Credit Card Review: United Explorer Business Card
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Editor’s note: This post was originally published on Aug. 9, 2019.
In addition to credit cards for consumers, United offers businesses — or business owners, rather — many choices when it comes to credit cards. And when given the choice between putting spend on a cobranded airline or hotel credit card and a transferable points card, you’ll generally want to go with the latter of these choices for greater flexibility in your rewards. But that doesn’t mean there’s zero value to be had in cobranded airline credit cards.
So, in light of the current elevated 100,000-mile sign-up offer on the United Explorer Business Card, let’s take a closer look at this mid-tier card and determine whether its combination of airline-focused and general travel perks make it worth carrying in your wallet.
Who Is This Card For?
Although this probably goes without saying, the United Explorer Business card is ideal for business owners who fly United. The card will provide the most value to those who don’t fly enough to earn elite status, but still enjoy elite-like benefits.
This is a Chase card, so the issuer’s 5/24 rule applies, meaning it’s not for anyone who’s opened five or more personal cards across all issuers in the last 24 months. Chase business cards don’t count toward your 5/24 status, but you’ll almost certainly be denied if you’re already over 5/24.
The United Explorer Business card currently comes with a tiered sign-up bonus of up to 100,000 miles — 50,000 miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months, plus another 50,000 miles after spending a total of $25,000 in the first six months. That can get you a whopping $1,300 in travel based on TPG’s valuations. This is one of the largest public welcome offers we’ve seen for the card.
The one downside is that the card’s $95 annual fee is not waived for the first year with this elevated offer, but with the bonus value easily topping $1,000, it’s clearly worth the tradeoff. Just note that you’ll be ineligible for this offer if you’ve received the sign-up bonus for the United Explorer Business in the last 24 months or currently have the card, which is still much less restrictive than American Express’ one-bonus-per-lifetime rules.
Although earning rates on airline cards typically aren’t worth getting excited about, the United Explorer Business is somewhat of an exception. The card was recently refreshed and now earns 2x miles on all spending with United as well as at restaurants, gas stations and office supply stores, and 1 mile per dollar on everything else. These earning rates are slightly different from the regular United Explorer Card, which offers 2x miles at hotels instead of gas stations and office supply stores.
Based on TPG’s valuations, these earning rates equal a reasonable return of 2.6% on bonus category spending and 1.3% on everything else. While not earth-shattering compared to some cards that earn transferrable points, that’s a whole lot better than most cobranded counterparts.
United flyers have many options when it comes to redeeming miles. In addition to being able to redeem miles for flights across United’s vast international and domestic flight network, you can book flights with any of the carrier’s 27 Star Alliance partner airlines. In fact, moving forward, partner awards might actually be the best use of your miles, as United is implementing a new dynamic pricing structure for United-operated flights from November 15, 2019 onwards. This essentially means that award prices will fluctuate based on the actual price of the ticket and that many redemptions are likely going to get more expensive. On the flip side, saver-level award space will no longer be a relevant concept.
While miles can also be redeemed for merchandise, hotels or rental cars, we seldom recommend doing so as those options generally yield a far lower value for your miles than what they’re worth.
The United Explorer Business Card offers valuable perks for a sub-$100 card, including a reasonable number of benefits that aren’t United-specific.
Free First Checked Bag — Get a first checked bag free on United-operated flights for you and one companion on the same reservation when you include your MileagePlus number in your reservation and pay for the flight with the Explorer Business Card. This can unlock some serious savings considering that your first checked bag will usually cost you $30 each way. Note that this perk differs from other cobranded airline cards that offer free checked baggage — with American Airlines and Delta cards, you don’t need to pay with that specific card to get the free luggage perk, since it’s tied to your frequent flyer account rather than the card itself.
Two United Club Passes — You’ll receive two, one-time United Club passes deposited into your MileagePlus account each year of card membership. This benefit alone is worth $118 per year, as day passes at the lounge cost $59 each.
Priority Boarding — Get Group 2 boarding for you and your companions traveling on the same reservation when you include you MileagePlus number in you reservation. This is especially valuable for those prone to buying basic economy tickets, as you’ll be excluded from the carry-on baggage restrictions.
Expanded Award Availability — As a card holder, you’ll both be able to book any flight using miles at the standard (non-saver) level, and you should see better award availability when you log in to your MileagePlus account.
Calendar Year Bonus Miles — You’ll earn a 10,000-mile bonus for spending at least $25,000 in a calendar year. This benefit used to also be offered on the personal version of the card, but not anymore. Fortunately, if you’re already spending $25,000 on this card for the 100,000 bonus miles from the current sign-up offer, you’ll score these extra miles as well so long as you finish your spend by December 31.
Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver — When you rent car for business purposes using your card, you can decline the rental car company’s collision insurance and be covered by the card up to the cash value of the vehicle in the case of theft or collision damage. This is valid on most rentals in the US and abroad, and coverage is primary, which means you won’t need to submit a claim to your own insurance company.
Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection Access — Get valuable onproperty perks like free breakfast and room upgrades when you book hotel stays through Chase’s Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection.
The Explorer Business card carries a handful of other benefits as well, including lost luggage reimbursement, baggage delay insurance, trip cancellation/interruption insurance, trip delay reimbursement, extended warranty and purchase protection. It also offers premier upgrades on award tickets for elite members, free employee cards and no foreign transaction fees.
Which Cards Compete With the United Explorer Business Card?
The first competitor that comes to mind is the United Club Business Card. Aside from a much higher price of $450 a year, the biggest difference is that the card comes with a full United Club membership. With that card, you’ll earn 2 miles per dollar on spending with United and 1.5 miles per dollar on everything else.
The information for the United Club Business card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
But if you’re not after the airline-specific perks and just want to rack up a lot of United miles, a much more direct competitor is the $95-a-year Ink Business Preferred Credit Card. The card earns 3x Ultimate Rewards points that can be transferred to United on the first $150,000 spent on travel, shipping, internet phone and cable and select social media advertising. It also offers a 80,000-point welcome bonus, worth $1,600 per TPG’s valuations, after spending $5,000 in the first three months. While some benefits such as primary car rental coverage and trip cancellation/interruption overlap, it probably goes without saying that this card lacks all of the United-specific perks that effectively offset the Explorer Business Card’s annual fee.
Between the checked bag fee waiver, free pair of United Club passes each year and many non-United benefits like primary car rental coverage, even occasional United flyers should be able to get outsized value from the United Explorer Business Card. The card’s earning rates aren’t industry-leading, but they are great for an airline credit card. The cherry on top is the card’s current elevated up to 100,000-mile sign-up bonus, which means if your business is considering getting this card, there likely won’t be a better time to go for it than right now.
Apply here for the United Explorer Business Card with up to 100,000 bonus miles.
- Earn up to 100,000 after qualifying purchases.
- Earn 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open
- Plus, 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $25,000 total on purchases in the first 6 months your account is open
- Earn 2 miles per $1 at restaurants, gas stations and office supply stores.
- Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on United purchases. And 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases.
- Free checked bag - save up to $120 per roundtrip (terms apply)
- Two one-time United Club℠ passes each year — Over $100 in value per year
- Employee cards at no additional cost - miles earned from their purchases accrue in your account. Plus, you can set individual spending limits for each card.