6 Perks You Should Take Advantage of Now


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The United℠ Explorer Card comes with quite a few benefits that can notably upgrade many aspects of your travel experience, from the booking process to the airport experience to even boarding your flight — all for a $0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95 .

While the card flaunts perks like free checked bags, TSA PreCheck or Global Entry fee credits, and bonus miles for common purchases, there are plenty of lower-profile enticements, too. For example, you’ll get access to more award seats than most United flyers; you can be one of the first to board the plane, guaranteeing ample overhead-bin space; you can even get into United airport lounges for free a couple of times each year.

Here are the six benefits you shouldn’t ignore to make the most of your United℠ Explorer Card.

United Explorer card benefits

annual fee

$0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95

Regular APR

16.74% to 23.74% Variable

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent

annual fee

$0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95

Regular APR

16.74% to 23.74% Variable

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent


  • Annual fee is waived the first year
  • Earns bonus thousands on several purchase categories, including dining
  • Includes an application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck
  • Gets you a free checked bag on United when you pay with the card


  • Not the most rewarding card for most non-United travel purchases

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  • Earn up to 70,000 bonus miles. Earn 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Plus, earn an additional 10,000 miles after you spend $6,000 total on purchases in the first 6 months your account is open.
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on dining, hotel stays, and United® purchases
  • Up to $100 Global Entry or TSA PreCheck® fee Credit
  • 25% back on United® inflight purchases
  • Check your first bag for free (a savings of up to $140 per roundtrip) when you use your card to purchase your ticket
  • Enjoy priority boarding privileges and visit the United ClubSM with 2 one-time passes each year for your anniversary
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on dining including eligible delivery services

1. Free checked bags

Getting free checked bags is a boon if you’re not a fan of bringing a carry-on and prefer a hands-free airport experience. Or, if you’re simply in the habit of checking bags, this benefit will save you and a travel buddy up to $120 per round-trip.

United charges $30 for your first checked bag. But when you pay for your flight (or the taxes and fees on an award flight) with this card, you and one guest on your reservation will get the first checked bag free on United flights. If you and a travel buddy were to use this benefit for one trip each year, you’d more than offset the card’s annual fee.

2. Global Entry, TSA PreCheck, or NEXUS

If you’re thinking about getting TSA PreCheck or Global Entry and you have the United℠ Explorer Card, it’s a no-brainer to sign-up. Both services are free with a United card every four years.

If you pay with your card, United will credit your statement with the cost of TSA PreCheck ($85), Global Entry — which includes PreCheck ($100), or NEXUS, which includes both TSA PreCheck and Global Entry benefits ($50). Here’s why this should interest you:

  • TSA PreCheck allows you to keep your shoes and belt on when you go through TSA security checkpoints. You also won’t be required to take your laptop out of your bag.
  • Global Entry allows you to skip the immigration line when returning to the US from overseas. You just walk up to a Global Entry kiosk, fill out a quick electronic questionnaire, and exit the airport.
  • NEXUS offers expedited entry into Canada, and comes with all the privileges of the previous two programs.

All three of these programs could save you many hours at the airport each year, depending on how much you travel. But Global Entry is the easy choice here, as it includes TSA PreCheck benefits. NEXUS is the most powerful of the programs, but it’s far more difficult to be approved for than the others, because it requires you to be interviewed by both US and Canadian border authorities. And there are only a handful of current interview locations.

3. 2 one-time lounge passes per year

The United℠ Explorer Card comes with two day passes to United Club airport lounges each anniversary year. It’s a nice perk that can make your airport experience a bit more palatable. You’ll find free alcohol and snacks in airport lounges, as well as comfortable seats and electrical outlets aplenty.

United Club day passes regularly cost $59 each, so you can think of these passes as $118 in value per year — if you’ll use them.

4. The Excursionist Perk

This little-known trick isn’t necessarily a card-specific benefit, but it’s a great way to spend the increased bonus that comes with the United℠ Explorer Card.

The United Excursionist Perk effectively extends your vacation to another location for free. There are a handful of rules you should know (consult our United Excursionist Perk guide for those details), but here’s how it works in short.

Let’s say you want to book a round-trip flight from Houston to Paris. This flight regularly costs around 60,000 miles in coach. The Excursionist Perk allows you to book an additional one-way flight within Europe during your trip for zero miles. So instead of a simple round-trip flight, you could book something like:

  • Houston to Paris
  • Paris to Venice
  • Venice to Houston

You’ll have to pay the (often nominal) flight taxes and fees, but this is an excellent way to get a bit more for your miles.

5. Exclusive access to cheaper award flights

United Airlines has different levels of award seats you can buy. The cheapest (and best value) seats are called “Saver Awards.” Once these seat prices sell out, you could find yourself paying double the amount of thousands for the exact same flight.

The United℠ Explorer Card remedies this problem by opening up more Saver Award availability to cardholders. Only those with United credit cards and United elite status can see these prices. So while others might think there are no more available award flights, you could have plenty of seats to choose from.

6. Book basic economy without all the restrictions

Basic economy is a bottom-of-the-barrel fare that airlines publish which is filled with restrictions. United’s basic economy tickets enforce the following:

  • You can’t bring a checked bag with you. If you try, you’ll be charged a $25 fee at the gate.
  • You’ll have to pay extra to choose your seat.
  • You can’t refund or change your flight.
  • You’ll board the plane dead last.

The United℠ Explorer Card solves two of these problems. Because the card offers preferred boarding, you can book basic economy and still board before most other passengers. This means you won’t have to worry about overhead bin space. Also, you’ll be able to bring a carry-on bag without ponying up $25.

Holding the United℠ Explorer Card allows you to book the cheapest United flights without abiding by all the consequences baked into basic economy.

bottom line

The United℠ Explorer Card may be the most well-rounded airline credit card on the market. It enhances your airport experience, your boarding experience, and even your booking experience. And with a currently enhanced sign-up bonus worth up to $910, now is one of the better times historically to apply.