About United MileagePlus Explorer Card
The United MileagePlus Explorer card is a credit card from Chase with an offer of 40,000 frequent-flyer miles if you spend $,000 in the first three months.
The card also offers a suite of flight- and travel-focused benefits that make it a formidable choice for those who travel often and like airline perks.
However, this card is just one of many airline rewards cards, so it takes a little investigative work to find out which cards offer the best short-term deals (free miles/points, for example) and the best long-term perks.
You’ll also want to figure out what actual customers are saying about the card – all the perks in the world can’t negate an awful customer experience.
It’s also a good idea to do a couple of searches for rewards flights through the airline’s booking portal – you might find that certain airline rewards cards are more valuable because their points/miles can go a lot further.
We've done that work for you, the results of which are included in this review. The information we provide will be split up into the following categories:
- Short-term benefits
- Long-term benefits
- Fees and penalties
- The true value of your miles
- Customer reviews
At the end of this article, we’ll give you our overall opinions about this card.
The Short-Term Benefits of the United MileagePlus Card
Short-term benefits on a credit card are any bonuses or waived fees you get the first year of owning your United MileagePlus Explorer card.
The purpose of these perks is to reel you in and get you to sign up for the card. Some consumers sign-up based on the bonus and it doesn’t always work out for them because, over time, the true value of the card isn’t so great.
As we mentioned earlier, new cardholders get a 40,000-mile bonus if they spend $2,000 in the first three months of owning their card.
You’ll have to set up a MileagePlus account to get these miles, and the miles usually take six to eight weeks to arrive once you’ve hit the spending threshold.
You can also get an additional 5,000 miles if you add an authorized user who makes a purchase in the first three months.
The Long-Term Benefits of the United MileagePlus Explorer Card
We like to classify long-term benefits as perks and bonuses you get ever year, not just the first year. The United MileagePlus Explorer card has several benefits, some of which are industry standard and others which make it unique:
- Two United Club passes every year ($118 value)
- One free checked bag every flight ($25 per flight)
- Free priority boarding
- 2:1 miles on United/restaurant/travel purchases, 1:1 on everything else
- Global Entry/PreCheck fee credit ($85-$100)
- 25% discount in-flight purchases
We think these long-term perks are valuable for frequent flyers. The card has strong points earning potential compared to the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier or the Frontier World Elite Mastercard, which only provide double points on purchases you make with them.
Based on our research of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, we believe this card's points rewards structure can earn you around 30,000 points a year, which is enough for a round-trip flight.
The MileagePlus Explorer’s other benefits are strong as well. Priority boarding is a welcomed perk for frequent travelers, as are two free passes to any of the airline’s United Club locations, which are members-only airport lounges where travelers can get varying degrees of free beverages, food and peace-and-quiet.
Another perk is the 25% discount on in-flight purchases. Remember, though, that this discount is given back to you in the form of a statement credit and not when you make the purchase on the plane.
Pro tip: The free-bag allowance is only good on United or United Express flights. If you book what’s known as a “codeshare” (United flight operated by another carrier), you don’t get the free bag allowance.
You’ll also get reimbursed up to $500 if your flight is delayed at least 12 hours or requires an overnight stay, up to $12,000 in reimbursements if you have to cancel a non-refundable trip and up to $3,000 in coverage for lost luggage.
Purchase and Auto Rental Protection
The United credit card’s long-term benefits aren’t limited to travel.
MileagePlus Explorer cardholders get auto rental CDW (collision damage waiver … insurance, basically), 120 days of purchase protection (reimbursement for stolen or damaged items you buy) and price protection (reimbursement if an item you by goes down in price within 90 days).
In our opinion, the MileagePlus Explorer card’s extensive benefits make it a top-three airline rewards card.
The United MileagePlus Explorer’s Fees and Penalties
Every Chase credit card has a “Pricing & Terms” document that talks about the fees and penalties you might have to pay. The MileagePlus Explorer card is no different:
- APR: From 17.49% to 24.49% depending on your credit scores and credit history
- Balance transfer fee: 5% of the amount you transfer
- Foreign transaction fees: None
- Late fees: Up to $37
- Annual fee: $95, $0 the first year.
The fees you see here are pretty standard for airline rewards cards. All of them charge an annual fee that helps them offset the cost of giving you free travel rewards.
The interest rates are similar to other airline rewards cards, as is the annual fee. Like the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select and the Gold Delta SkyMiles, the $95 annual fee is waived the first year.
The True Value of the United MileagePlus Explorer Card’s Miles
In our 2018 rankings of the best airline rewards cards, we did some in-depth research on the value of rewards miles.
You see, it’s not just how many miles you get from a card, but how many miles a flight will cost you. A round-trip rewards flight from Los Angeles to New York will cost you 60,000 miles on Delta, whereas the same flight on Virgin America costs less than 19,000 miles.
United’s rewards flights are pretty reasonable. You can find round-trip flights starting at 25,000 miles, which is a great deal considering you get 50,000 bonus miles if you hit the spending limit with your MileagePlus Explorer card.
Two free flights sound great, right? Better yet, there aren’t any restrictions or blackout dates when you use your miles, which means you can pretty much book any flight you want as long as there’s an open seat.
Here’s the catch: United has a limited number of 12.5K seats. If you don’t book early enough, those cheap seats will disappear and you’ll be stuck paying 25,000 miles for each leg of your trip.
Another thing you may not think about is flight times. United’s cheapest rewards flights usually leave early in the morning or late at night.
