United℠ Explorer Card review
Best for frequent United flyers
- Rewards rate: 2 miles per dollar spent on United purchases, restaurants, eligible delivery services and hotel accommodations booked directly and 1 mile per dollar spent on all other purchases
- Welcome offer: 40,000 bonus miles after spending $2,000 in the first three months
- Annual fee: $0 intro annual fee for first year, then $95
- Purchase intro APR: N/A
- Balance transfer intro APR: N/A
- Regular APR: 16.49 percent to 23.49 percent Variable
Even when you’re not traveling, an airline credit card can help you rack up miles with everyday spending.
The United Explorer Card, for one, is a good option for those who normally travel with United Airlines and are members of the United MileagePlus rewards program. The card’s $95 annual fee, which is waived for the first year, is a steal compared to its $525 sister card (the United Club Infinite), and it still comes with all the perks you’d expect in a good airline or travel credit card.
Current sign-up bonus
New cardholders can earn 40,000 bonus miles when they spend $2,000 in the first three months. The $95 annual fee is also waived for the first year.
What is United Airlines MileagePlus?
United MileagePlus United Airlines’s frequent flyer program. Miles earned with the Explorer card are added to your MileagePlus account so you can stockpile rewards even faster.
With the Explorer card, you earn miles with every purchase.
You’ll earn 2X miles on the following types of purchases:
- United purchases, including flights and incidentals
- Restaurant purchases
- Eligible delivery services (like Grubhub, Caviar, Seamless and DoorDash)
- Hotel accommodations booked directly with the hotel
All other purchases made with the United Explorer card earn 1 mile per dollar.
The miles you earn with the United Explorer card can be combined with miles you already earn as a United MileagePlus member. Primary cardholders can use miles to book flights on any dates without restrictions as long as seats are available, or they can redeem miles with partners in the form of e-gift cards, online shopping and hotel stays.
How much are points worth?
United MileagePlus miles are worth 1.3 cents per mile, according to the most recent valuation by The Points Guy.
In addition to miles earned on purchases, the United Explorer Card offers major travel benefits. Lounge access and in-flight perks make traveling a little more luxurious, and all of the protection benefits can help cover you when something goes wrong.
Free first checked bag
Checking a bag one-way on United usually can cost up to $35 per person. But as a cardholder, you and up to one other traveler on your reservation can check your first bags for free.
You and anyone else on your reservation can board your United-operated flight before general passengers.
Global Entry or TSA Precheck fee credit
Every four years, you can receive a statement credit of up to $100 for reimbursement of application fees for Global Entry or TSA Precheck — a must for frequent flyers.
Two United Club one-time passes
After opening your account and on each account anniversary, United Explorer cardholders get two one-time passes for the United Club, United’s airport lounge. Amenities include travel assistance, free Wi-Fi and refreshments. United values this access at over $100 per year.
25 percent back on United in-flight purchases
Whether you’re buying a snack or need Wi-Fi for your trip, cardholders qualify for 25 percent back as a statement credit on in-flight purchases made on United flights.
Especially with the uncertainty that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to travel, you’ll appreciate travel coverage like insurance for trip cancellation, trip interruption and baggage delay. Plus, if your trip is delayed or your luggage is lost, you can get a reimbursement up to a certain amount per passenger.
Rates and fees
After your first year, the annual fee for this card is $95. However, this card doesn’t charge fees for foreign transactions.
The APR for both purchases and balance transfers ranges from 16.49 percent to 23.49 percent variable, depending on your creditworthiness. You’ll also pay the greater of $5 or 5 percent of the total transaction on balance transfers.
How the United Explorer Card compares to other travel cards
Airline credit cards make the most sense if you’re a loyalist of the brand and its partners. If you like the perks of the Explorer card but aren’t sure if United is the right airline for you, the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card is another personal travel card with a great welcome offer and similar annual fee.
If you prefer to just shop for the best airfare and don’t pay much attention to the airline you fly, then a travel rewards credit card could be better. The Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card, for instance, offers bonus points for travel expenses — but comes with no annual fee.
|Card||Welcome Bonus||Benefits||Annual Fee|
|United Explorer Card||40,000 bonus miles after spending $2,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of card membership||Miles earned for every dollar spent, first checked bag free, priority boarding, no foreign transaction fees, trip protection insurance, lounge access||$0 annual fee for first year, then $95|
|Delta Sky Miles Gold American Express||35,000 bonus miles after spending $1,000 within the first 3 months of card membership||Miles earned for every dollar spent, first checked bag free, priority boarding, no foreign transaction fees||$0 annual fee for first, then $99|
|Bank of America Travel Rewards||25,000 online bonus points after spending $1,000 in the first 90 days of account opening||Unlimited points accumulation, no foreign transaction fees||No annual fee|
Bankrate’s Take — Is the United Explorer Card worth it?
The United Explorer Card might be the best United credit card for avid travelers who find themselves traveling on United-operated flights or who already have miles with the United MileagePlus program.
For cardholders who enjoy a more luxury travel experience, the United Club Infinite card offers more plush perks for a steep $525 annual fee. But United flyers on a modest budget can still get plenty of value out of the more affordable Explorer card.
- Earn miles with every dollar you spend
- Multiple travel benefits and protections
- No foreign transaction fees
- Miles earned per dollar spent are low
- Annual fee of $95 after the first year
All information about the United Explorer Card, United Club Infinite card has been collected independently by Bankrate and has not been reviewed or approved by the issuer.
The Bank of America content in this post was last updated on Sept. 17, 2020.