United Explorer Card: Get It for the Bonus, Keep It for the Perks

Jason SteeleNov 7, 2019

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» This offer has expired

The limited-time offer described in this article expired. See our details page on the United℠ Explorer Card for the current offer. We’d generally prefer to travel with our credit card rewards rather than our dollars, and there are only two things you need to do to make that happen: Earn rewards, and spend them. Yet as many airline credit card users have discovered, it’s often easier to earn frequent flyer miles than it is to find available award seats at a reasonable price.

Luckily, the United℠ Explorer Card just announced a new limited-time offer that allows you the chance to earn a large amount of miles — and this card also makes it easier to use those miles while offering other valuable travel perks.

Details on the new offer

Here’s the new limited-time offer: Earn 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open. Plus earn an additional 25,000 bonus miles after you spend $10,000 total on purchases in the first six months your account is open.

The first part of this offer is the same, but then you can also receive a second batch of miles after meeting a higher minimum spend in a longer timeframe. This will give you a total of 65,000 miles by the time you’ve earned both bonuses — and that’s just the bonuses, not including the miles you’ll earn from your actual spending (at least 10,000 more).

Currently, this is enough miles for a round-trip award ticket to Europe in economy class, or even two round-trip economy saver-level tickets to Mexico, the Caribbean or Central America. (But beware: Starting Nov. 15, United will no longer have a fixed award chart, instead moving to dynamic pricing.)

As before, the United℠ Explorer Card still earns double miles at restaurants, on hotel accommodations (purchased directly from the hotel) and on all United charges. You earn 1 mile per dollar spent elsewhere. This card has an annual fee of $0 intro for the first year, then $95 and no foreign transaction fees.

Why this card is a must-have for using United miles

As we know, earning miles is just half of the equation — to be useful, you must be able to redeem those miles easily (and ideally for a good value). This is where the United MileagePlus cards shine. Just by being a cardholder, you’ll receive two more little-known benefits.

First, you’ll have access to additional economy class saver-level awards that non-cardholders can’t book. These are the lowest priced awards that stretch your miles the furthest.

In addition, being a MileagePlus cardmember means you can always redeem your miles for a seat on any unsold flight using United’s everyday awards. Yes, these awards cost much more than a saver-level award, but it’s nice to know that you can always redeem your miles for an available seat. During some peak travel times, this can actually be a good value compared to paying the full fare with no advanced notice.

You can also use both of these benefits shortly after you are approved for the card — maybe even before your physical card arrives in the mail.

Then there are all the other benefits that this card offers you when you travel on United, including a free checked bag for you and a companion, priority boarding and a 25% discount on in-flight food and beverage purchases. You also get two United Club passes each year and a $100 credit toward the application fee for Global Entry or TSA Precheck.

Is this offer right for you?

Obviously, this is a great card for frequent United flyers, but it could also be a good fit for travelers who collect United miles when flying with one of their dozens of partners. And if you collect Chase Ultimate Rewards® points from another premium Chase card, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve®, you can transfer those points to United and build up the balance of miles you’ve earned from this card. This strategy could give you plenty of miles to take advantage of the additional award options you get as a cardholder.

But given the requirements for earning the full limited-time welcome bonus, this is also a card for those who can easily charge $10,000 to their card within six months — and pay it off. As with all reward credit cards, you should be avoiding interest by paying each month’s statement balance in full. This works out to making an average of $1,667 in purchases each month, which may or may not fit your current spending pattern.

The bottom line

This new offer gives you a chance to earn 25,000 more miles than the previous one, with no real drawbacks other than having to spend more over a longer timeframe to earn those extra miles.

These two-tiered bonus offers are becoming more common as credit card issuers encourage customers to use their cards long-term. With the chance to collect 65,000 bonus miles along with this card’s benefits allowing you to more easily redeem your miles, it could be a good opportunity.

How to Maximize Your Rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:

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