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4 Ways to Use the Limited-Time United Explorer Card’s Sign-On Bonus

April 4, 2019
Travel, Travel Credit Cards
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» This offer has expired

The offer described in this article expired on May 16, 2019. See our details page on the United℠ Explorer Card for the current offer.

United Airlines has rolled out a limited time sign-up bonus for its United℠ Explorer Card, allowing for more point-earning potential from the moment you sign up for the card.

Anyone who applies for a United℠ Explorer Card before May 16, 2019, will have the chance to:

  • Earn 40,000 bonus miles after $2,000 in spending within the first 3 months from account opening.
  • Earn an additional 20,000 bonus miles after spending a total of $8,000 within the first 6 months from account opening.

Here are a few ways you might want to spend your new hard-earned United MileagePlus miles.

1. Book a flight

See what flights you can buy with your points. For example, United’s website shows one-way economy tickets from New York to Los Angeles for as low as 12,500 miles. With 60,000 miles you can easily afford a round-trip ticket. Or two.

Not interested in economy seating? A one-way, first-class ticket is 50,000 miles. While your new stash of miles isn’t enough for round-trip first-class tickets, why not splurge on one half of your journey? Start your trip off with a bang, or end it a little more comfortably.

Not sure where you want to go, but are ready to take off? United’s Saver Awards chart lets you choose from one of eight departure cities and the month you want to travel. You then get an extensive list of both international and domestic destinations, with select destinations marked for further savings. You’ll need some flexibility in your schedule to make the most of this tool, but you might discover a new favorite city you’d never thought to travel to before.

» Learn more: How to turn 60,000 United MileagePlus miles Into a European adventure

2. Upgrade

If you’ve already booked a trip, use those bonus miles to upgrade your ticket. Economy and Basic Economy tickets aren’t eligible for awards upgrades, but other tickets are fair game. Mileage costs vary based on a number of factors, but the benefits are worth it. Upgrading gives access to typically costly benefits such as priority check-in and boarding, extra bag allowance and upgraded seats. You can upgrade tickets ahead of time online or at the airport.

» Learn More: Find the best airline credit card for you

3. Shop

Not interested in booking a trip right now? Upgrade your tech situation at home with a new iPad. A silver, 64GB iPad mini costs 53,200 miles, which means you’ll have just enough with a few left over once you’ve earned the sign-up bonus. For the same amount of miles, you can get a brand new Apple Watch.

» Learn more: 6 ways to optimize your credit card’s virtual mall

United offers a ton of other products and brands you can pay for with miles. Oakley sunglasses? 19,700 miles. Trek Mountain Bike? 58,700 miles. A six-month subscription to the American Cellars Wine Club? 40,500 miles.

4. Convert miles to Marriott Bonvoy points

United MileagePlus miles can be converted to Marriott Bonvoy points at a one-to-one rate. You need to be a member of both United MileagePlus and Marriott Bonvoy to take advantage of this opportunity, but being able to use rewards miles for hotel stays is a huge benefit. As long as you’re a MileagePlus Premier Silver or higher member, you can transfer up to 50,000 miles a year.

» Learn more: Chase 5/24 rule explained

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 2020, including those best for:

Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice:
4 Things the United Airlines MileagePlus Program Gets Right
NerdWallet’s top travel credit cards
6 ways to optimize your credit card’s virtual mall

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