United Credit Card Free Checked Bag Guide [2021]

One of the easiest ways to offset the annual fee of an airline credit card is to utilize the free checked baggage perk. It’s a relatively straightforward perk to use on most cards but every card has its own restrictions and limitations for this type of perk.

In this article, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about the United credit card free checked baggage benefit.

What is the United credit card free checked baggage benefit?

If you hold an eligible United Airlines credit card, you can get the first (or first and second) checked bag fee waived on eligible United flights for you and one other passenger.

Tip: Check out the free app WalletFlo so that you can optimize your credit card spend by seeing the best card to use! You can also track credits, annual fees, and get notifications when you’re eligible for the best cards!

Eligible United credit cards

The following United credit cards are eligible for the free baggage waiver on United flights:

  • United Explorer Card (one free bag)
  • United Club Card (two free bags)
  • United Club Infinite Card (two free bags)
  • United Presidential Plus Card (two free bags)

In addition, the following business credit cards are eligible for the free baggage waiver on United flights:

  • United Business Card (one free bag)
  • United Explorer Business (one free bag)
  • United Club Business Card (two free bags)

You do NOT get a free checked bag with the following:

  • United Gateway Card
  • United TravelBank (discontinued)

Reservation restrictions

In order to receive the free checked bag benefit you must always use your eligible United card to make the purchase and you must also include your MileagePlus number on your reservation.

Note: Some Explorer cardmembers have had success getting this benefit by using their card to purchase Economy Plus access but there is no guarantee this still works.

The benefit will only apply on United and United Express-operated flights. Codeshare partner-operated flights are not eligible for the benefit.

So let’s say you used the United website to book a flight on EVA. If that flight is operated by EVA then you would not get the free baggage benefit. You can easily tell who is operating the flight when searching for your flight on the United website.

Also, keep in mind that you will still be responsible for oversize, overweight, and extra baggage fees since this benefit does not cover those. This is really important to note because those fees can be substantial.

For example, an overweight bag could cost you $200 per bag and an oversize bag could cost you $200 per bag as well. If you need to find out about the United size and weight restrictions click here.

This benefit does not affect the pricing in instances where you are purchasing an additional bag. For example, if you receive your first free checked bag for free but still need to purchase a second checked bag, the standard second checked bag price applies.

The same thing applies if you receive two free checked bags and are purchasing an additional third bag.

Elite benefits

If you already have elite status with United Airlines such as Silver status, you might be wondering if you can receive an additional free checked bag. That’s because you are already granted a free checked bag with United elite status.

Unfortunately, you will not receive an additional free checked bag in addition to the free checked bags awarded through your elite status.

The same logic applies if you are flying in a premium cabin such as first class. For example, If you are given two free checked bags based on your ticket class, you are not given additional free baggage for using a United credit card.

United credit card free checked bag FAQ

What personal United credit cards offer a free checked bag?

– United Explorer Card
– United Club Infinite Card

How many passengers can get a free checked bag with a United credit card?

The primary card member and one guest are eligible to receive the free checked baggage benefit.

How much does it normally cost to check a bag with United?

The checked baggage fee for United Airlines is typically $30 but it could depend on your route. You can find out more about the baggage fees here.

Do I have to use my United card to pay for my flight to get the free checked bag?

Yes, you need to use your United card for your purchase and add your United MileagePlus number to your itinerary to be eligible for the free checked baggage.

Do authorized users get a free checked bag?

Authorized users only receive the free checked bag if they are traveling on the same reservation as the primary cardmember and they will be counted as one traveling companion for purposes of this benefit.

Can you get the free checked bag on international flights?

Yes, the United credit card does not restrict the free baggage benefit to domestic flights.

How do I use the United credit card free checked bag benefit?

As long as your United MileagePlus number is linked to your reservation on an eligible flight and you use your qualifying United credit card, the waiver will be automatically applied at check in.

When will I receive my free checked bag benefit?

You will receive your free checked bag benefit usually about two weeks after account opening.

What if I cancel my United card?

You will only be eligible for the free checked bag benefit if you are an active cardmember at the time of check-in.

How many free bags do I get?

You will get one free bag with the United Explorer Card and two free bags with the
United Club Infinite Card.

Can I get a free checked bag on award flights?

Yes, as long as you pay the fees on your qualifying United Airlines credit card.

Do United basic economy passengers get the free checked bag benefit?

Basic economy passengers can still receive the free checked bag benefit. In addition, Chase cardholders are also exempt from the carry-on restriction and boarding group policy.

Final word

The free checked baggage benefit on United credit cards is one of the most valuable credit card benefits if you frequently fly with United. In some cases, it can completely offset the annual fee.

It is not quite as generous as the Delta free checked bag benefit but it is still a great benefit since it applies to international flights and allows up to two free bags in some cases.

Chase United MileagePlus Explorer Card Review (65,000 Miles?) [2020]

There are a lot of co-branded airline travel credit cards out there but not many of them can compare to the value offered by the United Explorer Card. In my opinion, the Chase United Explorer Card is one of the best co-branded airline credit cards because it offers some of the best all-around perks and value.

United Explorer Card intro

  • 2 miles per $1 spent at restaurants and on hotel accommodations
  • 2 miles per $1 spent on United purchases
  • 1 mile per $1 spent
  • 2 one-time United Club passes each year
  • Free checked bag for yourself and one companion traveling on the same reservation
  • Priority boarding
  • 25% back on United Inflight Wi-Fi, food and drinks
  • 500 PQPs for every $12,000 in spend for a maximum of 1,000 PQPs earned per calendar year.

Tip: Use WalletFlo for all your credit card needs. It’s free and will help you optimize your rewards and savings!

Welcome bonus

The welcome bonus for the United Explorer Card can range from 40,000 miles all the way up to 65,000 miles or beyond. One of the trends we’ve seen with this card recently is a tiered welcome bonus.

