United MileagePlus Explorer Business Card vs. the CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select World MasterCard

United MileagePlus Explorer Business Card vs. the CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select World MasterCard

If both United and American fly out of your local airport and you’re looking for a good business rewards credit card, the United MileagePlus Explorer Business and CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select World MasterCard should be on your shortlist.

Both are solid midlevel rewards cards that offer some great benefits, and with a $95 annual fee that’s waived for the first year, neither card will break the bank.

These business cards are in many ways better than their personal-card counterparts. They offer some unique perks and have more earning potential since you’ll get a bonus on more categories of purchases. So, if you own a small business, or if you’re an independent contractor, you should consider going with one of these business cards instead of the personal MileagePlus Explorer or AAdvantage Platinum Select.

As with most co-branded airline cards, you’ll probably want to go with the card associated with the carrier you fly with the most. But if you use both United and American, or if you could switch some or all of your travel to either, you should carefully consider which card has more to offer.

Here’s a brief overview of the two cards:

 MileagePlus Explorer BusinessCitiBusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select World
Sign-Up Bonus30,000 MileagePlus miles30,000 AAdvantage miles
Earning Potential2x on United, restaurants, gas and office supplies; 1x all other purchases2x on American, telecommunications, car rentals and gas; 1x all other purchases
Annual Fee$95, waived for the first year$95, waived for the first year
Other Perks10,000-mile annual bonus;
free checked bag; priority boarding; 2 annual lounge passes
Annual companion certificate; free checked bag; priority boarding; inflight discounts; 7,500-mile discount on select flights

Let’s take a closer look:

Sign-Up Bonus

Both cards come with a 30,000-mile sign-up bonus, which you’ll get if you spend $1,000 in the first three months of having the card. That works out to $333 a month. If you’ve had the United card in the last two years, you do not qualify for the bonus.

United MileagePlus Explorer Business Card
Both cards offer 30,000-mile sign-up bonuses

Flexibility

There’s limited flexibility in terms of redeeming miles with either of these cards. You can use the miles for purchases made through their respective frequent flyer programs only.

Keep in mind, though, that you can fly on partner airlines even if you can’t book directly through them. In other words, you can fly on any Star Alliance member with your MileagePlus miles, or any oneworld member with your AAdvantage miles.

Oneworld has 15 members, but the Star Alliance is the largest in the world with 27 members. Though either alliance can get you just about anywhere in the world, it’s clear that Star offers more options.

Earning Potential

This is one place that the business versions of these cards outdo their personal counterparts. With the personal MileagePlus Explorer card and AAdvantage Platinum Select card you can earn double miles on United and American purchase only.

With the MileagePlus Explorer Business card you’ll get double miles on United, as well as on purchases at restaurants, gas stations and business supply stores. The CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select gives you double miles on American, telecommunications bills, gas and car rentals.

You’ll have to consider your personal buying habits carefully to figure out if you spend more on going out to eat and business supplies or on phone bills and car rentals. Keep in mind that being able to earn double on recurring bills, like your cell phone, can really boost your miles balance. Thankfully, both cards give you a bonus for gas purchases, something that most of us regularly buy.

CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select World MasterCard
Earn double miles on American with CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select World MasterCard

What Else Do You Get?

You’ll get a free checked bag and priority boarding with either card. The AAdvantage card also offers a 25 percent discount on in-flight purchases.

The best perks, though, differ by card. The MileagePlus card will give you a 10,000-mile bonus every year you spend at least $25,000, whereas the AAdvantage card gives you an annual companion certificate if you spend $30,000. It’s the only card in American’s lineup that offers this potentially lucrative perk.

Like the companion fare offered by the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card, you’ll still have to pay $99 plus taxes and fees to bring a companion with you on a flight. It’s good for a domestic round-trip flight in coach, so if you fly from coast to coast, for example, it can easily be worth hundreds of dollars.

The United card’s annual 10,000-mile bonus could get you a one-way domestic flight in economy, so it’s not quite as valuable.

Unlike American, the MileagePlus card gives you two free United Club lounge passes every year. At $50 a pop, those passes are a nice perk. Many co-branded airline cards offer at least discounts on lounge access, so it’s a bit disappointing that you don’t get anything with the AAdvantage business card.

The American card does, though, give you access to AAdvantage Reduced Mileage Awards. Every month American Airlines announces a new list of qualifying destinations. If you book a flight to one of those airports, you’ll get a 7,500-mile discount roundtrip, or 3,750 miles one way.

United Club
The MileagePlus card gives you two free United Club lounge passes every year

If you’re someone who likes booking vacations at the last minute, this could be a great way to do it on the cheap. It’s worth noting that Reduced Mileage Awards can be booked up to four months in advance, and the list of qualifying domestic destinations is typically quite long.

Cardholder Perks

These cards come with the standard midlevel travel card benefits, including trip cancellation insurance, trip delay reimbursement, travel and emergency assistance, car rental coverage, lost luggage protection, price protection and purchase protection. Neither charge for foreign transactions.

The MileagePlus card also offers free room upgrades, complimentary daily breakfast for two, early check-in, late checkout and other perks at hotels booked through the Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection.

Annual Fee

The $95 annual fee is waived for the first year with either card.

Which Card Do You Get?

Both cards are excellent midlevel rewards cards, and, in my opinion, they’re better than their personal card counterparts. They offer double points on purchases in more categories and the AAdvantage business card is the only product in American’s lineup to offer a companion certificate.

Between the two cards, I like the AAdvantage card a little bit better. For me, double points on telecommunications bills are more valuable than double points at restaurants. My cell phone bill comes every month, whereas my dining out habits change from week to week. I know that over the long term I’m going to get more points by paying for a recurring bill. Obviously this point depends on your personal spending habits.

The value of American’s $99 companion fare is undeniable, though. Taking someone with you on a long and/or expensive flight can easily be worth hundreds of dollars. In my opinion, that’s a much better perk than two lounge passes and 10,000 miles, which you’d get with the MileagePlus card.

Both cards are great, though, offering excellent perks on their respective airlines. If you don’t think you’ll fly enough on American, or if you just prefer United, I wouldn’t hesitate to get the MileagePlus card.