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United Mileage Plus Explorer Card Review

(Update: This offer is no longer available. Last updated May 8, 2013.)

United and Continental merged both their reservation systems and websites over the weekend, which was essentially the last big step in their transition towards operating as one airline. As you might expect, there have been reports of some minor system glitches and delayed flights across the country today, but it appears that the transition has been an overall success for United. The successful merger of United and Continental also presented the perfect opportunity for Chase to launch a new version of its popular MileagePlus Card, which is now called the United MileagePlus Explorer Card. Here's a brief breakdown of the pros, cons, and my final take on how the United MileagePlus Explorer stacks up against its competition.

Pros of United MileagePlus Explorer Card

  1. 25,000 bonus miles after your first use of the card.
  2. 5,000 mile bonus after you use the card and add an authorized user within the first 2 months.
  3. 10,000 mile bonus per year after spending $25,000 or more in net purchases during each calendar year.
  4. Earn 2 miles per dollar spent on United purchases and 1 mile per dollar spent on everything else.
  5. 1st bag is checked free for up to 2 people per reservation when you purchase your ticket with the card. Note that this benefit doesn't apply when you've redeemed rewards for a ticket.
  6. Priority boarding for cardmember and everyone else traveling on the same reservation.
  7. 2 free United Club passes each year.
  8. Annual fee is waived for first year. $95 annual fee thereafter.

Cons of United MileagePlus Explorer Card

  1. Foreign transaction fees will cost you 3%.
  2. Hefty annual fee of $95 after the first year.
  3. Can't redeem miles earned for flights on any airline. You're stuck with United and its partner airlines.
  4. No 0% interest promotional offer for purchases and balance transfers.

Final Take If you fly United all the time, you're going to love the United MileagePlus Explorer Card. The sign-up bonus is obviously quite attractive, there's no annual fee for the first year, and the savings you'll earn from free checked bags alone should more than cover the cost of the $95 annual fee in future years. It's definitely a card worth having in your wallet. On the other hand, if you often don't fly United and prefer a travel rewards credit cards that will allow you to redeem miles for flights on any airline, check out the Capital One® Venture(SM) Rewards Credit or the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card instead. Both cards offer more flexibility with your miles and even waive foreign transaction fees, which will save you an additional 3% when traveling overseas.

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Joshua Heckathorn's picture

Joshua Heckathorn was President of Creditnet, is a credit expert and has been featured on CNNMoney, FOX Business, Yahoo Finance, The Street, and many other national publications during the past ten years.  He received a Bachelor of Science in Management (Finance) from Brigham Young University's Marriott School of Business and earned his MBA from Seattle University.

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