For example, one of the recent bonuses looked like this:

  • Earn 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
  • Plus earn an additional 25,000 bonus miles after you spend $10,000 total on purchases in the first 6 months

So to get one of those high bonuses you might have to work extra hard for it now.

For that reason, you may want to consider going with a card like the Chase Ink Business Preferred if you are primarily trying to earn miles since you could transfer your Chase Ultimate Rewards to United at a 1:1 ratio or transfer them to other airline partners.

However, if you are interested in getting some of the United-specific benefits then the Explorer Card might be the better option. (I’ll talk more about those benefits below.)

What can you do with 65,000 miles?

United now implements dynamic pricing which means that the award prices between destinations are not set.

But some prior redemptions might be provide some guidance on what you can do with 65,000 miles.

One-way Saver awards in economy started at 12,500 miles for domestic flights, so you could book a handful of flights with 65,000 miles. A roundtrip business class ticket around the mainland US would cost 50,000 miles so you could book that and still have points left over.

If you’re trying to fly internationally, 65,000 miles could cover you for a roundtrip in economy to Europe for a Saver award or a one-way business class award.

After meeting your minimum spend you’d also have enough miles for a roundtrip in economy to Asia (Hong Kong/Japan) and would be very close to being able to book a one-way flight in business class on a partner like EVA.

I would look into jumping on a Chase card that earns Ultimate Rewards so that you could combine your earnings and potentially end up with 115,000 United miles!

United business class.

Bonus earning

The United Explorer Card earns the following bonus earning rates:

  • 2 miles per $1 spent at restaurants and on hotel accommodations
  • 2 miles per $1 spent on United purchases
  • 1 mile per $1 spent

Getting 2X at restaurants and hotels isn’t bad but keep in mind that you can earn 2X on all dining and ALL travel purchases with the Chase Sapphire Preferred. Or if you were okay with the high annual fee of the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you could earn 3X on dining and travel. So when it comes to restaurants and hotels, there are definitely better ways to rack up United miles.

The same thing applies to United purchases — you could earn 3X on United purchases with the Chase Sapphire Reserve, which would earn you United miles much quicker.

Then there’s the 1X on all purchases. This rate is pretty standard but you could jump on a card like the Chase Freedom Unlimited or the Chase Ink Unlimited and earn 1.5X on all purchases, essentially earning 1.5 United miles on every purchase.

So while the Explorer Card bonus categories are okay there are definitely better options out there that you could choose from.

United Club passes

With the Explorer Card, you’ll get two one-time United Club passes each year for your anniversary. United Clubs are United lounges that you can find throughout the country. Some of these lounges leave a little bit to be desired but I really like the newly remodeled Club lounges which I think look great.

The food and drink selection will be limited compared to some of the premium lounges but getting two passes each year is still great, especially for those travelers who only take a few trips a year and don’t need an annual or unlimited membership to a lounge network. You can read more about United Clubs here.

United Club Lounge at IAH.

Free checked bag

With this card you’ll get a free checked bag for yourself and one companion traveling on the same reservation ($30 value, each way, per person) on United-operated flights when the primary cardmember purchases their tickets from United with their card.

Just one roundtrip with a companion could save you $120 so this has the potential to be a very valuable perk. Some cards limit their free bags to domestic flights but with this perk you can even use it on international flights. To find out more United baggage policies, click here.

Priority Boarding

The primary cardmember and companions on the same reservation will be invited to board United-operated flights prior to general boarding. After pre-boarding, here’s what the boarding groups look like:

Group 1

  • Premier Platinum members
  • Premier Gold members
  • Star Alliance Gold members
  • Customers seated in premium cabins: United Polaris®, United First® and United Business®

Group 2

  • Premier Silver members
  • Star Alliance Silver members
  • Customers who have purchased Premier Access or Priority Boarding
  • United Explorer, Club, Presidential Plus and Awards Cardmembers

So as you can see, you’ll be in Group 2 with the Explorer Card. There are a lot of people in Groups 1 and 2 and so if you truly want the priority boarding experience, you’ll need to line-up early. Otherwise, you could be at the back of a pretty long line depending on the type of aircraft/route you’re flying on. To find out more details about the United Airlines boarding policy click here.

A photo of the united boarding sign
Priority boarding will help you secure overhead storage bin space.

Miles don’t expire

Your United miles don’t expire as long as your credit card account remains open. This makes it much less stressful for those people who don’t regularly travel/use their miles. Simply keep your card open and your miles won’t expire.

Update: United miles will never expire.

25% back

You will receive 25% back on United Inflight Wi-Fi, food and drinks.

PQD Waived, now PQPs

United Explorer cardholders will earn 500 PQPs for every $12,000 they spend and there will be a a maximum of 1,000 PQPs earned per calendar year.

Here are the new qualifications for United Airlines elite status:

Silver12 PQF and 4,000 PQP5,000
Gold24 PQF and 8,000 PQP10,000
Platinum36 PQF and 12,000 PQP15,000
1K54 PQF and 18,000 PQP24,000 PQP

Global Entry/TSA Pre-Check

You can get up to a $100 Global Entry or $85 TSA Pre-Check credit with this card.

Global Entry is a program that will allow you to enter the US and get through US Customs and Immigration quickly by passing through special lines. Your membership will good for five years total and will come with TSA Pre-Check. Sometimes those immigration lines can be depressingly long, so I absolutely love Global Entry.

TSA Pre-Check will get you through airport security quicker since you won’t have to mess with things like taking off your shoes, belts, light coats, and taking out your liquids and electronics. But TSA Pre-Check comes with Global Entry so it makes much more sense to just sign-up for Global Entry.

This isn’t too special since so many credit card offer these credits but it is nice because not that many cards with $95 annual fees offer these credits. Read more about TSA Pre-Check here.

Breeze through security with the TSA Pre-Check line.

Increased award inventory

With this card, you’ll get expanded award availability when you use miles to book any United-operated flight, any time, at the applicable Everyday Award level.

These rates are more expensive than Saver awards so you’ll have to shell out more miles but if you’re ever in a bind and need to find open awards, having access to the increased award inventory can be extremely beneficial.

