*Editorial Note: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through a credit card issuer partnership.
This article was last updated Nov 05, 2018, but some terms and conditions may have changed or are no longer available. For the most accurate and up to date information please consult the terms and conditions found on the issuer website.
The information related to the United℠ Explorer Card and United MileagePlus® Club Card has been collected by CompareCards and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.
Chase and United Airlines launched the highly anticipated United℠ Explorer Card earlier this summer, replacing the old United MileagePlus Explorer Card.
The miles per $1 spent on United-related spending on the new card remained the same, but spending in the restaurant and hotel categories got a boost. Cardmembers also got a new in-flight discount, a credit for trusted traveler program fees and new travel and purchase perks.
But are the changes made on the United℠ Explorer Card enough, or do you want more benefits and perks? If your answer is yes, it may be time to consider moving up to the United MileagePlus® Club Card, the United card that competes in the luxury category.
The big question you must ask before deciding whether to upgrade from the United℠ Explorer Card to the United MileagePlus® Club Card — are the benefits that come with the latter’s $450 annual fee worth it? The case can be made for both cards, depending on what’s most important to you.
Below we’ll unpack the pros and cons of both cards that will help you decide whether to stick with what you already have or upgrade to the next level.
United℠ Explorer Card vs United MileagePlus® Club Card
|United℠ Explorer Card||United MileagePlus® Club Card|
|Annual Fee||$0 Intro for First Year, then $95||$450|
|Regular Purchase APR||17.74% - 24.74% Variable||17.74%–24.74% variable|
|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||Earn 1.5 miles per $1 spent on purchases|
|Sign Up Bonus||40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open||Earn 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.|
|Foreign Transaction Fee||$0||None|
|Best for||Cardmembers who want good points per $1 spent on United travel, dining and hotels, along with good travel perks.||Cardmembers who are ready to upgrade to a luxury card for perks like free lounge access, priority services and strong travel benefits.|
United℠ Explorer Card
Solid sign-up bonus. The card starts with a sign-up bonus of 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. That’s enough miles to redeem for two Saver Award round-trip economy tickets on flights within the 48 U.S. states, up to 700 miles.
More miles. This card followed a trend we’ve seen in other airline credit cards — like the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® — that have increased the miles per $1 spent in top categories. You now 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. The chance to earn more miles in the restaurant and hotel categories with this card is a welcome change.
Travel credit. You now get up to a $100 credit that can be used to cover enrollment fees for either Global Entry or TSA Precheck. There’s also a 25% discount on in-flight food and beverage and Wi-Fi purchases that appear on the card as a credit.
Improved perks. United added lost luggage reimbursement, which covers you up to $3,000 per passenger for checked or carry-on luggage that’s damaged or lost.
Other benefits. The card comes with a free checked bag for the cardholder and one companion traveling on the same reservation, valued at $120 per round-trip flight. Relax in United Club airport lounges twice a year with two passes, valued at $118. The cardmember and other travelers on the same reservation receive priority boarding with no limits. Use your miles to book travel on United and its 28 Star Alliance global partner airlines.
Get access to Visa Signature® Concierge, the chance has to redeem your miles for special events and access to the Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection; this includes room upgrades, free daily breakfast for two, early check-in and late checkout (when available) and other amenities at more than 900 luxury hotels and resorts worldwide. All this comes with a $0 Intro for First Year, then $95 annual fee.
No bonus miles for elite status. The United℠ Explorer Card doesn’t have a way for you to earn bonus points that count toward that all-important MileagePlus elite status. Other cards in the airline category, like the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® or the JetBlue Plus Card, offer this perk.
Luggage limits. This card only allows one traveling companion to get the free checked bag — the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® card allows up to six companions to get a free bag, while the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express allows free bags for as many as nine travel companions.
Reimbursement downgrade. While the card still offers trip cancellation/interruption insurance, the amount you’ll be reimbursed if the worst happens dropped from $10,000 per trip down to only $1,500 per trip. It covers pre-paid non-refundable passenger fares if your trip is canceled or cut short by covered situations like sickness or injury.
