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|Good sign-up bonus to help with flight redemptions||United’s elite status doesn’t come complimentary|
|Nice travel and dining rewards||No companion fare offer|
|Travel perks like priority boarding and lounge passes||$75 fee for redemptions within three weeks of a flight|
|Annual fee is waived the first year of card membership (then $95)||Annual fee kicks in during the second year|
4 things you need to know about the United℠ Explorer Card
1. Score rewards flights
With the United℠ Explorer Card, you can earn 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on qualifying purchases within the first 3 months your account is open.
And for a limited time, you can earn another 20,000 bonus miles if you spend at least $8,000 in total purchases in the first six months your account is open. Note that in order to be eligible for this limited-time offer, you must be a new United℠ Explorer Card holder. And if you’ve received a new-cardholder bonus for this card within the last two years, you won’t qualify.
You’ll earn another two miles for every $1 you spend on qualifying purchases, including tickets, with United. You can also earn two miles for spending on restaurants and on hotel accommodations when purchased directly with the hotel. And you’ll earn one mile per $1 on other purchases.
Combined with the sign-up bonus, these rewards could be enough to cover several flights within the U.S., though it all depends on where and when you’re traveling.
2. No companion fare offer
Unfortunately, the United℠ Explorer Card doesn’t come with a companion fare offer.
A handful of United’s competitors offer this feature on their co-branded credit cards. The rules for how to get this perk vary based on the airline, but essentially it allows you to earn discounted airfare on a second ticket, and sometimes a free ticket, apart from the taxes and fees.
Without a companion ticket, you’ll have to rely on your rewards to score flights for another passenger.
3. Relax and enjoy the ride
Even though the United℠ Explorer Card doesn’t include a companion ticket (or complimentary MileagePlus Premier status, for that matter), it does come with several flight perks to make your trip more comfortable.
- Free checked bags: When you first get to the airport, you can check your first standard bag for free on United Airlines flights when you pay for your ticket with your card and include your MileagePlus number in your reservation. If you’re traveling with someone who’s on the same flight reservation, they can also benefit from this perk.
- Global Entry or TSA PreCheck credit: You’ll receive a statement credit when you use your United℠ Explorer Card to apply for the Global Entry or the TSA PreCheck program. You can get up to $100 in statement credits to cover your application every four years.
- Lounge access: Once you clear security, you can relax in a lounge as you wait for your flight. With the United℠ Explorer Card, you’ll receive two one-time United Club passes after account opening and every 12 months thereafter, as long as your account remains open.
- Priority boarding: When it’s time for your flight, make sure you head over to the gate early to take advantage of priority boarding for you and your companion — as long as you’re both on the same reservation. Remember to use your card to book your flight and include your MileagePlus number in your reservation if you want to get this benefit.
- Save on in-flight purchases: While you’re in the air, you can also save 25% on in-flight purchases for food, beverages and Wi-Fi when you use your United℠ Explorer Card.
- No foreign transaction fee: Finally, if your flight takes you overseas, you’ll also enjoy no foreign transaction fees on your purchases.
4. Redeeming your miles
You can use your miles to book flights or upgrade your seat on United Airlines.
According to our points valuations, United MileagePlus® miles are worth around 0.79 cents each when redeemed toward domestic flights with United Airlines. That’s not one of the better rates among airline programs.
Still, the United℠ Explorer Card guarantees no blackout dates when you redeem miles for flights operated by United Airlines. But you’ll be hit with a fee of up to $75 if you use miles to book a flight that’s scheduled to take off in 21 days or less, so be sure to plan ahead when redeeming your miles.
You can also redeem your miles for hotels, cruises, Broadway shows, gift cards and merchandise like electronics, housewares and jewelry. But you’ll probably get less value than if you use your points toward flights.
Keep in mind that the United℠ Explorer Card has a $0 annual fee during the first year of card membership. After that, you’ll have to pay a $95 annual fee. That’s not bad, but you’ll need to decide if the value of the rewards you can earn with the card outweighs the cost.
Who this card is good for
The United℠ Explorer Card can be a great, cost-effective option for passengers who frequently fly with United Airlines. This card can help you save money, travel more comfortably and build loyalty status with the airline.
Those who fly with United only once or twice a year, or who prefer airline flexibility, might want to opt for a more versatile travel credit card. Ultimately, the value of the United℠ Explorer Card depends on how likely you are to redeem earned miles for flights on the airline.
Not sure this card is right for you? Consider these alternatives.
If you don’t fly with United Airlines on a regular basis, you might want to check out one of these other travel credit cards instead.
- Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card: This card can be a good option for frequent flyers who don’t want to be locked into one particular airline. Check out our review of the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card for more details.
- United MileagePlus® Club Card: This card offers more luxury to frequent United Airlines passengers. Learn more about the United MileagePlus® Club Card.