Reviews Chase United MileagePlus Explorer card review

Chase United MileagePlus Explorer card review

Published: April 24, 2017
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Ratings Policy
Airline Rating:
4.5 rating
4.5 rating
4.5 / 5
Rewards Value: 4.5
Annual Percentage Rate: 1.8
Rewards Flexibility: 4.4
Flight Options: 5.0
Features: 5.0

In a nutshell:

If you are a United Airlines loyalist, the United MileagePlus Explorer card is an excellent tool to get some extra miles outside of flying.

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Rewards Rate

  • 2:1 directly purchased United tickets
  • 1:1 general purchases

Sign-up Bonus
50,000 miles if you spend $3,000 in first 3 months

Annual Bonus
10,000 miles if you spend $25,000

Annual Fee
$95

Average Yearly Rewards Value ($1,325 monthly spend)
$561

APR
16.74-23.74% (variable)

Rewards Redemption
Pros

  • Good award levels to North and Central America, and the Caribbean
  • Free stopover and open jaw on a round-trip ticket
  • No fuel surcharges for any partner airlines
  • Book any available seat at any time

Cons

  • Expensive business and first-class international redemption levels
  • High fees for award changes

Flight Options

  • Airline partners: 26
  • Daily flights: 21,000
  • Destinations: 1,300
  • Countries served: 192

Other Notable Features: Free checked bag; priority boarding privileges; two one-time passes to the United Club; no foreign-transaction fee; room upgrades, free daily breakfast for two and other amenities at luxury resorts; concierge services; baggage delay insurance; lost luggage and trip delay reimbursement; trip cancellation/interruption insurance

Rewards Rating:
4.3 rating
4.3 rating
4.3 / 5
Rewards Value: 4.6
Annual Percentage Rate: 1.2
Rewards Flexibility: 3.9
Features: 5.0

In a nutshell:

With a generous sign-up bonus, the Chase United Mileage Plus Explorer card makes it easy to earn a free flight quickly; but you’ll have to fly United often to make up for the card’s $95 annual fee.

Learn more about this card

Rewards Rate

  • 2:1 directly purchased United tickets
  • 1:1 general purchases

Sign-up Bonus
50,000 miles if you spend $3,000 in first 3 months

Annual Fee
$95

Average Yearly Rewards Value ($1,325 monthly spend)
$561

APR
16.74-23.74% (variable)

Rewards Redemption
Pros

  • Good award levels to North and Central America, and the Caribbean
  • Free stopover and open jaw on a round-trip ticket
  • No fuel surcharges for any partner airlines
  • Book any available seat at any time

Cons

  • Expensive business and first-class international redemption levels
  • High fees for award changes

Other Notable Features: Free checked bag; priority boarding privileges; two one-time passes to the United Club; no foreign-transaction fee; room upgrades, free daily breakfast for two and other amenities at luxury resorts; concierge services; baggage delay insurance; lost luggage and trip delay reimbursement; trip cancellation/interruption insurance

Travel Rating:
4.5 rating
4.5 rating
4.5 / 5
Rewards Value: 4.7
Annual Percentage Rate: 1.4
Rewards Flexibility: 4.4
Features: 5.0

In a nutshell:

Aside from its stellar sign-up bonus, the United MileagePlus Explorer card offers a long list of travel perks and a fairly flexible policy on booking rewards flights.

Learn more about this card

Rewards Rate

  • 2:1 directly purchased United tickets
  • 1:1 general purchases

Sign-up Bonus
50,000 miles if you spend $3,000 in first 3 months

Annual Fee
$95

Average Yearly Rewards Value ($1,325 monthly spend)
$561

APR
16.74-23.74% (variable)

Rewards Redemption
Pros

  • Good award levels to North and Central America, and the Caribbean
  • Free stopover and open jaw on a round-trip ticket
  • No fuel surcharges for any partner airlines
  • Book any available seat at any time

Cons

  • Expensive business and first-class international redemption levels
  • High fees for award changes

Other Notable Features: Free checked bag; priority boarding privileges; two one-time passes to the United Club; no foreign-transaction fee; room upgrades, free daily breakfast for two and other amenities at luxury resorts; concierge services; baggage delay insurance; lost luggage and trip delay reimbursement; trip cancellation/interruption insurance

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There is a lot to like about the United MileagePlus Explorer card. It’s a good all-around mile card: It includes a sizeable sign-up bonus, a free checked bag, more options for mile-earning and other valuable perks. In addition, the card waives the annual fee for the first year. Also, there is no foreign-transaction fee, so you can use it anywhere in the world.

