United MileagePlus Explorer Card – Updated

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One way we keep our vacation costs down is to leverage frequent flyer miles to get free flights to our destinations.  The cost of the flight to your vacation can comprise a large portion of your overall budget — why not have that cost covered for you?

One of our favorite ways to obtain frequent flyer miles is through sign up bonuses on credit cards.  Credit card companies will often hand out a large sign up bonus of airline miles in order to acquire you as customer.  They are hoping you will overspend on the card and pay them a great deal of interest.  As long as you pay the card off every month, you can leverage that card for free airline tickets.

United Airlines has partnered with Chase Bank to offer the United MileagePlus Explorer Card.  In exchange for spending a certain amount within a specific time frame (usually $1000-$2000 in the first three months of opening the card), Chase will give you anywhere from 30,000 to 70,000 miles (depending whatever the current promotion is).  Additionally, if you spend $25,000 within a calendar year, Chase will give you a 10,000 mile bonus.  You also earn 2 miles for each dollar spent on United Airlines transactions and 1 mile for each dollar spent anywhere else.

United flights to anywhere within the continental United States (over 700 miles in distance) can be redeemed for 25,000 miles round trip at the saver award level.  Flights of less than 700 miles (like from Washington, DC to Jacksonville, FL) can be redeemed for 20,000 miles round trip.  These saver level awards aren’t hard to find if your travel dates are a bit flexible. Plus, United opens up additional award space specifically for holders of the United MileagePlus Explorer Card and to MileagePlus members who have elite status.  This is probably one of the greatest benefits of the card and really makes your United miles worthwhile. 

The United MileagePlus Explorer Card also offers a free checked bag each for the card holder and one companion on the same reservation in addition to priority boarding.  Since United has added on the new Basic Economy flights, this card will get you out of the last boarding group that you are forced into with Basic Economy.  You will also be allowed a full size carry on bag, unlike the rest of the Basic Economy purchasers.  Unfortunately, it won’t help with the lack of ability to select a seat.

The card holder will also receive two free United Club passes per year.  The United Clubs, which are available at select airports, can provide a nice way to pass time before a flight or during a long layover. 

The annual fee on the card is $95, but is waived for the first year.  Whether you keep the card or not is up to you, but the card has to be active in order to get the free checked bag.  There are lots of other benefits to the card that can be found on the United MileagePlus Explorer Card website.

You can only receive the sign up bonus if you haven’t received one in the last 24 months.  So, if you have the card open for 18 months and cancel it, you could receive the bonus again only if you waited an additional 6 months to sign up again.  I would warn you against over churning the card, as Chase might view that action in a negative light.  Having said that, we have each received two sign up bonuses of 50,000 miles (for a total of 200,000 miles).  We tend to keep the cards for at least two years when we sign up for them because we fly United enough that the free checked bags offset the annual fee.

So, for one credit card sign up bonus of 50,000 miles, you and your traveling companion can travel anywhere round trip within the 48 states.  Got a family of four?  Just have you and your partner sign up to take the whole family round trip!

If you are considering getting this card, please contact me for a referral link or make a comment on this post.  I’ll send you a signup link and I’ll get some miles for you signing up and it won’t cost you anything.

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