United℠ Explorer Card Review

United Explorer Review
The United Explorer Credit Card comes steep rewards, no annual fee, and a generous sign-up bonus.
  • Annual Fee:
    $0 First Year, then $95
  • Regular APR:
    16.49% - 23.49% Variable
  • Credit Score:
    690 - 850

Disclaimer: This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation (at no cost to you) when you click on links to those products. Read our Disclaimer Policy for more information.

United flyers who want accessible rewards and luxury perks should consider the United℠ Explorer Credit Card, especially if they are weighing their options between other airline cards.

There is much to love about the United Explorer Credit Card with a large signup bonus, deferred annual fee, and luxury perks usually unavailable in this credit card class.

United℠ Explorer Card Pros and Cons


  • Bonus categories for everyday spending
  • Two complimentary annual club passes
  • Large sign-on bonus


  • Inflexible rewards redemption
  • Other travel rewards cards may provide more value

United℠ Explorer Credit Card Review

  • Annual fee: $95 (Waived the first year)
  • Regular APR: 16.49% – 23.49% Variable
  • Rewards: 2x Miles per dollar on United purchases, dining, and hotels; 1x Miles per dollar on all other purchases
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: None
  • Signup Bonus: 40,000 Miles after spending the first $2,000 on the card.
  • Category:Travel

United℠ Explorer Card Rewards

Earning Rewards

Cardholders who are approved for the United℠ Explorer Credit Card can immediately use it for everyday spending to start racking up reward miles.

Many airline credit cards offer one of the three biggest spending categories as a bonus earning option, but the United℠ Explorer Credit Card offers two: travel and dining.

This card earns 2x miles per dollar on all United purchases and hotel purchases, effectively making it a hybrid between strictly co-branded for United and a general travel card.

While it doesn’t technically include other travel purchases like taxis and parking passes, savvy cardholders who book their hotels and flights with this card can rack up miles quickly.

The only earning category missing which would make this an absolutely stellar credit card is groceries. Since the United℠ Explorer Credit Card also earns 2x points on dining, it provides even more daily spending value if your budget includes eating at restaurants and cafes.

But, since it also includes a massive introductory spending bonus and defers the annual fee by a year, it more than makes up for it.

Redeeming Rewards

If you think of the United℠ Explorer Credit Card as a funnel, with the top being its earning ability, then the bottom is your redemption strategy.

This card is designed to help you earn rewards flights and reduce your overall travel expenses. For example, some short-haul flights can be found for 8,000 miles roundtrip, which means the 40,000-mile introductory bonus could potentially be worth five short flights. Or you could save your points for a more luxurious long-haul flight if you are planning an international trip.

Although reward valuations fluctuate, you can plan ahead and research some of the best times to book travel since United uses a dynamic seasonal pricing model to determine how many points each flight will cost.

United℠ Explorer Card Features and Benefits

Incredible Welcome Offer

Eligible cardholders will receive 40,000 bonus miles after spending $2,000 on the card in the first three months of card membership.

Many estimates value this bonus between $400-$500 worth of airfare which is an excellent offer for a mid-tier credit card. Since the annual fee is waived for the first year, this bonus can be worth up to 6 years of card membership without taking any other points or perks into account.

Priority Boarding

When you create your United frequent flyer account, you will be assigned a frequent flyer number. Booking flights with your United℠ Explorer Credit Card and frequent flyer number will entitle you to priority boarding on your next flights for you and any companions on your itinerary.

Free Checked Bags and Club Passes

Baggage fees can quickly add up to hundreds of dollars, and the United℠ Explorer Credit Card waives the baggage fee for you and one companion’s first bag.

Another powerful perk for United℠ Explorer Credit Card cardholders is the two complimentary lounge passes added to your account for access to the United Club.

This perk is valued at around $100 as long as you take advantage of the food and amenities provided by the club. If you utilize this perk every year, it will more than cover your $95 annual fee.

Earn Unlimited Miles

The United℠ Explorer Credit Card is an excellent choice for points savers because you can earn unlimited miles without them expiring.

Other airline reward programs still have archaic inactivity and expiration policies, but United ensures you can use your points when you want to.

How Does United℠ Explorer Card Compare to Other Cards?

