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The United MileagePlus Explorer card is now offering 50,000 United miles for spending $3,000 on the card within three months of opening it. This bonus is a limited time offer ending March 15, 2018.

This is significant because the United MileagePlus Explorer card is one of the first travel credit cards we recommend applying for due to the Chase 5/24 rule–the fact that Chase cuts you off to the majority of their lucrative travel credit cards once you’ve opened five personal credit cards from any bank–but only if its bonus is at 50k or higher. The standard offer is 30k United miles for spending $1,000 in three months.

With a valuable sign up bonus and lots of perks when flying United, the United MileagePlus Explorer is one of the most valuable Chase cards.

Quick Facts

  • Sign up bonus: 50,000 United miles after spending $3,000 in three months
  • Value of United miles: Our valuation is 1.6 cents each
  • Authorized user bonus: 5,000 Bonus Miles when you add an authorized user and make a purchase in the first three months
  • Anniversary/loyalty bonus: 10,000 Bonus Miles when you spend $25,000 in net purchases on your card each year
  • United specific perks: Free first checked bag for cardmember and one companion on United flights purchased with Explorer Card; Priority boarding for you and anyone on your reservation; Two United Club passes per year
  • Category bonus: 2 miles per dollar spent on tickets purchased from United
  • Global Acceptance: Visa, chip technology, and no foreign transaction fees
  • Annual Fee: $95
  • Eligibility: Chase 5/24 Rule applies

The card has a $95 annual fee that isn’t waived the first year.

Before diving into the perks, I want to point out that sometimes you will find an elevated sign up bonus higher than the standard 30k offer by logging into their United MileagePlus accounts. If you’re interested in this card, definitely log into your account first to check if there’s a better offer there. 

Value of United Miles

We value United miles at 1.6 cents each, making the sign up bonus alone worth $800 to us if you redeem them wisely.

United is in the Star Alliance, the largest and most comprehensive airline alliance with 28 member airlines. United and Star Alliance airlines are known for having the most plentiful award space compared to other programs. United miles are arguably the best reward currency (in chances of actually finding reasonable award space at a reasonable price) for flying in a flat bed to Europe. Why else are United miles valuable?

  • United does not collect fuel surcharges on awards–ever. 
  • The process of award space searching and booking online is simple. You can find award space for most partners (except a few, like Singapore and Brussels) and book right on
  • You should never have to pay a close-in award booking fee because of this trick.

These points along with a fairly priced award chart combine to make United miles very versatile, valuable for travelers based in the United States.

Star Alliance carriers
Star Alliance carriers

Authorized User Bonus

Make sure you add an authorized user to the account during the application for the easy 5,000 miles. The extra card will be sent to you, so you can always decide not to give it to the authorized user. The authorized user will not be precluded from opening his own account with a 50k mile bonus later.

Note that adding that adding an authorized user will count against that person’s 5/24 count, so perhaps add a trusted friend or relative that isn’t into collecting rewards cards (with their permission of course). They don’t have to use the card for you to get the authorized user bonus.

Anniversary/Loyalty Bonus

The United MileagePlus Explorer card offers a 10k bonus when you reach 25k in spending on the card each calendar year. This is probably not enough incentive to keep spending large amounts on the card as the return isn’t high when compared to the return you’ll get from category bonuses on Chase’s other cards like the Sapphire Reserve (3x on travel and restaurants) or Ink Business Preferred (3x on search engine and social network advertising), but if you’re a big enough spender it could worth working towards, at least with purchases you wouldn’t earn category bonuses with anyways.

United Specific Perks

First Checked Bag Free

When you purchase United flights on your MileagePlus Explorer card, you and one other companion will get your first checked bags free. That represents a savings of $100 on a domestic roundtrip, as checking a bag costs $25 per person each way.

Priority Boarding

You and anyone on your reservation will get to board before general boarding. This means a better shot at getting your luggage in the overhead bin so you don’t have to gate check anything.

Two United Club Passes

After opening the account and each year after you card anniversary, you get two United Club Passes.

For a peak into the United Club experience, read my trip report that covers the United lounges in San Francisco and Houston.

United Club San Francisco

Category Bonuses

You will earn two United miles per dollar spent on airline tickets purchased directly from United.


The United MileagePlus Explorer Card has no foreign transaction fees. It also has chip technology for global acceptance, so it’s a great card for overseas travel.

The card has an annual fee of $95, and the first one is due on your first statement.

Eligibility to Be Approved

If you have opened five or more new credit cards in the last 24 months, you will be denied for Chase cards, including the Ink Business Preferred. This is the so-called Chase 5/24 rule.

Chase Matches

Did you sign up for this card in the last 90 days with the 30k for spending $1,000 offer?

Chase is the best about matching people who have applied for and been approved for inferior offers to the best available offer. You can always send a Secure Message through to ask to be matched to a better offer on a card you have. Scott says that in his experience, Chase will only match you if you were approved within 90 days of your Secure Message. Your experiences may vary. Share them in the comments.

It’s through these matches that folks have been able to get approved for the 50k + 5k bonus on the Explorer Card for at least the past 18 months. For much of that time, there was a 50k + 5k offer available at Chase bank branches or online, and folks who applied for the 30k + 5k offer online could get matched to the better offer through Secure Messages.

Bottom Line

Apply before March 15, 2018, and you can earn 58,000 United miles very easily with the current sign up offer for the United MileagePlus Explorer Card issued by Chase. You’ll get 50k for meeting the minimum spending requirement, 5k for adding an authorized user, and (at least) 3k for spending $3,000 on the card. We value 58k United miles at about $928.

The card also comes with a myriad of valuable perks for those that often fly United.

Looking or a business card instead? The United MileagePlus Explorer Business card also comes with a 50k bonus for spending $3,000 right now (5/24 rule also applies). It has a similar benefits package to the personal card but with business-centric category bonuses, no authorized user bonus, and no annual fee the first year.

Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

Just getting started in the world of points and miles? The Chase Sapphire Preferred is the best card for you to start with.

With a bonus of 60,000 points after $4,000 spend in the first 3 months, 5x points on travel booked through the Chase Travel Portal and 3x points on restaurants, streaming services, and online groceries (excluding Target, Walmart, and wholesale clubs), this card truly cannot be beat for getting started!

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