United Explorer Card review

United Explorer Card review

Updated: June 14, 2024

Partner Offer

Apply now
Updated: June 14, 2024

Partner Offer

Apply now
Ratings Policy
Rewards Rating:
3.9 rating
3.9 rating
3.9 / 5
Rewards Value:3.2
Annual Percentage Rate:1.0
Rewards Flexibility:3.0
Issuer Customer Experience4.0

In a Nutshell:

Thanks to its solid sign-up bonus, the United 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 (waived for the first year).

Learn more about this card

Rewards Rate

  • 2 miles per dollar on hotels (when booked directly with the hotel), dining and qualifying United purchases
  • 1 mile per dollar on other purchases
Very Good

Sign-up Bonus

(Limited-time offer) 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 total in the first three months

Very Good

Annual Bonus


Annual Fee
$95 ($0 the first year)


21.99% - 28.99% Variable


Rewards Redemption

  • No blackout dates
  • No limit on miles you can collect
  • Use miles for airfare on United, car rentals, hotel stays, merchandise, donation or annual fee reimbursement
  • Good award levels to North and Central America, and the Caribbean
  • Open-jaw, one-way and round-trip tickets permitted
  • You can book a free stopover with the Excursionist Perk (with some restrictions)
  • No fuel surcharges for United flights or any partner airlines


  • Saver Awards are capacity-controlled
  • Everyday Awards are available on most flights, but are very expensive
  • $75 fee if you book flights less than 21 days in advance
  • High fees for award changes
Very Good

Chase Customer Service Ratings

  • J. D. Power 2022 customer satisfaction rating: 607 (25% of issuers in this category ranked higher)
  • 24/7 customer service?: Yes
  • Online chat available?: No
  • Google Play Store mobile app rating: 4.4/5
  • Apple Store mobile app rating: 4.8/5
Very Good

Other Notable Features: Free checked bag, up to $100 credit for Global Entry/TSA Precheck every 4 years, priority boarding privileges, 25% in-flight discount, two one-time passes to the United Club airport lounge each year upon account anniversary, 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, primary car rental insurance, purchase protection, extended warranties

United Explorer Card Review: More Details

For frequent flyers of United Airlines, the United Explorer Card provides a fast track to your next free flight. With a relatively generous sign-up bonus and a good earning rate that rewards everyday purchases, you can stockpile miles easily – for a modest annual fee.

Plus, you’ll enjoy a few extra benefits that will add some luxury to your vacation – like priority boarding and two passes to the United Club each year.

Current sign-up bonus

The United Explorer card recently updated its sign-up bonus, and it’s a small increase from the card’s previous offer. The card is now offering a 60,000-mile sign-up bonus after spending $3,000 in the first three months, up from its previous offer of 50,000 miles with the same spending requirement. Based on Bankrate’s latest airline mile valuations, we estimate 60,000 United Airlines MileagePlus miles are worth around $540 in United airfare (based on an average United mile value of 0.9 cents per mile).

However, the United Explorer card bonus typically fluctuates between 40,000 and 60,000 miles. So, if you’ve been debating getting a United card, now is a fine time to apply.

Annual bonus

Unfortunately, the United Explorer card does not offer a miles bonus on your card member anniversary – like with many other airline cards. However, cardholders do earn two one-time passes to the United Club every year on their account anniversary. Chase values this perk at more than $100, which more than offsets the card’s annual fee.

With this lounge access, you can enjoy perks such as free food and drinks, complimentary Wi-Fi and comfortable workspaces. Not only will this make your trip more comfortable, but you’ll save on snacks and beverages at the airport.

Earning miles

With the United Explorer card, earning miles is straightforward. In addition to earning 2 miles per dollar on United purchases, you’ll earn 2 miles per dollar on hotel and restaurant purchases. All other purchases earn 1 mile per dollar.

See Related: 12 ways to earn more United Airlines miles

What really sets the United Explorer card apart is its good rate on dining, which helps even less frequent travelers earn a significant number of miles. Since many airline cards only award bonus points on purchases with the airline (or occasionally other travel purchases), United Explorer cardholders might have an easier time racking up rewards – even when they don’t have a trip planned.

What are United miles worth?

We estimate United miles are worth 0.9 cents on average, which is lower than the average rewards program mile. For instance, we value Southwest Rapid Rewards points at around 1.5 cents per point.

On the flip side, the United Explorer card boasts a better earning rate than many airline co-branded cards, ensuring it is still a competitive player in the category.

In general, generic rewards cards offer better earning rates on common purchases – but sacrifice airline perks like priority boarding or a free checked bag. If racking up the most miles is your goal, you might be better off opting for one of these general travel cards. Loyalists of a particular airline looking for airline-specific benefits, however, are well suited with cards like the United Explorer.

Flight network

United Airlines has a wide-reaching flight network, with more than 16,000 flights per day across nearly 190 countries. The airline is part of the Star Alliance – the world’s largest airline alliance – and has more than 15 additional worldwide partners, making it easy to find a trip to any destination.

