Who Is This Credit Card Best For?
Flies regularly and likes finding ways to score even more travel—for free See more cards
Diligently searches for the best products and delights in a good bargain See more cards
Loves to explore places and experience new things See more cards
Frequently shops with a particular merchant and wants to be rewarded for their loyalty See more cards
If you spend regularly on restaurants, hotels, and flights on United, this is a good card for you. If you happen to live near a United hub, you'll benefit even more, as there will be more opportunities to use this card where it really shines—in the air on United.
We recommend this card above several other United-branded credit cards from Chase for those who travel frequently, but who don’t need access to nicer perks like United Club lounge membership—or the steep annual fee that the premium United card comes with.
Very valuable miles
Great sign-up bonus
Lots of redemption options
No foreign transaction fee
Most benefits are best for United travelers
- Very valuable miles: The latest Balance research shows United’s frequent flyer miles are worth an average 2.16 cents each when used for flights, the most for any major U.S. airline card.
- Great sign-up bonus: If you can meet the three-month spending requirement, you should get enough miles to buy an Economy Saver round-trip ticket in the continental U.S. right off the bat. Top it off by earning the second bonus after six months, and you could have enough for a second domestic round-trip.
- Lots of redemption options: Yes, you can redeem miles for airline tickets. But you can also use your miles to buy gear from Apple, car rentals, event tickets, cruises, and lots more. Flights are the best use of your miles, but it’s nice to know you have options.
- No foreign transaction fee: This is a card designed to go with you on your travels. It doesn’t charge a foreign transaction fee, so feel free to use it while abroad.
- Annual fee: It's waived for the first year, but still worth noting. If you don't take advantage of this card's travel benefits and fly United often, the fee may not be worth it.
- Most benefits are best for United travelers: You’ll get a free checked bag, a statement credit for 25% off in-flight purchases, priority boarding, and free upgrades when available—but only on flights operated by United Airlines. You won’t get these perks if you book with another airline through United.
United Explorer Credit Card’s Sign-Up Bonus
If you spend $3,000 with your card within the first three months after opening it, you’ll get 60,000 miles. That’s worth a whopping $1,296, based on our valuation of miles—more than the bonus offer for any other domestic airline-branded credit card we reviewed.
This limited-time offer ends January 9, 2020.
Earning Miles & Rewards
The United Explorer Credit Card has a pretty straightforward program for earning miles. Every $1 you spend will earn at least 1 mile, and certain purchases are worth 2 miles per $1:
- Hotels (you must book directly with the hotel itself)
- United purchases, including tickets, incidental purchases, and fees, such as food and baggage charges
Some double-mile purchases will only earn 1 mile. This has to do with merchant codes, which tell Chase the kind of store it is you’re buying from. If you pay for a meal on a cruise ship, for example, there’s a chance that purchase may be coded as a cruise purchase and not a restaurant purchase. In that case, you won’t earn the full 2 miles per $1.
Miles will be tallied up and deposited into your United MileagePlus account at the end of the billing period.
You’ll get the best value—an average 2.16 cents each—when you redeem your miles for airline tickets, according to our research. That’s a higher value than miles awarded by American Airlines or Delta Air Lines, and far better than the benchmark 1 cent per mile sought by rewards chasers.
There are no blackout dates for award flights. You can also use United miles to book flights on other airlines that are part of the 28-member Star Alliance.
United no longer has an award flight chart, which may make it harder to plan how many miles you’ll need for a specific trip. You will need to search individually for each flight to find out the number of miles required.
Beyond airline purchases, United miles can be redeemed for several other less valuable options:
- Hotel reservations
- Car rentals
- Apple products
- Merchandise, such as electronics and household goods
- Gift cards
Before redeeming United miles for anything other than airfare, check the redemption value by comparing the retail price with the price in miles. The math is easy: multiply the retail price by 100 and then divide by the number of miles, which gives you the dollar value, in cents, for each mile.
How to Get the Most Out Of This Card
Spend $3,000 in the first three months of holding this card to earn the sign-up bonus. After that, use this card to pay for dining out and travel arrangements (hotels and airfare) to earn double miles.
Remember to include your MileagePlus membership number on all of your reservations, otherwise, you may not be eligible for some perks offered by United, such as free checked bags.
United Explorer Credit Card’s Excellent Perks
This card comes jam-packed with perks. We think these are the best ones:
- Global Entry/TSA Precheck application fee reimbursement: If you use your card to apply for either of these programs, you’ll get a statement credit for the cost within 24 hours. You can use this benefit once every four years.
- Two United Club passes each year: Every year on your cardholder anniversary, you’ll get two free, one-time passes to a United Club airport lounge.
- Primary rental car insurance: If you rent a vehicle with your card, you can decline the rental car company’s collision insurance. You’ll be covered for theft and collision damage up to the cash value of the vehicle, and you won't have to go through your own car insurance first.
- Insurance coverage for trip cancellation, interruption, or delay: Get reimbursed for expenses incurred if your trip is interrupted or canceled. You may also get reimbursed for up to $500 worth of purchases if your trip is delayed by more than 12 hours.
- Coverage for lost or delayed luggage: If bags belonging to you or a family member are lost on a flight you paid for with your card, you can be reimbursed for up to $3,000. A separate plan will cover up to $100 a day (for three days) if your baggage is delayed for six hours or more.
- Travel accident insurance: This policy will provide up to $500,000 to you or your beneficiaries in the event of accidental injury or death.
- Free checked bag: You and one other person traveling with you on the same reservation can each check one bag for free each way.
- Priority boarding: If you use your card to book a flight, you and everyone traveling with you on the same reservation will get to board early.
United Explorer Credit Card’s Other Features
On top of the excellent perks this card offers, here are some of the other noteworthy features:
- Insurance for stolen or damaged purchases
- Extended warranty
- Travel and emergency assistance services
- Discount on in-flight United purchases
Chase doesn’t stand out in any particular way for its customer service, but it was rated fourth out of 11 top credit card issuers for its customer service according to a 2019 J.D. Power study. It scored 806 (out of 1,000), just above the industry average of 807.
Chase does offer one feature worth mentioning: a service called Chase Credit Journey. It provides weekly credit score updates, alerts about changes to your credit, and can simulate changes to your credit score, such as if you open a new credit card or pay off a debt.
You’ll get access to credit monitoring tools through Chase Credit Journey—primarily alerts to changes in your credit that might be related to fraud or identity theft.
Chase will also send you account alerts if it detects fraudulent activity on your account. If the issuer can’t reach you to verify your spending, it may place a temporary hold on your card until you contact them.
United Explorer Credit Card’s Fees
The United Explorer Card carries similar fees to its competitors in the travel rewards space, given the amount of value it provides. It does charge a $95 annual fee after the first, but there's no fee for foreign transactions.