay for food, beverages and Wi-Fi on United-operated flights, you’ll earn 25% of what you spend as statement credit.
  • United perks.
    On each flight, you and one companion can each check one bag free. Enjoy priority boarding for you and your travel companions, and get two United Club passes every year.
  • Hotel benefits.
    Enjoy room upgrades, complimentary breakfast, early check-in, late checkout and more at select resorts around the world.

You’ll also like …

  • No foreign transaction fees.
    You can use your United℠ Explorer Card internationally without incurring transaction fees.
  • Travel and purchase coverage.
    Enjoy benefits like baggage delay insurance, lost luggage reimbursement, trip delay reimbursement and auto rental collision damage waivers. Also get purchase protection and extended warranties on your purchases.
  • Access to Visa Concierge.
    Use the Visa Signature® Concierge to make plans for dining and entertainment.

What to watch out for

  • It hurts to pay late.
    Making late or returned payments could result in fees as high as $37.

Consider other cards if …

Compare travel credit cards

<h3 class=”header-sideline”>Compare travel credit cards</h3>

Name Product Welcome Bonus Reward Value per Dollar APR (Annual Percentage Rate) for Purchases Annual Fee
1 points
16.74% variable
$195
Enjoy unique excursions, privileged access to exclusive events and insider opportunities.
1 points
16.74% variable
$495
Mastercard Black Card members receive an annual $100 air travel credit toward flight-related purchases including airline tickets, baggage fees, upgrades and more.
2 points
16.74% variable
$995
Earn points every time you spend. Luxury Card enhances your purchasing power by providing you with one (1) point for every one dollar ($1) you spend. Every purchase gets you closer to the rewards you want.
Earn 60,000 points after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months
1 points
None (Charge Card)
$550
Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel and 5X points on eligible hotels booked on amextravel.com.
Earn 25,000 points after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months
1 points
None (Charge Card)
$0 annual fee for the first year ($195 thereafter)
25,000 bonus Membership Rewards® Points (up to $250 value) when you spend $2,000 in the first 3 months
Earn 25,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first 90 days
1.5 points
16.74% to 24.74% variable
$0
An intro offer rewards cardholders with a $250 value (25,000 online bonus points) after spending $1,000 within the first 90 days of account opening
Earn 50,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months
1 points
17.74% to 24.74% variable
$0 annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
Earn 50,000 points after spending $3,000 in the first 90 days
1.5 points
17.74% to 24.74% variable
$95
Earn unlimited 2 points for every $1 spent on travel and dining purchases and 1.5 points for every $1 spent on all other purchases.
Earn 50,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months
1 points
17.74% to 24.74% variable
$450
Earn 50,000 BONUS POINTS after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening* — that's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
Earn 50,000 miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months
2 miles
14.74%, 21.24% or 24.74% variable
$0 annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
Earn 40,000 miles after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months
1 miles
17.74% to 24.74% variable
$0 annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.* Plus a $100 statement credit after your first purchase.
Earn 40,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months
1 points
17.74% to 24.74% variable
$99
40,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open

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 (or 19 in Alabama and Nebraska).

Information you’ll need

  • Full name
  • Address and residential status
  • Annual income, source of income and employment information
  • Contact information
  • Social Security number and mother’s maiden name

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 680 or higher.

How to apply for the United℠ Explorer Card

1. Go to the Chase website and click Apply Now.

2. Complete the application with your name, address, annual income and Social Security number. Then review your application and submit it.

How long will it take to be approved?

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.

I got the card. Now what?

  • Making payments.
    You can pay your card bill online at the Chase website. You can also enroll in autopay.
  • Avoiding 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.
  • Avoiding fees.
    Late and returned payments come with hefty fees of up to $37. Balance transfers and cash advances also come with fees.
  • Customer service.
    If you have questions, you can contact Chase support by phone, email or even Twitter.

Bottom line

If you’re willing to wait for Saver Awards — and you’re a regular United flyer — you’ll get a lot of value from the United℠ Explorer Card.

Frequently asked questions

Adrienne Fuller

Adrienne Fuller leads the publishing team at finder.com. She has one goal: to deliver the accurate and transparent information she wishes she had when she made some of life's important financial decisions. When she's not helping folks save money, she's hiking with her two Catahoulas around her home in San Diego.

Was this content helpful to you? No  Yes

Ask an Expert

You are about to post a question on finder.com:

  • Do not enter personal information (eg. surname, phone number, bank details) as your question will be made public
  • finder.com is a financial comparison and information service, not a bank or product provider
  • We cannot provide you with personal advice or recommendations
  • Your answer might already be waiting – check previous questions below to see if yours has already been asked

Finder only provides general advice and factual information, so consider your own circumstances, or seek advice before you decide to act on our content. By submitting a question, you're accepting our Privacy and Cookies Policy and Terms of Use.
Go to site