About United MileagePlus Explorer Business Card

By J.R. Duren
HighYa Staff
Published on: Aug 9, 2017

Business would be a lot easier if you could earn a profit by effortlessly doing everyday things that don’t take any effort.

While the United MileagePlus Explorer Business card from Chase may not be able to turn a profit for your business, it can give you free flights solely based on your normal, everyday spending.

Knowing how to leverage the card to get yourself and your employees some free flights is an art as much as it is a skill.

Our review of the United MileagePlus Explorer Business card is going to examine how this card makes free flights available, how you can get those free flights, what other perks you can expect from this card as well as the MileagePlus Explorer Business’ rates and fees.

Once we’re done with all of the research, you should have an excellent idea if your company’s spending habits are consistent with the way this card’s rewards structure is set up.

We’ll finish this review with three quick sections: pros, cons and who we think this card is good for.

How the MileagePlus Explorer Business Card Gives You Free Flights

United’s frequent flyer program is known as the MileagePlus program. If you aren’t already a member of MileagePlus, you’ll automatically be signed up if you’re accepted for the card.

That’s important because all the main rewards of this card focus on the MileagePlus program.

50,000 Bonus Miles

When you spend $3,000 in the first three months of owning this card, Chase and United will award 50,000 miles to your MileagePlus account.

Those 50,000 miles are good enough to get you at least two free economy-class flights.

In our research of United’s rewards flights, we found that getting a flight for 25,000 MileagePlus miles is actually harder than you think.

United’s 12,500-mile flights are known as Saver Award seats and they tend to be on the flights that leave early in the morning.

For example, we researched a flight from Orlando to Denver about two months after the time of publishing and found two flights that offered Saver Award seats. Both flights left at 6:30 a.m.

There were four pages of results and all but two flights on those four pages cost 25,000 miles.

United says there aren’t any restrictions, limitations or blackouts on booking seats. However, keep in mind that this applies to United’s Standard Award seats, which, on the flight we researched, were 50,000 miles for a one-way ticket.

Based on all this information, we believe the 50,000 bonus points you get when you spend $3,000 is of marginal value.

However, if you don’t mind taking early-morning flights, then there’s a good chance you can get two round-trip flights from your bonus points.

Points on Purchases

The up-front chunk of bonus miles you get only happens once. If that were the only way to get miles, this card wouldn’t be worth owning. However, United and Chase will give you MileagePlus miles nearly every time you make a purchase.

You will get 2 miles for purchases in the following categories:

  • Restaurants
  • Gas stations
  • Office supply stores

We read through the fine print and found Chase’s explanation of what constitutes an “office supply store.” The definition is maddeningly vague:

“Merchants in the office supply stores category specialize in selling a variety of office supplies, from larger office supply stores to smaller stationary stores … Merchants and wholesale distributors that specialize in only a few large office supplies, such as computer software and hardware, office furniture, photocopiers, and office equipment, are not included even if they also sell some smaller office supplies.”

Some of the stores that traditionally qualify for “office supply” include Staples and Office Max.

As far as gas stations go, your typical gas stations are part of the bonus program but gas stations at wholesale clubs and those at truck stops don’t count. Here’s a quick list of other gas purchases that don’t earn 2x rewards:

  • Boat marinas
  • Oil and propane distributors
  • Home heating companies

10,000-Mile Spending Bonus

If you can spend $25,000 in a calendar year, you’ll get an additional 10,000 bonus miles in your MileagePlus account. Chase only counts miles collected in the Jan. 1 – Dec. 31 year, so keep that in mind.

If you get the card mid-year, they’ll only count what you earned from the day you were approved to Dec. 31.

Maximizing Your United MileagePlus Miles

The key here is to make sure that you can hit the $25,000 spending threshold for the yearly bonus as well as the initial $3,000 you need to spend to get the 50,000 miles bonus in the first three months.

If you can do that, then you have the potential of earning 60,000 miles alone on bonuses. If your spending is similar to the average $30,000 yearly spend on American business cards, then you can expect at least another 30,000 miles. In total, you could earn 90,000 points in your first year.

Now, if you want to squeeze every last mile out of this card – or at least figure out if the card is right for you – then take a minute to look over last year’s books and see how much your company spent on restaurants, gas, and office supply stores.

Does your spending in those categories give you a good return on bonus miles? If so, this card could be a great choice in the long run. If you don’t spend much in those areas, then the value of this card really drops after the first year.

Other Travel Perks You Get With the MileagePlus Explorer Business

Free miles aren’t the only benefit to getting this card. When you book your flight with your MileagePlus Explorer Business card, you’ll get a couple of different travel benefits:

  • Free first checked bag for you and a travel companion on your reservation
  • Priority boarding
  • 2 free passes a year to United Club airport lounges

The United Club passes have negligible value because you’re limited to two per year. However, the priority boarding and free bags is something you get with every flight.

Let’s say you have to fly out early in the morning because you booked a 6:30 Saver Award seat. You’re tired and a little groggy. Priority boarding gives you the advantage of not waiting in a long line to board and you can get settled in and situated before the masses come on the plane.

Because the MileagePlus Explorer Business is part of the Visa Signature program, you’ll also get free breakfast, room upgrades, early check-in and late check-out whenever you book a Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection stay with your Explorer Business Card.

See Also: The Best Business Rewards Credit Card of 2017

The United MileagePlus Explorer Business Card’s Rates and Fees

Much has been made over the past few years about credit card fees and interest rates. Avoiding them is simple: Don’t pay late and always pay your balance off every month.

Here’s a quick list of the Explorer Business card’s interest rates and fees:

  • APR: 16.99-23.99%
  • Penalty APR: Up to 29.99%
  • Annual fee: $0 first year, $95 after
  • Late fee: Up to $39
  • Foreign transaction fee: None

Based on numbers we’ve researched from CreditCards.com, business owners with credit cards have an average balance of $3,600. If you carry a balance, your APR kicks in. If you carry a $3,000 balance every day for 365 days, you’ll pay more than $600 in interest if your APR is 16.99%.

Also, keep in mind that Chase will hit you with a penalty APR if you don’t pay on-time the minimum amount due. That APR will be significantly higher than your normal APR and could remain on your account until you close it.

The Pros of the United MileagePlus Explorer Business Card

Based on our research of this card and other airline rewards credit cards, we believe the strongest features of this card are the priority boarding, free bags and the opportunity to earn 10,000 bonus miles for spending $25,000 in a year.

The Cons of the United MileagePlus Explorer Business Card

We believe, based on what we’ve researched, that this card’s drawbacks aren’t so much the miles that you can earn but how far those miles go when you’re booking a flight.

Limited Saver Award seats and the fact that those seats tend to leave at undesirable times, making their 12,500-point-value difficult to swallow if you want decent flight times.

Who Is the United MileagePlus Explorer Business Card Good For?

We believe, based on what we’ve learned about this card, that the best fit for the card is someone whose business expenses line up with the miles bonuses on the card. We also believe that those who want pre-flight perks like priority boarding and free baggage will enjoy this card.

If you’ve read through this review and believe that the MileagePlus Explorer Business isn’t the best fit for you, check out our article on the best airline rewards credit cards of 2017.

Many of the cards you’ll read about – we break them down by category – have business versions, which we think is pertinent to your interest. The Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier card is an excellent example of this.

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