Decisions: Chase Southwest Card Offers vs United Explorer Business – Here’s What You Should Consider Before Applying

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The banks sure don’t make it easy to choose when they come out with a bunch of improved credit card bonuses at the same time!  Especially when they don’t stick around for very long.

Hot on the heels of the incredible Chase Southwest personal card offers (which include a promotional Companion Pass after meeting minimum spending requirements), there’s now a best-ever public offer for the United Explorer Business Card.

I’d already set my heart on picking up one of the Southwest cards this month.  But that United Airlines credit card offer is very compelling!

These are both excellent cards to consider if you’re looking to boost your airline miles balances.  So which is the better deal?

The United Airlines Business Card Bonus Is More Than Enough for a Round-Trip Flat-Bed Premium Transcontinental Flight

It really depends on whether you prefer Southwest or United Airlines (and their partners) and your travel plans.  And in certain circumstances, you may be eligible for both cards (no tough decisions required).

New United Airlines Business Card Bonus vs Southwest Personal Card Offers

1.   United Explorer Business Card Limited-Time Offer

Apply Here:   United Explorer Business Card

Read our review of the improved United Explorer Business Card offer

Until March 18, 2019, there’s a best-ever public offer on the United Explorer Business Card.  You’ll earn 75,000 United Airlines miles after spending $5,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.  That’s enough for 3 round-trip domestic award flights and more than enough for a round-trip coach ticket to Europe.

The $95 annual fee is waived the first year, so it’s free to try out for 12 months to see if you enjoy its numerous perks:

  • 2 United Airlines miles per $1 you spend on United Airlines and at restaurants, gas stations, and office supply stores
  • 1 United Airlines mile per $1 you spend on everything else
  • Free first checked bag for you and one companion on the same reservation – but you MUST use your card to pay for your ticket
  • Priority boarding
  • 2 United Club lounge passes per card membership year
  • No foreign transaction fees

And even if you’re not a big United Airlines flyer, you can redeem United Airlines miles for award flights on partner airlines, like Air Canada, Lufthansa, and Singapore Airlines.  Here’s our guide on how to earn and use United Airlines miles.

We Flew United Airlines to the West Coast and Even Got a Complimentary Upgrade to Economy Plus (All I Did Was Ask!)

Earning 75,000 United Airlines miles from a single credit card is a very good deal.  But keep in mind, this is a small business card so you’ll need a for-profit venture to be eligible.  It’s easier to qualify for small business cards than you think, with side gigs like reselling, tutoring, coaching, or renting out an Airbnb.  Most of us on the MMS team get approved this way, and you don’t need a formal business structure or EIN – you can apply as a sole proprietor using your social security number.

The United Explorer Business Card IS subject to the Chase 5/24 rule – that is, if you’ve opened 5+ cards from any bank (except certain business cards), you won’t be approved for the card.  But it does NOT add to your 5/24 count, because it’s a Chase business card and won’t appear on your personal credit report.

2.   Chase Southwest Personal Limited-Time Offers

Read our review of the new Chase Southwest personal card offers

Apply Here:   Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card

Read our review of the Chase Southwest Plus card


Apply Here:   Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card

Read our review of the Chase Southwest Premier card


Apply Here:   Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

Read our review of the Chase Southwest Priority card


We’ve never seen offers for the personal Southwest cards like this. 

The Southwest Companion Pass is, hands down, the best deal in travel.  With the Southwest Companion Pass, you can bring a friend or family member along with you for just the cost of taxes and fees on both paid and award flights.  And you can use it an unlimited number of times while your pass is active.

Normally, you’d have to earn 110,000 Southwest points in a calendar year to qualify for the Companion Pass.  Typically, most folks achieve this by opening a Southwest personal card (you can’t have more than one at a time) AND the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card.

But with these limited-time Chase Southwest personal card offers, you’ll earn the pass from just a single welcome bonus.  It’s super easy.

Take Flight With a Pal for Nearly Free When You Have the Southwest Companion Pass – You Can Earn It Right Now With Just ONE Credit Card

Note:   With these offers, the Companion Pass is promotional and expires at the end of 2019.  If you qualified for the Companion Pass the conventional way (by earning 110,000 Southwest points in a calendar year) it would be valid for the year in which you earned it, and all of the next year.

The Southwest personal cards are also subject to the Chase 5/24 rule, so if you’ve opened 5 or more credit cards (except certain business cards) in the past 24 months, you’re not eligible.  And these cards WILL show up on your personal credit report and add to your 5/24 count.

How to Decide Whether the United Business or Southwest Offers Are Better for You

I recently wrote about my 2019 Chase credit card strategy and how I had the next ~6 months of card applications planned out, including applying for the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card this month.  And then the new United Explorer Business Card offer landed unexpectedly, which means re-analyzing the best deals for my family.

Here are a few things to consider if you’re deciding between these 2 excellent offers.  Remember, to be eligible for the United Explorer Business Card, you’ll need a for-profit business.

1.   What Are Your Travel Goals?

If your 2019 travel includes mostly domestic flights, and you live near an airport served by Southwest, the Southwest card offers are an outstanding deal.  Southwest has a fairly extensive route network within the continental US, and also flies to Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America.  And soon (any day now … waiting patiently here!) they’ll start service to Hawaii.

But if your travel plans lean further afield, the United Explorer Business Card is a better fit.  In addition to North America, United Airlines flies to Europe, Asia, Australia, and South America – and you can redeem United Airlines miles on many more partner airlines to get to pretty much anywhere in the world.  And if you like Business or First Class, that’s an option with United Airlines miles.  On Southwest, your choices are coach or coach.  🙂

2.   Do You Travel Solo or With Others?

Having a Southwest Companion Pass isn’t valuable if you won’t use it.  If you travel mostly by yourself, I’d hold on the Southwest offers and instead go for the United Business card bonus.

