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.
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
|Welcome bonus||40,000 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|
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 date||Sign-up bonus|
|May 4, 2020||40,000 miles if you spend $2,000 in first 3 months|
|Jan. 23, 2020||60,000 miles if you spend $3,000 in first 3 months|
|Nov. 7, 2019|
|May 17, 2019||40,000 miles if you spend $2,000 in first 3 months|
|April 4, 2019|
|Jan. 9, 2019||40,000 miles if you spend $2,000 in first 3 months|
|Nov. 14, 2018|
|Aug. 16, 2018||40,000 miles if you spend $2,000 in first 3 months|
|June 1, 2018|
|March 16, 2018||40,000 miles if you spend $2,000 in first 3 months|
|Feb. 8, 2018||50,000 miles if you spend $3,000 in first 3 months (until 3/15/18)|
|Aug. 1, 2017||40,000 miles if you spend $2,000 in first 3 months|
|Feb. 1, 2017||50,000 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 option||Average mile value (cents)||Value of 40,000-mile sign-up bonus|
|Saver airfare – economy||1.4||$560|
|Saver airfare – business/first class||2.7||$1,080|
|Everyday airfare – economy||1.0||$400|
|Everyday airfare – business/first class||1.4||$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.