Or, consider other cards for 50,000 more miles or points that transfer into United miles with additional flexibility for your everyday spending.
$1,000 toward travel or transfer to United, Southwest, and more.
Reward nights start at 10,000 points. Free anniversary night (no points needed) good at any IHG hotel (Intercontinental, Crowne Plaza, more).
Right now, two entry level cards let you earn miles with United Airlines’ Mileage Plus program — the United Mileage Plus Explorer and the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card (which lets you transfer points instantly, 1:1, into your United mileage account). Each has an annual fee of $95, but that’s where the similarities stop.
The biggest advantages of the United Explorer are:
For the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card the major advantages are:
You’re going to want the Explorer Card if you really value a free first checked bag or priority boarding. But if you want maximum flexibility from the points you earn and bonuses on common spending categories like dining and travel, you’ll want to consider the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.
Here’s a table that breaks down the differences:
|Card||United Mileage Plus Explorer||Chase Sapphire Preferred|
|Intro bonus||Special offer: 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open||Earn 50,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 within first 3 months|
|Base||1 mile per dollar||1 mile per dollar|
|United purchases||2 miles per dollar||2 miles per dollar|
|All other Travel purchases||1 mile per dollar||2 miles per dollar|
|Dining purchases||1 mile per dollar||2 miles per dollar|
|Elite qualifying miles||No||No|
|Primary car rental insurance||Yes||Yes|
|Bag free on United||Yes, first bag free for you and a companion.||No|
|Foreign transaction fees waived||Yes||Yes|
|1:1 mile transfer to United, Southwest, British Airways, Hyatt, Marriott, Amtrak, Priority Club, Korean Airlines||No -- United miles only||Yes, online transfer for flexibility of points|
|Priority boarding on United||Yes||No|
|Priority security lanes with United||No||No|
|Hotel upgrades via lhrcollection.com||Yes||No|
|Lounge passes||Yes, 2 United Club single visit passes per year||No|
|Elite upgrades on United reward tickets||Yes||No|
|Annual fee||$95||$95 ($0 introductory annual fee the 1st year)|
|Secure application link||Apply Now||Apply Now|
Savings calculator to help you decide
Most of the decision to you will come down to some math.
How much is the United Explorer’s checked bag benefit worth based on how much you fly? And how much is the higher point earning power of the Sapphire Preferred® Card is worth based on your dining/travel and foreign transaction spending?
You can use our free CardFinder tool to enter your spending and travel habits, and it will show you whether the Sapphire Preferred or Explorer Card gives you more value and earns you more miles.
Is holding both beneficial?
In may cases holding both is a good idea.
If you check more than 4 bags per year (2 roundtrips for you and a companion) you can save the entire cost of the $95 annual fee of the Explorer. And if you spend more than $25,000 on it you get a 10,000 mile bonus, or 40%.
Then consider using the Sapphire Preferred® Card for your dining and non-United travel spend to get the double points on those purchases.
Note that if you are an elite Premier level flyer with United, you already get the free bag waiver and priority boarding of the Explorer. For you there are two other reasons to consider the Explorer card:
Otherwise, the Sapphire Preferred® Card’s dining / travel bonus categories are enough to hold on its own.
You could also consider the more expensive United Club Card which offers full access to United airport clubs.
Follow @MileCards on Twitter for the latest updates and new offers
Foreign Transaction Fee Waived
Points Can Transfer to Airline Miles ?
Leave a comment below -- we'll reply shortly -- no need to use your real name. Or, use the email form at the top of the page for private advice.
"These responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered."