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United Explorer Business Card or Ink Plus®? Which is better for United miles?

by on Fri September 6, 2013 • 2 Comments

United MileagePlusIf you’re a small business owner and want to earn United miles, you have a couple of credit card options, both with identical annual fees ($0 introductory the first year, $95 after).

They are the Chase United MileagePlus® Explorer Business Card and the Ink Plus® Business Card.

Both earn you full value United miles – the Explorer’s miles go directly into your United account while the Chase Ultimate Rewards points the  Ink Plus® earns can be manually transferred online into your United account at any time. But the earning power of each card depends on where you spend – see the table below for details.

United MileagePlus® Explorer Business CardInk Plus® Business Card
Dining2x miles per dollar spent1x points per dollar spent
Office supply stores2x5x (first $50,000 in spending / year)
Cell, cable, landline1x5x (first $50,000 in spending / year)
United tickets2x1x
Annual bonus10,000 miles after $25,000 in spendingNone
Annual fee$0 introductory first year, then $95$0 introductory first year, then $95
Free checked bag on UnitedYes, first checked bagNo
Priority boarding on UnitedYesNo
Lounge access2 day passes'Lounge Club' membership - paid entry to select clubs (not United Clubs)
Application linkApply Now

You’ll earn more with the United Explorer Business Card if you have a lot of dining spend or buy a lot of tickets on United.

You  can also earn more with the Explorer card on your normal spending that doesn’t fall into special categories. That’s because you get a 10,000 mile bonus after you spend $25,000 on the card in a calendar year. That’s like earning over 1.4 miles per dollar on all of your spend when you hit $25,000.

The Ink Plus® wins with office supply stores and select telecommunications spending, as well as hotel purchases.

Holding both cards can earn higher rewards

  • We think United miles are worth 1.5 – 2 cents a piece, so you can get a $95 annual fee back in value with about 5,000 miles earned from bonus categories. So, if you want to carry the Ink Plus / Bold on top of a United Explorer you need to spend about $1,000 in the cell phone / landline / internet / cable TV categories in a year, or $2,500 a year on hotels to earn an extra $95+ in value you can’t get with the Explorer.
  • So our advice – use the United MileagePlus® Explorer Business Card for all of your spending up to $25,000 to get the full annual bonus, except for the select telco categories, office supply stores, and hotels. For those, get an Ink Plus / Bold, since it’s likely as a small business you’re spending over $1,000 – $2,500 a year on those categories.
  • Then, beyond $25,000 in spending each year that’s not in the Explorer’s special bonus categories use the Ink Plus® or Bold, as those points are more flexible. You can transfer them to United, or use them to top up your Southwest, Marriott, British Airways, Hyatt, Virgin Atlantic, and other accounts.
  • The United card also gets you a first free checked bag on United flights you book with the card, as well as priority boarding. That saves $50 roundtrip for one person.

So, holding both can be worth the annual fee for both cards. If you want to choose just one to hold onto, the United MileagePlus® Explorer Business Card is most likely to earn you more overall because of the annual 10,000 mile bonus opportunity.

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Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Miles dont expireas long as card is open
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Partner Offer

50,000 bonus points

Intro Offer

$0 introductory annual fee, then $95

Annual Fee


Foreign Transaction Fee Waived


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2 thoughts on United Explorer Business Card or Ink Plus®? Which is better for United miles?

  1. Mark

    Hello, I do have a question that wasn’t answered above. I’m looking for a business credit card that makes keep track of expenses easier. I’m wondering if either card, or any card, makes categorizing expenses easier. Specifically, is there a card with some kind of capability that would allow me to sort all transactions on a quarterly basis and copy those to a spreadsheet for easy tabulation of quarterly – or monthly – totals. Ideally, I’d also like to be able to pull up an annual list that I can sort & keep separate in a single spreadsheet for tax purposes.

    Do either of the above cards have any functionality of this sort?
    Thank you!
    Oklahoma City


      @Mark – Yes, with either of these cards you can select ‘create expense report’ when you login to your Chase account online. That will let you download transactions to Excel for any period you’d like for the last 24 months, and it also populates them into expense categories.


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