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In the post below, I’ll be comparing the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and United℠ Explorer Card credit card offers. Both Chase travel credit cards can not only enhance your travel, but they also come with extra rewards for everyday things like dining purchases. I’ve held both credit cards in my wallet, so let’s dive into the “Chase Sapphire Preferred vs United Explorer Card” comparisons. 

Jump ahead to Sapphire Preferred and United Explorer offers: 

75,000 bonus points; 1:1 United transfer partner: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

50,000 bonus miles; $0 introductory annual fee (then $95): United℠ Explorer Card

Newark to Los Angeles on United 777-200 April 15, 2023. Credit: Johnny Jet

Best Sign-Up Bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred or United Explorer Card?

Let’s start with the exciting offers. Which card has the better signup bonus offer?

New Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card cardholders can earn 75,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. That’s over $900 when redeemed through Chase Travel℠.

United credit cards come with United-specific options to earn more points as well.

New United Explorer Card cardholders can earn 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening. Plus, there’s a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.

For those of you who have had one of these travel cards before, the application terms from the landing page state: “This new cardmember bonus offer is not available to either (i) current cardmembers of this consumer credit card, or (ii) previous cardmembers of this consumer credit card who received a new cardmember bonus for this consumer credit card within the last 24 months.

Also, Chase will likely not approve your application if you have applied for 5+ credit cards in the last 24 months too.

United waives the $95 annual fee for the first year. The Sapphire Preferred does not waive its $95 annual fee. Neither card has a foreign transaction fee to worry about. 

Winner: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card thanks to better flexibility with the bonus points. 

Best Spending Benefits: Chase Sapphire Preferred vs United Explorer Card?

United Explorer Card

The United℠ Explorer Card earns 2x miles per $1 spent on dining, hotel stays, and United® purchases. You’ll earn 1x mile per $1 spent on all other purchases. You also get 25% back as a statement credit on United® inflight purchases like food, beverages, and Wi-Fi onboard United-operated flights when you pay with your Explorer Card.

Additionally, this card comes with up to a $100 fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck. When you use your card to purchase your United ticket, you can check your first bag for free (a savings of up to $140 per roundtrip). You can also enjoy priority boarding privileges and be able to visit the United Club℠ with 2 one-time passes each year for your card anniversary. 

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

There are several Chase Sapphire reward categories. The Chase Sapphire Preferred earns unlimited:

  • 5x points on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠ (excluding hotel purchases that qualify for the $50 Anniversary Hotel Credit)
  • 3x points on dining (including eligible delivery services, takeout, and dining out)
  • 3x points on online grocery purchases (excluding Target®, Walmart®, and wholesale clubs)
  • Also 3x points on select streaming services
  • 2x points on all other travel purchases
  • 1x point per $1 spent on all non-bonus purchases 

There is a $50 annual Hotel Credit. It comes in the form of a statement credit that will automatically be applied to your account when your card is used for hotel accommodation purchases made through the Chase Travel℠ program, up to an annual maximum accumulation of $50.

Plus, on each account anniversary, you’ll earn bonus points equal to 10% of your total purchases made the previous year. So, if you spend $25,000 on purchases, you’ll get 2,500 bonus points.

Even though you can earn United miles, I would rather spend on my Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card because of the points on ALL travel and dining. Plus, I value Chase points more (more on that below).

Winner: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Best Perks: Chase Sapphire Preferred vs United Explorer Card?

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card has no foreign transaction fees, is chip & signature enabled, comes with primary CDW on car rentals, $10,000 trip cancellation/insurance, 1:1 point transfers to top travel partners, 25% bonus when you redeem your points through Chase Travel℠ and 24/7 direct access to customer service representatives.

United does have options for some of the best credit cards for miles. The United℠ Explorer Card comes with two United Club one-time passes annually, free first checked bag, up to $100 Global Entry or TSA Pre✓® fee credit, priority boarding, primary CDW on car rentals, and no fees on foreign transactions. 

Both of these cards have Visa Signature benefits, like free movies, hotel discounts, and wine tastings.

If you fly United a handful of times per year and don’t have status, the United Explorer packs a lot of perks and easily justifies the annual fee. The Chase Sapphire Preferred has chip technology and more flexible points, so I’m going to just call this one a tie. Hope that’s cool.

Winner: Tie (Unless you primarily fly United, then go with United) 

Best Points System: Chase Travel or MileagePlus?

Ok, on to the points in this Chase Sapphire Preferred vs United Explorer Card review.

