United℠ Explorer Card Review

The United℠ Explorer Card is a travel rewards credit card that offers members more than just miles. It provides a variety of benefits that any frequent flyer will enjoy. From statement credits on in-flight purchases to complimentary travel insurances, from a free checked bag to automatic upgrades when available, the United℠ Explorer Card has a ton to offer. While there is an annual fee and a moderate APR, the benefits could far outweigh the costs — if you travel frequently. For those who only travel occasionally, this credit card may not be the best option. It is a travel rewards card, after all.

The Essentials of the United℠ Explorer Card

  • APR: 17.99% – 24.99% variable
  • Annual Fee: $0 Intro for first year, then $95
  • Primary Feature: Earn 2 miles for every $1 spent on United purchases, restaurants, and hotels. Earn 1 mile per $1 on everything else.
  • Introductory Bonus Offer: New members can earn 60,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months the account is open.

What’s Interesting about the United℠ Explorer Card

United℠ Explorer Card rewards members for traveling. It pays double miles on many travel-related purchases. However, those are not the only travel benefits the card provides. The United℠ Explorer Card reimburses up to $100 of the application fee for Global Entry or TSA Precheck® once every 4 years. It also gives cardholders a 25% statement credit on any purchases they make while on a United flight. This includes on-board Wi-Fi, food items, and in-flight beverages. Furthermore, United℠ Explorer cardholders receive a free checked bag on every trip booked on United for both themselves and one companion.

The United℠ Explorer Card doesn’t stop there, however. It allows cardholders to enjoy priority boarding, 2 one-time passes to the United ClubSM per year, complimentary upgrades when available, and a variety of perks when staying at a property within the Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection, from room upgrades and late checkout to complimentary breakfast for two. Plus, there are no foreign transaction fees. The card comes with Visa Concierge, extended warranty protection, and a variety of travel insurance as well.

Things to Consider

The United℠ Explorer Card has a wide variety of benefits, but not everyone will enjoy all the advantages it has to offer. For one, this is a travel credit card. It is designed to reward people who travel frequently. If you are not someone who flies often, you might find that you have significantly less benefit from the United℠ Explorer Card than someone who does. There is an annual fee with this credit card, and the interest rate is not low. You would need to take advantage of the benefits the United℠ Explorer Card provides to make up for those costs, especially if you’re someone who maintains a balance on your credit cards.

How to Get the Most from this Card

To get the most from the United℠ Explorer Card, you need to explore and you need to fly United. Choosing that airline is the only way to enjoy all of the benefits that this credit card has to offer. If you pick another airline, you won’t get the free checked bag, the 25% statement credit on in-flight purchases, or the priority boarding that comes with the card. Also, keep in mind that this credit card only offers double miles on purchases from United, restaurants, and hotels and even then, only when you book directly with the hotel. If your spending centers more on other things, like gas, groceries, or online shopping, you may be better off with a credit card that rewards that type of spending. Look carefully at your spending habits and decide if you will get enough benefit from this card to make up for the annual fee. Take special care to evaluate whether another credit card might offer more benefits for you.

Other Card Options that Might Interest You

The United℠ Explorer Card is only one option. There are hundreds of credit cards available. If you frequently travel and prefer to fly with United, there are other options from the airline that may suit your spending patterns better, such as the United Club℠ Card. This card has a hefty $450 annual fee, but the APR is the same as the United℠ Explorer Card. You also earn the same 2 miles per $1 spent on United purchases and many of the other benefits it provides. However, you also get to check 2 bags for free on every trip, earn 1.5 miles for every $1 spent, United ClubSM membership, and Premier Access® travel services.

If no annual fee would suit you better, consider the Chase Freedom Unlimited®. There’s no annual fee, and members earn 1.5% cash back on every purchase, regardless of category. The APR ranges from 16.49% – 25.24% variable for well-qualified applicants. If you sign up during the special introductory period, you’ll enjoy 0% APR for the first 15 months and receive $150 cash back when you spend $500 in the first 3 months of card membership.

The Final Word

United℠ Explorer Card offers a wide range of benefits that frequent travelers will enjoy. There is an annual fee, but it’s comparatively low for all the benefits you receive. The free checked bag on every trip for you and a companion alone can help you save up to $120 per round trip — easily more than the annual fee of $95. However, this is a travel reward credit card, and its best benefits are geared towards United. If you are not someone who travels often or you like to fly on different airlines, this may not be the best choice for you.

Renee Breiten

Personal Finance Contributor

Renee Breiten is a professional writer and Exeter MBA who specializes in business, finance, investments, and management. Her work has appeared on PNC, Credit Suisse, American Express, The Street, Investopedia, Motley Fool, Seeking Alpha, SCORE, and Hello Giggles, amongst others.