13 Things I Love About United’s Credit Card

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UnitedSM Explorer Card

This is a fantastic card to have if you live in a city with lots of United service, fly them regularly but not enough for elite status, or you’re an elite who wants upgrades on award tickets or help towards the spending requirement for status.

While I definitely prefer to put spending on the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve because their points transfer to United or other airlines (in other words I prefer the flexibility), the UnitedSM Explorer Card is a great card to have for its benefits.

  1. 65,000 bonus miles. For a limited-time Chase has boosted the signup bonus to earn 65,000 miles: 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Plus earn an additional 25,000 bonus miles after you spend $10,000 total on purchases in the first 6 months your account is open.


    United’s Europe and Asia Award Availability in Premium Cabins is Great Because of Star Alliance Partners

  2. $0 annual fee the first year. Traditionally the card’s annually fee has been charged the first year. Chase is now waiving the first year fee on the UnitedSM Explorer Card. (After the $0 first year annual fee it is then $95.)
  3. First checked bag free. What’s great about the UnitedSM Explorer Card is the travel benefits when flying United. You get first bag for free when you use your card to purchase your ticket. Two people traveling with a bag each way really scales the savings.

  4. Priority boarding. Avoid having to gate check your carry on, you don’t actually want to be the first to board this card ensures you don’t have to be last.
  5. Bring full sized carry on bags onboard even on a basic economy fare. On a Basic Economy fare you can still bring on a full-sized carry on bag since the Basic Economy prohibition on full-sized carry on bags is handled via boarding group).
  6. United Club passes With this card you’ll get 2 one-time United Club passes each year for your account anniversary as well. United now charges $59 each for one time club passes.

  7. Waive spending requirement for elite status up to the Platinum level. United requires you to spend $3000 on tickets for silver, $6000 for Gold, or $9000 for Platinum status in addition to miles or segments flown. If you spend $25,000 a year on this card you don’t just earn 10,000 bonus miles you also waive the minimum ‘premier qualifying dollars’ requirement for earning up to Platinum elite status.
  8. United elites get upgrades on domestic award tickets. That’s a benefit which requires a co-brand card to access, elites without a United credit card aren’t eligible.

  9. Miles don’t expire when you have the card. If you’re using the card miles won’t expire anyway, but if you have it just for the benefits and spend on other cards it’s nice to know you can stick it in a drawer and still not face expiring points.
  10. Extra saver award availability United does a really nice job of making extra award space available to elites and credit card customers.

  11. Last seat availability when redeeming extra mileage awards. Airlines offer awards that charge extra miles and in American’s case you get access to the last seat on the plane when spending more miles, at United to get the very last seat on the plane (where these awards can offer real value) you need to be an elite or a co-brand credit card customer.

  12. Statement credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck. Even if you already have Global Entry, get it for a spouse, child, friend or co-worker — the cardholder doesn’t have to be the one to use the benefit, just use the card to pay anyone’s application fee you wish.
  13. Primary car rental collision damage waiver. Adult bumper cars! Not really, but if you ding your bumper car and you’re paying with this card your insurance company may not even need to know.

The UnitedSM Explorer Card is a great tool for someone who flies United semi-regularly but not enough to earn elite status, since many of the benefits of the card approximate was entry-level status would be like. And you can get it now with bonus miles and not even pay an annual fee for the first year.

And it’s good for someone looking to waive United’s ‘premier qualifying dollars’ minimum spend for elite status (up to Platinum, the 75,000 mile tier) via credit card spend, as combined spend of $25,000 or more on a United co-brand credit card can take the place of that requirement for a U.S.-based member.

It’s subject to ‘5/24’ meaning they’re most appropriate for folks that haven’t signed up for 5 or more new cards in the last 24 months.

Even if the annual fee applied in the first year, the card would be well worth the signup bonus. The card is even worth the fee if you fly United semi-regularly for the benefits. If you find yourself buying basic economy fares you’re not just saving on checked bag fees each trip but on the fare buy up too and still getting to bring your carry on bag onboard.

Since you get the bonus and the benefits in year one it’s a no brainer, the $0 annual fee the first year lets you “try before you buy” and decide whether or not to keep it into the future.

United MileagePlus® Explorer Card