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When you think of the best airline credit card, you usually concentrate on the one with the biggest and baddest sign-up bonus.
For example, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card, which comes with a bonkers offer of 30,000 Southwest points and a COMPANION PASS (bring a friend for free every single time you fly) valid until the end of 2019.
But if you’re looking for the most well-rounded airline credit card that will enhance your travel experience in multiple ways, it’s GOT to be the United℠ Explorer Card. This card will:
- Make booking award flights easier
- Dramatically improve your airport experience
- Greatly discount your rental car price
- Waive your checked bag fees
- Give you money if your flight is delayed a certain amount of time
There aren’t many cards, airline or otherwise, that check off as many boxes as that. Its benefits go far beyond just the flight experience. Let’s quickly examine each of these areas in more detail.
Best Airline Card for Well-Rounded Travel Benefits
Apply Here: United℠ Explorer Card
Read our review of the United℠ Explorer Card
When you open the Chase United Explorer card, you’ll earn 40,000 United Airlines miles after spending $2,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of opening your account. That’s enough miles for a round-trip flight to Peru. Or a one-way flight to Cape Town!
There’s a $95 annual fee with this card, but it’s waived the first year.
1. Award Flights Are Easier to Book
United Airlines gives you access to more award seats when you have the Chase United Explorer. You can see available seats that other folks can’t!!
That is a humongous perk. And it’s easy to use. When you have the card linked to your United Airlines online account you’ll see more available seats.
For example, if I search the United Airlines website for flights without logging in, there are several flights that simply don’t show up. If I log-in, there are instantly more options.
2. Your Airport Experience Dramatically Improves
There are 3 ways the Chase United Explorer improves your visit to the airport:
You get a statement credit for TSA PreCheck/Global Entry: If you don’t have TSA PreCheck, you simply don’t understand what you’re missing.
TSA PreCheck lines are usually way shorter than regular security lines. And you aren’t required to remove your shoes, laptops, liquids, belts, or jackets! You can usually scoot through the security checkpoint exponentially faster than everyone else.
With the Chase United Explorer, you’ll get a statement credit reimbursing you for Global Entry ($100) or TSA PreCheck ($85) every 4 years. And because your membership is good for 5 years, you’ll always receive a free membership as long as you have the card.
You get 2 one-time United Airlines Lounge Passes per year: Each year when you renew your Chase United Explorer card, you’ll receive 2 United Club Lounge passes.
Lounges are a great place for a quiet rest, free snacks and alcoholic beverages, and free Wi-Fi. Some locations even have showers!
Day passes like these are usually $59 each, so you’re essentially getting a value of $118. But remember, starting November 1, 2019, you’ll need to fly United Airlines or one of its partners to access United Airlines Club lounges.
You get priority boarding: If you have the Chase United Explorer, you get to be one of the first aboard the plane. You’ll board with others who have certain airline elite status, as well as anyone who purchased Premier Access or Priority Boarding.
3. Save Big on Rental Cars
Once at your destination, you’ll likely rent a car. And purchasing insurance through the rental car agency can easily cost $15+ per day.
One of the greatest benefits of the Chase United Explorer is that it offers primary rental insurance coverage when you decline the rental company’s collision damage waiver (CDW) and pay in full with your card. This means the card insurance kicks in before you have to file a claim with your personal insurance company!
It’s not complete coverage, because you’re only covered for theft or collision damage (NOT liability). But it’s still an excellent benefit that can save you tons of money. There aren’t many cards that come with this benefit.
4. Save on Checked Bags
When you fly United Airlines and use your Chase United Explorer to pay for your ticket, you and a travel buddy on the same reservation will receive your first checked bags free.
United Airlines checked bag fees are $30 each way. So this benefit alone could save you $120 in a single trip ($30 per checked bag X 4 one-ways between you and a partner).
5. Trip Delay Insurance
When your travel is delayed 12+ hours or requires an overnight stay, you and your family are covered for expenses like meals and lodging, up to $500 per ticket. I used this identical benefit with another card when my flight was delayed over the holidays, and was reimbursed ~$250. It was a huge help!
The Chase United Explorer comes with other nice benefits, like 25% off in-flight purchases, trip delay insurance, purchase protection, etc. But the benefits that make it the most well-rounded airline credit card in existence are:
- Access to more award seats
- TSA PreCheck/Global entry credit
- 2 one-time United Airlines lounge passes per year
- Priority boarding
- Primary rental car insurance
- First checked bag free for you and a travel buddy
- Excellent trip delay insurance
That is a heck of a collection of benefits for a card that has just a $95 annual fee!
Change my mind. Let me know your pick for the airline credit card with the best benefits and why!