You can also find more Saver award availability with this card as well.

Premier upgrades

The primary Cardmember who is also a MileagePlus Premier member and traveling on an award ticket can take advantage of Complimentary Premier Upgrades on United-operated flights (when available). This means that if you are United Silver and above and are flying on an award flight, you could get bumped to business class.

In reality, these upgrades are probably going to be uncommon but it would depend on the level of elite status that you have.

Primary rental car coverage

This card is one of the few that offer primary rental car coverage.

This is huge because it means that you can avoid paying for rental car coverage when renting a car and save some money. But it also means that you can avoid filing a claim with your car insurance provider and avoid seeing an increase in your monthly premium. 

If you regularly rent cars, don’t underestimate how much this can save you.

Tip: Use the free app WalletFlo to help you travel the world for free by finding the best travel credit cards and promotions!

Travel protections

The Explorer Card has some of the best credit card travel protections.

Trip Cancellation / Trip Interruption Insurance

You can be reimbursed up to $1,500 per person and $6,000 per trip for your pre-paid, non-refundable passenger fares, if your trip is canceled or cut short by covered situations like sickness or injury.

Nothing is worse when the unexpected happens and you end up losing out on cash that went toward pre-paid fares. But with this benefit, you can get reimbursement and sleep easier about something potentially happening. It’s worth pointing out that the Sapphire Preferred has a higher trip cancellation coverage amount of $10,000.

Baggage Delay Insurance

Reimburses you for essential purchases like toiletries and clothing for baggage delays over 6 hours by passenger carrier up to $100 a day for 3 days.

This protection is strong with only a 6 hour waiting and period and coverage for three days. It’s not quite as broad as the protection offered by the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Reserve which cover you for a maximum of five days.

If you’ve ever had your luggage lost by the airlines for a couple of days, you know how great it can feel to use a perk like this and I know from experience!

Lost Luggage Reimbursement

If you or an immediate family member check or carry on luggage that is damaged or lost by the carrier, you’re covered up to $3,000 per passenger.

Trip Delay Reimbursement

If your common carrier travel is delayed more than 12 hours or requires an overnight stay, you and your family are covered for unreimbursed expenses, such as meals and lodging, up to $500 per ticket.

Many people don’t realize that in the US, there are no federal laws requiring compensation for delays. So if your flight is delayed, you might not always be able to receive compensation. And if an airline does offer you compensation, it might only be for a meal or two and a $100 hotel stay.

With this perk, you can get covered for up to $500 per ticket, which means that you won’t have to scrape by for a night and could actually enjoy a nice meal and hotel while you try to figure out your travel plans.

Purchase protections

Purchase Protection

Covers your new purchases for 120 days against damage or theft up to $10,000 per claim and $50,000 per year. Surprisingly, this amount is on par with the Sapphire Reserve but much higher than the $500 per claim offered for the Sapphire Preferred.

Extended Warranty Protection

Extends the time period of the U.S. manufacturer’s warranty by an additional year, on eligible warranties of three years or less. If you’re really interested in great extended warranty protection then you might want to look into Amex cards which offer better protections.

Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection

This card will give you access to the Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection, which is a network of over 900 properties consisting of many five-star hotels, resorts, lodges and spas. What makes the program so special is that it offers you elite-like benefits, such as

  • Daily breakfast for two
  • A special benefit unique to each property, such as a dining or spa credit
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi
  • A room upgrade, if available
  • Early check-in and late checkout, if available

So this is a perfect perk for people who don’t have elite status with a hotel but would like to enjoy elite-like benefits.

Annual fee

There is a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95. It’s always nice to be able to avoid the annual fee for the first year and sometimes the annual fee is not waived for some offers.

Final word

The United Explorer Card is one of the best all-around travel credit cards. If there was one co-branded airline credit card that I had to choose, it would be this card. Obviously, if you don’t fly United this card will have much less value for you but it’s hard to deny all of the value packed into this card in its various features.


United Explorer Anniversary One-Time Club Passes Guide [2020]

The United Explorer anniversary Club passes can be pretty valuable perks for the casual traveler. But how can you get these passes and how exactly do they work?

In this article, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about the United Explorer Anniversary United Club passes.

What are the United Explorer anniversary one-time Club passes?

The United Explorer anniversary Club passes are two annual one-time visit passes that come as a special perk with the United Explorer card issued by Chase.

Each pass will get you free entry into a United airport lounge subject to certain terms and conditions.

The United Explorer is one of the top travel credit cards and it comes with a host of valuable benefits including:

  • 2 miles per $1 spent at restaurants and on hotel accommodations
  • 2 miles per $1 spent on United purchases
  • 1 mile per $1 spent
  • 2 one-time United Club passes each year
  • Free checked bag for yourself and one companion traveling on the same reservation
  • Priority boarding
  • 25% back on United Inflight Wi-Fi, food and drinks
  • 500 PQPs for every $12,000 in spend for a maximum of 1,000 PQPs earned per calendar year.

These one-time passes can also be purchased for $59, so you are getting close to $120 worth of lounge visits with the Explorer Card.

That is in addition to free checked bags and priority boarding among other perks. Therefore, I think the Explorer Card is one of the most valuable co-branded airline credit cards.

Related: Best Credit Cards for United Airlines Miles

United Club Lounge eating area.
United Club Lounge at IAH.

Tip: Use WalletFlo for all your credit card needs. It’s free and will help you optimize your rewards and savings!

United Clubs overview

United Clubs are pretty decent airport lounges. I especially like the newer designed lounges which look much more modern.

At United Clubs, you can usually find snack foods and get free drinks including some alcoholic beverages. The menu list isn’t extensive but if you were looking for a light breakfast or something along those lines, it can often do the trick.

Some of the lounges will have showers but most others will have at least a comfortable place to sit along with free internet. You can check out a review of the United Club lounge here.

Plate with muffin, cantaloupe, and berries.
Typical breakfast at a United Club Lounge.

