If you’re looking to stretch your dollars further so you can indulge in more vacations, a good travel rewards card is essential. There are many options out there, from general rewards cards to airline-specific credit cards.
United is one of the biggest airlines in the world. According to the company, there are 4,900 daily departures across the globe. If you regularly fly on United flights, you’ve likely heard about the United℠ Explorer card and may be considering adding it to your wallet. But is it worth it?
With the United℠ Explorer card, you can earn up to 60,000 bonus miles. Get 40,000 miles after spending $2,000 on purchases within the first three months of opening an account. Then, you can earn an additional 20,000 miles if you spend $8,000 on purchases within the first six months.
The Explorer card allows you to earn miles faster on travel and dining, helping you rack up rewards.
- 2 miles per $1 spent on United purchases, such as airfare, seat upgrades, inflight food and beverages, WiFi, and baggage service charges
- 2 miles per $1 spent at restaurants
- 2 miles per $1 spent on hotel accommodations when purchased directly with a hotel
- 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases
While you can earn miles on most purchases, some transactions —- such as balance transfers, cash advances, and lottery tickets — are excluded.
You can redeem your miles for flights, hotel stays, rental cars, merchandise, gift cards, and even experiences. To redeem your miles, just visit MileagePlus.com or call 1-800-421-4655.
As long as you’re a cardholder, your points never expire, and there’s no limit to how many miles you can earn.
While the United℠ Explorer card allows you to earn points rapidly if you travel or dine out often, it offers a lot of value in its benefits. These perks can enhance and streamline your travel experience:
- Free checked bags: The primary cardholder and one companion will receive their first standard checked bag free on United-operated flights — a $30 value each way, per person.
- 25% back inflight: When you use your Explorer card to pay for inflight purchases, such as food or WiFi, you’ll earn 25% back as a statement credit.
- Global Entry or TSA Precheck application fee credit: Skip the hassle of airport security by signing up for Global Entry or TSA Precheck. You’ll get up to $100 as a statement credit every four years to reimburse you for your application fee.
- Priority boarding: You and your traveling party will board the plane before general boarding, ensuring you get access to valuable overhead space.
- United Club passes: You can relax at United Club lounges prior to your flight and enjoy complimentary beverages and snacks — a $100 value.
- Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection: When you book your stay at an eligible resort, you’ll enjoy perks like room upgrades, complimentary breakfast for two, early check-in and late check-out.
- Concierge service: If you need help making reservations or getting event tickets, you can call a dedicated concierge line to get personalized help.
- Travel protections: You’ll get benefits like baggage delay insurance, lost luggage reimbursement, trip delay reimbursement, trip cancellation/interruption insurance, travel accident insurance, and auto rental damage collision waiver.
- Shopping protections: The Explorer card offers purchase protection and extended warranty protection.
Terms & Fees
The Explorer card offers frequent travelers great value. And, for the first year, there is no annual fee. After that, you’ll pay $95 per year.
Unfortunately, the card doesn’t have an introductory APR offer for new purchases or balance transfers. If you’re looking to finance a large purchase or pay off high-interest debt, you’d be better off with another credit card with a 0% APR offer.
There are no foreign transaction fees, making the Explorer card a good option for those who travel overseas. And, because it’s a Visa, you can have peace of mind knowing that most retailers will accept it.
Alternatives to the United℠ Explorer card
If you’re a frequent flyer with United Airlines, the Explorer card may make a lot of sense. However, if you prefer to shop around for the best deals using travel sites like Kayak or Priceline and aren’t devoted to a specific airline, the annual fee of the Explorer card won’t be worth it.
Instead, consider a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. You’ll earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Enjoy benefits such as a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3x on dining and 2x on all other travel purchases, plus more. Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel. Get complimentary access to DashPass which unlocks $0 delivery fees and lower service fees for a minimum of one year when you activate by December 31, 2024.
Or, if you’re a fan of budget airlines like Southwest, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card
can make a lot of sense. New Offer: Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Plus earn 2X points on Southwest® purchases. You'll also earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. All points earned count towards Companion Pass. This card has an annual fee of $69.
Still looking for the perfect rewards credit card? Check out the best travel credit cards of 2019.
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