United℠ Explorer Card
Great for airport perks
Annual fee: $0 intro, then $95 after first year
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Updated: November 1, 2023
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Good sign-up bonus to help with flight redemptions
Nice travel and dining rewards
Travel perks like priority boarding and lounge passes
United℠ Explorer Card review: Friendlier skies for loyal United passengers
Updated October 13, 2023
This date may not reflect recent changes in individual terms.
Written by: Tim Devaney
- Good sign-up bonus to help with flight redemptions
- Nice travel and dining rewards
- Travel perks like priority boarding and lounge passes
- United’s elite status doesn’t come complimentary
- No companion fare offer
- 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 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on qualifying purchases within the first 3 months your account is open.
You’ll earn two miles for every $1 you spend on qualifying purchases, including tickets, with United. You can also earn two miles per $1 for spending on restaurants, eligible delivery services and on hotel accommodations when purchased directly with the hotel. And you’ll earn one mile per $1 on all 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, TSA PreCheck or Nexus credit: You’ll receive a statement credit when you use your United℠ Explorer Card to apply for Global Entry, TSA PreCheck or Nexus. 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 point valuations, as of summer 2023, United MileagePlus® miles are worth around 2.13 cents each when redeemed toward flights with United Airlines. That’s among the best valuations for airline programs.
The United℠ Explorer Card guarantees no blackout dates when you redeem miles for flights operated by United Airlines.
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.
Updated: November 8, 2023
Most helpful positive review
March 15, 2018
Primary Insurance on Rental Cars!
— Credit Karma Member
This card is fantastic for the rental car coverage, if you ever need it! That benefit is quite rare among card issuers, indeed. In January 2017, while driving an Enterprise car I was involved in a weird, unavoidable accident. Enterprise decided I was at fault and billed me for the totaled vehicle - nearly $12,000. Because I had used this card when reserving the car, and had also turned down Enterprise's daily insurance, I was covered fully by Chase. The process to take advantage of the coverage isn't difficult and the service representatives are very professional. They didn't require me to use my own car insurance first - Chase's insurance benefit was primary up to the full value of the car. I chose to charge the Enterprise damage bill on the Chase card itself, and then submitted documents for reimbursement. This gave a nice boost to my reward points! Applying for and getting the card was pretty easy, too, and there are no foreign transaction fees. I've had this card for almost 8 years.
Most helpful negative review
June 23, 2022
What a joke
— Credit Karma Member
I currently have an 820 credit score. I have applied for this card twice while trying to book plane tickets, because I wanted to take advantage of their statement credit options, and both times I've been denied because I have opened too many cards.