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The United Mileage Plus Explorer Card is a great card with a pretty hefty sign-up bonus. If you’re a frequent United flier or live near a United hub airport then I think this card is a great option for a travel card, especially if you’re looking for one with a relatively low annual that’s waived the first year and comes with a ton of benefits that you can use both domestically and internationally.
Sign up Bonus
- This card has an excellent sign-up bonus but you want to make sure that you take advantage of the best offer out there. The standard offer is for 30,000 miles for $1,000 spend plus 5,000 for adding an authorized user. However, if you sign up for United Mileage Plus and wait a few weeks, you’ll likely receive an offer for 50,000 miles for $2,000 spend via email or snail mail. It is somewhat of a targeted offer from what I’ve read, but the majority of people I know who signed for Mileage Plus received their offer for the 50,000 miles eventually.
Annual Spend Bonus
- The Explorer card allows you to earn an additional 10,000 miles so long as you spend $25,000 in a calendar year
- Earn two miles for each $1 spent on tickets purchased from United and 1 mile per $1 on all other purchases. Your miles don’t expire as long as your credit card account is open, with no limit to the number of miles you can earn.
Enjoy priority boarding privileges
- Primary cardmembers and their companions traveling on the same reservation will be invited to board United-operated flights prior to general boarding. To receive priority boarding, just add your MileagePlus number to your reservation and refer to your boarding pass for your boarding group number.
- The primary cardholder who is also a Mileage Plus Premier member traveling on an award ticket will be eligible for Complimentary Premier Upgrades on eligible United and Copa operated flights.
- Two lounge passes every anniversary year that are good for at least one year (mine were good for 1.5 year from my application date). This is a $100 value as a one-time pass for one person will cost you $50. Expect to wait about 3-6 weeks for your lounge passes to arrive.
Free Checked Bag
- The primary cardmember and one companion traveling on the same reservation will each receive their first standard checked bag free (valued at $100 for a roundtrip based on United baggage fees).
- This is great because unlike some other airlines this benefit works for both domestic and international flights. Also, even if you are booking an award flight you can still get this benefit so long as you use your explorer card to pay for the fees and taxes associated with your purchase.
Use miles for any seat, any time, on any United flight
- Primary cardmembers can use their miles to book any available seat, any time on any United-operated flight when they redeem miles at the MileagePlus Standard Award level. No limitations, no restrictions and no blackout dates on available seats if you provide your MileagePlus number before starting the award booking process. This obviously means spending more miles for your trips but the increased availability is definitely something that can come in handy at times.
No Foreign Transaction Fees
- Baggage delay insurance – reimbursement for up to essentials for up to $100 a day for 3 days
- Lost Luggage Reimbursement – up to $3,000 per passenger for lost or damages bags.
- Trip delay reimbursement – up to $500 per ticket for delays more than 12 hours
- Trip cancellation/interruption insurance – up to $10,000 for pre-paid, non-refundable purchases
- Travel accident insurance – up to $500,000
- PRIMARY rental car insurance (just like the Sapphire Preferred.
- Covers your new purchases for 120 days against damage or theft up to $10,000 per claim and $50,000 per account.
- Extends the time period of the U.S. manufacturer’s warranty by an additional year, on eligible warranties of three years or less.
- If a card purchase you made in the U.S. is advertised for less in print or online within 90 days, you can be reimbursed the difference up to $500 per item, $2,500 per year.
- You can be reimbursed for eligible items that the store won’t take back within 90 days of purchase, up to $500 per item, $1,000 per year.
- Waived the first year and then $95. Pretty standard for Chase card. Considering how much you can save with free checked bags and the lounge access, it’s very easy to come out on top.
- Retention offers after about one year are a bit hit or miss on this card but it seems you can usually get a statement credit or have the annual fee waived or nearly waived if you’re successful in getting an offer.
- This card is one of the less-glamourous cards from Chase. The design is okay but it’s a pretty thin and cheap-feeling card. Still, it’s one of those that stays tucked away but definitely used for the great benefits.
Overall, definitely consider this card if you can get the 50K+5K bonus and value United miles. And one last tip… Even if you happen to have signed up for the 30K offer and happen to receive an offer for the 50K via email or in the mail, make sure to send a secure message to Chase and ask them match the offer. In my experience, Chase will usually honor these later promotions so long as the new bonus appears within 90 days of your original application date!
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Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time credit card rewards/travel expert and has earned and redeemed millions of miles to travel the globe. His content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.