What the New United Explorer Card Means for You

United Airlines' most popular consumer card is adding some benefits and dropping or reducing others. On the whole, it should be a net gain for cardholders.
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Written by Claire Tsosie
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Some of the terms of the United℠ Explorer Card have changed, and this article is out of date. See our review of the United℠ Explorer Card for up-to-date details.

The United MileagePlus® Explorer Card is getting a makeover.

The new version of the card, simply called the United℠ Explorer Card, debuted June 1, 2018, with rich new benefits, including more bonus categories and a $100 credit for the Global Entry or TSA Precheck application fee. At the same time, however, older ancillary benefits on the card are being reduced or removed.

Because the card is being updated, not replaced, the shift should be relatively seamless for cardholders. Here’s what you need to know.

What’s changing, exactly?

The new United℠ Explorer Card is almost identical to the old version of the card, with a few more key benefits:

  • A $100 credit for the application fee for Global Entry or TSA Precheck; the credit is available once every four years

  • 2 points per dollar spent on hotel stays, restaurant purchases and United purchases (including tickets, seat upgrades, in-flight food, baggage service charges and more); the previous version only offered 2 points per dollar spent on United tickets

  • 25% off in-flight purchases

  • An improved limited-time sign-up bonus offer for new cardholders. The current 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.

At the same time, the card:

  • Will no longer offer 10,000 bonus miles for spending $25,000 in a calendar year, as the old one did

  • Has removed price protection and return protection benefits

  • Reduced its travel cancellation benefits; the limit is now $1,500 per trip, down from $10,000 per trip

The annual fee is still $0 intro for the first year, then $95. Other popular benefits on the card, such as two day passes a year to the United Club airport lounges and primary rental car coverage, remain the same. For more details about what’s changing and what’s staying the same, see NerdWallet’s article on the changes from when they were first announced.

Though some benefits were reduced, on the whole, the changes make the card more valuable to more cardholders. And Chase and United Airlines say that's the intention behind the changes.

The goal was to figure out “‘How do we streamline and make better the day-of-travel experience?’ while also laying on all these opportunities to increase the raw earning power of the card,” says Luc Bondar, vice president of loyalty at United.

Do I need to do anything if I have the card?


"Starting June 1, all of our current Explorer members will start to earn the additional value. … There’s nothing more they need to do,” says Leslie Gillin, president of Chase co-brand cards.

She notes that the new benefits, including the new bonus categories and Global Entry/TSA Precheck credit will be available to current cardholders starting Friday.

Will I get a new card number?


The transition will be seamless. Cardholders won’t get new card numbers or new accounts. However, there will be a new card design. Current cardholders will get the new design the next time their card needs to be replaced — for example, if it expires or is lost.

Can I still file claims for items purchased before June 1?


On June 1, the card’s price protection and return protection benefits are going away, and the travel cancellation coverage is being reduced. But Gillin notes that you can still use these benefits according to the previous terms for covered purchases made before June 1.

For example, if you bought something May 31, you could still file a price protection claim June 2. But you wouldn’t be able to apply for price protection on an item purchased June 2.

Can I still earn the 10,000-mile bonus this year for spending $25,000?

It depends.

Cardholders who had spent $25,000 in 2018 as of May 31 will receive the 10,000-mile bonus. But you might qualify for a smaller bonus if you were on track to meet that spending requirement but hadn't yet hit $25,000.

Cardmembers who had spent $10,000 to $24,999 by May 31 will get 4,000 miles, according to the issuer. These miles will be applied to their next statements.

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