Credit card showdown: United Business Card vs. United Explorer Business Card

Feb 21, 2020

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United fields some of the best airline credit cards around, including the perennially popular United Explorer Card and the premium United Club Infinite Card. The airline and its credit card issuer, Chase, recently upped the welcome bonuses on both those cards and also introduced an all-new business credit card, the United Business Card.

The new business credit card supplants the old United Explorer Business Card and comes with some attractive and novel perks. If you have been thinking about getting a United credit card, or if you already have the old Explorer version and are considering applying for this one to replace it, here’s a comparison of how the two cards stack up.

 Card details
United Business Card United Explorer Business Card
Welcome offer 100,000 miles after you spend $10K in the first three months N/A
Annual fee $99 $95
Earning 2x on United

2x at restaurants

2x at gas stations

2x at office supply stores

2x on local transit and commuting

1x everywhere else

2x on United

2x at restaurants

2x at gas stations

2x at office supply stores

1x everywhere else

United benefits 1 free checked bag

Priority boarding

2 United Club passes annually

Expanded award availability

5,000 anniversary miles

$100 annual travel credit after you make 7 United purchases of $100 or more

1 free checked bag

Priority boarding

2 United Club passes annually

Expanded award availability

10,000 anniversary miles for $25K spending

Other benefits Primary rental car insurance

Trip delay, cancellation

Baggage delay, loss

Purchase protection

No foreign transaction fees

Primary rental car insurance

Trip delay, cancellation

Baggage delay, loss

Purchase protection

No foreign transaction fees

Now for the details on both cards.

In This Post

Welcome offer

There’s not much of a comparison to be made here. The United Explorer Business Card is not accepting new applicants. The United Business Card is offering new members 100,000 bonus miles after they spend $10,000 in the first three months. While that sounds like a lot of money, it is probably well within reach of many small business owners.

Based on TPG’s current valuations, United miles are worth about 1.3 cents apiece, which means this bonus comes out to around $1,300, though it can be worth much more, depending on how you redeem the miles.

If you have the United Explorer Business Card, you might be wondering if you are even eligible for this new product. The good news is Chase is considering this to be a new and distinct card, so you might still be eligible to earn the welcome bonus on the United Business Card even if you already have or had the old card.

It’s not clear yet whether this card falls under Chase’s so-called 5/24 rule, which means if you have opened five or more credit cards accounts within the last 24 months, your application could be declined. Before you apply, take stock of your current accounts and see whether any activity might preclude you from this offer.

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)
(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

Annual fee

If you have the old United Explorer Business Card, you’ll pay $95 per year to keep it active and in your wallet. The new United Business Card costs $99 per year.

Earning

Now we get into one of the key differences between the two cards. The old United Explorer Business Card earns 2x miles per dollar on United purchases and at gas stations, restaurants and office supply stores. It earns 1x everywhere else.

The new United Business Card earns 2x on United purchases, at gas stations, restaurants and office supply stores, too. However, it also earns 2x miles per dollar on local transit and commuting, including mass transit systems, tolls, taxis and ride-share services. If you live in a city where you regularly use such services, this one bonus category could be what sets the earning on the new card totally apart from the bonuses offered by the old one.

Lyft mobile ordering
The new United Business Card offers bonus earning on ride shares. (Photo by d3sign/Getty Images)

United benefits

The two cards’ United-specific benefits are mostly the same. Cardholders of either get a first checked bag free on United flights for themselves and one companion when paying for their tickets (or taxes and fees on awards) with their card. That’s worth up to $120 round-trip.

Cardholders can also take advantage of priority boarding. Each account anniversary, cardholders receive two one-time United Club passes, which are valued at $59 each.

If you regularly redeem your United miles for award tickets, carrying either of these products will also get you access to increased award availability that can save you tens of thousands of miles every year. Like with the old United Explorer Business Card, United Business Card members will receive 500 of the airline’s new Premier Qualifying Points (PQPs) toward elite status by spending $12,000 in a calendar year, up to 1,000 PQPs.

Now for a couple key differences. When you use your new United Business Card for inflight purchases of food, beverages and Wi-Fi, you will receive a 25% discount. The old United Explorer Business Card offered no inflight purchase discounts.

The new United Business Card fields two totally new perks, too. The first is that those with the new card who also have a personal United credit card such as the United Explorer Card or the United Club Infinite Card will receive 5,000 anniversary bonus miles, worth around $65 each year. While you get this bonus just for carrying two United cards, the old United Explorer Business Card offers a 10,000-mile bonus for spending at least $25,000 in a calendar year, which might be a better option for some high spenders.

Second, travelers who use the United Business Card to make seven or more United travel purchases of at least $100 each in an account year will receive a $100 statement credit. These purchases are defined as seat upgrades, Economy Plus seats, inflight food, beverages and Wi-Fi, baggage charges or other United fees.

If you regularly make such purchases and also have a United personal credit card, these two benefits alone put the new United Business Card into a different category than the old United Explorer Business Card.

Charge enough United fees like seat upgrades to your United Business Card and you could score a $100 statement credit. (Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy)

Other benefits

These cards’ non-United benefits packages look mostly the same. Both waive foreign transaction fees and extend primary rental car insurance when renting for business purposes. Both cards also offer travel protections such as travel accident insurance and delayed baggage insurance.

Trip delay protection kicks in at 12 hours and is worth up to $500 per ticket for expenses like meals and overnight accommodation. If your bag is delayed more than six hours, you might be eligible for up to $100 per day for up to three days to replace your belongings. If your bag is completely lost, you can claim up to $3,000 per passenger.

One difference is that the new United Business Card has trip cancellation and interruption coverage that maxes out at $1,500 per person and $6,000 per trip, while the old United Explorer Business Card will cover you up to $10,000 per person and $20,000 per trip.

The purchase protection is the same, though, and covers new items up to 120 days out against damage or theft at up to $10,000 per claim and $50,000 per account.

Finally, both cards will get you access to bookings through Chase’s Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection, with value-added benefits like late checkout and on-property statement credits.

Bottom line

The new United Business Card offers some fantastic perks for United frequent flyers. Its sign-up bonus of 100,000 miles is relatively easy to earn and will likely be enough for several economy award tickets or a good chunk toward a premium seat.While many of its benefits mirror those of the older United Explorer Business Card, the inflight discounts, as well as the anniversary bonus and spending-based statement credit, should come in handy for folks who carry other United cards and actually spend some money on the airline each year.

Because already having (or having had in the past and closing) the United Explorer Business Card should not exclude you from earning the sign-up bonus with the new United Business Card, you could even consider carrying both. That way, you can score the new card’s sign-up bonus and enjoy both products’ anniversary perks, including bonus miles and statement credits.

If you do not already have a United card and have been thinking about getting a one, especially a business credit card, the United Business Card is a very strong contender, with great benefits that will make it worth hanging onto year after year in trade for its $99 annual fee.

For more details, read our United Business Card review and our United Explorer Business Credit Card review.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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