The earning scheme is average

The earning scheme at United is typical for airline cards – which is to say, it’s quite average. You get 2 miles per dollar for tickets purchased directly from United and 1 mile per dollar for everything else. United allows you to redeem miles on one-way or round-trip travel. You can also redeem miles for other travel expenses, such as hotel rooms, cruises or car rentals.

If you – like most people – always hunt for the lowest airline prices and are not loyal to United, it might take you a long time to earn enough miles for a free ticket. So, you might want to consider a general travel credit card. For example, Discover it Miles lets you earn 1.5 miles on every purchase, and lets you double all the miles you earn in the first year of card membership.

The annual fee is a little high, but might be worth it

The $95 annual fee is slightly higher than what you will pay for most other travel cards. But if you are a loyal United customer, the card might pay for itself with just a couple of uses. At the minimum, you get a decent sign-up bonus and up to two free bags for you and a companion.

Up to 60,000 bonus miles in the first year

You receive 50,000 miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months. On top  of that, you get a 10,000 bonus each year that you spend $25,000 or more. Altogether that equals 60,000 potential bonus miles in the first year, which can get you a round-trip ticket to anywhere in North America (except Alaska), Central America or the Caribbean. You can also earn additional miles with dozens of United partners, such as hotels, car rentals and many more.

Flexible redemption options

United Airlines offers one of the more flexible booking policies for an airline rewards program. The United website has a user-friendly mile-redemption interface, and availability is generally not bad in the economy seating section, except for prime travel time. In addition, United is a member airline of the Star Alliance, which is the biggest airline alliance in the world. So, you can use United miles to book an award seat on 28 partner airlines.

There are some quirks, however. First, not all partner-airline award tickets can be booked online. Second, United only shows the lowest award rate, which doesn’t tell you if this is the best (“Saver”) award rate to your destination. Use this interactive award chart to know exactly what you are getting and consider changing travel dates if the rate is not the best.

If you don’t care which airline you fly on, you may be better off with a general reward credit card that allows you to choose any airline.

Primary rental coverage

The United MileagePlus Explorer card offers primary rental coverage in the U.S. (Coverage is always primary outside of the U.S.). Usually, credit cards only offer secondary coverage, which means you have to turn to your own car insurance company first if you have a loss while driving the rental car. Primary coverage means you won’t have to deal with your own car insurance in case of damage or theft.

Valuable benefits for frequent fliers

The card offers some valuable benefits for United Airlines passengers, such as a free checked bag for yourself and a companion traveling on the same reservation. Note that you must buy your ticket with the United MileagePlus Explorer card to be eligible for this benefit.

You also get two free one-time-use passes to be used at any United Club airport lounge in the world on an annual basis, and priority boarding for yourself and your companion. Domestic United Club lounges offer comfortable seating, free coffee, soft drinks, snacks and Wi-Fi. International United lounges add free alcoholic beverages and more eating options to the list.

Reasons to get it:

  • You use United for most of your travel.
  • You want to maximize mileage earnings.
  • You want to save money on checked bags.
  • You value other perks and Visa Signature benefits of the card.

How to use it:

  • Always make United ticket purchases with the United MileagePlus Explorer card for 2 miles per dollar.
  • Try to redeem award seats at the “Saver” level. If you book a round-trip award, you can add a free stopover along the way.
  • Consider using United miles on United partner airlines, which can be a better value.
  • When you rent a car in the U.S., always pay with the United MileagePlus Explorer Card to take advantage of its primary rental coverage.

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