How Does LendingTree Get Paid?
LendingTree is compensated by companies on this site and this compensation may impact how and where offers appear on this site (such as the order). LendingTree does not include all lenders, savings products, or loan options available in the marketplace.

How Does LendingTree Get Paid?

LendingTree is compensated by companies on this site and this compensation may impact how and where offers appear on this site (such as the order). LendingTree does not include all lenders, savings products, or loan options available in the marketplace.
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Advertising Disclosure

LendingTree is an advertising-supported comparison service. The site features products from our partners as well as institutions which are not advertising partners. While we make an effort to include the best deals available to the general public, we make no warranty that such information represents all available products. We are compensated by companies on this site and this compensation may impact how and where offers appear on this site (such as the order).
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American Express Disclosure
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American Express Disclosure

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United℠ Explorer Card Review

LendingTree's Review

How LendingTree Rates Credit Cards?

Our experts rate credit cards based on several factors including card benefits, bonus offers and independent research. Credit card issuers do not influence or have a say in our card ratings. Read our credit card methodology here.
3.5
United℠ Explorer Card
Sign-Up Bonus
Limited-time offer: Earn 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
Rewards Rate
Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on dining, hotel stays and United® purchases. 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases
Extra Perks
Priority boarding, free first checked bag & $0 foreign transaction fee
Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It was not reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through a credit card issuer partnership.

Our take: The United℠ Explorer Card offers an excellent array of benefits that are well worth its annual fee, even if you only occasionally fly United Airlines.

Is the United℠ Explorer Card worth it?

For those who fly United Airlines, even only occasionally, the United℠ Explorer Card can be easily worth its annual fee. Cardholders enjoy perks such as a free checked bag on United flights, priority boarding, annual United Club passes and a credit for Global Entry, TSA PreCheck or Nexus. Add in solid travel protections, including primary rental car collision coverage, and you have a card that justifies its $95 annual fee.

The United℠ Explorer Card offers decent earning rates for United Airlines, dining and hotel purchases. However, you can do better with other cards, especially on everyday spending. A 2% cash back card like the Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card outperforms the United℠ Explorer Card in terms of ongoing return.

Ultimately, the card is one you get for its perks, not its earning potential. If you fly United Airlines at all, it’s worth considering for your wallet.

Quick facts

    • Limited-time offer: Earn 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
    • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
    • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on dining, hotel stays, and United® purchases
    • Up to $100 Global Entry, TSA PreCheck® or NEXUS fee credit
    • 25% back as a statement credit on purchases of food, beverages and Wi-Fi on board United-operated flights and on Club premium drinks when you pay with your Explorer Card
    • Free first checked bag - a savings of up to $160 per roundtrip. Terms Apply.
    • Enjoy priority boarding privileges and visit the United Club℠ with 2 one-time passes each year for your anniversary
    • Member FDIC
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit scores ranges may vary. Your individual chance at approval may vary due to factors such as creditors using a particular variation at their discretion
  • 660 720 850
    Good / Excellent
  • Free first checked bag
  • Priority boarding
  • Up to $100 Global Entry/TSA PreCheck fee credit
  • Trip cancellation/interruption insurance
  • Baggage delay insurance
  • Lost luggage reimbursement
  • Trip delay reimbursement
  • Auto rental collision damage waiver
  • Purchase protection
  • Extended warranty

Intro Purchase APR

N/A

Regular Purchase APR

21.99% - 28.99% Variable

Intro BT APR

N/A

Regular BT APR

21.99% - 28.99% Variable

Annual Fee

$95

Cash Advance Fee

Either $10 or 5% of the amount of each transaction, whichever is greater.

Foreign Transaction Fee

$0

Balance Transfer Fee

Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.

