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As is the case for consumers, United offers businesses — or business owners, rather — many choices when it comes to credit cards. That’s because, in addition to the two United business credit cards currently available, there are several Chase business cards that offer Ultimate Rewards points that can be transferred to United miles.
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. That doesn’t mean there’s zero value to be had in cobranded cards, however. So, in light of the current limited-time 75,000-mile sign-up offer, let’s take a closer look at the mid-tier United Explorer Business Card and determine whether its 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 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. It will also provide value to those who do fly enough to earn elite status, but have trouble hitting the PQD spend requirement. That’s because if you spend $25,000 on this card (or across all United cobranded cards) in a calendar year, you’ll get the PQD requirement for status waived, up to the Premier Platinum.
This is a Chase card, so the issuer’s 5/24 rule applies, meaning it’s not for anyone who’s opened 5 or more cards across all issuers in the last 24 months. Chase business cards don’t count toward your 5/24 status, though you’ll almost certainly be denied if you’re over 5/24.
Now through March 18, the United Explorer Business comes with an increased sign-up bonus of 75,000 miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months from account opening. That can get you a whopping $1,050 in travel based on TPG’s valuations and is one of the highest welcome bonuses we’ve ever seen for the card.
Even better, because the card’s $95 annual fee is waived for the first year, you can get it, earn the sign-up bonus, and essentially try it out for a year without paying anything at all. Just note that you’ll be ineligible for the current offer if you’ve received the sign-up bonus for the United Explorer Business in the last 24 months or currently have the card — still, this is 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 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 our valuations, these earning rates equal a reasonable return of 2.8% on bonus category spending and 1.4% on everything else. While not earth-shattering compared to some products that earn transferrable points, that’s a whole lot better than most cobranded counterparts.
United flyers already have many options when it comes to redeeming miles, but this is especially true for United Explorer Business card holders thanks to the expanded award availability benefit. In addition to being able to redeem miles for flights with any of the carrier’s 27 Star Alliance partner airlines, card holders see better saver-level availability across United’s vast international and domestic flight network and are able to book United-operated flights with no blackout dates at the standard level.
Award pricing is zone-based, so the number of miles you need for a flight is calculated by the region you’re flying to and from. To give you a better sense of what the 75,000-mile welcome bonus is worth, you can fly from the US to Europe in United’s Polaris business class for 60,000 miles one-way (or 70,000 with a partner airline), take a round-trip transcontinental flight in business on United’s new 787-10 Dreamliner for 70,000 miles or take nine one-way short-haul flights (less than 800 miles) in economy on partner airlines for 72,000 miles. If you need some more inspiration for how to use those extra points, check out this post on the 4 Top Ways to Redeem 50,000 United Miles and this post on the 5 Top Ways to Redeem 100,000 United Miles. While miles could also be redeemed for merchandise, hotels or rental cars, we seldom recommend doing so as you’ll generally yield a far lower value than what they’re worth.
The United Explorer Business Card offers valuable perks for a sub-$100 card, including a reasonable amount 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 — 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 saver-level availability in economy when you log in to your MileagePlus account.
Calendar Year Bonus Miles — 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.
PQD Waiver — If you’re going for Premier Silver, Gold or Platinum status, you can get the PQD requirement waived by spending $25,000 during the calendar year. Authorized users’ spending will count toward the PQD waiver and you can combine spending across cards to meet the $25,000 requirement. Just remember that the waiver does not apply to United’s top-tier Premier 1K level.
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 United Explorer Business Card carries a handful more benefits, 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?
Naturally, the first competitor that comes to mind is the United MileagePlus 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 this card, you’ll earn 2 miles per dollar on spending with United and 1.5 miles per dollar on everything else.
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 a cobranded product and the potential PQD waiver is a nice incentive for spending with the card.
As a reminder, the United Explorer Business Card’s 75,000-mile bonus will end on March 18, 2019 and the card is subject to Chase’s 5/24 rule, so if you want to take advantage of the elevated sign-up bonus and the other perks listed above, it’s better to apply sooner rather than later.
Know before you go.
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- Limited Time Offer: Earn 75,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open
- $0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95.
- Earn 2 miles per $1 at restaurants, gas stations and office supply stores
- Earn 2 miles per $1 on United purchases and 1 mile per $1 on all other purchases
- Free checked bag - save up to $120 per roundtrip
- Two one-time United Club℠ passes each year — more than a $100 value
- Priority boarding for you and companions on the same reservation on United-operated flights
- Employee cards at no additional cost