United MileagePlus® Explorer Card
If you fly with United Airlines and don’t have elite status, the United MileagePlus Explorer card from Chase might be right for you.
TAs a cardholder, you’ll receive a free checked bag for yourself and a companion traveling on the same reservation. To top it off, you also get two one-time passes to the United Club.
The miles you earn with the card can be redeemed for award flights on United or its partner airlines. The 40,000 miles sign-up bonus can get you at least $750 in flights, if not more. United miles are even easier to use when you hold the MileagePlus card, as you will have access to more economy class award availability.
For some people, the Explorer card wouldn’t be their top choice since it earns only 1 mile per dollar for most purchases and United miles aren’t transferable. But the card can be worth having for the United benefits alone if you often fly on the airline.
Bonuses and Benefits
Knowing what benefits come with a credit card can help you decide if it’s a good fit for you. Here we cover the bonuses and perks that the United MileagePlus® Explorer Card offers and the value of the Chase MileagePlus® miles you earn.
The United MileagePlus Explorer card has a 40,000 miles sign-up bonus. To receive the bonus, you must spend 2,000 within the first three months of cardmembership.
There two other bonuses you can earn with the card as well. When you add an authorized user, you will earn 5,000 bonus miles after their first purchase. Additionally, every calendar year in which you spend $25,000, you will earn a bonus of 10,000 miles.
The sign-up bonus also includes two one-time use passes to the United Club. You will receive these passes every 12 months for as long as you have the card.
What You Get
- Earn 40,000 miles after you spend $2,000 within the first 3 months
- Spend $25,000 in a calendar year and get a 10,000 miles bonus
- Get an additional 5,000 miles for each authorized user added to the card
- Receive two free United Club lounge passes annually
The United miles you earn won’t expire if you have the MileagePlus card, but without the card the miles expire after 18 months of inactivity. If you don’t have the card, purchasing flights and using the United MileagePlus online shopping portal can keep your miles from expiring.
What is the value of the MileagePlus® Miles?
Unlike the Venture Rewards program, MileagePlus miles do not have a fixed value. This can be a good thing if you know how to use your miles.
If you want to get maximum value for your miles, international business class award flights are the way to go. For example, you can use your miles to fly in business class on Austrian Airlines or Swiss Airlines for 70,000 miles. On average, your miles will be worth just over 4 cents per mile when booking these flights.
However, booking domestic economy flights is often the worst way to redeem your miles. The average redemption rate is only 1.5 cents per mile, and it’s not uncommon for domestic economy redemptions to be even worse than that.
What is CPM and How Is It Calculated?
Cents Per Mile (CPM) is a way to measure the value of miles. It tells you how many cents you get for each mile you redeem by dividing the cash price of the airline ticket (minus taxes and fees charged for an award ticket) by the number of miles the award flight costs. This is a somewhat subjective calculation because the price of the flight in both cash and miles fluctuates by season and availability.
How we calculate CPM:
The Best Ways to Redeem MileagePlus® Miles
The United MileagePlus program uses a region-based award chart. The number of miles required to book an award flight is determined by the region of your departure and destination, in addition to the class of service.
Make sure you book the cheapest saver level award flights. If you don’t, the cost in miles will be extremely high. For example, a saver business class award to Europe on United costs 57,500 miles. However, if you book a standard award, it will cost you 150,000 miles for the same flight.
If you use your MileagePlus miles for an award flight on one of United’s partners, the saver price is a bit higher, but you will often have a better in-flight experience.
Detroit–Las VegasEconomy classMiles price25,000miles+$80.6 feeDollars price$548
Pittsburgh–MinneapolisEconomy classMiles price25,000miles+$80.6 feeDollars price$410
Seattle–AustinEconomy classMiles price25,000miles+$80.6 feeDollars price$503
Fort Lauderdale–NassauEconomy classMiles price35,000miles+$182.12 feeDollars price$2,045
New York–BermudaEconomy classMiles price35,000miles+$199.9 feeDollars price$568
Austin–HavanaEconomy classMiles price75,000miles+$11.2 feeDollars price$929
Chicago–DetroitBusiness classMiles price50,000miles+$80.6 feeDollars price$389
New Orleans–BostonBusiness classMiles price50,000miles+$80.6 feeDollars price$1,260
Atlanta–WashingtonBusiness classMiles price50,000miles+$80.6 feeDollars price$634
San Francisco–Hong KongBusiness classMiles price140,000miles+$122.06 feeDollars price$1,717
Boston–TorontoBusiness classMiles price50,000miles+$56.6 feeDollars price$5,148
Los Angeles–MexicoBusiness classMiles price60,000miles+$93 feeDollars price$1,034
Other ways you can redeem miles
Hotel Stays84 partners84 part.
