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Earn up to 40,000 bonus miles with the United Explorer Card

The popular travel card offers a generous sign-up bonus and perks like airport lounge passes

Summary

The United Explorer card is currently offering a solid sign-up bonus with a relatively low spending requirement. See how far your miles can take you and whether the Explorer card is the best fit for your spending and travel habits.

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One of Chase’s entry-level co-branded airline rewards cards – the United℠ Explorer Card – is currently offering a solid sign-up bonus with a relatively low spending requirement.

You’ll earn a 40,000-mile bonus after you spend $2,000 in the first three months of card membership. Plus, you’ll have a chance to earn miles on some of your everyday spending and enjoy unique travel discounts and perks.

We’ve broken down the value of this card’s bonus along with its key features to help you decide if now is a good time to apply.

See related: Best United Airlines credit cards

Current United Explorer card bonus, rewards and perks

Along with its sign-up bonus, the United Explorer card gets you bonus rewards on United purchases, dining and hotel stays, along with decent perks for novice travelers. Here’s a quick look at the card’s bonus and benefits.

United℠ Explorer Card
United℠ Explorer Card
Rewards rate
  • 2 miles per dollar on dining and on hotel stays
  • 2 miles per dollar on United purchases
  • 1 mile per dollar on all other purchases
Welcome bonus40,000 miles if you spend $1,000 in first 3 months
Annual fee$0 Intro for First Year, then $95
Estimated earnings in first year ($15,900 spend)$886
Card perks
  • Free first checked bag (terms apply)
  • 2 United Club one-time passes each anniversary
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Priority boarding
  • Up to $100 Global Entry or TSA Precheck fee credit
  • 25% back on United inflight purchases

We currently value United miles at around 1.5 cents each, making this card’s 40,000-mile bonus worth about $600 when redeemed for travel with United or one of its Star Alliance partners. Add to this the card’s ongoing average rewards rate of 1.2 miles earned per dollar spent and the typical cardholder should rack up close to $900 worth of United miles in the first year.

Even if we leave aside the sign-up bonus and evaluate the card’s value in year two and beyond (when the annual fee kicks in), the average person stands to earn nearly $200 worth of United miles each year. This should make the card’s annual fee worth it for regular United travelers.

Among other benefits, the Explorer card also gets you a pair of one-time United Club passes each cardmember anniversary (lounge day passes are available for purchase at select locations for $59 each) and a free first checked bag for you and one companion (a savings of up to $120 per roundtrip).

No bonus currently offered on the Explorer card’s luxury alternative

If you’re looking for even more travel perks, you may be better off with the Explorer card’s luxury alternative, the United Club℠ Infinite Card. The Club Infinite card gets you double the miles on United purchases, offering 4 miles per dollar on United purchases compared to the Explorer card’s 2 miles per dollar.

Additionally, where the Explorer card lumps non-United travel (excluding hotel stays) into the general purchases category, which earns just 1 mile per dollar, the Club Infinite card gets you 2 miles per dollar on non-United travel. That’s a very impressive general travel rewards rate for an airline credit card.

This comes at a cost, however. The Club Infinite card charges an annual fee of $525 ($0 first year). Even worse, the Club Infinite card is not currently offering a sign-up bonus.

United Explorer card sign-up bonus history

Chase often updates the sign-up bonus for the United Explorer card, which usually teeters between 40,000 and 75,000 points.

United Explorer card recent changes

The card’s current 40,000-point bonus is not the card’s highest ever, but it is fairly generous considering the relatively low spending requirement.

Change dateSign-up bonus
May 4, 202040,000 miles if you spend $2,000 in first 3 months
Jan. 23, 202060,000 miles if you spend $3,000 in first 3 months
Nov. 7, 2019
  • 40,000 miles if you spend $2,000 in first 3 months
  • Additional 25,000 miles if you spend $10,000 in first 6 months
May 17, 201940,000 miles if you spend $2,000 in first 3 months
April 4, 2019
  • 40,000 miles if you spend $2,000 in first 3 months
  • Additional 20,000 miles if you spend $8,000 total in first 6 months
Jan. 9, 201940,000 miles if you spend $2,000 in first 3 months
Nov. 14, 2018
  • 40,000 miles if you spend $2,000 in first 3 months
  • Additional 25,000 miles if you spend $10,000 total in first 6 months
Aug. 16, 201840,000 miles if you spend $2,000 in first 3 months
June 1, 2018
  • 40,000 miles if you spend $2,000 in first 3 months
  • $100 statement credit after making first purchase
  • Offer ends Aug. 15, 2018
March 16, 201840,000 miles if you spend $2,000 in first 3 months
Feb. 8, 201850,000 miles if you spend $3,000 in first 3 months (until 3/15/18)
Aug. 1, 201740,000 miles if you spend $2,000 in first 3 months
Feb. 1, 201750,000 miles if you spend $3,000 in first 3 months
(previously 30,000 miles if you spend $1,000 in first 3 months)

Who is eligible for the sign-up bonus?

The United Explorer card’s sign-up bonus is only available to new cardholders and previous cardholders who have not received a new cardmember bonus for this card in the past 24 months. Of course, you must qualify for the cards first, which are designed for cardholders with a credit score in the excellent range (at least 740).

Chase has come down hard recently on applicants who open many accounts at once. Though it’s not an official policy, the Chase “5/24” rule on new credit card applications means your application will likely be denied if you have opened at least five credit card accounts in the past 24 months with any issuer (not just Chase).

The rule seems to apply to any credit card account that shows up on your credit report, including co-branded store cards. (On the plus side, business credit cards that don’t report to your personal credit report do not affect your chances of being approved.)

Best ways to spend 40,000 miles

40,000 miles can take you a fairly long way on United. Not only can you use them to travel all around the world on United flights, but you can use them for flights on one of 28 United’s Star Alliance partners or 11 additional airline partners (39 partners total) for a good value. MileagePlus miles are very valuable – worth 1.5 cents per mile by our estimates – but the value can vary greatly depending on how you use your miles.

United MileagePlus redemption options

Redemption optionAverage mile value (cents)Value of 40,000-mile sign-up bonus
Saver airfare – economy1.4$560
Saver airfare – business/first class2.7$1,080
Everyday airfare – economy1.0$400
Everyday airfare – business/first class1.4$560

When it comes to United, it’s all about Saver awards. You can typically get more than 1 cent of value out of your miles with an economy-level Saver fare, and Business class Saver fares offer an exceptional value at around 2.7 cents per mile on average. In fact, the pricing on Business class Saver awards is so reasonable that cardholders who normally couldn’t afford business class could easily rack up enough United miles to fund a round-trip ticket to Europe or Asia in business class.

That said, United has shifted away from its fixed awards chart in favor of a dynamic award pricing model. This means that how far your bonus takes you will depend on when you book and your destination and travel dates. With prices constantly changing, it’s much more difficult to plan ahead and save miles for a trip goal.

See related: United Airlines partners

Should you apply for the United Explorer card now?

Considering the Explorer card’s solid sign-up bonus and relatively low spending requirement, now is as good a time as any for United loyalists to apply.

The Explorer card should suit occasional travelers well: Along with the sign-up bonus, you’ll enjoy a generous rewards rate on dining and hotel purchases, solid perks like United Club day passes and a credit of up to $100 for Global Entry or TSA Precheck.

Together, these benefits should more than cover the card’s $95 annual fee after the first year.

Editorial Disclaimer

The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.

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