If you want to fly freely and for free regardless blackout dates and capacity controls, do consider the United MileagePlus® Explorer credit card. It offers the unique opportunity for both earning miles and redeeming them without usual for award flights limitations.
How to earn points with the Explorer card
You earn 2 miles per each dollar spent on travel with United and 1 mile per each dollar spent on any other purchase. With no additional bonus category in everyday purchases, it can hardly be called the best offer ever. Other Chase cards may earn you more rewards and later can be transferred to United miles at the 1:1 rate.
Still, the card does have some incentives to offer:
- If within the first three months of account opening,
- you spend at least $2,000 with your Explorer card, you may get 40,000 miles as a signup bonus,
- you make your first purchase and add an authorised user, you may get additional 5,000 bonus miles;
- If within the calendar year, you or your authorised user spend $25,000 on purchases with this card, you get additional 10,000 bonus miles.
In total, you may get up to 55,000 bonus miles for the first year (remember to add those 2x and 1x miles per dollar spent on tickets from United and other purchases). That’s already quite a deal.
How to redeem points with the Explorer card
United miles have the best value when you redeem them for travel, like airline tickets. Since United Airlines is a Star Alliance member, you can redeem your miles for tickets from United Airlines and all Star Alliance partners. That includes 30 carriers flying to 192 destination countries. Remember that you can use United miles to book award flights from partner carriers but you cannot transfer your miles into other rewards programs.
As an Explorer cardholder, you have a priority while booking award flights. So no worries about blackout dates or capacity control.
You may also redeem your miles for hotels and merchandise but their value will be quite poor — about half a cent per mile.
Who may benefit
The United MileagePlus® Explorer credit card is ideal for you if you frequently fly United Airlines. You get good earning opportunities and extra benefits like priority boarding and free checked bags. A $95 annual fee is covered with just one round trip where you and your companion save up to $100 on checking your first bags.
If you are a frequent flyer not loyal to any particular carrier, consider travel credit cards with more flexible rewards.
How to make the most out of your card
While buying tickets from United Airlines with your Explorer card, include your MileagePlus number in your reservation. This makes you and your companion, that travels on the same reservation, eligible for some extra perks:
- You both get your first bags checked for free. Normally, you have to pay $25 for your first bag, so on a round-trip you both may save $100.
- Priority boarding is available to you and ALL your companions travelling on the same reservation.
- Every 12 months you get two United Club passes. Each grants a one-time access to a United Club location for one person. Remember that such passes have an expiration date.
All that is for $95 per year.
The bottom line
The Explorer card offers quite a lot of bonus miles allowing you to fly for free already after a few months of account opening. But the most attractive privilege of the card is the possibility to book any seat on any flight for rewards. Neither blackout dates nor capacity control can prevent you from flying to your family on Christmas Eve or Easter for free.
If you do often fly United Airlines and pay for it with your credit card, United MileagePlus® Explorer is a no-brainer for you.