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With its route network of 353 airports across five continents operating 4,800 flights a day, it’s natural that businesses would look to United Airlines, the fourth-largest carrier in the world, according to aviation data firm OAG, for their travel needs. Flying regularly on United also helps businesses achieve elite status in its MileagePlus® loyalty program, which unlocks a plethora of perks that upgrade the travel experience.
If your business is already a frequent customer of the Chicago-based carrier, it would be wise to have its United℠ Explorer Business Card to help you earn more miles and travel perks. The card also comes with handy benefits such as free employee credit cards.
We’ll look at the pros and cons of the United℠ Explorer Business Card. If your business doesn’t want to be tied to one airline and needs more travel flexibility and tools to help run your business, we’ll also look at the Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business as an alternative.
Where the United℠ Explorer Business Card stands out
The card comes with an annual fee of $0 Intro fee for the first year. After that, $95. New cardmembers earn 75,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 in the first 3 months your account is open. That’s enough for a first class, round-trip flight between New York and San Francisco using a Saver Award.
Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on United purchases and on purchases at restaurants, gas stations and office supply stores. 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases. The card offers more miles per dollar spent on categories most important to businesses. Your miles don’t expire as long as there’s activity on your MileagePlus account every 18 months. There’s no limit to how many miles you can earn.
Cardmembers receive 10,000 bonus miles each calendar year after spending at least $25,000 on the card.
Use the MileagePlus miles you earn to either book award travel on United or its 27 Star Alliance™ member carriers and 12 other partner airlines. Or use them for seat upgrades, in-flight Wi-Fi, hotel stays, car rentals, cruises, merchandise, gift cards and once-in-a-lifetime events with MileagePlus exclusives.
Businesses can add employee cards and set spending limits on those cards. The primary cardholder earns all the miles on all eligible purchases. Plus, this card is a great option for international travel, since the foreign transaction fee is None.
The United℠ Explorer Business Card comes with priority boarding for the cardmember and travel companions on the same reservation. The cardmember and one traveling companion each receive a free checked bag. And the card comes with two United ClubSM passes each anniversary year.
Where the United℠ Explorer Business Card falls short
The card doesn’t have a way to earn the bonus miles that help maintain MileagePlus elite status. It also doesn’t come with any tools that help companies manage their businesses.
Cardmembers only earn top miles per dollar spent on United-related travel. Other travel cards have a broader miles-earning potential that includes hotels, car rentals, cruises, homeshares, rideshares, trains, buses, taxis, parking lots and garages.
Additional United℠ Explorer Business Card benefits
- Trip cancellation/trip interruption insurance
- Trip delay reimbursement
- Baggage delay insurance
- Lost luggage reimbursement
- Auto rental collision damage waiver
- Visa® Concierge
- Access to the Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection
- Purchase protection
- Extended warranty protection
Compare it with the Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business
Unlimited 2x miles per dollar
Earn a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $4,500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
Redeem miles with any airline and any hotel
- Earn 2 miles per $1 on every purchase, everywhere
- Earn a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles – equal to $500 in travel – once you spend $4,500 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening
- Fly on any airline, anytime, with no blackout dates or seat restrictions
- $0 intro annual fee for the first year; $95 after that
- $0 fraud liability if your card is lost or stolen
- Free employee cards which also earn unlimited 2x miles from their purchases
- No foreign transaction fees
- Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
See additional details for Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business
Not every business is located in cities with regular flights offered by United. Or a business might want a credit card that comes with more flexibility when it comes to using points on other airlines. The Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business comes with a solid sign-up bonus, flat miles for all spending and tools to help companies keep their finances in order.
The Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business’s annual fee is $0 intro for first year; $95 after that. The sign-up bonus allows new cardmembers to Earn a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $4,500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening. That adds up to $500 that can be used for travel.
What makes this card so appealing is that you earn an unlimited 2 Miles per $1 on every purchase, everywhere. And there are plenty of ways to redeem them.
Book travel on a travel website, with a travel agent or other travel resource using the card. Then either go to capitalone.com or call the Rewards Center at 800-228-3001 and use the Purchase Eraser® feature to get a statement credit for the cost of that travel, including airlines, hotels, rail lines, car rental agencies, limousine services, bus lines, cruise lines, taxi cabs, travel agents and timeshares.
Or, go to the website or call the Rewards Center to book a flight, car rental or hotel and use miles to pay for the travel. Multiply the cost of your travel purchase by 100. For example, if your travel purchase costs $200, you would multiply that by 100 to determine you need 20,000 miles for redemption.
Businesses can transfer the miles earned on the Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business to 14 airline loyalty programs. Use them to book airline award tickets, top off mileage accounts, upgrade to premium cabins and more. Or use the miles for an account credit, gift cards or cash in the form of a check.
Add employee cards for free and have the ability to track their spending and earn rewards from their purchases. The card’s foreign exchange fee is None, making it ideal to use for international travel.
Businesses receive custom, itemized quarterly and yearly reports of spending to simplify planning, budgeting and tax submissions. Download purchase records into multiple formats, including Quicken®, QuickBooksTM and Excel® for easy accounting. Spark Business customer service representatives trained to work with business owners are available seven days a week to businesses for help at 800-867-0904.
Other perks that come with the card include travel and emergency assistance, auto rental collision damage waivers, purchase security, extended protection and Visa® SavingsEdge, where businesses save 15% when shopping with an enrolled credit card at participating merchants.
Because this is isn’t an airline-branded credit card, it doesn’t come with airline perks such as priority boarding or a free checked bag. And while the Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business does come with some travel benefits, they’re not as generous as those offered by the United℠ Explorer Business Card.
Finally, note that the card’s airline transfer partners currently don’t include any U.S. carriers.
|United℠ Explorer Business Card||Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business|
|Annual fee||$0 Intro fee for the first year. After that, $95||$0 intro for first year; $95 after that|
|Regular purchase APR||18.24% - 25.24% Variable||19.24% (Variable)|
|Rewards||2 miles per $1 spent on United purchases and on purchases at restaurants, gas stations and office supply stores. 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases.||2 Miles per $1 on every purchase, everywhere|
|Sign-up bonus||75,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 in the first 3 months your account is open.||Earn a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $4,500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening|
|Foreign transaction fee||None||None|
The bottom line
While both cards offer good rewards and solid perks, the final decision of which one to choose comes down to what benefits are most important to your business.
If your business and employees are United Airlines frequent flyers, plus you want to earn top miles for travel on the airlines, then the United℠ Explorer Business Card is the obvious choice. The card has perks that make flying on the airline a more pleasant experience and comes with strong travel protection benefits. Plus, it has myriad ways to redeem miles earned. However, you only earn the top travel miles on United. Other cards offer more points per dollar spent on other travel categories.
If your business isn’t tied to one airline and you want a simple way to earn and redeem miles, then the Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business may be a better option. It allows cardholders to transfer miles to other airlines, comes with basic travel and purchase perks and even offers robust spending and expense tracking tools.