Chase United Explorer Card Review

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4.7
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Quick Take: The Chase United Explorer Card offers some great benefits for United flyers including a sign-up bonus, 2x miles in a few select categories and two United Club passes per year, a benefit that even higher-tier cards don't offer. Add in priority boarding, 25% off in-flight purchases and a low annual fee that is waived the first year and this card is definitely one to be considered.
  • Airline
    4.7
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Pros

  • Sign-up bonus
  • Bonus points categories
  • Free bag when flying on United

Cons

  • Rewards tailored to United flyers only
  • Annual fee after the first year
  • Perks not as generous as higher-tier cards

Chase Overview

If you’re a United frequent flyer looking for additional perks but don’t want to fork over the $250 or $525 required by the United Quest or United Club Infinite Cards, then the Chase United Explorer card might be the solution. The annual fee of $95 is modest by rewards card standards, and it is waived for the first year. Still, the Chase United Explorer Card offers a host of valuable benefits for the United flyer. 

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Key Features 

The Chase United Explorer Card provides a wide range of benefits, but its highest-rated features are as follows:

Destinations

United is one of the global leaders in terms of destinations, meaning you can likely use the rewards the Chase United Explorer Card gives you for nearly any journey you take. The high utilization value in terms of destinations helps improve the card’s value. 

No Foreign Transaction Fees

Whether you use your Chase United Explorer Card at an actual overseas destination or even a foreign website, you won’t pay any foreign transaction fees on your purchases. Foreign transaction fees on other cards can run up to 3% per purchase, potentially costing you hundreds of even thousands of extra dollars per year.

Number of Travel Benefits

Considering the fee on the Chase United Explorer Card is relatively low, it offers a large number of travel benefits.  

Annual Fee

The Chase United Explorer Card offers a very manageable annual fee of $95, and even that is waived for the first year.

How the Chase United Explorer Card Stands Out

For a low-cost card, the Chase United Explorer Card stands out for its wide range of benefits. The modest $95 annual fee is easily recoverable by even casual United flyers, and it’s even waived for the first year. In fact, the Chase United Explorer Card carries many of the same benefits of the more expensive cards in the same Chase United family, although to a slightly lesser degree. The 50,000-mile sign-up bonus, after you spend $3,000 in the first three months, is usually enough for two domestic roundtrip flights, and this alone is worth years of the annual fee.

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While the category kickers only top out at 2x miles in a few select categories, the card does come with two United Club passes per year, a benefit that even some higher-tier cards don’t offer. For the casual United flyer that may only fly once per year, this benefit can be enough to provide lounge access for every flight. Priority boarding, 25% of in-flight purchases and one free checked bag per flight are great benefits for any flyer, particularly the infrequent one who may not be used to preferred treatment.

Additionally, using the card overseas is no problem, as it has no foreign transaction fees. Although not necessarily a top priority of casual flyers, the $100 perk for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck is also a nice benefit, as it can speed you through even domestic airports and get you to your gate more quickly.

But the benefits don’t stop with these common features. The Chase United Explorer Card also offers card holders the opportunity to gain elite status faster by providing 500 Premier Qualifying Points per $12,000 spent, up to a maximum of 1,000 per year. You’ll also receive complimentary benefits through the Luxury Hotels & Resorts program, such as daily breakfast, complimentary wi-fi and room upgrades. Access to United Card Events, United MileagePlus Events and Visa Concierge Service.

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While these are features most likely to be valued by card holders, the Chase United Explorer Card also carries a surprising array of travel protections for no additional cost, including the following:

  • Trip Cancellation or Interruption Insurance
  • Baggage Delay Insurance
  • Lost Luggage Reimbursement
  • Visa Concierge
  • Trip Delay Reimbursement
  • Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver
  • Purchase Protection
  • Extended Warranty Protection

Comparable United Card Options

Chase offers a variety of credit cards designed to appeal specifically to the United frequent flyer. These cards are strategically arranged into three tiers, with the mid-tier Chase United Quest Card slotting in between the bottom-tier United Explorer Card and the top-tier United Club Infinite Card. Here’s a look at how these two cards stack up against the United Quest Card. 

The Chase United Quest Card costs $250 per year but offers stepped-up benefits compared to the United Explorer Card. For example, the Quest Card offers a 70,000-mile sign-up bonus after spending $4,000 in the first three months, which beats the bonus offered by the United Explorer card and it also offers 3x miles on United purchases vs. the 2x of the Explorer Card.

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The United Quest Card also offers additional perks tailored to the more frequent United flyer, such as an annual $125 credit on United purchases and two free checked bags instead of one. But the additional features of the card merely match the Explorer Card’s, such as the $100 Global Entry or TSA PreCheck credit and the ancillary travel protections. Perhaps surprisingly, however, the United Quest card doesn’t offer any club access, while the Explorer Card offers two one-time United Club passes every year. 

The Chase United Explorer Card and the Chase United Club Infinite Card are targeted at two different markets. Whereas the Explorer Card provides a wide range of benefits for the average flyer, the Club Infinite Card is specifically focused on the frequent United traveler.

The primary benefit of the Club Infinite Card is United Club membership, which is valued at up to $650. The card also offers a hefty 80,000-mile signup bonus after spending $5,000 in the first three months and 4x miles on United purchases, vs. the smaller introductory bonus and 2x miles on United purchases offered by the Explorer Card. In exchange for these hefty benefits, the United Club Infinite Card comes with a steep $525 annual fee. This still makes the card a value for those who desire United Club membership, but it’s likely an unnecessary expense for the casual United flyer. 

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How To Apply

Applying for the Chase United Explorer Card is easy on the Chase website. You’ll need to provide both personal and financial information, from your name, address and date of birth to your Social Security number, employment status and annual income. In many cases, your application can be approved online in a matter of seconds. Some applicants, however, might have to wait 7-10 business days for Chase to verify all of their information. 

Who the Chase United Explorer Card Is Best For

The Chase United Explorer Card is a good option for occasional United flyers that aren’t willing to spend a lot of money just to get credit card benefits. With no annual fee for the first year, there’s really little downside to getting the card, and even after the $95 fee kicks in, even casual United flyers can likely receive much more in rewards than they are paying out in fees. Although the 2x miles kicker on United purchases, dining and hotel stays isn’t a game-changer, the sign-up bonus, priority boarding and free bag perks — along with the two annual United Club passes — can make it quite a rewarding card for those who fly on United even once or twice per year. 

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Final Take

For the average United flyer, the Chase United Explorer Card is an excellent option. While you can pay more for United cards with more benefits, the infrequent traveler doesn’t really need the perks these more expensive cards provide, such as a yearlong United Club membership — in the case of the Chase United Club Infinite Card — or an annual United purchase credit that only pays for half the card’s annual fee, in the case of the Chase United Quest Card. The card is not a great option for those who never travel on United, as the perks that aren’t specific to that airline are meager. But if you’re loyal to United and only fly a handful of times per year at most, the Chase United Explorer Card may be your best option among all of the United-related cards from a cost-benefit perspective.

United Explorer Card FAQ

  • What benefits do you get with the United Explorer Card?
    • The card comes with a 50,000-mile signup bonus after spending $3,000 in the first three months, 2x miles on United purchases, two annual United club one-time passes, a $100 Global Entry or TSA PreCheck credit every four years and a variety of ancillary travel protections. It also offers a one-year free membership to DashPass. United flyers also get to enjoy priority boarding, 25% off in-flight purchases, one free checked bag and the ability to earn up to 1,000 Premier Qualifying Points.
  • What credit score is needed for the United Explorer Card?
    • Chase doesn't publish required credit scores for its credit cards, but you'll likely need good to excellent credit to get approved for the United Explorer Card. Generally speaking, you'll want a credit score of 680 or higher to be approved for the card.
  • How much is a United Explorer Card?
    • The United Explorer Card charges a $95 annual fee, but it is waived for the first year.
  • How long does it take to get the United Explorer Card?
    • Some applicants may be approved instantly after applying online for the United Explorer Card. Others may have to wait up to 7-10 business days for final verification.

Information is accurate as of Oct. 8, 2022.

Editorial Note: This content is not provided by any entity covered in this article. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, ratings or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author alone and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any entity named in this article.

The information related to Chase United Explorer, United Quest, and United Club Infinite cards was collected by GOBankingRates and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of these cards. Product details may vary. Please see issuer website for current information. GOBankingRates does not receive commission for these products.

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About the Author

After earning a B.A. in English with a Specialization in Business from UCLA, John Csiszar worked in the financial services industry as a registered representative for 18 years. Along the way, Csiszar earned both Certified Financial Planner and Registered Investment Adviser designations, in addition to being licensed as a life agent, while working for both a major Wall Street wirehouse and for his own investment advisory firm. During his time as an advisor, Csiszar managed over $100 million in client assets while providing individualized investment plans for hundreds of clients.
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