United MileagePlus Explorer Card by Chase Review

United MileagePlus Explorer Card by Chase Review

Who is the United MileagePlus Explorer Card by Chase Good For?

It’s a running joke with a kernel of truth that while all the other domestic carriers were going bankrupt and restructuring, United Airlines had to continue because its credit card was so profitable.

The United MileagePlus Explorer Card is United’s entry-level and most popular credit card product. Unlike American Airlines, which has long pushed its higher-fee, perk-filled Club card, United has beefed up the Explorer card so much that it is a very solid product. And to sweeten the pot further, it typically comes with a very high sign-up bonus.

Beyond the usual free checked bag and priority boarding, the United MileagePlus Explorer Card also comes with luxury hotel perks and club passes. If United is a convenient airline for you, this card is a great miles card.

Airline Transfer Partner
ANNUAL FEE

$95, waived the first year

APR

16.24% – 23.24%, depending on credit

RECOMMENDED CREDIT SCORE

650+

TYPE OF CARD

Visa

ISSUER

Chase

Sign-Up Bonuses

You can apply for a United MileagePlus Explorer Card by Chase with a sign-up bonus of 30,000 MileagePlus miles after a $1,000 minimum spend in three months. Frequently the bonus goes up to 50,000 miles, usually after a $2,000 minimum spend in the first three months. The annual fee is waived for the first year.
The offer occasionally goes as high as 65,000 miles, with 50,000 miles awarded after $1,000 of spending, and an additional 10,000 bonus miles after $25,000 is charged. You also get 5,000 miles for adding an authorized user for any of these offers.

chase-credit-card
United MileagePlus Explorer Card by Chase Review

Points Earned

  • 2 points per dollar spent on United
  • 1 point per dollar on everything else

What Do Your Points Get You?

United miles are valuable for two main reasons:

  • Access to the 26 other airlines in the Star Alliance
  • A better priced award chart than many of its alliance partners

United miles can truly get you all over the world thanks to regional partners such as Aegean Airlines, Croatian Airlines, Singapore Airlines, South African Airways, Ethiopian Airlines and Air New Zealand.

MileagePlus miles open up upper class seats all over the world at great rates, thanks to its generous availability on most partners. Though you can’t book first class seats on many luxury partners, such as Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines with United miles.

Usage Perks:

  • Two United Club passes per year
  • United miles are not subject to expiration
  • Free first checked bag on flights booked with the card and connected to the MileagePlus number of the cardholder for the traveler and one companion
  • The cardholder and all companions on the same itinerary receive priority boarding
  • No foreign transaction fees on purchases
  • Book any seat on the plane as an award seat, even when there are no award seats left or blackout dates are in effect, by signing in with your MileagePlus number before searching
  • Cardholder is eligible for complimentary upgrades on award tickets on United-operated flights when available
  • 10,000 bonus miles after spending $25,000 per year

United MileagePlus Explorer Card by Chase offers a lot of great perks
United MileagePlus Explorer Card by Chase offers a lot of great perks

Usage Quirks:

  • Itinerary holds aren’t free
  • $75 fee for bookings less than 21 days before departure
  • $75 change fee
  • $200 cancellation fee (lower for elite status holders)

How Far Do Your Miles Go?

Thanks to tons of last-minute award availability, United miles are a great bet for spur-of-the-moment  domestic trips in economy class.

Over the holidays close to departure when round-trip tickets between the East and West coasts were nearly $700, I  booked a nonstop itinerary at the lowest redemption rate25,000 miles. That’s a 2.7-cent-per-mile value, but value is even better in business or first.

I also recently used United miles for a flight to Europe that would have cost $6,902 if I’d bought it round-trip in swanky Lufthansa business class–which includes use of the arrival lounge for a shower in Frankfurt before connecting on to the rest of Europe. At 140,000 miles, which is the lowest possible rate on partner business class flights to Europe on United, and $166 in taxes and fees, that’s a nearly a 5-cent-per-mile value on a really great plane with access to top lounges.

Additional Cardholder Benefits

  • Purchase protection
  • Concierge service
  • Trip cancellation insurance
  • Trip delay reimbursement
  • Auto rental collision and damage waiver
  • Eligible for Chase Inside Access events, such as celebrity chef tastings and exclusive sports and fashion events
  • Extended warranty protection
  • Return protection
  • Price protection
  • Complimentary privileges at Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection Hotels, including daily breakfast for two, room upgrades, early check-in, late check-out, and an additional amenity such as lunch or dinner, a spa treatment, welcome gift, or airport transfers, when the hotel is booked with the card
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