At NerdWallet, we strive to help you make financial decisions with confidence. To do this, many or all of the products featured here are from our partners. However, this doesn’t influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own.

It’s been years since I got my United℠ Explorer Card — so long that I don’t remember how many miles I got as a sign-up bonus or what I spent them on. What’s more, these days, I seldom use this card, focusing instead on building my mileage balances with Bonvoy and Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

Yet the United℠ Explorer Card stays in my wallet and I continue paying the annual fee ($0 for the first year, then $95). Why? Because the unique benefits make this card worth keeping.

More flight redemption options

My favorite perk of the United℠ Explorer Card pops up every time I search United’s website for a reward flight. It’s the words, “Exclusively available to you as a MileagePlus Chase Cardmember” that appear next to quite a few flight options. It means that because I have the United℠ Explorer Card, I’m able to use miles to book saver-level flights that aren't available to non-cardholders.

Having more flights to choose from is very appealing. For one thing, I can choose flights that better suit my travel plans. This includes flights with better departure times, nonstops versus connecting flights and the like. And because I have more flight options, I have more seating options.

If the aisle seats have already been scooped up on one flight, I can check the seating chart on flights where saver awards aren’t accessible to other MileagePlus members. The odds of getting stuck in a middle seat on a United flight are considerably diminished by having this card.

Two free United club passes every year

United Club airport lounges offer a spacious, stress-free place to wait for your flight while enjoying free drinks, snacks Wi-Fi and other very pleasant perks. You can buy a United Club pass for $59 per person.

My United℠ Explorer Card comes with two free lounge passes every year. The value of these passes more than offsets the annual fee if I get the chance to use them, which I do most years.

Free checked bag

The free checked bag perk can also make up for this card’s annual fee. Without this credit card, I would pay $30 each way to check a bag on a United flight, at a cost of $60 round-trip. A free checked bag is like money in the bank for me.

Priority boarding

This is a perk custom-tailored for stress cases who really — really — don't want to worry about getting on a plane, finding the overhead space completely full, then fumbling to take out laptops and e-readers so the flight attendant can gate-check your carry-on bag.

When I book a United flight, I’m automatically assigned to an earlier boarding group than most other economy-class passengers. All I have to do is provide my MileagePlus number on my reservation. The system recognizes me as a United℠ Explorer Card accountholder. This benefits helps ensure plenty of space for my carry-on in the overhead compartment.

Miles don’t expire

I earn United miles very slowly. With this card in my wallet, I can let my mileage balance build as slowly as I like without worrying about those miles expiring.