#1. United Quest℠ Card vs. United℠ Explorer Card

The United℠ Explorer Credit Card is the middle of the pack for United co-branded cards. It carries a $95 annual fee which is waived the first year and includes perks such as free checked bags and two United Club passes. It is a powerful travel credit card for many United flyers due to its broad rewards earning categories and affordable fee.

United loyalists who want a higher treatment level should consider the United Quest℠ Card, which offers an 80,000-mile introductory spending bonus and a $125 annual United statement credit.

Since it has a $250 fee, it is more expensive than The United℠ Explorer, but if you pay for one United flight with the United Quest℠ Card, it makes the difference effectively $30.

The United Quest℠ Card’s other perks include two 5,000-mile anniversary bonuses deposited into their United account annually if the cardholder books a United-operated award flight during the year.

#2. Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card vs. United℠ Explorer Card

While the United℠ Explorer Card is designed for United’s devoted customers, the Capital One Venture Rewards card is a flexible, all-purpose travel card that earns 2x miles per dollar regardless of category.

Instead of booking travel with your Venture points, you can use your accumulated rewards as statement credits on any travel purchases made with the Capital One Venture Rewards card.

Both of these cards have an effective earning rate of around 2%, which makes the decision between them a choice between loyalty status perks through United or the freedom to use your travel rewards on any travel purchase you want.

#3. United℠ Explorer Card vs. Chase Freedom Flex℠

The Chase Freedom Flex℠ is a relative newcomer to the cash back credit card market. It offers a cash back introductory bonus with no annual fee, 3x points per dollar on dining and drugstores, 5x points per dollar on travel booked through Chase, and it offers 5x points per dollar on quarterly rotating categories.

Although it is new, it has made waves with cash back aficionados because it combines stable everyday cash back potential with the bonus of quarterly 5x categories.

If you are looking for an everyday spending card to pair with a travel card, or you want to earn rewards without a fee, then the Chase Freedom Flex℠ is worth strong consideration.

However, there are no direct travel benefits with his card, so if you want to save money on flights and baggage fees, then the United℠ Explorer Card is a better option.

#4. Platinum Card® from American Express vs. United℠ Explorer Card

The Platinum Card® from American Expressis the leading luxury travel charge card with a $695 annual fee to prove it. Cardholders receive numerous statement credits from partners like Uber, Saks Fifth Avenue, Amex Travel, and more.

Although it has a hefty upfront annual fee, avid travelers can easily make it back, plus some if they take advantage of the hotel loyalty perks and statement credits. Since there are so many additional perks included with the Platinum Card® from

American Express, some consider it to be a hybrid, although it is not technically co-branded. For example, cardholders receive gold status with Marriott Bonvoy and Hilton, whereas these hotels own co-branded cards that do not guarantee these perks until they use their highest-end cards.

The United℠ Explorer Card is better for cardholders who don’t want to juggle different programs and perks but want a consistent and reliable choice for United flights.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Credit Score Do You Need for United℠ Explorer Card?

Travel rewards credit cards such as the United℠ Explorer Card usually require applicants to have good to excellent credit.

Is the United℠ Explorer Card Worth It?

The United℠ Explorer Card offers plenty of bang for your buck, especially if you already are used to flying United; if you can capitalize on the United Club passes and checked bag fee, you will generally out-earn your fee every year.

Does United℠ Explorer Card Have an Annual Fee?

Yes, it carries a $95 annual fee which is waived the first year.

Does United℠ Explorer Card Have Lounge Access?

Yes – kind of. Cardholders receive two United Club Passes every cardmember anniversary, but they do not have unlimited access.

Bottom Line: United℠ Explorer Card Review

The United℠ Explorer Card is an excellent mid-tier airline rewards card that offers a large introductory spending bonus with generous earning potential across two large spending categories.

If you want to save money on United flights and incidental fees with a manageable annual fee, then check out the United℠ Explorer Card.

Justin Estes
Justin Estes

Justin Estes is a Senior Personal Finance Writer who is a recognized small business accountant, consultant, and credit card expert. His background in accounting and finance led to a passion for helping people make the most of their money and matching them with financial products that enhance their lifestyle. Justin attended Charleston Southern University where he double-majored in Finance and Accounting. Justin’s areas of expertise are credit cards, small business finance, accounting, and taxes.