Hotel point limits. If you want to earn miles for hotel stays, make sure you book rooms directly through them — you won’t earn extra miles when booking via third-party sites.
The information related to the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®, JetBlue Plus Card and Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® card has been collected by CompareCards and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.
United MileagePlus® Club Card
The changes on the United℠ Explorer Card are nice, but maybe you want more perks and benefits. Upgrading from the United℠ Explorer Card to United Airlines’ luxury credit card, United MileagePlus® Club Card may be an option.
Good sign-up bonus. New cardmembers Earn 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s enough for a round-trip coach Saver Award flight in the continental U.S. and Canada.
Lounging around. The card comes with a United ClubSM airport lounge membership, valued at up to $550 a year. The membership allows you to bring either two adults or an adult and dependent children under age 21 as guests.
You get access. You and those on your travel reservation get Premier Access® — designated check-in lines, along with priority security lanes, boarding and baggage handling — on United flights where available.
Extra luggage. You and a travel companion on your reservation get two free checked bags on United- and United Express-operated flights — that adds up to a savings of $240 for each round-trip flight. This is more than what’s offered by the United℠ Explorer Card and more than competing airline credit cards.
You get status. The card comes with a Hertz Gold Plus Rewards® President’s Circle® Membership, which allows you to bypass the check-in counter to get a car, choose your car with Hertz Gold Choice®, get expedited drop-off with eReturn and get vehicle updates or upgrades on your phone with Mobile Gold Alerts.
Bountiful benefits. This card comes with the travel and purchase protections you’d expect from a luxury card. It includes trip delay reimbursement, auto rental collision damage waiver, purchase protection, price protection, return protection and extended warranty. There’s also access to the Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection, which offers extra perks like free daily breakfast for two, free Wi-Fi, room upgrades when available and early check-in and late check-out at more than 900 hotels, resorts, lodges and spas.
The Inside Access program allows cardmembers to buy private experiences like wine tastings and culinary events. Cardmembers can also participate in exclusive MileagePlus events like VIP access to live theater and museum events and use the Visa Signature® Concierge Service.
High annual fee. This card comes with plenty of perks, but it will cost you a $450 annual fee.
Low miles per $1 spent. Earn 1.5 miles per $1 spent on purchases. There are airline- and travel-branded credit cards that offer better points and miles for non-airline travel, dining, gas and groceries, including the airline’s own United℠ Explorer Card.
No elite status miles. Like the United℠ Explorer Card, this card also doesn’t have a way for cardmembers to earn bonus miles that help you earn MileagePlus elite status.
Missing perks. This card doesn’t come with a credit for Global Entry or TSA Precheck enrollment fees like the United℠ Explorer Card. There’s also no 25% discount for in-flight amenities.
The bottom line
The miles per $1 spent you earn with the United℠ Explorer Card for United-related purchases, dining and hotels are better than what’s offered by the United MileagePlus® Club Card. The United℠ Explorer Card includes a credit for Global Entry or TSA Precheck enrollment fees and a 25% in-flight discount; the United MileagePlus® Club Card doesn’t have this benefit.
The United MileagePlus® Club Card includes a United Club lounge membership, while the United℠ Explorer Card come with only two lounge passes a year. The former card gives you two free checked bags, while the latter only allows for one. With both cards, this benefit is only good for the cardmember and a companion on the same reservation.
Neither card offers a way for you to earn bonus miles that help you earn elite status.
If having regular access to a lounge, the chance to check two bags for free, receive hotel and rental car elite status and receive generous travel and purchase protections are important to you, then the United MileagePlus® Club Card — even with its $450 annual fee — is the card for you.
But if you want a card with slightly less benefits but more miles per $1 spent on United travel and the dining and hotel categories, all at a $0 Intro for First Year, then $95 annual fee, then United℠ Explorer Card is a better bet.