Lounge access policy

Each pass grants one person one time access to a United Club location subject to the terms and conditions of that lounge. These passes will not get you access to United Polaris or Star Alliance lounges.

Note that effective November 1, 2019: United Club customers, including members and their guests, and one-time pass holders will need to provide a same-day boarding pass for travel on United, Star Alliance or a contracted partner operated flight for entry into all United Club locations

Your one-time pass will not get you access to a different lounge location. So if you are connecting through a different airport, you will need to use an additional pass.

To get access into a United Club lounge, you will need to show your one-time pass which you can do by printing out your pass or by showing the pass via the United mobile app.

The agent at the lounge will then scan the barcodes or simply punch in the number for your pass.

You might even be able to just give the lounge attendant the number to your lounge day pass and as long as you have a boarding pass, you might be able to still get in.

However, to make things easy, I always try to have the printed out version that contains the barcode.

You can get details on how to retrieve your pass below.

Tip: If your pass expired in the last 30 days, you might be able to get a 50% discount off a one-time pass!

How to get the United Explorer anniversary Club passes

Once you are approved for the United Explorer Card, your club passes should be deposited into your mileage plus account within about four weeks.

They will automatically show up so you do not have to take any action.

In the past, you would receive hard-copy cards in the mail, but these are now delivered electronically as of the summer of 2017.

As long as you keep your United Explorer card open, you will receive these two passes every 12 months.

Some people have been able to use the passes shortly after they canceled their cards but this always comes with the risk that the pass is good be inactive.

If the one-time passes are still showing up in your United account, then you may give it a shot and the passes might still work (but just be prepared for them to potentially not work).

Tip: If you are interested in more frequent lounge access or want to get into better airport lounges then you may want to look into the American Express Platinum Card which offers access to quality lounges like Centurion Lounges.

How to find your anniversary Club passes

To locate your anniversary club passes, simply log-in to your United account. When you are viewing your details under “My Account,” you will see whether or not you have a United Club currently in your account.

Screenshot of my account page on United website
You can check the number of club passes you have under “My Account.”

If you click on “View details,” then you will be able to see the actual passes which you can choose to print off if you would like. Again, you can also pull up the passes in the app and show them that way.

When you pull up your passes, you will see the pass number and can view the validity dates including the expiration date.

You can choose to click on a printer friendly pass or email the pass to yourself so that you can pull it up via your inbox.

Screenshot of two united one-time passes
The blacked out sections contain the pass number and barcode.

To pull up the passes in the mobile app, follow these steps:

  1. Open the United app
  2. Sign in to your MileagePlus account.
  3. Select the “My Profile” symbol on the top right corner of the home screen.
  4. Locate your one-time club pass under “Membership and United Club passes”
  5. Select the pass you would like to use

United Explorer one-time Club passes FAQ

Do I get guaranteed United Club access with one-time passes?

Your access to United Clubs is subject to availability so in some limited circumstances, you could be denied access. If that happens, you can inquire with a lounge agent about alternative lounges in the airport that might be open to more capacity.

Do I have to show my pass to get access?

Yes, in order to get entrance into a United Club, you will have to show an agent your day pass or at the very least provide your pass number.

Can I bring in guests with me?

No, you are not permitted to bring in a guest with you when you are using a day pass. However, children under 2 years of age may accompany someone accessing a United Club location with a one-time pass.

Do authorized users get United Club one-time passes?

No, only the primary cardholder will get United Club passes.

How much do the day passes cost?

As an Explorer cardholder, you will receive the two one-time passes for free. However, if you purchase these from United they would cost $59 per person.

Do I receive the United club passes if I cancel my Explorer card?

No, you will no longer receive the United Club passes if you cancel your Explorer card.

Can I use the one-time pass at multiple lounges?

No, you will have to surrender your day pass when you enter the United Club. In some cases, you might be able to visit multiple lounges at the same airport.

Can I use the day passes at Star Alliance lounges?

No, these passes can only be used at United Club lounges.

Can I sell my pass?

The terms and conditions state:

“United Club passes have no cash value, cannot be sold and cannot be replaced if lost or stolen.”

Therefore, while in practice you could sell the pass to someone, that would be in violation of the terms and conditions and you would risk that backfiring.

Final word

I think these passes are great for someone who only needs lounge passes for a couple of times a year and is not looking for an expensive unlimited lounge visit membership.

The passes can be good even for people like me with Priority Pass and Centurion Lounge access. Sometimes, I find myself in an airport where only United Clubs are open and I can use my passes there.

Showdown: Chase Sapphire Preferred vs United Explorer Card [2020]

The Chase Sapphire Preferred vs United MileagePlus Explorer are two of the best cards for United Airlines milesBut how do these cards compare to each other?

This article will take a detailed look at the Chase Sapphire Preferred vs United Explorer. I’ll highlight the perks of both cards and show how you might get more value out of each, depending on things like your spending and travel habits.

Sign-up bonus

Both of these cards are known for offering strong sign-up bonuses on a consistent basis.

Tip: Use WalletFlo for all your credit card needs. It’s free and will help you optimize your rewards and savings!

Chase Sapphire Preferred

  • 60,000 Ultimate Rewards after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months

This 60,000 bonus for the Chase Sapphire Preferred is the new and improved offer. It’s one of the best offers we’ve ever seen for the card and one of the most valuable welcome bonuses out there for any travel card.Read the detailed review of the card here.

Chase United MileagePlus Explorer

The Chase United Explorer Card new limited time sign-up bonus is tiered so that you can earn up to 65,000 Bonus Miles. Here’s how it is broken down:

  • Earn 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
  • Plus earn an additional 25,000 bonus miles after you spend $10,000 total on purchases in the first 6 months

I’d go for the Chase Sapphire Preferred over the Explorer Card right now since the more valuable sign-up bonus is much easier to obtain and I value Chase points more than United miles.

The big difference: travel partners

The big difference between these cards is that the Sapphire Preferred earns Ultimate Rewards which can be transferred to the following airlines.

