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Chase United MileagePlus Explorer Card Review – Best Visa Rewards Card?


Thanks to rising gas prices, the world of air travel is becoming increasingly more competitive. As the economy tightens at the same time, many travelers are seeking out frequently flier mile rewards cards to help them save. The combination of these two factors is leading to some major perks for card holders as company’s fight for their share of the market. One such card born of these factors is the Chase United MileagePlus Explorer Card, a VISA signature card offered by United Airlines via Chase bank.

What does the Chase United MileagePlus Explorer Card have to offer?

United cooked up a decent list of incentives for flying their airline or their subsidiaries, such as Continental.

Earning miles with a Chase United MileagePlus Explorer Card:

Chase United MileagePlus Explorer Card members earn one mile for every $1 dollar spent excluding balance transfers, fees, etc.  Every $1 spent where United is identified as the merchant, an extra mile is added (meaning 2 miles per $1 total.) It is important to note that purchases via discount ticket sale sites, such as kayak.com, may not qualify if the merchant is not actually United. It really depends on how the purchase is processed.

Miles may be used at any time on any United or Continental flight. They do not expire, as long as you remain an active Chase United MileagePlus Explorer Card card holder (making purchases, paying your balance, etc.) If you are inactive, points expire after 18 months, which is a pretty good chunk of time.

Bonuses, bonuses, bonuses:

There are actually three bonus mile offers at this current time for Chase United MileagePlus Explorer Card applicants:

-New card holders who make one purchase and add one authorized user in the first three months get 5,000 bonus miles.
-New card holders that spent $1,000 in the first three months are awarded 30,000 bonus miles.
-Each year card holders spent more than $25,000 on their card, they are awarded 10,000 bonus miles.

This means if you completed all three bonus activities and spent all $25,000 at United you would have 95,000 miles in the first year. (45,000 in bonus + 50,000 in regular earned miles) The first two bonus options do not apply to existing card holders.

Additional perks:

The Chase United MileagePlus Explorer Card also comes with:

-Priority boarding: Card members board after premier members, but before general boarders.
-One free bag check: Chase United MileagePlus Explorer Card members may check one bag, as well as a companion bag, for free on their first reservation made with their card.
-Two annual United Club passes ($100 value): Each calendar year card holders receive two passes to the United Club for themselves and a companion flier.
-Hotel upgrades: While benefits vary by location, card holders may received room upgrades, free breakfast, and more from over 700 hotels across the globe.
-VISA signature perks: All VISA signature cards come with their own list of goodies including over 100 perks, discounts and upgrades which you can view on their program page by clicking here.

What does the Chase United MileagePlus Explorer Card cost?

The Chase United MileagePlus Explorer Card has a $95 annual fee, but this fee is waived in the first year. This card carries a 15.29 percent APR (or the prime rate plus 11.99 percent). This rate applies to balance transfers, which also incur a standard three percent fee. Cash advances and charges over your limit are assessed at 19.99 percent interest with a five percent fee.

The late payment fee system for this card is also interesting. It works on a sliding scale. If the account balance is under $100, the late fee would only be $15. If the balance is between $100 and $250, the fee is $25, and if the balance is over $250, the fee is $35. While no one plans to incur late fees, if you do, this is a nice feature. I know I have, for example, not used a card in awhile, forgot it had an annual fee and then ended up with a late fee because I didn’t even know there was a balance to pay, in which case this card would save me $20 from the standard $35 late fee.

There are no foreign transaction fees with this card. Technically, while I consider this a “cost” point, it’s also a major perk with a traveler’s card, at least if you travel overseas.

Ok, so all that sounds pretty good, decent rewards, fees aren’t outrageous, heck, that interest rate is even pretty good. Your next logical thought is probably, what’s the catch? There isn’t one, not exactly, except this isn’t the best deal out there and those perks aren’t very rare. For example, you can get everything the United MileagePlus card offers by using a Barclaycard Arrival World Mastercard but with a 2.2-mile return for every $1 spent anywhere, including on United flights. The fee is even slightly less at $89 a year. The Arrival card isn’t the only card out there to best United’s offering here either. The United MileagePlus card also only includes perks that are already offered to Elite members of United’s frequent flier program. You could realistically use any card and get the same perks—minus the point earning part.

So, who could use the United MileagePlus Explorer card?

There are two reasons I can think of that someone would want to choose a card knowing that there was a better offer out there. One, they want a VISA card. The Chase United MileagePlus Explorer Card is the best VISA signature card in regards to mile-based rewards as of the writing of the review in December of 2013. Two, they were turned down by the other guy. While I couldn’t source you proof of this one, the rumor mill says Chase cards are easier to qualify for than many other grantors. I can say back in my early days, before I had much credit history, I was turned down by several companies, but approved with Chase.

Bottom line?

If you can’t qualify for a better deal, this card isn’t a bad deal, particularly for those who travel internationally and check bags, it’s just not the best out there.

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