United MileagePlus Explorer Credit Card

When it comes to travel credit cards, I think “bank point” are great, due to increased flexibility. But airline specific credit cards can give you lounge access, free checked bags, priority boarding and other perks. Some of those are not items you will get with bank point credit cards.

The United MileagePlus Explorer Credit Card is a great way to boost your miles account and save you money for travel. You can find great value in United Airline miles and if booking far enough in advance, you should have no problem finding award seats.

Sign Up Bonus:
Currently, the bonus us 30,000 United Airline miles after spending $1,000 in the first 90 days. You will also receive 5,000 miles when you add an authorized user. It does have a $95 annual fee, but the first year is waived! What can 35,000 miles get you? I’ll explain down below.

I won’t jump on this offer right now, because Chase has a history of increasing this bonus to 50,000 United Airline miles plus 5,000 miles for authorized user. If you aren’t planning a trip and can wait to see if/when the larger bonus comes back, I would. If 30,000 miles is enough for your trip and you need them, go for it, why not. There’s no wrong way to play this game, if you’re able to reach your goals.

Earning Rate:
The United MileagePlus Credit Card earnings 2 United Airline miles for every dollar spent on tickets directly from United Airlines and 1 United Airline mile on everything else

I would not use this card for daily spending, nor would I use this card for tickets bought on United Airlines. Let me explain.

United Airlines is one of the 11 transfer partners offered by Chase. Using my Chase Sapphire to book travel, I’ll earn 2 Ultimate Reward points. To me that is more valuable than earning 2 United Airline Miles. I can transfer Ultimate Reward points into United Airline miles if I wanted too ( 2 Ultimate Reward points = 2 United Airline miles), I could also turn them into other travel currency, like Southwest or Hyatt points.

I prefer not to book directly through an airline, because I lose out on earning money/points through a shopping portal. For example, if I use my Chase Sapphire Preferred and book through a site like Orbitz. I would earn 2 Ultimate Reward points per dollar spent, extra points/cash through shopping portal, travel money to use on hotel stays booked through Orbitz and miles on United when I add my frequent flyer number. A much better choice than booking directly through an airline.

Other perks of MileagePlus Explorer credit card
Other perks of MileagePlus Explorer credit card

Other Perks:

  • Free checked bag for you and one companion- valued up to $100, when you purchase ticket with your United MileagePlus Credit Card.
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Priority boarding
  • United Club Lounge Passes- 2 one-time passes every year
  • Increased award availability– Ability to book standard award availability on any United Airline flights, when you have the United MileagePlus Explorer Credit Card.
  • Miles that don’t expire
  • Primary auto insurance on rental cars
  • Earn 10,000 United Airline miles if you spend $25,000 or more on the United MileagePlus Explorer Credit Card

I personally don’t think the perks aren’t mind blowing. If you are a person who checks a bag and fly United frequently, this could be a real money saver for you. The ability to book a standard award ticket on any flight is a nice perk, because this can help save miles over booking business or first class. It will be more miles than the Saver Award, but it’s better than not having any award availability at all! If you were to spend $25,000 or more, you will earn an extra 10,000 miles, which is almost enough for a 1 way ticket in Coach.

Go see Machu Pichu for 20,000 one way!
Go see Machu Picchu for 20,000 one way!

Redeeming Miles:
So what can 35,000 miles get you? Using the Award Saver you can fly to:

  • 1 round trip domestic coach ticket (25,000 miles round trip)
  • 1 way ticket to Europe or Southern South America (30,000 miles each way)
  • 1 way ticket to Hawaii (22,500 miles each way)
  • 1 way ticket to Northern South American (20,000 miles each way)
  • 1 round trip or 2 1-way tickets to Mexico, Caribbean or Central America  (17,500 each way)

Remember, the offer has historically gone up to 50,000 miles and could yield more travel money. For 60,000 miles you could even plan 2 trips to Europe on 1 award travel ticket!

Booking 2 trips or 3 trips on 1 award ticket:
United Airlines allows a stop over (long lay over) and an open jaw (fly into a location and fly back from another) on their award tickets. There are some great guides by others to really maximize all the tricks. I’m just going to give an example flying from US to Europe to maximize award ticket.

Flying a round trip from US to Europe in coach will cost 60,000 miles plus taxes and fees.

Flying from Boston to Paris will cost 60,000 miles and $90.20
Flying from Boston to Paris will cost 60,000 miles and $90.20
Miles cost and actual cost of ticket
Miles cost and actual cost of ticket

Not bad right? $90.20 in taxes and fees for a round trip ticket? You would redeem your miles at 2.15 cents per mile. Anytime I can get get 2 cents per point. I am happy.

Now, what if you could see 2 places in Europe for 60,000 miles? Two is better than one right? This is an example of a stop over

Make a trip to Paris and Rome for 60,000 miles!
Make a trip to Paris and Rome for 60,000 miles!
Miles cost and actual cost
Miles cost and actual cost

In this example, it will still cost you 60,000 miles, but you added another city to your trip! You will redeem your miles at 3.3 cents per mile! An even better redemption!

Now what if you could see 2 cities in Europe then fly to the beach for a weekend? This is an example of a stop over and open jaw. You would have to find a way home from Miami, since your award ticket would end in Miami.

Fly to Paris and Rome and spend a couple of days in Miami!
Fly to Paris and Rome and spend a couple of days in Miami!
Still 60,000 miles for this trip!
Still 60,000 miles for this trip!

In this example, you would get to see Paris, Rome and have a few beach days in Miami for 60,000 miles and $131.20. You would redeem for 3.3 cents per mile as well! Since your award ticket is completed when you arrive in Miami, if you needed to get back to Boston, you would need to find a way home from Miami. Not a bad way to use your points/miles!

Conclusion:
This isn’t a card I would put daily spending on, because there are better options for earning United Airline miles. The bonus right now isn’t enough to make me go after this card, I might when/if it hopefully goes back up to 50,000 miles. The first free checked bag and increased standard award availability are great perks. United Airlines ability to book open jaw and stop overs a great way to maximize your points/miles.

Do you think this card is worth applying for?

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