Chase Ultimate Rewards Airlines

  • Aer Lingus
  • British Airways Executive Club
  • Flying Blue (Air France/KLM)
  • Iberia Airways
  • JetBlue
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
  • United MileagePlus
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

So as you can see, you can transfer your Ultimate Rewards to United Airlines (at a 1:1 ratio).

But beyond United Airlines, you’ll be able to transfer your points out so that you can enjoy some of the best first class experiences out there like:

There are also some fantastic hotels to choose from.

Chase Ultimate Rewards Hotels

  • World of Hyatt
  • IHG Rewards Club
  • Marriott Bonvoy

The ability to transfer your points out to these transfer partners makes your points much more valuable since you have way more flexibility. Sometimes you need to go with different airlines to make your plans work and other times you might want to use points to cover a hotel stay or something. For this reason, I put a lot more value in the Chase Sapphire Preferred over the Explorer Card.

Bonus spending

Chase Sapphire Preferred

The Chase Sapphire Preferred earns the following rates:

  • 2X on dining
  • 2X on travel

Those aren’t bad earning categories but keep in mind that the Chase Sapphire Reserve earns 3X on both of those categories and can offer much more lucrative earnings.

Another thing to think about is that the Sapphire Preferred can have its points redeemed for cash at a rate of 1 cent per point. That’s not the best use of Ultimate Rewards but it’s still nice to have the option to liquidate for cash back if you didn’t have use for your points toward anything else.

Chase United MileagePlus Explorer

The Explorer Card earns the following rates:

  • 2 miles per $1 spent on purchases from United, including tickets, Economy Plus, inflight food, beverages and Wi-Fi, and other United charges
  • 2 miles per $1 spent at restaurants and on hotel stays (when purchased directly through the hotel).

The winner here is clear since the Chase Sapphire Preferred earns 2X on all of the bonus categories that the Explorer Card offers. But on top of that it earns 2X on all travel purchases which is much broader than what the Explorer Card offers.

Having such high quality airline and hotel transfer partners along with the better bonus earnings, really puts the Chase Sapphire Preferred on a different level from the United Explorer Card. It’s simply a much more robust credit card option with a lot more potential.

It’s worth pointing out that you can use your United miles to fly on Star Alliance partners like Singapore Airlines, Lufthansa, and others so you’re not completely limited to flying on United.

Earning 2X on all travel purchases like train rides is a huge plus for the Sapphire Preferred.

Primary rental car insurance

Both of these cards come with primary rental car insurance which can save you a lot by allowing you to avoid filing any kind of claim with your insurance provider.

It’s not common for credit cards to offer primary rental car coverage so this is an important feature of both cards. In some cases, this benefit could justify the annual fee by itself. 

Annual Fee

Chase Sapphire Preferred

  • $95 annual fee (not waived the first year)

Chase United MileagePlus Explorer

  • $95 annual fee (waived the first year)

You can avoid the annual fee with the Explorer the first year which is nice but I’m okay with paying $95 when earning 80,000 Ultimate Rewards.

Tip: Use WalletFlo for all your credit card needs. It’s free and will help you optimize your rewards and savings!

Special benefits

The United Explorer Card comes with a host of benefits that you won’t find on the Sapphire Preferred.

Global Entry

Up to $100 as a statement credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓® every 4 years as reimbursement. Global Entry will allow you to get expedited entry back into the US through customs and immigration. Nothing feels better after a long international flight, than breezing through immigration and customs.

It used to be that Global Entry was a pretty special perk but now just about every premium card offers it. It’s still not extremely common for a card with a $95 annual fee to offer the perk, though.

Free first checked bag

The Explorer card offers a free checked bag for you and a companion. United charges $30 for your first checked baggage for their baggage policy. So this means you could save up to $120 per roundtrip. The great thing about this perk is that it’s offered for international fights and not just domestic flights like some other airlines.

Priority boarding

The primary cardmember and companions on the same reservation will be invited to board United-operated flights prior to general boarding. This is a nice perk although the group you’ll board in can still get pretty long.  Read more about how the different United boarding groups work.

Increased award inventory

The Explorer card will offer you enhanced award inventory for United awards. This is actually a very valuable perk since it makes using your miles much easier — I think it’s one of the most underrated features of the card.

United Club passes

The card will offer two one-time passes for United Clubs and they will be deposited into your MileagePlus account after account opening and each year for your Cardmember anniversary. These are worth over $100 and are great for people who may only take one or two trips a year since you’ll get the option of some pretty solid lounge access (depending on your travel routes). You can get a peak of what you can expect at a United Club here. 

Discount on in-flight food

25% back as a statement credit on purchases of food, beverages and Wi-Fi onboard United-operated flights when you pay with your Explorer Card.

So how valuable are these perks?

If you utilized the Global Entry credit and took two roundtrips with a companion, while checking bags and enjoying United Club access, you could receive $400 worth of value right there. And that’s before you ever even have to pay an annual fee. So if you want to fly United, there’s a lot of value potential here.

Get United Club Lounge access with this card.

Chase application rules

Both of these cards are subject to the Chase 5/24 rule and because of that you will be denied for these cards if you’ve opened up 5 or more accounts within the past two years.

There are exceptions to this rule, though. In addition, there are some other Chase application rules you might want to read up on to make sure that you’re not violating any of these rules.

Chase Refer a Friend

Both of these participate in the Chase Refer a Friend program (read more about that program here).

Chase Sapphire Preferred

The Chase Sapphire Preferred referral allows you to earn 10,000 Ultimate Rewards per approval up to a maximum of 50,000 points per calendar year.

Chase United MileagePlus Explorer

The Chase United MileagePlus Explorer referrals allow you to earn 10,000 United miles per approval up to a maximum of 50,000 miles per calendar year.

Chase Shopping Portal

While the Chase Sapphire Preferred lacks many of the United-specific perks it does offer two very valuable perks that the United does not offer. The first is the Chase Shopping Portal.

