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United and Chase recently rolled out a new co-branded credit card, The Explorer Card and it was met with mixed reviews. The 40,000 point sign-up bonus was okay (it was actually a 25,000 point sign-up, 5,000 for adding an authorized user and then 10,000 every year you spend $25,000). However, the card comes with a bunch of benefits that could save you time and money if you are a United/Continental flyer. The key benefits I highlighted in my original review were: 2x points on United/Continental purchases, free first checked bag for you and a companion on United/Continental flights, Priority boarding, 2 lounge passes every year, primary auto rental insurance with coverage up to $500,000, purchase protection up to $10,000, concierge service and luxury hotel benefits.
However, since the launch of the card, United has added three key benefits that may make it worth your while:
1) EasyPass (Anytime) awards will now only be available to cardholders. Currently, anyone can book one of those awards (and pay roughly twice the miles), however starting March 15, 2012 the only option will be saver awards – unless you have the Explorer or OnePass Plus. A definite loss for those who need the flexibility of Anytime awards (even though I generally don’t encourage spending that many miles for an award!).
2) Award Ticket Upgrades for elites. Elite members who are traveling on a reward ticket will be eligible for unlimited complimentary First Class upgrades when available on flights operated by Continental and Continental Micronesia. Details at www.continental.com/
3) Miles don’t expire for cardholders, but they still will for everyone else. Beginning January 1, 2012. Technically miles would have never expired if you used the credit card at least once every 18 months, which I’ll assume most people who pay $95 a year in annual card fees do!
The Chase Continental OnePass Plus card also carries the same three benefits, so if you’re interested in applying for that instead, you can find the link below as well.
Note: There are targeted offers of up to 60,000 miles, so be on the lookout for mailings/emails.