See Related: United Airlines partners

Plus, United doesn’t impose any blackout dates for award flights. While the cheapest fare (Saver Awards) might be more limited, you should be able to find a seat to book with miles on most flights.

Redeeming miles

Once you’ve earned United miles, you have a plethora of redemption options. In addition to airfare, you can use your miles to cover hotel stays, United Club membership, gift cards and much more. Just keep in mind that your miles have a different value depending on how you redeem them.

For the most part, you’ll get the most out of your miles by redeeming them for airfare. United offers several different fares for award flights – with business and first class Saver tickets offering the best deals.

Unfortunately, Saver awards have much more limited availability than Everyday awards. Additionally, for economy class, United only displays the lowest cost in the search results – so it can be difficult to know if you have found a Saver award or are paying the Everyday cost. To help you know how much you can expect to pay for a Saver award versus Everyday, you can input your destinations into United’s interactive award chart.

See Related: How to book a United flight with miles

If you’d rather use your miles for something other than airfare, there are a few alternatives that can still get good value out of your rewards.

United Explorer redemption options

Redemption optionMile value (cents)
Airline statement credits1
Car rentals0.9
TSA PreCheck0.9
In-flight Wi-Fi0.7
United Club membership0.8
eGift cards0.6
Magazine/newspaper subscription2.4
Event awards0.7
Broadway shows0.7
Restaurants.com gift cards3.8
Airport dining0.7
Credit card annual fee0.8
Charity donation1.5

Unfortunately, there is no good cash redemption option for your United miles.

See Related: Best ways to redeem United miles

No automatic elite status

One big drawback to the United Explorer card is that it does not offer automatic elite status in the United MileagePlus program. However, carrying the Explorer card can still help you achieve status more quickly – as long as you spend heavily.

In order to achieve elite status with United, you must reach a certain number of PQPs (Premier qualifying points) and PQFs (Premier qualifying flights). Depending on how much you earn, you can qualify for elite status by combining PQPs and PQFs or based on PQPs alone. United Explorer cardholders earn 25 PQPs for every $500 spent, up to a maximum of 1,000 PQPs in a calendar year.

Global Entry or TSA PreCheck

With the United Explorer card, you can receive a credit of up to $100 every four years to cover the cost of a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application. Not only does this help offset the card’s annual fee, but it can make your travel easier by reducing the amount of time you have to spend in the security or border control line.

Free checked bag

Another cost-saving benefit that comes with the Explorer card is a free checked bag for yourself and a companion on the same reservation. Since checked bag fees on United cost up to $40 each way per person, taking advantage of this perk on just two round-rip flights makes up for your annual fee.

Other benefits

On top of a credit for Global Entry/TSA PreCheck and a free checked bag, the United Explorer card comes with several other perks that make it a valuable choice for frequent travelers:

  • 25 percent in-flight discount – Receive 25 percent back as a statement credit on any in-flight purchases like food, drinks or Wi-Fi paid for with your card.
  • Priority boarding – As a cardholder, you’ll be allowed to board United flights during priority boarding.
  • Luxury hotel benefits – When you reserve a stay at a property in the Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection, you’ll enjoy benefits such as complimentary breakfast, free Wi-Fi, room upgrades and early check-in/late checkout.
  • No foreign transaction fee – You can use your card freely when traveling abroad, as it doesn’t charge a fee on foreign transactions.
  • Car rental insurance – When you book and pay for your car rental with your card, you can receive primary coverage in the case of damage or theft.
  • Baggage delay insurance – If your bag is delayed more than six hours, you can be reimbursed up to $100 a day for three days to cover essential purchases.
  • Lost luggage insurance – If your bag is lost or damaged by the carrier, you can be covered up to $3,000 per passenger.
  • Trip delay reimbursement – For delays of more than 12 hours (or those requiring an overnight stay), you and immediate family members can be reimbursed for expenses like meals and lodging not covered by the carrier.
  • Trip cancelation/interruption insurance – If you have to cut a trip short or cancel it for a covered reason, you can be reimbursed up to $1,500 per person (max $6,000 per trip) for any non-refundable fares charged to your card.

A few of these benefits go above and beyond what travel credit cards usually offer, making the United Explorer a great choice for travel enthusiasts. Most notably, the card provides primary car rental insurance in both the U.S. and abroad, while most cards only provide secondary coverage.

Customer experience

The United Explorer card is issued by Chase, which has a good customer service reputation. In J.D. Power’s 2023 customer satisfaction survey, the bank scored 607 – fifth highest out of 16 major credit card issuers. In addition to 24/7 customer service, Chase offers a highly-rated mobile app.

Unfortunately, the bank does not have an online chat feature on its website, which can make it difficult to get a quick answer to a simple question.

Approval odds

The United Explorer card is designed for users with good to excellent credit (a 670 to 850 FICO score), so you should ensure you meet those qualifications before you apply. Additionally, Chase holds applicants to the 5/24 rule. This means that if you’ve opened five or more credit cards with any issuer in the past 24 months, it is likely you won’t be approved for this card.

How does the United Explorer card compare to other travel cards?

