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The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and the United℠ Explorer Card are two solid credit card choices for frequent travelers. You’ll probably want the first if you value flexibility and ease of redemption, and you’ll probably want the latter if you value United perks.
Let’s dig into the specifics so you can decide which one fits your travel style better.
In this article:
- Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card vs. United℠ Explorer Card
- Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card pros and cons
- United℠ Explorer Card pros and cons
- Which card is right for you?
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card vs. United℠ Explorer Card
Here’s how the cards stack up on everything from sign-up bonuses to travel perks and more:
|Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card||United℠ Explorer Card|
|Sign-up bonus||Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.||40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Plus earn an additional 25,000 bonus miles after you spend $10,000 total on purchases in the first 6 months your account is open.|
|Rewards||2X points on travel and dining at restaurants & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases worldwide||Earn 2 miles per $1 spent at restaurants, on hotel stays and on purchases from United. 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases.|
|Annual fee||$95||$0 intro for first year, then $95|
|Foreign transaction fee||$0||$0|
|Regular purchase APR||17.74% - 24.74% Variable||18.24% - 25.24% Variable|
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card Pros and Cons
60,000 bonus points
2X points on travel and dining
1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
- Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
See additional details for Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Rewards. Earn 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases worldwide.
When you redeem these points for travel through the Ultimate Rewards portal, they have 25% more value — so, for example, 60,000 points are worth $750 in travel when redeemed that way.
On top of that, if you have a card such as the Chase Freedom® or Chase Freedom Unlimited® as well as the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, you can transfer any cash back you earn on either of the two mentioned cards to the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card as Ultimate Rewards points. Then, you can redeem points for travel at the higher value via the portal.
Transfer points. One of the great things about the rewards you earn with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is their flexibility. You can transfer points, including to United Airlines, to the following airline travel partners at a 1:1 value:
- Aer Lingus, AerClub
- British Airways Executive Club
- Emirates Skywards®
- Flying Blue AIR FRANCE KLM
- Iberia Plus
- JetBlue TrueBlue
- Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
- Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards®
- United MileagePlus®
- Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
You can also transfer points to the following hotel travel partners at a 1:1 value:
- IHG® Rewards Club
- Marriott Bonvoy™
- World of Hyatt®
No lounge access. Despite being a popular travel card, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card doesn’t offer access to any airport lounges. If you’re looking for lounge access, you’ll like the United℠ Explorer Card’s perk of two one-time United Club passes or maybe consider the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, which comes with Priority Pass membership, although for a much higher annual fee of $450.
Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
$300 Annual Travel Credit, Airport Lounge Access, and Flexible Redemption Options
- Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- Named "Best Premium Travel Credit Card" for 2018 by MONEY® Magazine
- $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
- 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. $0 foreign transaction fees.
- Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
- 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
- Access to 1,000+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select
- Up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
See additional details for Chase Sapphire Reserve®
United℠ Explorer Card pros and cons
Rewards. Earn 2 miles per $1 spent at restaurants, on hotel stays and on purchases from United. 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases..
In addition to redeeming these miles for United flights, you can use them on Star Alliance™ and other partner airlines. You can also use them for hotel stays, car rentals and more.
Free checked bag. You and one traveling companion can each get a free checked bag on United-operated flights, as long as you’re on the same reservation and you’ve purchased the tickets with your United℠ Explorer Card. This is a value of up to $120 for two travelers on a round-trip flight.
United Club passes. This card comes with two one-time passes for United Club, which Chase’s website lists at a value of more than $100. United Club has more than 45 locations. With your passes you’ll get complimentary beverages, snacks, access to Wi-Fi and more.
Fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck. You can get a statement credit of up to $100 every four years for either Global Entry or TSA PreCheck when you charge the application fee to this card.
25% off United in-flight purchases. This includes purchases of food, beverages and Wi-Fi.
Takes a little more work to calculate the value. The monetary value of points used for travel via the Ultimate Rewards portal is pretty straightforward. With the United℠ Explorer Card, you have to do a little more work to figure out how far your miles can take you and how much value you’re getting from award travel.
However, United does offer a list of featured award flights that can help you get an idea of what it costs in points and dollars to book a flight (with the disclaimer that the prices are for round trips within the last 48 hours and may not be currently available). For example, at the time of writing this article, a one-way flight from New York to San Francisco was listed at a cost of 12,500 miles plus $81.
Which card is right for you?
If you fly United extensively, the United℠ Explorer Card offers an excellent value. For example, if you take full advantage of the free checked bag perk and the United Club passes each year, that’s worth up to $220, which is more than enough to recoup the annual fee of $0 Intro for First Year, then $95.
However, where the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card really shines is in the value of the Ultimate Rewards points it earns, along with the ease and flexibility in using them. If you’re not a devoted United customer, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is probably the card you want in your wallet.
Does it ever make sense to carry both cards? Perhaps. You could book United flights on the United℠ Explorer Card to take advantage of its perks while using the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card for everything else to earn Ultimate Rewards points. But keep in mind that by doing this, you wouldn’t be earning Ultimate Rewards points on a sizable chunk of your travel spending, and you’d have to recoup two annual fees rather than just one. For most travelers, it’s probably smarter and more convenient to pick one of the two cards.