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Official application links: Earn 75,000 miles after $5,000 spent within the first 3 months with the United Explorer Business Card until 3/18/19.

But still, some are better than others. The United Explorer Card is a very important card for someone in the family to have, even if your family only flies on United once or twice a year. This is true all of the time, and while we have seen some limited time offers, the current sign up bonus is for 40,000 bonus miles are awarded after spending $2,000 in the first three months, but the business version of this card currently has a limited time offer for 75,000 miles after $5,000 spent within the first 3 months. Based on our valuations, if you earn the full bonus of 75,000 miles, your sign-up bonus will be worth $1,050. This elevated bonus will be available until March 18, 2019.

But — the bonus is just the beginning, here are three reasons why someone in your family needs a United credit card.

1. Increased Saver Award Availability

Earlier this year, we were booking a simple Houston to New York City award flight on United for my mom. United wanted 20,000 miles for the flight when we searched from my mom’s account. On a whim, I checked availability from my dad’s account and it was just 12,500 miles for the exact same flight. The reason? He has the United Explorer Card and my mom currently does not.

Those with United elite status, or even just a simple United credit card, are given access to extra United saver award inventory that non-card holders simply don’t have access to booking. These days, you either earn United elite status, get a co-branded credit card or expect to frequently spend additional miles to book simple award flights.

We just used my dad’s United miles to book the flight, but we could have also transferred points from my mom’s Chase Sapphire Preferred to my dad’s United account to book the awards. Thanks to those sort of options, you can use the perks from one United account for multiple family members in some cases.

2. Free Checked Bags and Priority Boarding — Even on Basic Economy

The primary card member and one companion on the same reservation will each receive a free first standard checked bag on United-operated flights when their MileagePlus number is on the reservation and the ticket was booked using the card.

If you use your United credit card to purchase your Basic Economy ticket, you get:

  • One carry-on bag no larger than 9 x 14 x 22 inches for you and each of your travel companions traveling on the same reservation
  • Priority boarding in Group 2 for you and your travel companions traveling on the same reservation
  • First checked bag free for you and one travel companion traveling on the same reservation when you book your tickets using your United Explorer Card or United MileagePlus Explorer Business Card
  • First and second checked bags free for you and one travel companion traveling on the same reservation when you book your tickets using your United MileagePlus Club Card or United MileagePlus Club Business Card

Those elements make United’s Basic Economy a little less basic. 

(Photo by Zach Honig / The Points Guy)

3. Save on United Wi-Fi and In-Flight Purchases

If you ever spend money while onboard a United flight, the United Explorer Card is a must-have as it provides 25% back as a statement credit on onboard purchases of food, beverages and Wi-Fi when swiped on United flights. I’ve paid close to $20 for Wi-Fi on some United flights, so that is $5 back right there.

If multiple family members are all in need of in-flight connectivity or snacks, then obviously the perks of having a United credit card in the family multiply.

4. United Club, Global Entry and More

The first two or three reasons are more than enough to make a United credit card a must for families flying United, but the card does a few more things, too. At each account anniversary, you get two one-time passes to the United Club, which can be a way to get a light meal before a flight without opening your wallet.

United Club
(United Club. Photo by JT Genter/The Points Guy)

The card also covers your application fee for Global Entry/TSA PreCheck once every four years. This may sound a little ho-hum as it is a perk offered by many travel credit cards, but families have lots of people in them who need these fees paid, so odds are good a family can put this perk to use.

Bottom Line

At the very least, one person in a family that travels on United needs to have a United credit card. The main reason is greater access to United saver award bookings from that account when only “XN” awards (awards available to elites and credit card holders) are available instead of “X” awards that are available to anyone. You can check available fare classes when searching in United’s Expert Mode. Or, you can skip that nerdy talk and just trust us that you will see more saver awards when logged in as a United credit card holder (or elite) than without.


The Business Platinum® Card from American Express

Aside from the 75,000 points welcome bonus, Amex recently made huge improvements to the Business Platinum Card, including the fact that you will now earn 50% more points on purchases of $5,000 or more, earn 5x on flights and eligible hotels at and cardholders will receive a $200 airline fee credit each year.

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More Things to Know
  • Welcome Offer: Earn up to 75,000 Membership Rewards® points.
  • Earn 50,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $10,000 and an extra 25,000 points after you spend an additional $10,000 all on qualifying purchases within your first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on
  • Get 50% more Membership Rewards® points. That's 1.5 points per dollar, on each eligible purchase of $5,000 or more. You can get up to 1 million additional points per year.
  • 35% Airline Bonus: Use Membership Rewards® Pay with Points for all or part of a flight with your selected qualifying airline, and you can get 35% of the points back, up to 500,000 bonus points per calendar year.
  • Enroll to get up to $200 in statement credits annually by getting up to $100 semi-annually for U.S. purchases with Dell. Terms apply.
  • Get one year of Platinum Global Access from WeWork. With this membership, you can access 300+ premium, inspiring workspaces in 75+ cities. To get this exclusive offer, enroll between 2/15/2019 and 12/31/2019.
  • Terms Apply
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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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