While the United Explorer card boasts a good rewards rate for an airline co-branded credit card, it might not be the best choice for every kind of traveler. Cards from other airlines might offer more extensive perks, and general travel cards typically have a better earning rate. Here’s a quick look at a few alternatives:

Chase Sapphire Reserve
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard
Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®*
Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express
Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card
Rewards rate

  • 10 points per dollar on Lyft purchases (through March 2025)
  • 10 points per dollar on hotels and car rentals purchased through the Chase portal
  • 5 points per dollar on air travel purchased through the Chase portal
  • 3 points per dollar on other travel
  • Earn elevated rewards on all travel purchases immediately after earning the $300 annual travel credit
  • 3 points per dollar on dining
  • 1 point per dollar on other purchases
Rewards rate

  • 2 miles per dollar on eligible American Airlines purchases
  • 2 miles per dollar on gas station and restaurant purchases
  • 1 mile per dollar on other purchases
Rewards rate

  • 2 miles per dollar on Delta purchases
  • 2 miles per dollar at restaurants worldwide and U.S. supermarkets
  • 1 mile per dollar on all other eligible purchases
Welcome bonus

  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $900 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.
Welcome bonus

Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $2,500 in purchases within the first three months of account opening

Welcome bonus

  • Earn 40,000 Bonus Miles after you spend $2,000 in eligible purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.

Terms apply

Annual fee


Annual fee

$99 (waived for the first 12 months)

Annual fee

$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $150

Other things to know

  • 50% higher point value when redeemed for travel through Chase Travel℠
  • $300 annual travel credit
  • Up to $100 credit for Global Entry/TSA PreCheck
  • Priority Pass lounge access
Other things to know

  • $125 American Airlines flight discount each year you spend $20,000 and renew your card membership
  • Free checked bag for you and up to four companions on the same reservation
  • Preferred boarding
Other things to know

  • Free checked bag for you and up to eight companions on the same reservation on Delta flights
  • Priority boarding
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • Terms apply

Chase Sapphire Reserve

If you aren’t loyal to any one particular airline, the Chase Sapphire Reserve is one of our most popular travel cards. While it charges a steep annual fee, it offers generous travel credits and perks that easily offset the cost. Every year, cardholders can receive $300 in statement credits to cover any travel purchase – including airfare, hotel stays, ride-shares and much more.

Like the United Explorer, the Sapphire Reserve also covers cardholders’ application fee for Global Entry/TSA PreCheck every four years. Reserve users can also enjoy extensive lounge access with a Priority Pass Select membership, which grants access to more than 1,200 lounges worldwide.

Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard

Like the United Explorer card, the AAdvantage Platinum Select offers a good earning rate in everyday spending categories. The bonus on gas station and restaurant purchases makes it easy to earn miles on this card no matter how much you travel. American Airlines also boasts one of the best values per reward mile among major airline programs (if you are willing to do a little digging for great deals), boosting the card’s rewards value.

Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card

This card comes with some extremely valuable benefits that make it the ideal choice for a certain kind of traveler. If you often travel with a family or large group, the generous free checked bag policy on the Delta SkyMiles Gold card can save you hundreds of dollars. Cardholders get a free checked bag for themselves and up to eight companions on the same reservation when flying with Delta.  Plus Delta SkyMiles Gold cardholders get priority boarding, making it easier to stow your carry-on bag and settle in for your flight sooner.

Who should get the United Explorer card?

  • Frequent United Airlines flyers looking to earn miles faster.
  • Frequent travelers who want to take advantage of perks like priority boarding and a free checked bag.
  • Cardholders who spend a significant amount on hotel and restaurant purchases who can take advantage of bonus categories.

How to use the United Explorer card:

  • Charge all United airfare, hotel stays and restaurant purchases to the card.
  • Put all major travel purchases on the card to utilize its protections and insurances.
  • Use United Airlines MileagePlus programs like the MileagePlus X app, MileagePlus Shopping portal and MileagePlus Dining Program to earn extra miles on qualifying purchases.
  • Spend $3,000 in the first three months to get the welcome offer

Is the United Explorer card worth it?

If you frequently fly on United Airlines, the United Explorer card is a great tool to earn miles faster. Thanks to its solid rewards rate in practical spending categories like restaurant purchases, cardholders can work toward their next award flight even without a trip planned. The card is currently offering a generous sign-up bonus, making now a great time to apply if you need to get the card now.

*All information about the Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard has been collected independently by CreditCards.com. The issuer did not provide the content, nor is it responsible for its accuracy.

Our reviews and best card recommendations are based on an objective rating process and are not driven by advertising dollars. However, we do receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners. Learn more about our advertising policy

All reviews are prepared by CreditCards.com staff. Opinions expressed therein are solely those of the reviewer and have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser. The information, including card rates and fees, presented in the review is accurate as of the date of the review. Check the data at the top of this page and the bank’s website for the most current information.

Responses to comments in the discussion section below are not provided, reviewed, approved, endorsed or commissioned by our financial partners. It is not our partner’s responsibility to ensure all posts or questions are answered.

Partner Offer

Apply now