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United? Explorer Card Review: Good Value, Great Benefits

United? Explorer Card review
KEY TAKEAWAYS
  • What we think: If you fly with United at least a couple of times per year, having the United? Explorer Card makes sense. It comes with two free United Club passes each year, a free checked bag, priority boarding, and more; a set of benefits far more valuable than the $95 annual fee.
  • For a limited time, new United Explorer cardholders can earn 60,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months of account opening.
  • The United Explorer Card gives you access to various travel benefits, including trip insurance protections, two free United Club passes per year, priority boarding benefits, a 25% in-flight discount, and up to $100 toward TSA PreCheck or Global Entry.
  • The United Explorer Card has a $95 annual fee that is waived during your first year of membership and has no foreign transaction fees.
  • We recommend that you have a credit score of at least 700 before you apply for the United Explorer Card.
SUMMARY

If you love to fly the friendly skies, don’t miss out on the opportunity to earn extra miles and check a bag for free on every flight with a United Airlines credit card.?

The United? Explorer Card is ideal for consumers who prefer United over other airlines. It’s an especially good fit if you live near a United Airlines hub, such as Newark Liberty International Airport, Los Angeles International Airport, Denver International Airport or George Bush Intercontinental Airport.

In our United Explorer Card review, we’ll detail the benefits, potential drawbacks, rewards, fees, and more to help you decide whether the United Explorer Card is a good option for you.

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • $0 intro annual fee (then $95)
  • First checked bag is free
  • Generous welcome offer

Cons

  • Limited redemption options
  • Lower reward rate than some airline cards
  • Only get two United Club one-time passes per year
United? Explorer Card
LEARN MORE
Key Information
Earn 2X miles on United purchases, dining at restaurants, and hotels you book directly. Earn 1X miles on all other purchases. $0 annual fee the first year, then $95.

United? Explorer Card: Review

Is the United Explorer Card worth it?

Yes, the United? Explorer Card is worth it for consumers who consistently choose United as their preferred airline and want to maximize their MileagePlus benefits without paying a large annual fee.?

While some travel credit cards come with a slew of benefits that you may or may not be able to use, the benefits on the United Explorer Card are easily maximized. In addition to the travel benefits, you also get 2X miles on restaurant purchases and eligible hotel stays.

On the other hand, if you fly very regularly, you may find more value in a card with annual travel credits and more than 2 airport lounge passes per year.

United Explorer Card: Highlights

Who is the United Explorer Card best for?

The United Explorer Card is best for people who prefer to fly with United Airlines and do so at least a couple of times per year. One of the main benefits of the card is the 2 free United Club lounge passes per year (usually $59 per pass), so if those can be utilized they more than make up for the low annual fee of this card.?

United? Explorer Card: Rewards

Welcome bonus

Limited time offer: New United Explorer cardholders can earn a welcome bonus of 60,000 miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months after opening their account. United miles are worth around 1.2 cents apiece, so this offer is worth approximately $600.

??? See more: Best credit card sign-up bonuses

Earning miles

With the United Explorer Card, you can earn:

Redeeming miles

You can use your MileagePlus miles to access a variety of travel and shopping benefits. Additionally, United cards are a part of the Chase Pay Yourself Back program, which provides even more redemption options.

There are several ways to use your balance:

Booking United award flights is usually the most valuable use of your miles. As long as you make sure you’re getting at least 1.2 cents per mile in value, you’re getting a pretty good deal.

How much are United Miles worth?

We value United Miles at 1.2 cents apiece, meaning anything less than that is not the best use of your miles.

To see whether you’re getting a good value when redeeming your miles for flights, take the cash value of the ticket, subtract the amount of taxes they want to charge you if you’d be paying with miles, and divide that by the number of miles required for the flight.?

For example, if it says a ticket costs either $160 or 18,000 miles + $16 in fees, here’s how much that would be worth:
($160 - $16) / 18,000 = .008, or 0.8 cents per mile.?
That would not be a good use of your miles, since they’d be worth less than 1.2 cents apiece.

On the other hand, if that same ticket costs either $160 or 10,000 miles + $16 in fees:
($160 - $16) / 10,000 = .0144, or 1.4 cents per mile.
That would be a very good use of your miles since they’d be worth more than the 1.2-cent standard valuation.

United? Explorer Card: Benefits

United benefits

Other travel benefits

?? See our picks: Best credit cards for Global Entry and TSA PreCheck

Shopping benefits

Travel protections

??? Learn more: Chase travel insurance

United? Explorer Card: The fine print

Fees

Interest rates

Credit limit

The United Explorer Card has a minimum limit of $5,000, but some users have limits exceeding $20,000. Your credit limit depends on your income, credit profile and other factors.

United? Explorer Card: Drawbacks

Only 2 airport lounge passes

While the 2 free United Club passes are one of the primary draws of the United? Explorer Card, 2 passes may not be enough if you fly a lot. United Club passes typically cost $59 each, so it could get pricey quickly if you run out of passes and want to chill at the United Club during your layover.?

