United℠ Explorer Card Review
Airline credit cards often charge annual fees, and it can be a toss-up as to whether you get enough value out of the card each year to make up for the fee.
But with the United<sup>℠</sup> Explorer Card, you could get far more value out of the card than you’ll ever pay in annual fees, even if you only fly United a couple of times a year. Read on to learn about what makes the card one of the best airline cards on the market.
United℠ Explorer Card Review
A lot of airline credit cards offer bonus rewards only on purchases with that particular airline, but the United℠ Explorer Card makes it even easier to rack up miles.
You’ll earn 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first three months. You’ll also earn:
- 2 miles per dollar spent at restaurants and on hotel stays and purchases with United.
- 1 mile per dollar spent elsewhere.
United MileagePlus miles are worth approximately 1.4 cents apiece on average, which means that your rewards rates are roughly 2.8% on bonus spending and 1.4% on all other spending. And because United belongs to the Star Alliance, you can use your MileagePlus miles to book flights with any of the airline’s international partners.
The card’s rewards program alone makes it worth considering, but its other perks are what make the card really shine. Here’s what you can expect:
Airport lounge access: You’ll receive two free one-time passes to the United Club lounge each year. The value of these passes alone more than makes up for the card’s annual fee, which is $0 the first year then $95 after that.
Other United-specific perks: You’ll get priority boarding on United flights, one free checked bag for you and one travel companion, a 25% statement credit on in-flight purchases, and seat upgrades for MileagePlus Premier members.
Expedited security screening: You’ll get an application fee credit worth up to $100 every four years when you apply for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓.
Primary rental car insurance: Most credit cards offer rental car insurance, but very few of them offer primary coverage. This means that if you get in an accident in your rental car, you don’t have to file a claim with your personal insurance company first; the card’s coverage kicks in immediately. Keep in mind, though, that it doesn’t cover liability.
Other trip protections: The card offers a handful of other types of travel insurance that can make life easier for you while vacationing. Benefits include baggage delay insurance, lost luggage reimbursement, trip delay reimbursement, and trip cancellation or interruption insurance.
No foreign transaction fees: If you travel a lot overseas, you won’t pay the typical 3% foreign transaction fee every time you use this card.
No credit card is a perfect fit for everyone. Here are some things to watch out for with the United℠ Explorer Card.
Redemption options are limited
If you’re a frequent flyer and United is your airline of choice, you shouldn’t have an issue with this. But the card’s rewards are limited to redemptions for flights and seat upgrades.
General travel cards like the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card, on the other hand, allow you to redeem your rewards for just about any travel purchase.
Bad for infrequent flyers
If you don’t get to travel often due to time or money constraints, the card’s sign-up bonus can help you with one or two flights. But after that, you may not be able to take advantage of the card’s benefits often enough to make the card’s annual fee worth it.
The free checked bag benefit is lacking
The card offers one free checked bag for you and one other person on your itinerary. But if you have a family, you might get more value from another airline credit card. Here are a few alternatives:
- Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express: One free checked bag for you and up to eight other passengers on your reservation.
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®: One free checked bag for you and up to four other passengers on your reservation.
- Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card: All Southwest passengers get two free checked bags.
The Bottom Line
The United<sup>℠</sup> Explorer Card is packed with perks, making it one of the best airline credit cards available. But the card’s annual fee could be a deal breaker for some, especially if you don’t often travel or don’t spend a lot of money.
Also, the card’s limited flexibility could make it less valuable to someone who’s more interested in getting the best flight deals regardless of the airline. For someone like this, a general travel credit card may be a better choice.
Before you apply for the United℠ Explorer Card or any other credit card, compare it with similar cards to make sure you’re getting the most rewards and benefits based on your spending habits and preferences.
Specifically, check out other top travel credit cards and compare what they have to offer with the United℠ Explorer Card. This research process can take time, but you’ll be better off with the right card than with one that doesn’t quite fit your needs.
Editorial Note: The information related to United℠ Explorer Card has been collected by Credit Cards House and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.
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Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.