United Explorer Card Review: Good for United Airlines Benefits

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United℠ Explorer Card
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United℠ Explorer Card
Editor’s Score: (4.1/5)
Learn more externa link icon At our partner’s secure site. See Rates & Fees, Terms Apply.
United℠ Explorer Card
Editor’s Score: (4.1/5)
  • Intro offer:
    50,000 Bonus Miles
  • Annual fee:
    $0 Intro for First Year, then $95.
  • Regular APR:
    18.74% – 25.74% Variable
  • Recommended credit score:
    670-850 (Good to Excellent)
Rewards rate:

Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on dining, hotel stays, and United® purchases. Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on dining including eligible delivery services. 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases.

NextAdvisor’s Take

Pros
  • Welcome offer
  • Annual fee waived first year
  • TSA PreCheck®/Global Entry credit or NEXUS fee credit
  • Solid travel benefits
Cons
  • Most valuable for frequent United Airlines flyers
  • $95 annual fee after the first year
  • Low rewards rate on everyday spending
The Bottom Line
The United Explorer Card can be a worthy option if you fly United Airlines frequently. You’ll enjoy perks like priority boarding and two passes per year for United lounge access. The perks are geared towards United Airlines, though, so we only recommend getting this card if you are loyal to the airline. Before applying, compare this card to other travel credit card options to ensure the best value for your future travel plans.

Additional Card Details

  • Earn 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open
  • First checked bag free benefit
  • TSA PreCheck®, Global Entry fee credit or NEXUS fee credit
  • 25% back as a statement credit on purchases of food, beverages, Wi-Fi on board United-operated flights and on Club premium drinks when you pay with your card
  • Priority boarding
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Travel and purchase protections

United Explorer Credit Card Full Review

Card Type

This card is a co-branded travel rewards card. You’ll earn miles toward United Airlines’ MileagePlus program, so this card is best for travelers who prefer to fly with United.

Annual Fee

This card has a $95 annual fee, which is waived in the first year.

Welcome Offer

Earn 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open.

Rewards

The card earns 2x miles on United purchases, as well as on dining and hotel stays purchase directly with the hotel, and 1x mile per dollar spent on everything else. 

Fees 

The normal APR for this card is 18.74% to 25.74% variable. There’s no foreign transaction fee, but if you pay late or your payment is returned, you may incur a fee up to $40 and a penalty APR up to 29.99%.

How to Use the United Explorer Card

If you decide to get the United Explorer card, there are a few things to keep in mind that will help you maximize its value.

Begin by working toward the welcome bonus while you enjoy the waived first year annual fee. The United Explorer card currently offers up to 50,000 bonus miles. Earn 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open. Just be careful not to spend money you haven’t already budgeted or can’t afford to pay off in full in order to get a bonus; the interest you’ll accrue carrying a card balance would negate the benefits. 

You’re going to want to use it to purchase all United Airlines flights, as you’ll get 2x miles per dollar on these purchases (the same earning rate applies to dining and hotel bookings, too). Since it only earns 1x mile per dollar on all other purchases, you’re better off for those with a more general points-earning or cash back credit card, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card — which earns points that transfer to United miles at a 1:1 ratio, too.

When you’re ready to book travel, make sure you take advantage of all the added benefits this card offers. You’ll get a 25% discount on United in-flight purchases, a free first checked bag on United, and priority boarding. If you like to relax at the lounge before a flight, this card offers two one-time passes per year to any United Club airport lounge. These are deposited into your account every cardmember anniversary.

Another valuable perk for frequent travelers is the credit of up to $100 every four years for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry, which can help you speed through airport security, or through immigration at airports equipped with Global Entry kiosks. There are also no foreign transaction fees with this card, so it’s a good choice to take abroad.

In order to avoid paying interest at this card’s high APR, pay your bills on time and in full. Carrying a balance with an interest rate that high can quickly outpace any savings you earn from rewards.

United Explorer Card Compared to Other Cards

Our Choice
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United℠ Explorer Card

United℠ Explorer Card

Editor’s Score: (4.1/5)
  • Intro offer:
    50,000 Bonus Miles
  • Annual fee:
    $0 Intro for First Year, then $95.
  • Regular APR:
    18.74% – 25.74% Variable
  • Recommended credit:
    670-850 (Good to Excellent)
  • Learn more externa link icon At our partner’s secure site See Rates & Fees, Terms Apply.
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Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Editor’s Score: (4.5/5)
  • Intro offer:
    60,000 points
  • Annual fee:
    $95
  • Regular APR:
    18.24% – 25.24% Variable
  • Recommended credit:
    670-850 (Good to Excellent)
  • Apply Now externa link icon At Chase’s secure site
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Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card

Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card

Editor’s Score: (3.85/5)
  • Intro offer:
    40,000 Miles
  • Annual fee:
    $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $99
  • Regular APR:
    18.74%-27.74% Variable
  • Recommended credit:
    670-850 (Good to Excellent)
  • Learn more externa link icon At our partner’s secure site See Rates & Fees, Terms Apply.

Is the United Explorer Card Right for You?

If you fly or plan to fly United Airlines somewhat frequently, this card could be a worthwhile addition to your wallet. It offers great in-flight and airport benefits, plus ongoing savings on your future United travel.

If you aren’t loyal to United Airlines, though, you’ll likely find much more value from a more general travel credit card. If you won’t use perks such as priority boarding, free checked bags, 25% off in-flight purchases or even lounge access while flying United Airlines, you won’t really get much value out of this card. 

If you prefer flying another airline — you live near a Delta Air Lines or American Airlines hub, for example — there are co-branded cards for those airlines to consider in the same fee range and with similar benefits, as well as general travel-rewards cards.

But if you do fly United Airlines or its partners at least a few times each year, you can easily gain value beyond the $95 annual fee.

EDITORIAL INDEPENDENCE

As with all of our credit card reviews, our analysis is not influenced by any partnerships or advertising relationships.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does the United Explorer Card have an annual fee?

The card has a $95 annual fee, waived for the first year.

What credit score do you need for the United Explorer Card?

You’ll need a credit score between 670-850 for the best chances of approval for the United Explorer Card.