United Explorer Credit Card Review

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There are several United Airlines-branded credit cards available via Chase, but the United Explorer Credit Card stands out as best for those who frequent the airline and don’t need fancy perks like United Club membership or multiple free checked bags per trip. It packs a lot of value for the price of its annual fee, just as long as you're loyal to United.

United℠ Explorer Card

Overall Rating
United℠ Explorer Card
Recommended Credit
Score Our recommended ranges are based off of the FICO® Score 8 credit-scoring model. Credit score is one of the many factors lenders review in considering your application.
350 579
580 669
670 739
740 799
800 850
Good - Excellent
Regular APR (%) 16.49% - 23.49% variable
Annual Fee $0 for the first year, then $95
Rewards Earning Rate Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on dining, eligible delivery services, on hotel stays, and on United purchases. Enjoy priority boarding privileges and visit the United ClubSM with 2 one-time passes each year for your anniversary.
Foreign transaction fee (%) 0%
Ratings Breakdown
for Interest
for Fees
for Rewards
for Credit
Current Offer

Earn 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Plus, an additional 10,000 bonus miles after you spend $6,000 in the first 6 months.

Who Is This Credit Card Best For?

  • Avatar for Jet Setter Persona
    Flies regularly and likes finding ways to score even more travel—for free See more cards
    Jet Setter
  • Avatar for Deal Seeker Persona
    Diligently searches for the best products and delights in a good bargain See more cards
    Deal Seeker
  • Avatar for Adventure Seeker Persona
    Loves to explore places and experience new things See more cards
    Adventure Seeker
  • Avatar for Brand Loyalist Persona
    Frequently shops with a particular merchant and wants to be rewarded for their loyalty See more cards
    Brand Loyalist

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 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

  • Lots of redemption options

  • Annual fee

  • Most benefits are best for United travelers

Pros Explained

  • Very valuable miles: The latest Balance research shows United’s frequent flyer miles are worth an average 1.98 cents each when used for flights, one of the higher values for a major U.S. airline card. 
  • 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.

Cons Explained

  • 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 Bonus for New Cardholders

If you spend $3,000 with your card within the first three months after opening it, you’ll get 60,000 miles. Plus, you'll earn an extra 10,000 miles if you spend $6,000 in the first six months. That’s worth about $742, based on our valuation of miles, which is among the top tier of U.S. airline card offers right now.

Earning Miles & Rewards

The United Explorer Credit Card has a pretty straightforward program for earning miles. Certain purchases are worth 2 miles per $1:

  • Restaurants
  • 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 won't actually earn two miles per dollar. 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. 

Redeeming Rewards

You’ll get the best value—an average 1.98 cents each—when you redeem your miles for airline tickets, according to our research. That’s a higher value than miles awarded by Southwest 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 26-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
  • Cruises
  • 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. 

To see how the United Explorer Credit Card’s miles stack up, check out our in-depth analysis of what credit card points are worth.

How to Get the Most Out Of This Card

Spend $10,000 in the first six months of holding this card to earn the full bonus. After that, use this card to pay for dining out and travel arrangements (hotels and airfare) to earn double miles. On the redemption side, use your miles to book flights through United to get the most value.

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. 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Travel accident insurance: This policy will provide up to $500,000 to you or your beneficiaries in the event of accidental injury or death.

United Explorer Credit Card’s Other Features

On top of the excellent perks this card offers, here are some of the other noteworthy features:

  • Discount on in-flight United purchases
  • Insurance for stolen or damaged purchases
  • Extended warranty
  • Travel and emergency assistance services

Customer Experience

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 2020 J.D. Power study. It scored 809 (out of 1,000), just below the industry average of 810. 

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. 

Security Features

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.

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United℠ Explorer Card
overall rating
Recommended Credit
Score Our recommended ranges are based off of the FICO® Score 8 credit-scoring model. Credit score is one of the many factors lenders review in considering your application.
350 579
580 669
670 739
740 799
800 850
Good - Excellent
Regular APR (%) 16.49% - 23.49% variable
Annual Fee $0 for the first year, then $95
Rewards Earning Rate Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on dining, eligible delivery services, on hotel stays, and on United purchases. Enjoy priority boarding privileges and visit the United ClubSM with 2 one-time passes each year for your anniversary.
Our Methodology
At The Balance, we are dedicated to giving you unbiased, comprehensive credit card reviews. To do this, we collect data on hundreds of cards and score more than 55 features that affect your finances.
  • Our Reviews Are Always Impartial: No one can influence which cards we review, the way we present them to you, or the ratings they receive. The scores and reviews come directly from the data we collect and our editorial expertise, and we focus on three areas:
  • How Much Does It Cost? With credit card debt at an all-time high, we believe you should know the cost of carrying a balance. Because of that, we give regular purchase APRs significant weight in overall scores, and cards receive low marks if they have an array of pricey fees.
  • What Are the Rewards Worth? Cards accumulate rewards in different currencies—points, miles, cash back—and their values vary widely. To simplify the problem, we built a system that fairly compares rewards and gives them a dollar value. We do this by looking at the ways you can earn and use rewards, which includes evaluating Americans’ typical spending habits and analyzing common travel patterns.
  • Does It Make Your Life Easier? Our scoring system favors cards that accept a wide range of credit profiles and offer simple solutions for things like checking your credit score or contacting customer service. Finally, we give preference to credit cards that have several tools for dealing with fraudulent charges.
  • For every review on The Balance, we hold the credit cards to these standards, and we set the bar high. While we recognize the appeal of splashy features like six-digit sign-up bonuses, our approach ensures that credit cards with the best combination of value, affordability, and accessibility receive the highest scores. See our full methodology for more details.

Article Sources

The Balance requires writers to use primary sources to support their work. These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in our editorial policy .
  1. J.D. Power. “Customers Losing Faith in Credit Card Issuers as COVID-19 Pandemic Lingers, J.D. Power Finds.” Accessed May 27, 2021.