Pros and cons

  • Valuable sign-up bonus
  • Earn bonus miles on dining, hotels and United Airlines purchases
  • Free checked bag and priority boarding benefits
  • Receive 2 United Club passes each year — a value of $118
  • Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit
  • Primary car rental insurance coverage
  • Other travel protections
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Rewards are limited to United
  • Annual fee

United℠ Explorer Card benefits

  • Valuable sign-up bonus

    When you sign up for the United℠ Explorer Card, you’ll get a limited-time offer: Earn 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. This is usually enough for two domestic round-trip economy tickets or a one-way economy ticket anywhere in United’s network.

    Using an approximate value of 1.3 cent per United mile — an estimation based on real-world data — the sign-up bonus is worth approximately $780. This bonus can be enough to score you a couple domestic round-trip flights or even a round trip international flight in economy.

  • Earn miles on dining, hotels and United purchases

    As you’d expect, the United℠ Explorer Card offers elevated earning on United Airlines purchases. However, the card offers a couple other bonus categories as well: Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on dining, hotel stays and United® purchases. 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases.

    This is a decent value for people who frequently fly United Airlines, as the bonus category doesn’t include just airfare. You also earn 2 miles per $1 on inflight food and beverages, Wi-Fi and other United incidentals. The elevated dining and hotel earning rates complement the United earning for frequent travelers. Outside of these categories, however, the card has a lackluster earning rate. You could do better with a straight cash back credit card that earns 2% on all purchases, like the Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card.

  • Redeem miles for a good value

    United miles are worth approximately 1.3 cents each when redeemed for award flights, which gets you the best value. However, you can get much more than this depending on the redemption.

    United makes it easy to redeem miles online at united.com. Award flights can be as cheap as 5,000 miles one way, although the typical one-way domestic economy flight is in the 10,000 to 20,000 mile range. Premium cabin flights can range from 25,000 miles for domestic first class to over 100,000 miles for international business class. Given the cost of international business class fares, however, this can still provide excellent value for your United miles.

  • Free checked bags and priority boarding

    Two of the best United℠ Explorer Card perks are the priority boarding and checked bag benefits. United Explorer cardholders enjoy Group 2 boarding privileges, ahead of all economy groups.

    The free checked bag benefit can save you significantly each year. The primary cardmember and one companion on the same reservation each receive a free checked bag when you purchase your ticket using your card. This is a potential savings of $160 on a single domestic round trip for two passengers — by itself enough to justify the card’s $95 annual fee.

  • Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit

    Another benefit of the United℠ Explorer Card is its trusted traveler program credit. You can receive a statement credit of up to $100 every four years as reimbursement for the application fee for Global Entry, TSA PreCheck® or NEXUS when charged to your card. Trusted traveler programs can help you spend less time in security and customs lines. Given that these program memberships last up to five years, this is an annual value of $20.

  • 2 United Club passes each year

    Every year you’ll get two one-time United Club passes. These can be used to access any participating United Club, as long as there is capacity. United sells one-time passes for $59 each, so this is an annual value of $118.

    If you want lounge access for every trip, consider the United Club℠ Infinite Card, which provides complimentary United Club and participating global Star Alliance lounge access. The annual fee is much higher, but the Club membership could be worth it if you live near a United hub airport.
  • Primary car rental insurance

    The United℠ Explorer Card offers auto rental collision damage coverage, giving you peace of mind and saving you money when you use it to rent a car. The coverage is primary, which means it kicks in before any collision coverage under your personal auto insurance policy. Few other airline credit cards with an annual fee under $100 offer this benefit — it is more typical of premium travel cards.

    The card will reimburse you up to the cash value of the car in the event of theft or damage of most rental cars in the U.S. and abroad. All you have to do is pay for the cost of your rental using your United℠ Explorer Card and decline the rental company’s collision coverage.