The Chase Shopping Portal is a special website open only to Chase cardmembers that allows you to earn additional bonus Ultimate Rewards when making purchases at various online retailers. It’s a fantastic way to increase your earnings and rack up points — you can learn more about this portal here

There is also a United shopping portal, however. It’s open to the public so it’s not a benefit specific to the United card. Still, it can offer a lot of ways to earn extra miles.

Chase Travel Portal

The second unique perk for the Sapphire Preferred is the Chase Travel Portal. The Sapphire Preferred will allow you to redeem at a rate of 1.25 cents per point which is pretty good. It’s not as lucrative as the 1.5 cents per point you get with the Sapphire Reserve, but it’s still nothing to scoff at.

In some cases, it might make more sense to use the Chase Travel Portal than to transfer your miles to United, especially if you have the Sapphire Reserve. Find out more about the Chase Travel Portal here

Approval odds

Both of these credit cards are going to require you to have good to excellent credit scores. And beyond that, you’ll want to have established credit history spanning at least a couple of years before applying.

I wouldn’t apply for either one of these cards if I was brand-new to credit cards and lacked a credit profile. If you want to read more about approval odds for the Sapphire Preferred you can do that here. 

Final word

Both of these credit cards are worth considering. If you’re interested in taking a few trips with United, then the Explorer Card can offer you a couple of hundred bucks in value each year which can entirely offset future annual fees.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred on the other hand is the more robust travel rewards card that will set you up with a strong and flexible sign-up bonus along with great bonus earning potential.

Two New Credit Card Offers

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Per Reddit, two new credit offers (one from Alaskan Airlines and the other from United)  have just rolled out as we roll into the month of June and one of them is one of the best ever offered (although it’s targeted). Here’s a look at the two offers and some insight into whether or not you should apply.

Alaskan Airlines 30,000 miles 

The Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card is now offering a 30,000 miles sign-up bonus after you make $1,000 or more in purchases within the first 90 days. Many are attracted to the extra 5,000 miles being offered for this card, however, the another offer for 25,000 miles and a $100 statement credit is still available as well.

The latter offer grants you the 25,000 miles upon approval so there’s no spending required for the bonus. If you do get around to spending $1,000 within 90 days of opening the card, you’ll get a $100 statement credit. That statement credit can more than offset the annual fee of $75 which is not waived the first year.

Which offer is best for you depends on whether or not you want to bother with the spending requirement and what kind of value you plan on getting out of the miles. For example, Alaskan miles can be redeemed on partner airlines like American Airlines and Delta. If you can redeem your Alaskan miles for over 2 cents per point, then those additional 5,000 points you get from the 30,000 miles offer would bring more value than the $100 statement credit. On the other hand, maybe you’re not keen on paying annual fees and you’d rather have the statement credit offset the $75 annual fee. It all comes down to personal preference.

Chase United MileagePlus Explorer Card 70,000 miles

The Chase United MileagePlus Explorer Card is now offering a 70,000 miles sign-up bonus for $3,000 worth of spending within the first 90 days. 

This is a targeted offer so you’re going to have to be a bit lucky to receive it. To my knowledge, this is the highest bonus ever offered on this card (the standard offer is only 30,000 miles!). I would definitely jump on this offer if I received it. 70,000 miles can go pretty far with United — it’s enough to get you round trip business class tickets to Mexico, the Caribbean, or Central America, and it is just 10,000 miles short of earning you a round trip business class ticket to places like Hawaii. The value of those 70,000 miles could easily surpass $1,400 when redeemed for premium fares.

If you happened to have already applied for this card in the past 90 days you should definitely send a secured message to Chase requesting a match for the offer. If you’ve actually received an offer for the 70,000 miles you should have no problem receiving the match but even if you haven’t received the offer you might get lucky and get matched anyway.

Keep in mind that this is one of the co-branded cards subject to the new 5/24 Rule. However, some targeted offers (those that come in the mail providing you with an application code) allow you to circumvent the rule. Personally, if I was over 5/24, I don’t think I would apply for this card unless I received an application code, as data points suggest you may get denied.

Chase Ink Plus 70,000 Ultimate Rewards 

And just as a bonus, here’s a reminder about the Chase Ink Plus offer.

This offer was already out but has since been extended for the length of the summer season until August 20, 2016. I think this a superb offer since the annual fee is typically waived the first year. However, the offer is only available in branch (subject to certain exceptions).  To read more about this offer click here.


How to Get the 50,000 United MileagePlus Explorer Card Offer

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The United MileagePlus Explorer Card is a great card to apply for if you think you are going to be flying United Airlines. The standard sign-up bonus allows you to earn 30,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. That offer isn’t horrible but there’s a much better offer where you can earn 50,000 bonus miles after spending $1,000-$3,000 in the first 3 months your account is open, plus another 5,000 for adding an authorized user.

The only issue is that sometimes you’ve got to do a little bit of work to find this offer (or to have the offer find you). So here’s how you can try to increase your odds of getting the 50,000 United MileagePlus Explorer Card offer.

50,000 United MileagePlus Explorer Card Offer
The 50,000 United MileagePlus Explorer Card Offer

Sign up for a MileagePlus Account

If you have not done so, you need sign up for a MileagePlus account! Typically, after you sign-up, you will receive either an email or letter in the mail (or both) containing the 50,000 promotion. Sometimes it can take up to two months for the offer to arrive so try to be patient. Unfortunately, not everyone will receive this offer and there’s no way of knowing if you will receive it or not so it’s a bit of a guessing game.


Check the United website for ads

If you don’t ever receive on in the mail or email, then try logging into United Airline’s website and go through the process of planning an online booking. At each different step in the process, check to see if an advertisement pops up for the 50,000 United MileagePlus Explorer Card offer. This is how Brad first received his targeted offer and it showed up about two weeks after he joined MileagePlus. On the other hand, this advertisement never showed up for me and I had to wait about 1.5 months for my targeted offer to arrive in the mail.