MileagePlus miles can be redeemed for hotel stays or transferred to one of United’s hotel partners, but it’s not the best way to maximize the value of your miles.
Car Rental8 partners8 part.
You can also rent a car by redeeming MileagePlus miles, but like hotels, it’s a poor use of miles.
Gift Cards270 partners270 part.
You can redeem your MileagePlus miles for over 290 gift card brands, including Amazon and Starbucks. You’re better off booking award flights, though.
The Chase United MileagePlus Explorer card has a simple earning structure. Purchases with United Airlines earn 2 miles per dollar while all other purchases earn 1 mile per dollar.
United purchases that earn 2 miles per dollar include airfare, seat upgrades, checked baggage and United Club passes.
- Car Rental
- United Airlines Purchases
- All Other Purchases
Free Checked Bag
The cardholder and one companion on the same reservation each get one free checked bag on flights operated by United. That can save you up to $100 per roundtrip.
Complimentary United Club Passes
Enjoy airport lounge access with two free United Club passes every year you have the card.
The primary cardmember and companions on the same reservation will be invited to board United-operated flights prior to general boarding.
No Foreign Transacation Fees
When traveling outside the United States, you can use the MileagePlus Explorer card with no extra fees.
Extra Award Availability
Cardholders receive access to extra saver level awards for economy class and guaranteed standard level awards as long as a seat is available for purchase.
Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection
Cardholders receive the benefits of the Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection (LHRC) program when booking through an LHRC travel specialist.
Earn Elite Status Fast
Spending $25,000 on the Explorer card in one calendar year waives the Premier Qualifying Dollar (PQD) requirement for earning status on United up to the Premier Platinum level.
Without the PQD waiver, you would have to not only fly 75,000 Premier Qualifying Miles (PQMs) to earn Premier Platinum, but also spend $9,000 with United. To earn Premier Silver and Premier Gold without the card, you’d need $3,000 PQDs/25,000 PQMs and $6,000 PQDs/50,000 PQMs, respectively.
With Premier Gold and Premier Platinum status you also receive Star Alliance Gold, which provides business class lounge access on international flights.
The PQD waiver does not apply to Premier 1K status. That requires you to spend $12,000 with United and fly 100,000 PQMs.
- Get a Premier Qualifying Dollar (PQD) waiver after spending $25,000 in a year
Fees: the cost of Having the Card
With an annual fee of $95 , you will need to spend just over $6,333 per year to cover the cost of the annual fee with each mile valued at 1.5 cents. If you spend about $2,000 a month, you will have accounted for the annual fee within 3 months.
The annual fee is waived the first year, which makes the sign-up bonus of 40,000 miles even more valuable. Additionally, the ancillary benefits, like a free checked bag, have to be taken into account when you consider the value of the card.
- Annual Fee
- Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater
- Late Payment Fee
- Up to $15 if the balance is less than $100; up to $27 if the balance is $100 to less than $250; up to $37 if the balance is $250 or more
- Foreign Transaction Fee
See What It Takes to Cover an Annual Fee:
Get anniversary bonus: 10,000 miles
You will receive 10,000 bonus points each anniversary year – enough to cover more than a half of the annual fee.
We strongly recommend to spend not less than $1,955 per months to cover the annual fee in three months.
We’ve broken out our estimates for the first- and second-year net earnings you’ll get with the The United MileagePlus Explorer card. Is the card worth getting, and should you keep it after you get the sign-up bonus? Let’s find out.
These estimates are based on an annual monthly spend of $2,000
Top 5 Benefits of the The United MileagePlus Explorer Card
The MileagePlus Explorer card can help make traveling with United even better. Here are the top five benefits of the card:
- Big Sign-Up Bonus: The 40,000 miles sign-up bonus can get you at least $750 in travel. If you are strategic with your miles, it could be worth over $1,500.
- Free Checked Bags: Between you and your companion, you can save up to $100 in checked baggage fees per round-trip booking.
- Extra Award Availability: Cardholders get access to extra saver level award space and guaranteed standard level award space when flights are available for purchase.
- Priority Boarding: You and your companions can board prior to general boarding which helps ensure there is space for your carry-on baggage.
- United Club Passes: Receive two United Club passes when you get the card, and two more passes every 12 months thereafter.
Should You Get the The United MileagePlus Explorer Card?