But if you fly with a significant other, bestie, or kids, the Southwest Companion Pass can unlock 2-for-1 travel.  Think about how you can make the best use of it.  When you’ve got it in your pocket, it opens up opportunities you might not have considered, like romantic long weekend getaways just for the heck of it, or quick jaunts to see family and friends.  Keith and his wife estimate they’ve gotten at least $10,000 worth of flights from the Companion Pass in the past 4 years.

Family in airport. Attractive young woman, handsome man and their cute little daughter are ready for traveling! Happy family concept.
Families Can Do Very Well With the Southwest Companion Pass

If you’ve got a spouse or partner and have kids, the Southwest Companion Pass becomes extra valuable.  If both parents get a Southwest card (and Companion Pass), they can each fly a child for next to free.  That takes a big load off the number of points you’ll need to fly the family to bucket-list spots like Disney World!

3.   How Much Do You Value Flexibility?

When you book award flights with United Airlines miles, you’re subject to blackout dates and award availability.  That said, having a Chase United Airlines card unlocks more available award seats compared to what others can access.

With Southwest, you can book a flight with points as long as there’s a seat for sale (but the number of points you’ll pay varies depending on the cash price of the ticket).  This is a better option for folks who must fly during peak travel times like holidays and Spring Break, or who don’t otherwise have wiggle room in their schedules.

A Quick Trip to Florida to Escape the Nasty Northeast Winter Is Much More Affordable and Simple With the Southwest Companion Pass – Even During Peak Dates

Southwest has another leg up on United Airlines – they don’t add change or cancellation fees if your plans change.  United Airlines, on the other hand, has fees for pretty much everything, unless you hold certain types of elite status.

4.   Do You Have Baggage?

If you’ve got suitcases to check, Southwest will save you a ton of cash, because every passenger always gets 2 free checked bags, whether they have a branded credit card or not.

United Airlines, on the other hand, charges $30 for a first checked bag and $40 for the second on domestic flights.  But with the United Explorer Business Card, the first checked bag fee is waived for yourself and one companion on the same reservation.  Big caveat – you’ve gotta use your card to pay for your ticket (or the taxes and fees on your award ticket) to be eligible for the free first checked bag.

MMS contributor Erin wrote up a post about how flying Southwest saved her enough money in baggage fees for another round-trip flight when she moved to Mexico for 5 months.  Folks who can’t travel light will save money with Southwest.

5.   Is Staying Under 5/24 Important to You?

You won’t be approved for any of the Southwest offers or the United Explorer Business card if you’ve opened more than 5 credit cards in the past 24 months (except certain business cards, including Chase business cards).

But if you’re below 5/24, and trying to keep it that way, the United Explorer Business Card is the better bet.  It won’t add to your 5/24 count, because it doesn’t appear on your personal credit report.

Why Choose?  Can’t You Get Both Cards?

Depending on how many Chase cards you’ve opened recently, how many you have already, and whether or not you can meet the minimum spending requirements on both cards in a short amount of time – yes, you may be able to get both a personal Southwest card and the United Explorer Business Card.

Chase doesn’t publish official rules, but here are some guidelines from reports online and our own MMS experiences:

  • Unofficially, Chase doesn’t have a hard limit on the number of their cards you can have.  I’ve got 6, Keith has 12, some of us on the team are in between
  • There’s a maximum total amount of credit Chase will extend you based on your income, credit score, and other factors.  If you’re denied because you’ve hit that limit, many folks have had success getting approved by offering to move credit from their existing accounts
  • Anecdotal evidence suggests you won’t be approved for more than 1 business and 1 personal card in 90 days.  Some have reported success getting approved for a business and personal card on the same day (but you’ll almost always have to call reconsideration for the second card)

The offers on the Chase Southwest Premier, Chase Southwest Plus, and Chase Southwest Priority card end February 11, 2019.  And the United Explorer Business Card offer ends March 18, 2019 – a full month later.

If you’re angling for both, I’d apply for the card you like more first.  All things being equal, I think it makes more sense to apply for a Southwest card first because the end date is looming, but there’s never any guarantee you’ll get approved for one or the other.

Bottom Line

Chase has brought out some excellent card offers in the past week that are making it hard to choose!

Until February 11, 2019, you’ll earn a promotional Southwest Companion Pass (valid through December 31, 2019) AND 30,000 Southwest points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of opening the Chase Southwest Premier, Chase Southwest Plus, or Chase Southwest Priority card.

And through March 18, 2019, there’s a best-ever public offer on the United Explorer Business Card.  You’ll earn 75,000 United Airlines miles after spending $5,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.

If you’re interested in both cards and having a hard time deciding, consider:

  • Your travel goals (domestic vs international) – Southwest is better for travel close to home, but United Airlines miles open up the whole world
  • If you’ll travel with others (the Companion Pass is useless if you travel solo)
  • Whether or not your travel plans are flexible (Southwest never adds change or cancellation fees)
  • How much baggage you’re taking (you’ll always get 2 free checked bags on Southwest – with the United card you can get a free first checked bag for yourself and a companion if you use the card to pay for your ticket)
  • Your Chase 5/24 status (the United Explorer Business card won’t ADD to your 5/24 count)

You can get both cards, but it depends on if you’ve applied for Chase cards recently and how many are in your wallet.  These offers end close to each other, so there are minimum spending requirements to think about as well.

Are you considering both of these cards?  I’d love to hear your strategy in the comments.

Jasmin Baron was an editor at Million Mile Secrets. She covers topics on points and miles, credit cards, airlines, hotels, and general travel. Her work has appeared in The Points Guy and Business Insider.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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