United MileagePlus® Explorer Card review – offering friendlier skies
The primary airline credit card of the new United Airlines is called the United MileagePlus® Explorer Card and brings together two travel privileges that help make life easier for casual United travelers:
- One free checked bag for each of up to 2 people in your reservation on United Airlines flights
- Priority boarding for everyone in you reservation so you can stow your carry ons more quickly
Just be aware thatt you must purchase your United tickets with the card to enjoy these benefits.
If you already have another United credit card, you can call the number on the back of your card to migrate to the new United MileagePlus® Explorer Card, and your credit card number will stay the same. You can also choose to keep your card as is as long as you’d like. Former Continental OnePass Plus cardholders automatically migrated as the features are now aligned.
If you are a business owner looking for a United card for business spending, click here for details.
(Note- there may be better bonus offers available for this card – check here for the latest).
Factors to consider
Check your first bag for free – save up to $100 per round-trip: Just note that you must use your card to purchase the ticket, or the free bag benefit won’t apply.
Foreign transaction fees are waived: So you can use the card on international trips without dealing with these fees, which a can often be 3% or more of transactions.
Annual bonus: Earn 10,000 bonus miles when you spend $25,000 or more on your Card each calendar year. So if you spend $25,000 on the card, you’re effectively earning 1.4 miles per dollar spent on that $25,000 in spending – more powerful than the entry level cards from Delta or American.
Priority boarding – how it works: You will board in Zone 2 with ‘Premier’ frequent flyers who fly more than 25,000 miles per year and before general flyers.
A good mileage program: United is among the best programs for Economy class mileage redemption
Primary car rental insurance: check with Chase after approval to verify, but primary coverage can kick in collision coverage without needing to file a claim with your personal insurance policy.
Double miles: When you buy United tickets, you earn double miles on the purchase price.
Use miles for travel on other Star Alliance airlines, including US Airways, Lufthansa, Swiss, Singapore, Austrian, ANA, Asiana, and more.
Miles don’t expire: Normally, United miles expire after 18 months of inactivity, but as long as you hold the card your miles will not expire.
Annual fee: $0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95
You can use our MileCards.com Card Finder to see how it stacks up against your spending and travel habits. We also prefer United Airlines’ program for earning miles as it has been shown in independent studies to have the most generous reward seat availability among global carriers based in the U.S.
Generous travel protection benefits
The United MileagePlus® Explorer Card offers several travel benefits usually reserved for more expensive cards like primary car rental collision insurance, doubling of manufacturers’ warranties, and breakfast/upgrade benefits at luxury hotels. Click here for highlights of some of the ‘fine print’ benefits you might overlook.
In essence, it is a Swiss Army knife of travel protection in case of weather delays or lost luggage, covering you for many issues the airline itself usually will not cover. This includes travel on United or any other airline as long as you use the card to purchase the ticket.
It also gets you special mileage program benefits, including ‘last seat booking’ availability — that is, if any seat is left on the plane, you can book it with miles, though with the highest mileage price. Without the credit card you are subject to capacity controls. In addition, as long as you hold the card, miles will not expire. Those who don’t hold the card will be subject to mileage expiration restrictions.
Alternative cards for United
If you don’t value the baggage fee waiver or priority, but still want the flexibility of being able to earn United miles via credit card spend, we recommend considering the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. It offers 1:1 conversion of points to miles of United Airlines (along with Southwest, British Airways, Amtrak, Hyatt, Marriott and others), No foreign transaction fees, Double points on restaurant dining and travel purchase, and a 40,000 point introductory bonus
Only Chase branded cards offer the ability to earn miles with United at 1:1. American Express’ relationship with Continental Airlines ended September, 2011.