If you’re looking for a great sign-up bonus to help you book free flights with United or one of its Star Alliance partners, the MileagePlus Explorer card might be just what you need. With a 40,000 miles sign-up bonus, you’ll be well on your way.
Since the annual fee waived for the first year, you have time to see if the card is right for you before making a long-term decision. After the first year, the annual fee will be 95 .
The Explorer card can be a big boost if you want to earn status with United because you can earn a PQD waiver after spending $25,000 on the card. This can make earning Star Alliance Gold much easier, and if you regularly fly economy internationally on United or Star Alliance partners, you’ll appreciate the business class lounge access..
One of the biggest drawbacks of the MileagePlus card is that it only earns 1 mile per dollar on all purchases except with United. Additionally, it earns miles that can’t be transferred to different airlines. If you want that level of flexibility, you’ll need a card that offers transferable points, like one of Chase’s Ultimate Rewards cards.
Need more info? Check out our frequently asked questions. If you have other questions, please click on “Ask Now” below.
To redeem miles for award flights, you need to find award availability. You can search for flights on United’s website, but make sure you check the box “search for award travel” so that the search results show you flights available for redemption.
Keep in mind that not all seats on a flight are available for redemption at saver level. Unlike flights for purchase, a limited number of seats are available for award bookings. In some cases, no saver level seats will be available.
Fortunately, if you have the United MileagePlus Explorer card, you have access to more saver level awards. If you really need a flight on a specific date and saver level space isn’t available, cardholders also have guaranteed access to standard level award space.
There are some important differences between these cards, but both can be very useful if you want to use MileagePlus miles or fly with United.
The United Explorer card has a smaller $95 annual fee, and the United Club card has a $450 fee. While this is a big difference, the benefits of the United Club card include a full United Club lounge membership, whereas the Explorer card only provides two one-time Club passes every year.
With the Explorer card, you can earn United Gold and Star Alliance Gold statuses more easily (as discussed above), which gives you access Star Alliance business class lounges. The United Club card provides access to these lounges as a benefit just for holding the card.
When it comes to earning MileagePlus miles, both cards earn two miles per dollar on purchases with United, but the United Club card earns 1.5 miles per dollar on all other purchases–50 percent more than the Explorer card.
Finally, the United Club card provides two free checked bags for you and a companion, Hertz President’s Circle elite status and World of Hyatt Discoverist status.
Both cards have their places, but the premium United Club card has a big annual fee and tons of benefits. If you don’t think those perks are worth the additional cost, then the MileagePlus Explorer card is probably a better fit for you.
From baggage delays to trip cancellations, the MileagePlus Explorer card provides cardholders with protection. If your bags are delayed more than six hours, you can be reimbursed up to $100 per day for three days. If your luggage is lost or damaged, you have up to $3,000 in coverage per passenger.
When your flight is delayed more than 12 hours or requires you to stay overnight, you can be reimbursed for up to $500 per ticket. This covers you and your family members traveling with you. If you have to cancel a trip because of severe weather or illness, you can be reimbursed for the cost of pre- paid, non-refundable flights, hotels, etc.
The Explorer card also provides primary coverage when renting a car. In the case of theft or collision damage, you can be reimbursed up to the value of the vehicle. This applies to most rentals in the U.S. and abroad.
Compare MileagePlus® Cards
Other MileagePlus® cards
Chase offers two co-branded cards that earn United miles, the MileagePlus Explorer card and the United Club card. While the Explorer card comes with a $95 annual fee, the Club card comes with a much bigger $450 fee.
|United MileagePlus® Club Card|
|Sign-up bonus||50,000 miles||40,000 miles|
|APR On Purchases||16.99% to 23.99% Variable±||16.99% to 23.99% Variable±|
|Second Year Value||$583||$551|
Of the two MileagePlus cards, the Explorer provides the highest sign-up bonus at 40,000 miles. The United Club card does not have a sign-up bonus. Both cards earn two miles per dollar on purchases with United, but the United Club card earns 1.5 miles per dollar on all other purchases, which gives it an advantage over the Explorer card’s standard 1 mile per dollar earn.
Without a sign-up bonus, the main reason to get the United Club card is for the perks. Even though you can earn 1.5 miles per dollar, an annual fee of $450 is steep for that earning rate.
The perks of the United Club card include a full membership to the United Club, Discoverist status with the World of Hyatt program and President’s Circle status with Hertz. Additionally, the cardholder and a companion are allowed two free checked bags on United flights, not just one.
The Explorer card does give you the ability to earn 10,000 bonus miles and a PQD waiver annually if you spend $25,000.