You also don’t get complimentary guest passes, so if you have a traveling companion with you, you can either give them one of your two annual passes, buy a pass when you get there, or leave them to fend for themselves in the airport while you enjoy the United Club. (We don’t recommend the last option if you want to stay in good graces with your traveling companion!)

Little value outside of United

Since this is a United co-branded card, this isn’t altogether surprising, but the Explorer’s value is lacking outside of United. It comes with United-centric benefits like airport lounge passes, priority boarding benefits, free checked bags, etc., and it even comes with a fee credit for NEXUS, Global Entry, or TSA PreCheck, but it ends there.?

Earning miles is a bit more flexible, with solid rewards on dining and eligible hotels, but to get any real value when redeeming rewards, your options are limited. If you’re a United enthusiast through and through, this may not be an issue. However, if you prefer flexibility when redeeming your rewards, you may want to keep looking.

How United? Explorer compares

United? Explorer Card vs. United Club? Infinite Card

The United Club? Infinite Card comes with luxury travel benefits, so it costs more than the United Explorer Card. You get double the miles on United purchases, along with a free United Club membership. The Club Infinite Card has an annual fee of $525, but the United Club membership is worth $650, making it worth the investment if you plan on frequenting this airport lounge.

??? Read more: United Club Infinite Card review

United? Explorer Card vs. Chase Sapphire Preferred? Card

Compared to the United Explorer Card, the Chase Sapphire Preferred? Card has much more to offer the seasoned traveler. It also has a $95 annual fee, but you get a $50 hotel credit, $200 in partnership benefits, 5X points on hotels and car rentals booked through Chase, 3X points on dining purchases and more. If your loyalty doesn’t lie with United specifically, a general travel card like the Sapphire Preferred may be more up your alley.

??? Read more: Chase Sapphire Preferred Card review

United? Explorer Card

United? Explorer Card
LEARN MORE on Bankrate's secure site
Key Information
Earn 2X miles on United purchases, dining at restaurants, and hotels you book directly. Earn 1X miles on all other purchases. $0 annual fee the first year, then $95.
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United Club? Infinite Card

United Club? Infinite Card
LEARN MORE on Bankrate's secure site
Key Information
Earn 4X miles per dollar spent on United purchases, earn 2X miles per dollar on other travel and dining purchases and earn 1X miles on all other purchases. $525 annual fee.
Show More Show Less

Chase Sapphire Preferred? Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred? Card
LEARN MORE on Bankrate's secure site
Key Information
Earn 5X points on Chase Travel purchases, 3X points on dining, online grocery purchases, and select streaming services, and 1X points on other purchases. $95 annual fee.
Show More Show Less

Should you get the United? Explorer Card?

If you book several United flights each year, don’t mind having limited redemption options, and can utilize the 2 free annual United Club passes, it may be worth getting the United Explorer Card. If you fly a lot, consider looking at a higher-tier option like the United Club? Infinite Card. If you prefer flexible rewards, consider looking at a general travel card or a different airline card instead.

FAQ: United? Explorer Card

Is the United Explorer Card worth it?

The United Explorer Card is worth it if you’re loyal to United Airlines and want to earn MileagePlus miles much faster.

Is the United Explorer Card hard to get?

Chase hasn’t disclosed the exact criteria it uses to determine if an applicant qualifies for the United Explorer Card. However, you should have a credit score of at least 700 before you apply.

Do I get a free checked bag with the United Explorer Card?

Yes. If you have the United Explorer Card, you get a free checked bag on every flight. Best of all, one of your travel companions also gets to check a bag at no cost.

What is the credit limit for the United Explorer Card?

This airline credit card has a minimum limit of $5,000. Depending on your income, credit score and other factors, you may qualify for a limit of $20,000 or more.

What does the United Explorer Card get you?

The United Explorer Card gives you valuable benefits like 2 free United Club passes per year, a fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, a free checked bag, priority boarding privileges, in-flight discounts, and more.

Chase is more than just a credit card issuer

The first step in growing and maintaining consistent savings is to understand your personal finances through checking and savings accounts, credit cards, and more.

If you want to save and grow your money, consider the following Chase products:

About the Author

Leigh Morgan
Leigh Morgan Personal Finance

Leigh Morgan is a seasoned personal finance contributor with over 15 years of experience writing on a diverse range of professional legal and financial topics. She specializes in subjects like navigating the complexities of insurance, savings, zero-based budgeting and emergency fund development.

In the last five years, she’s authored over 300 articles for credit unions, digital banks, and financial professionals. Morgan is also the author of “77 Tips for Preventing Elder Financial Abuse,” a book focused on helping caregivers protect the elderly from financial scams.

In addition to her writing skills, she brings real-world financial acumen thanks to her previous experience managing rental properties as part of a $34 million real estate portfolio.

* Opinions expressed here are those of the LA Times Compare Cards Team and have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser or entities included within this content. See our editorial policy for more details.

All products or services are presented in this content without warranty. The information, including card details such as rates and fees, is accurate at the time of publish. Please visit each bank's website directly for the most current information.

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