If you’re flying by yourself, it may not be a problem. However, families who need reasonable departure times should remember they’ll probably end up paying 50K miles per flight instead of 25K.
I ran into this problem when I was trying to book seats from Jacksonville to San Diego for myself and my wife (our toddler sat on our lap). United’s 12.5K seats were available on planes that left before 7 a.m., which makes for a long day for a family traveling with little ones.
I was disappointed we couldn’t get the two free flights I’d hoped for, but I found a middle ground. We booked cheap one-way flights from JAX to SAN on Delta. Then, on the way home, we used our United miles to book seats on a mid-morning flight.
All in all, we think United’s rewards seats offer decent value, but you’ll most likely have to give up good flight times on at least one leg of your flight to get the cheapest seats.
A Look at Consumer Reviews of the United MileagePlus Explorer Card
As one of the more popular travel cards on the market, the United MileagePlus Explorer has a high profile on many credit card and personal finance sites. That’s good for you because it gives you a broad idea of what people think about the card.
Many consumer reviews we read praised the card for its sign-up bonus and the various perks you get when you fly (free bags and priority boarding).
Some of the negative reviews we read complained that the United won't let you use the free baggage benefit on codeshare flights.
Another reviewer said that they tried to get in a United Club and were turned away because the lounge didn't have any room for the “temporary passes” cardholders get for free every year.
Also, we discovered through a complaint that United will charge you $100 if you make a change to your flight less than 21 days before your departure day.
Pros and Cons of the United MileagePlus Explorer Card
The United MileagePlus Explorer card is one of the best airline rewards cards for consumers who want a comprehensive rewards experience.
One free checked bag, priority boarding, 25% discounts on in-flight purchases and yearly passes to United’s airport lounges are great perks for people who travel often, as is the reimbursement fee for your Global Entry/PreCheck application.
Two round-trip flights will earn you enough free baggage to pay for the annual fee on your card.
United’s rewards flights guarantee you can get at least one round-trip flight with your 50,000-mile bonus. If you’re willing to cash your miles in for a flight with an early or late departure time, you can squeeze two round-trip flights out of your miles.
In our opinion, the downside to this card is its limited cheap rewards seats. We also think it’s a bit of a disappointment that codeshare flights don’t honor United’s one-free-bag policy for cardholders.
Also, the $100 fee for changing a flight 21 days or closer to departure is a disappointment, especially since Southwest doesn't charge change fees.
If you are the kind of traveler who likes to get all the perks and who knows you’ll use free airport lounge passes, we think this could be a great card for you.
However, if you’re looking for a card that can get you the most free flights and you don’t care about priority boarding or lounge passes, take a look at the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier card. Based on our research, we think you’ll be pleased with how cheap the airline’s rewards flights are.
Airlines reward cards aren’t your only option for free flights, though. The Chase Sapphire Preferred card gives you 50,000 bonus points you can transfer 1:1 to United’s MileagePlus program or to several other domestic and international carriers.
The downside to using a travel reward card, though, is that you won’t get the free bags, lounge passes and other benefits related to an airline-branded credit card.
If you want to learn more about these cards, read our guide to the best travel rewards card of 2018. You'll learn about which the most popular cards are, which card is the best overall and which cards work well in specific situations.
Never received statement credit
On August 24th, I signed up for this card when booking a United flight for my family to the Bahamas. As you go through the booking process, you are constantly bombarded with banners to get the United MileagePlus Explorer card. I do not usually sign up for cards that have a membership fee, but they were offering a statement credit.
During the application process, I called Customer Service because I was having issues with applying. When we were finished, I called back customer service to make sure that I was receiving what I signed up for. At the time it was a $50 statement credit with 40,000 bonus miles. She said no problem and I would see it on my next statement.
The next day I was booking another flight to Savannah, Georgia and to my surprise, a banner popped up offering a $100 credit with the same mileage award. I promptly called customer service, and they said they would now issue a $100 credit. I called again on September 5th, and they assured me that I would be receiving the statement credit.
Well, today I received a letter telling me that I was only eligible for miles. Again, I called customer service and they said could do nothing. Beware of this card; they do not honor their promises.
Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend
Not possible to redeem award points
After a year and a half of having the MileagePlus Explorer Credit Card, it is a scam. It took an extra 4 months and several calls to get my initial points in the first place, and when I recently went online to try and redeem my $460 worth of award points, it was not possible at all.
I tried to redeem them for gift cards of all sorts - the errors that occurred could not be resolved because there was no department in place to handle them. So then I tried to book a rental car - only a reservation was made and no points were used for the car payment. So then I tried to buy an electronic device with an additional $50 of my own only to have my own money STOLEN - the additional $50 was withdrawn from my personal account but the device purchase was never completed and I was never able to get it, OR MY OWN MONEY BACK. I then thought oh-well I can book an upcoming flight - NOPE. It only allows 25K of points to be used on each flight before you have to pay additional money out of pocket. Is this a joke? These points are not real!
Total scam when it comes to point redemption. BEWARE. Do not get this card!
Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend
Beware of United MileagePlus Explorer Card!
I paid with my United MileagePlus Explorer Credit Card for kitchen and bathrooms cabinets to Kitchen Classics in Pleasant Hill, California, a company who after a few months of false promises didn't deliver the cabinets and closed for business. After notifying United MileagePlus Card about the closure and the fact that numerous customers have been defrauded, I requested a refund, but this card declined my request and doesn't want to reimburse several thousand dollars I had paid them.
BEWARE, United MileagePlus Credit Card will not stand behind its customers and couldn't care less about consumer protection.
Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend