The Chase United Explorer Card is a great option for those who are loyal to United Airlines and for general travelers as well. It comes with a decent earning structure and lots of perks that could be useful when flying United and throughout your trip. The Explorer Card has a $95 annual fee (waived the first year).
Keep reading to see why this card is so great…
The Chase United Explorer Card has a better earning structure than many of its competitors. It earns 2x United Miles on United Purchases, Dining, and Hotel Stays. These three categories are some of the biggest for travelers. United purchases don’t just include airfare. Eligible purchases include inflight food, beverages and Wi-Fi, Economy Plus, and other United charges. Furthermore, the card earns one mile per dollar on non-bonus spend.
The United Explorer Card also comes with a sign-up bonus worth 40,000 Miles. However, you must spend $2,000 within the first three months to earn it. $2,000 is a decent minimum spend threshold for a mid-tier card. It’s easier to earn this card’s bonus than that of the Chase Sapphire Preferred.
United Airlines is one of the largest airlines in the world. That means that is has a plethora of options available for redeeming miles.
Currently, United Airlines uses a rewards chart to determine how many miles a flight costs. All you have to do is click on the link and enter your starting point and destination.
However, the airline is doing away with the rewards chart on November 15, 2019. Starting on that date, prices of United flights will be more variable than they are now. Your mileage may vary, depending on the flight.
United Airlines is part of the Star Alliance network, which includes 26 other airlines. Airlines within the Star Alliance network include:
- Air Canada
- Air China
Furthermore, United has partnerships with the following non-Star Alliance airlines:
- Aer Lingus
- Air Dolomiti
- Boutique Air
- Cape Air
- Hawaiian Airlines
- Olympic Air
- Silver Airways
Check out the full list of United’s partners here.
You can also redeem United miles for merchandise, car rentals, hotel stays, and United Club memberships. However, all of these methods will provide less than 1 cent per point (CPP) in value. Therefore, I do not recommend redeeming United miles this way.
The United Explorer Card comes with some amazing benefits for United loyalists. For some travelers, there is enough to make the Explorer Card a long-term keeper.
Free Checked Bags
You and one other person on your flight reservation will receive their first checked bags for free if you have the Explorer Card. The benefit applies for both ways if you are flying roundtrip. Chase values this benefit at $30 per person per bag per trip. That means that you can receive up to $120 in value if two people are flying together. Moreover, this $120 value more than justifies the Explorer Card’s $95 annual fee.
Global Entry / Pre-TSA Fee Waiver Credit
This perk gives you a $100 Global Entry or Pre-TSA fee waiver credit. You will receive a credit once every 4-5 years to waive the fee for either program. I suggest going with Global Entry because Pre-TSA comes with that membership automatically.
25% Off In-Flight Purchases
You will also receive 25% off in-flight purchases including food, drinks, and wi-fi. The discount will be given as a statement credit.
You and everyone else on your flight reservation will be able to board flights before everyone else. This is nice as you will be able to find your seats without dealing with as many people on the plane.
Two United Club Lounge Passes
Upon your cardholder anniversary, you will receive two complimentary United Club Lounge passes. This is a fantastic benefit that is not often given on a mid-tier card. However, it might be redundant for American Express Platinum cardholders as they have access to almost every airport lounge in the world.
The United Club Card comes with unlimited United Club Lounge access. However, it has a $450 annual fee (NOT waived the first year).
The United Explorer Card also gives MileagePlus Premier members access to Premier Upgrades for no additional cost.
Chase Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection
This perk is usually reserved for premium Chase cards like the Sapphire Reserve. However, United Explorer cardholders also receive access to this benefit. Those who like to travel in style will receive more at their favorite luxury hotels. Perks that come with this collection include:
- Complimentary Wi-Fi
- Daily breakfast for two
- Early Check-In
- Free room upgrades (if available)
- Late Check-Out
- A special benefit unique to each property
I am impressed that Chase offers this perk with the mid-tier United Explorer Card. One trip could easily justify the card’s relatively paltry $95 annual fee.
No Foreign Transaction Fees
You will save 3% on all purchases made outside of the United States with the card. This is huge, especially if you travel internationally.
Standard Chase Travel Insurances
The United Explorer Card also comes with the same travel insurances as Chase cards like the Sapphire Preferred. These insurances include:
- Baggage Delay Insurance
- Extended Warranty Protection
- Lost Luggage Reimbursement
- Primary Car Rental Insurance
- Purchase Protection
- Trip Cancellation / Trip Insurance Coverage
- Trip Delay Reimbursement
Having these insurances is very comforting. I am surprised that a co-branded card like this one has the same insurances as the Ultimate Rewards (UR) point-earning cards.
Check out these alternatives if the United Explorer Card is not for you:
Chase United Club Card
The Chase United Club card is the most premium United Card on the market. It’s a great alternative for United loyalists and travelers who want a bit more from their card. That’s because the Club Card offers everything the Explorer Card offers and then some.
The Club Card has a sign-up bonus worth 50,000 Miles, which is 10,000 more than the Explorer Card offers. However, you must spend $3,000 to get the bonus. Furthermore, the Club Card has the same earning structure as the Explorer Card except that you earn 1.5x miles per dollar on non-bonus spend. This enhancement makes the Club Card a better everyday purchase card than the Explorer Card.
The United Club Card offers all the benefits that the Explorer Card Offers with a few improvements. For example, the free checked bags are extended to the first two bags instead of just the first. Also, you will receive unlimited access to the United Club Lounge instead of just two passes per year.
Chase Sapphire Preferred
Chase’s mid-tier travel card is a solid alternative to the United Explorer Card. Both cards have $95 annual fees (NOT waived the first year), but the former earns transferrable UR points. UR points can be transferred to 12 different partners, including United Airlines.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred earns 2x URs on Travel and Dining and only one on non-bonus spend. It also has a sign-up bonus worth 60,000 points. This bonus can be earned after spending $4,000 in the first three months.
United loyalists are better off with the co-branded card. However, travelers who aren’t loyal to any one airline are better off with the Sapphire Preferred.
Chase Sapphire Reserve
The Chase Sapphire Reserve is Chase’s top credit card. Despite its $450 annual fee (NOT waived the first year), you will earn more than the United Explorer card and receive more benefits.
This card earns 3x URs on Travel and Dining and only one on non-bonus spend. It also has a sign-up bonus worth 50,000 points. This bonus can be earned after spending $4,000 in the first three months. You have to choose either this card or the Sapphire Preferred because you cannot have both. This exception is called the One Sapphire Rule. The Sapphire Reserve also offers all of the benefits that the United Explorer Card has.
Those with enough travel and dining expenses will do better with the Chase Sapphire Reserve. And those who are not loyal to a single airline will do better with this card. However, United loyalists with fewer expenses will do better with the United Explorer Card.
The United Explorer Card packs a powerful punch for United loyalists and general travelers. This is especially true because it offers so much for a $95 annual fee (waived the first year). The United Explorer Card’s strengths lie in its plethora of perks and earning structure. However, its sign-up bonus is mediocre compared to those of competitors.
I am especially impressed by how many useful perks the Explorer Card comes with. You can easily justify the card’s annual fee by using one perk per year. That should be an easy task even for infrequent travelers.