  • Other good travel protections

    In addition to the primary auto rental collision damage waiver, the United℠ Explorer Card offers some other excellent travel insurance protections:

    • Baggage delay insurance: Your United℠ Explorer Card will reimburse you for essential purchases made using your card in the event your baggage is delayed for more than six hours. This benefit is capped at $100 per day for up to six days.
    • Lost luggage reimbursement: In the event your luggage is damaged or lost by a carrier, you can be reimbursed up to $3,000 per covered passenger.
    • Trip cancellation/trip interruption insurance: If your trip is canceled or cut short due to a covered reason, including sickness or severe weathers, your United℠ Explorer Card reimburse you up to $1,500 per person and $6,000 per trip for prepaid, nonrefundable fares.
    • Trip delay reimbursement: In the event a trip is delayed more than 12 hours or requires you to stay overnight, you and immediate family members traveling with you can be reimbursed for unexpected expenses such as lodging and meals. This benefit has a maximum coverage of $500 per ticket.

    All of these benefits include fine print, so make sure you consult your card’s Guide to Benefits. You must pay for your travel with your United℠ Explorer Card in order to be covered.

United℠ Explorer Card drawbacks

  • Rewards are limited to United

    You are locked into earning United MileagePlus miles with the United℠ Explorer Card. This could be great for some people. But for those who like more flexibility with their points, you would likely be better off with a general travel card, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card earns points that can be used to book travel on any airline, or transferred to an array of partner loyalty programs — including United Airlines.

  • Annual fee

    The card does have an annual fee of $0 Intro for the First Year, then $95. However, given the card’s excellent perks, the fee is reasonable, and in line with similar airline credit cards.

Alternatives to the United℠ Explorer Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

| Disclosures
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
apply-now-icon Apply Now
on Chase's secure site
N/A
21.49%-28.49% Variable
$95
Enjoy benefits such as 5x on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠, 3x on
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.
  • Enjoy benefits such as 5x on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠, 3x on dining, select streaming services and online groceries, 2x on all other travel purchases, 1x on all other purchases, $50 Annual Chase Travel Hotel Credit, plus more.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Travel℠. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Get complimentary access to DashPass which unlocks $0 delivery fees and lower service fees for a minimum of one year when you activate by December 31, 2024.
  • Member FDIC
720 850
Excellent

How Does LendingTree Get Paid?

LendingTree is compensated by companies on this site and this compensation may impact how and where offers appears on this site (such as the order). LendingTree does not include all lenders, savings products, or loan options available in the marketplace.

If you don’t fly predominantly with United — or any other airline specifically — the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card may be a better fit. The card offers greater earnings in the dining category and additional bonus categories, including online groceries and streaming services. Its earning rate on general travel is the same as the United Explorer card, although it will earn 5X points for any travel booked through Chase TravelSM.

The annual fee is the same at $95. Additional perks include an annual $50 hotel credit and the ability to use your points to book travel with any airline, or transfer them to an array or partner loyalty programs – including United Airlines. Not to mention you can earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.

United Quest℠ Card

| Disclosures
United Quest℠ Card
United Quest℠ Card
apply-now-icon Apply Now
on Chase's secure site
N/A
21.99% - 28.99% Variable
$250
3 miles per $1 spent on United® purchases. 2 miles per $1
  • Limited-time offer: Earn 70,000 bonus miles and 500 PQP after qualifying purchases
  • Earn 3 miles per $1 spent on United® purchases
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on all other travel, dining and select streaming services
  • Earn 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Free first and second checked bags - a savings of up to $360 per roundtrip (terms apply) - and priority boarding
  • Up to a $125 United® purchase credit and up to 10,000 miles in award flight credits each year (terms apply)
  • Earn up to 6,000 Premier qualifying points per calendar year (25 PQP for every $500 you spend on purchases)
  • Member FDIC
660 720 850
Good / Excellent

How Does LendingTree Get Paid?

LendingTree is compensated by companies on this site and this compensation may impact how and where offers appears on this site (such as the order). LendingTree does not include all lenders, savings products, or loan options available in the marketplace.

For those who regularly fly United Airlines and are looking for an even nicer suite of benefits, consider the United Quest℠ Card. Its annual fee is steeper at $250, but the benefits can make up for it. The card provides two free checked bags for the cardholder and companion — one more than what the United℠ Explorer Card gives you. This is a potential savings of $360 on a single round-trip flight. The United Quest℠ Card also provides the same 25% back in-flight purchases, trusted traveler program credit, priority boarding and priority boarding benefits.