Buy something through the United MileagePlus Shopping Portal

One method that people have had success with is purchasing an item through the MileagePlus Shopping portal. It seems that a few weeks after making a purchase through the shopping portal many people received the 50,000 offer so it might be a good idea to go ahead and make a purchase through the portal as soon as you can if you really want this offer.

Screen Shot 2016-03-12 at 9.43.13 AM

Make a purchase on the MPX App

A similar tactic is to make a purchase on the United MPX App. The app is a great tool for earning United miles on purchases from different retailers and restaurants, often earning you 2-5 miles per dollar spent. Reports from Reddit showed that some may have been issued the promotional offer right after making a purchase on the app.


In light of the above, it might even be worth it to sign-up for the dining rewards and eat out at a restaurant to see if that has any effect. It may not have any effect but I don’t see how it could hurt.

Call and talk (beg) to Chase

Chase Logo

If all else fails, you can try calling into Chase and requesting to be matched to the 50,000 offer after you have signed up for the 30,000 offer. I know some have had success with getting the 50,000 miles, despite never having received the 50,000 offer in any form. At the same time, I’ve seen reports where others were denied due to the fact that they weren’t targeted. Thus, your mileage will vary on this, but if you’ve tried everything else then you might as well give it a shot.

And if you happen to receive the 50,000 miles offer after getting approved for the 30,000 offer, Chase will almost always honor the higher offer so long as you contact them within 90 days of opening up your account.

What Chase Credit Card Is Best For You in 2016?

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With the new 5/24 Rule likely coming into fruition April of 2016, consumers are going to be forced to approach Chase credit card applications a lot differently. And since your options are going to be limited due to the rule, you want to make sure you’re getting the cards that are most valuable and useful to you. This article will run down the best Chase travel, airline, and hotel cards that are available to you in 2016.

The Chase Trifecta

My first recommendation is to look into the “Chase Trifecta.” The Chase Trifecta is the combination of the Chase Sapphire Preferred, the Chase Freedom, and either the Chase Ink+ or Chase Ink Cash. These cards make up a trifecta because you’re able to earn a ton of Ultimate Rewards by making purchases in their respective bonus categories and earn some pretty hefty sign-up bonuses. Since these cards can earn you points that you can transfer to a variety of transfer partners, I personally would make it a priority to get one, two, or all three of them.

Here’s a brief breakdown of the benefits of these cards:

The Sapphire Preferred

  • Annual Fee: $95, waived the first year
  • Sign-up Bonus: 40K to 50K (currently 50K) when you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months
  • 2X on all travel purchases (hotels, air fare, taxis, etc.)
  • 2X on dining.

The Chase Ink+

  • Annual Fee: $95, not waived the first year
  • Sign-up Bonus: 50K to 60K  (currently 60K) after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
  • 5X on office supplies stores, phone bills, internet, and cable bills
  • 2X on hotels
  • 2x on gas

The Chase Freedom card

  • Annual Fee: No annual fee!
  • Sign-up Bonus: 15K after you spend $500 in the first 3 months.
  • 5X on rotating bonus categories that have included: groceries, gas, dining, Amazon, department stores, etc.

Tip:  The Freedom is a good intro card if you’ve never held a card with Chase before and you’re maybe slightly questionable about your odds of being approved for the Chase Sapphire Preferred.


One thing that is important to know is that only Chase customers who currently hold a Sapphire Preferred or a Chase Ink+ have the option of transferring their Ultimate Rewards to travel partners like United, Southwest, IHG, etc. Therefore, if you’re interested in utilizing Ultimate Rewards for travel, you need at least one of these cards.

A word on the Chase Trifecta 

The Chase Trifecta is great but now with the new 5/24 rule applying to all Chase cards, it may not be the best fit for your needs. For example, if you’ve opened up two cards within the past two years and you obtain the Chase Trifecta, you would not be able to apply for any of the Chase hotel or airline cards below.

Thus, if you really value a few of the Chase airline and hotel cards you might be better off by not going for the Chase Trifecta or at least limiting yourself to only getting the Chase Sapphire Preferred and maybe just one of the Freedom/and or Ink.

Regardless of whether or not you choose to pick up the Trifecta, because of the 5/24 rule it is now imperative that you have some clear plan when pursuing Chase co-branded cards. Now, you need to know which 2 or 3 cards are your top priorities and then go for them before you’re excluded from being approved.

Since you really need to know what airline and hotel cards are most valuable, here’s a look at what I believe are some of the top airline and hotel cards that you might want to look into before being excluded by the 5/24 rule.

Tip: If you’re a newbie with no new credit card accounts within the past 24 months, then do your best to prioritize your credit card applications with Chase. It will take some patience (maybe like 2 apps every 2-3 months) but at least you’ll be able to get the cards you want before you hit the 5/24 threshold.


Southwest Airlines Cards

There are four Southwest Cards offered by Chase: the personal Premier and Plus cards and the business Premier and Plus cards. (I’ll focus on the two personal cards as most people will not be looking for business cards but don’t rule them out.)

If you plan on flying a lot domestically (or even hitting up the Caribbean) over the next couple of years then getting two of these cards may need to be a priority for you! The reason is that you can quickly accumulate enough miles for the coveted Companion Pass and saves tons on your travels!

Here’s an overview of the  two different personal cards:

Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card

Southwest Plus Card

  • Annual Fee: $69, not waived
  • Sign-up Bonus: 25,000 to 50,000 sign-up bonus


  • 3,000 Bonus Points after your Cardmember Anniversary
  • Earn unlimited points that don’t expire
  • 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest Airlines and Rapid Rewards®Hotel and Car Rental Partner purchases
  • 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.

Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier card

Southwest Premier Card

  • Annual Fee: $99, not waived
  • Sign-up Bonus: 25,000 to 50,000 sign-up bonus


  • Receive 6,000 bonus points after your cardmember anniversary
  • Earn unlimited points that don’t expire
  • Potential to earn A-List quicker (mostly for big spenders)
  • Earn 2 points for every $1 you spend on Southwest Airlines purchases made directly with the airline. Also, earn 2 points per $1 you spend on Southwest Rapid Rewards Hotel and Car Rental Partner purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees

These cards have good sign-up bonuses when you can catch the 50K Rapid Rewards offer but what really makes them valuable is that you can use these cards to help you reach the 110K Rapid Rewards needed for the Southwest Companion Pass. The Companion Pass offers you a free additional seat for two calendar years. Thus, the benefit offered by these cards can be extremely valuable if you even do a moderate amount of flying.

Tip: If the Chase website is showing the 25K offers do searches for Southwest Premier 50K offer or Southwest Plus 50K offer. Sometimes you’ll find a direct link to an offer and other times you might have to get a referral link from a user on a website like Flyertalk or Reddit.

United Airlines Mileage Plus Explorer Card


  • Annual Fee: $95, waived the first year
  • Sign-up Bonus: 30K (targeted offer for 50K)

Tip: The standard bonus offer for the Mileage Plus Explorer Card is 30K. However, if you sign up for a Mileage Plus account, you’ll almost surely be sent a targeted offer for 50K mies + 5K for adding an authorized user. You can also often find this offer available in-branch.


  • 2 annual United Club lounges passes (a perfect benefit for those who don’t fly frequently)
  • Free first checked bag for you and a companion on both domestic and international flights when booked with United
  • Priority Boarding

If you foresee yourself using or booking through United Airlines in the near future then this can be a great way to cover your upcoming travel and enjoy some travel benefits like complimentary lounge access. The two annual lounges passes may not seem like much to some but for a couple who only flies once or twice a year they can utilize those passes.

Moreover, you can always supplement your United miles with the points earned from the Chase Trifecta, making it easy to quickly accumulate enough miles for business or first class tickets.

The British Airways Card


  • Annual Fee: $95, not waived the first year
  • Sign-up Bonus: 50,000 bonus Avios after you spend $2,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of account opening. Plus earn an additional 25,000 bonus Avios when you spend $10,000 on purchases or 50,000 bonus Avios when you spend a total of $20,000 on purchases within your first year


  • Potential to earn up to 100,000 Avios within a year
  • Every calendar year you make $30,000 in purchases on your British Airways Visa Signature card, you will earn a Travel Together Ticket good for two years when you redeem Avios for a flight on British Airways. (This is the companion pass for British Airways but it’s not quite as practical to use as the Southwest Companion Pass is.)
  • Earn 3 Avios for every $1 spent on British Airways purchases and 1 Avios for every $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees

The most valuable feature of this card to me is the potential to earn up to 100K Avios (since the companion pass poses some difficulties). Although the domestic short-haul flight are not as cheap as they once were, booking through Avios is still a decent way to fly around the states and I’ve also gotten some great value through Avios by booking flights to get around in South America.


The IHG Rewards Club Card

IHG credit CARD

  • Annual Fee: $49, waived the first year
  • Sign-up Bonus: 60K (targeted offer for 80K)


  • One free night every anniversary year that can be redeemed at some of the best IHG hotels out there like the Intercontinental (a lot of co-branded hotel cards restrict such redemptions to less valuable hotels).
  • Platinum Elite status as long as you’re a Select cardmember
  • Earn 5 points per $1 spent when you stay at their hotels
  • Earn 2 points per $1 spent on purchases at gas stations, grocery stores & restaurants
  • Earn 1 point for every $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Automatic 10% point rebate
  • No foreign transaction fees

With such a low annual fee this card is a keeper in my opinion. It won’t be hard to get a couple of hundred bucks back in value for your $49 annual fee and the card even has decent earning potential for everyday spend.

The Hyatt Credit Card


  • Annual Fee: $75, waived the first year
  • Sign-up Bonus: Earn 2 free nights at Hyatt, worldwide after you make $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months after account opening


  • 2 free nights at Hyatt, worldwide after you make $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months (nights must be used within one year of receiving the card)
  • Platinum Status
  • Free night at any category 1-4 hotel after your cardmember anniversary
  • Earn 3 Hyatt Gold Passport points for every $1 spent on purchases at all Hyatt properties with your Hyatt credit card.
  • Earn 2 Hyatt Gold Passport points for every $1 spent at restaurants, on airline tickets purchased directly from the airline and at car rental agencies.
  • Earn 1 Hyatt Gold Passport point for every $1 spent on purchases anywhere else
  • Get 5,000 bonus points when you add an authorized user

This is definitely one of the most valuable deals where you can get two free nights (quickly) without even having to pay the annual fee the first year. On top of that, you get the annual free night that can easily cover your annual fee and bring you plenty of additional value.

The Marriott Rewards Credit Card


  • Annual Fee: $85, not waived the first year
  • Sign-up Bonus: 80K (plus 7.5K for adding an authorized user)


  • 1 Free Night Stay at a Category 1-5 hotel every year after your account anniversary
  • Guaranteed Elite Status (Silver Benefits)
  • Earn 5 points per $1 spent at over 4,000 Marriott locations worldwide
  • Earn 2 points per $1 spent on restaurants, car rental agencies, and on airline tickets purchased directly with the airline
  • Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • No foreign transaction fees

Sometimes, an offer with a sign-up bonus for 70K rolls around with the annual fee waived the first year but this card is still valuable with the $85 annual fee as the annual free night could more than make-up for it. The Silver Status isn’t quite as good as the Platinum Status offered by the IHG card but it’s still a decent perk. Considering the upcoming merger with Starwood, you’ve got to think that the already widespread availability of Marriott Hotels is just going to continue to grow. One last plus about this card: it’s metal like the Chase Sapphire Preferred!

Final Word

The new 5/24 rule may or may not take effect this coming April. However, you want to make sure that you are ready just in case. If you know you will have more than 5 accounts in the last two years come this spring, then try to sneak in a few apps with Chase before the rule comes into effect. If you don’t have any new accounts, then with a combination of planning and patience, you should be able to snag at least a few of the most valuable Chase cards come 2016.