You want to be sure you’re getting the most value possible out of your choice. If the perks of the United Club card outweigh the high annual fee, it might be worth it. Otherwise, the United Explorer Card maybe a better fit for you.
Compare the The United MileagePlus Explorer Card to Other Cards
The MileagePlus Explorer Card can be a great choice if you want to redeem miles for award flights on United. Except for the Capitol One Venture Rewards card, which is basically a cashback card, the cards below allow you to book award tickets. The Chase Sapphire Preferred also allows you to transfer points to multiple airlines to fit your award booking needs.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred comes with the same sign-up bonus as the MileagePlus Explorer card, but there is one big advantage offered by the Sapphire. Unlike MileagePlus miles, Chase Ultimate Rewards points can be transferred to several airline partners, including United. This gives you much more flexibility when looking for the award flights you need.
Additionally, the Chase Sapphire Preferred has a much better earning structure than any of the cards above. It earns 1 points per dollar on dining and travel purchases, which include flights, hotels, taxi, Uber and more.
The Gold Delta SkyMiles card comes with a 30,000 miles sign-up bonus and is similar to the United card. It can help you fly Delta and its SkyTeam partners and offers free checked bags and priority boarding. Both also have $95 annual fees and similar earning structures, it just depends which airline you want to fly.
The Capital One Venture Rewards card comes with a 40,000 miles sign-up bonus but these miles cannot be transferred to airlines or redeemed for award tickets. However, you can use the miles to offset the cost of a ticket that you purchase with the card in the form of statement credits.
Whenever you apply for a credit card make sure you read the terms and conditions of the card and the rewards program to find out about minimum spend requirements and any restrictions to ensure you can successfully obtain the card and earn the rewards it offers.
Card Terms and Conditions
While it's easy to focus on the rewards offered by the The United MileagePlus Explorer card, it's worth taking a closer look at the terms and conditions. There's a lot to consider as you think about how you're going to use the card. Will you carry a balance, get a cash advance or maybe make a big purchase? Below is a rundown of the various interest rates, purchase protections, security features and mobile banking options that come with the Amex card.
- Intro APR:
- See Terms and Conditions
- Intro APR for balance transfers:
- See Terms and Conditions
- Ongoing APR:
- 16.99% to 23.99% Variable±
- Minimum Grace Period:
- 21 days
- Extended Warranty Protection:
- Extends the time period of the U.S. manufacturer's warranty by an additional year, on eligible warranties of three years or less.
- Purchase Protection:
- Covers your new purchases for 120 days against damage or theft up to $10,000 per claim and $50,000 per year.
- Price Protection:
- If a card purchase you made in the U.S. is advertised for less in print or online within 90 days, you can be reimbursed the difference up to $500 per item and 2,500 per year.
- Return Protection:
- You can be reimbursed for eligible items that the store won't take back within 90 days of purchase. Covers up to $500 per item and $1,000 per year.
Cash Advance Features
- Ongoing APR:
- 25.99% Variable±
- Cash Advance Fee:
- Either $10 or 5% of the amount of each transaction, whichever is greater
Security and Protections
The miles you earn with the United MileagePlus card can open up a new world of travel to you, but it’s important to know some of the security features provided by the card as well. They include:
- Chase Mobile App:
- Track your account with Chase’s all-in-one mobile app.
- Account Alerts:
- Set up alerts to be notified when large transactions occur, if there’s an unauthorized withdrawal and when your bill’s due.
- EMV Chip Technology:
- Get global acceptance and enhanced security at merchants that use chip enabled terminals.
Chase offers mobile banking through its Android and iPhone apps. You can also use your United MileagePlus card with Apple Pay, Android Pay and Samsung Pay.
Additional Cardholder Benefits
As a Visa Signature card, the United MileagePlus Explorer card comes with a variety of travel-relatedbenefits that can be very useful if things don’t go right on your journey. They include:
Visa Signature Travel Benefits
- Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver:
- Primary coverage for most rental cards worldwide.
- Baggage Delay Insurance:
- Reimbursement for essentials such as toiletries and clothing if bags are delayed over 6 hours. Get up to $100 a day for up to 3 days.
- Lost Luggage Reimbursement:
- Get up to $3,000 per passenger for damaged or lost bags. Coverage includes cardholder and immediate family members on the same travel reservation.
- Roadside Dispatch:
- Call 800-847- 2911 for roadside assistance, including lockout service, towing, jumpstart and gas delivery. Service charges apply.
- Travel Accident Insurance:
- Receive accidental death or dismemberment coverage of up to $500,000 for any air, bus, train or cruise ship transportation paid for with your card.