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A Solid Bonus, Lounge Passes, and Better Access to Award Seats: Here’s Why the United Explorer Credit Card Is Worth It

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A Solid Bonus, Lounge Passes, and Better Access to Award Seats: Here’s Why the United Explorer Credit Card Is Worth It

Meghan HunterA Solid Bonus, Lounge Passes, and Better Access to Award Seats: Here’s Why the United Explorer Credit Card Is Worth ItMillion Mile Secrets Team

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With the United Explorer Card, you can earn 40,000 United Airlines miles after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. That’s a good offer – enough for a round-trip coach flight within the US or a one-way coach ticket to Europe, with miles left over.

But with the announcement that United Airlines is eliminating their award chart for flights starting November 15, 2019, you might wonder if the United Explorer Card is worth it.

Let’s take a look at the benefits of holding the card – and whether or not it makes sense for you.

The welcome bonus from the Chase United Explorer card is enough for a one-way coach ticket to various European cities, including beautiful Frankfurt, Germany. (Photo by Sean Pavone/Shutterstock)

Is the Chase United Explorer Card Worth It?

Apply Here: United Explorer Card

Read our review of the Chase United Explorer

When you open the Chase United Explorer card, you’ll earn 40,000 United Airlines miles after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.

There’s a $95 annual fee with this card, but it’s waived the first year.  The card also comes with:

  • 2 United Airlines miles per dollar you spend on purchases from United Airlines, at restaurants and hotels when you book directly
  • 1 United Airlines mile per dollar you spend on everything else
  • Free first checked bag for the cardholder and one companion – but you MUST use your card to pay for your ticket
  • Priority boarding
  • 2 United Club lounge passes (one-time use) per card membership year
  • Access to an increased number of award seats
  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck credit (up to $100)

Because the card’s annual fee is waived the first year, there’s no harm in trying the card for ~11 months to decide if you like it. Plus, if you take advantage of the Global Entry or TSA PreCheck credit, you’ll nearly come out ahead!

Global Entry saves you lots of time by getting you quickly through US Customs and Immigration when you return to the US from abroad. When you enroll in Global Entry, you’ll also receive a membership to TSA PreCheck, which allows you to keep your shoes and jacket on when you go through airport security. You don’t even have to take your laptop and toiletries out of your carry-on!

I’ve had this card for years and don’t plan on canceling any time soon. That’s because, given my travel habits, the benefits outweigh the cost of the annual fee. And that might be the case for you, too!

After the First Year, Is the Chase United Explorer Card Still Worth It?

Whether keeping the card and continuing to pay its $95 annual fee is worth it will depend on your travel habits and goals. For me, the answer to if it’s worth it is a firm “yes.” Here’s why.

More Available Award Seats

I’ve kept my Chase United Explorer card year after year because of one single perk – access to more available award seats. This has come in handy so many times because my family and I regularly fly United Airlines.

When you’re searching for award tickets, it’s easy to see which are available to United card holders.

It’s hard to put a monetary value on a benefit like this, but I can assure you it takes some of the headache out of searching for award tickets, especially if you’re traveling with family or friends and need multiple award seats.

I’m happy to pay a $95 annual fee for the extra assurance that I’ll likely be able to find an award ticket that fits my travel plans, even if I’m looking to fly last minute.

Priority Boarding

Chase United Explorer cardholders and any travel companions on the same reservation will get priority boarding on United Airlines operated flights. This way, you can board the plane before lots of other passengers and get situated.

It can be especially useful when you’re traveling with kids because you don’t have the added hassle of competing for overhead bin space. It makes for a less stressful journey! And when I’m traveling, anything I can do to make life easier is a win in my book.

Lounge Passes

Day passes usually cost $59 each to access one of over 45 lounge locations. But when you have the Chase United Explorer card, you’ll find 2 passes (one-time use) loaded to your account upon card opening, then every year you renew the card.

If you use both lounge passes every year, this benefit alone can completely cover the card’s annual fee. Plus, you’ll be able to relax and enjoy free snacks, drinks and Wi-Fi along the way!

Bottom Line

You can earn 40,000 United Airlines miles after meeting minimum spending requirements on the United Explorer Card.

One of my favorite benefits is the access to more available award seats the card gives you. My family and I have used this perk on numerous occasions and for me, this benefit alone makes the card’s annual fee worth it. But whether it makes sense for you depends on your personal travel and spending habits, so you’ll have to crunch the numbers for yourself!

Just remember, United Airlines is eliminating their award chart for travel after November 15, 2019, and we aren’t quite sure yet how this will (if at all) affect the perks of the United Explorer Card. Earning United Airlines miles to use for award tickets now, before the changes take effect, certainly isn’t a bad move.

If you want to learn more about United Airlines miles, check out:

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United℠ Explorer Card

United℠ Explorer Card

  • 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent at restaurants and on hotel stays
  • Up to $100 Global Entry or TSA Pre✓® Fee Credit
  • 25% back on United inflight purchases
  • Check your first bag for free (a savings of up to $120 per roundtrip) when you use your Card to purchase your ticket
  • Enjoy priority boarding privileges and visit the United Club℠ with 2 one-time passes each year for your anniversary
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on purchases from United, and 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases

More Info

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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Don’t you think it would be more fair to your readers to point out that this card has had bigger offers very recently? So maybe they could wait for a better offer to come around.