Beyond the additional checked bag, the card provides a $125 annual statement credit for United purchases, two 5,000-mile award flight rebates and increased earning rates. Spending on the card can also help you earn United Premier qualifying points, which can push you to a higher level of elite status. If you fly with United routinely, this card is worth having in your wallet.

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

| Disclosures
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
apply-now-icon Apply Now
on Capital One's secure site
Rates & Fees
N/A
19.99% - 29.99% (Variable)
$95
2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day; 5 Miles per
  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day
  • Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your miles to get reimbursed for any travel purchase—or redeem by booking a trip through Capital One Travel
  • Enrich every hotel stay from the Lifestyle Collection with a suite of cardholder benefits, like a $50 experience credit, room upgrades, and more
  • Transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • For Capital One products listed on this page, some of the benefits are provided by Visa® or Mastercard® and may vary by product. See the respective Guide to Benefits for details, as terms and exclusions apply
660 720 850
Good / Excellent

How Does LendingTree Get Paid?

LendingTree is compensated by companies on this site and this compensation may impact how and where offers appears on this site (such as the order). LendingTree does not include all lenders, savings products, or loan options available in the marketplace.

Similar to the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card is likely a better option for those who want a general travel credit card and not one locked into a specific airline. The card’s earning structure is simple — you earn unlimited 2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day; 5 Miles per dollar on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel.

You can redeem Capital One Venture miles in a variety of ways, including to directly offset the cost of travel purchases. You can also transfer your miles to more than 15 airline and hotel loyalty programs, which often yields the best value.

Like the United℠ Explorer Card, the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card offers a TSA PreCheck/Global Entry application fee credit and doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees. Its fee is equivalent — $95 per year. What it’s missing is any airline-specific benefits, making it ideal for those who are more interested in scoring award flights than airline perks.

*To see rates & fees for Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, please click here.

Is the United℠ Explorer Card right for you?

If you’re a frequent United flyer, a card like the United℠ Explorer Card can greatly enhance your travel experience and save you significant money. The free checked bag, priority boarding, and annual United Club benefits are enough to justify its annual fee. Plus, it offers a solid sign-up bonus and the ability to earn extra miles for spending on restaurant and hotel accommodations.

If you rarely travel with United, however, a general travel card is likely a better fit. Consider a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, which lets you use your points in a variety of ways. It’s long been one of the best Chase credit cards for travel.

If that doesn’t sound like a fit either, there are plenty of excellent rewards credit cards available.

apply-now-icon Apply Now
on Chase's secure site

Frequently asked questions

While the United℠ Explorer Card doesn’t offer coverage as extensive as some premium travel rewards cards, it does offer solid travel insurance protections. These include primary auto rental collision damage coverage, baggage delay insurance, lost luggage reimbursement, trip delay reimbursement and trip cancellation/interruption insurance.

Yes, you can use your United℠ Explorer Card before it arrives. Chase offers a “Spend Instantly” feature where you can add a card through the Chase mobile app to your digital wallet.

The United℠ Explorer Card provides primary auto rental collision damage waiver coverage. You must charge the entire cost of the rental to your card and decline any collision coverage offered by the car rental agency.

No, the United℠ Explorer Card does not charge foreign transaction fees. Foreign transaction fees are typically around 3%, so this is a savings of $30 for every $1,000 you spend outside the U.S.

Yes, you can receive one statement credit of up to $100 every four years that reimburses the application fee for Global Entry, TSA PreCheck® or NEXUS. You must charge the application fee to your United℠ Explorer Card to receive the credit.

Chase cards typically take two weeks to arrive in the mail after approval. However, you are able to use the Chase app to add your United℠ Explorer Card to a digital wallet before it arrives through the Spend Instantly feature.

For Capital One products listed on this page, some of the above benefits are provided by Visa® or Mastercard® and may vary by product. See the respective Guide to Benefits for details, as terms and exclusions apply.