United MileagePlus Miles

The United℠ Explorer Card earns United Airlines miles. Obviously. United is a part of the Star Alliance, so that means you can fly any airline in the Star Alliance with your United miles.

United doesn’t charge fuel surcharges on partner flights but did raise the cost to fly partners in premium cabins. Those redemptions are now 140,000 in business class and 222,000 in First Class round-trip. Ouch.

Traveling in a premium cabin to Europe on United metal is a cheaper option. It starts at 115,000 in business class, and 160,000 in first-class round-trip. The price for international economy tickets on United and their partners stayed the same. Those began at 60,000 miles round-trip (which can basically get you to Europe and back in economy…sweet).

Domestic trips on United will cost you 20,000 – 25,000 miles round-trip in economy, or 50,000 miles in business class. Economy class round-trip tickets to Hawaii will cost you 45,000 miles.

Chase Points

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card earns points that can be transferred out to several travel partners, including United. Transfers to Chase Travel℠ partners are instant and at a 1:1 ratio.

I prefer to transfer my points out to Hyatt, British Airways, United, and Singapore Air.

In addition to your transfer options, you can get a 25% bonus by booking travel through Chase Travel℠. The nice thing about this option is that your booking will count towards airline elite status. This is even though you’re paying with points.

When it comes to deciding which points currency is better, I think having the option to transfer Chase points out to travel partners makes them more valuable than United MileagePlus miles. This is especially because United is one of the transfer partners.

Winner: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Newark to Los Angeles on United 777-200 April 15, 2023. Credit: Johnny Jet

Conclusion on United Explorer vs Chase Sapphire Preferred

In conclusion, both the Chase Sapphire Preferred vs United Explorer Card comes with possibilities. However, overall, I think the Chase Sapphire Preferred is a better daily rewards card, and I personally consider the points to be more valuable. But, if you fly United often, then you may want the benefits the United Explorer card offers.

I hope this helps if you are trying to decide between the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and United℠ Explorer Card rewards cards.

If you’re still not sure but want to earn points and miles, there are other options. For instance, check out our comparison of the Chase Sapphire Preferred vs Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card. Both of these travel credit cards are powerhouses in the travel rewards category.

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19 Comments On "Chase Sapphire Preferred vs United Explorer Card Review for 2024"
  1. Bryan|

    Can one apply for both and get the bonus for both?

    1. Johnny Jet Editorial|

      Yes, as long as you qualify since they are separate products.

  2. Alma|

    I have miles on my United Explorer card. If I get the Sapphire Chase card can transfer points into my United account at no cost and would they just be added to my total in my united account? I don’t want to loose my miles on United. Or would it be better to apply for a united business card instead, $95 fee, 50,000 bonus miles after $5000 spent in 3 months.
    Thanks!

    1. Johnny Jet Editorial|

      Yes, you can transfer Chase Sapphire Preferred points to your United account at 1:1 ratio instantly. The Sapphire is a better option since it has a bigger sign-up bonus, and the flexibility to transfer out to other travel partners.

    2. Johnny Jet Editorial|

      Yes, you can transfer your Sapphire Preferred points to your United account instantly. I would recommend the Sapphire Preferred over the United biz card because of point flexibility and better spending perks.

  3. Tiffany|

    Hi there Johnny Jet. I recently found your site and appreciate your insightful travel info. I have another question to add to this thread. I have the United Explorer card and received the sign-up bonus. I am looking to apply for the Sapphire Preferred card, as well. I will be spending approx $4000+ in the next month or two on United flights. If I purchase the flights with the Sapphire Preferred card, that qualifies me for the 60000 points. However, I wondered if I would then lose out on the Explorer card travel benefits (ie: 25% back inflight purchase, free checked bags, priority boarding, lounge access, etc)? What are your thoughts on that? Thanks!!

    1. Johnny Jet Editorial|

      You must buy your flights with the United Explorer to receive free checked bags, etc. Hope this helps and thanks for tuning in to the blog!

  4. Ian|

    If I have both card, can I combine the points or does it have to be two separate points accounts basically? If I’m buying 2 tickets, but only have enough points on either to get on. Do I get them separately or can I combine the totals & get both together?

    1. Johnny Jet Editorial|

      You will have two accounts – 1 United and 1 Ultimate Rewards account. You can transfer your Ultimate Rewards to United instantly at a 1:1 ratio.

  5. Barry Cox|

    I have 300k plus Avios points with BA but find it impossible to use them to upgrade the cabin class.
    Can I book AA flights with cash and upgrades using Avios points?

    1. Johnny Jet Editorial|

      Unfortunately, that’s not possible. However, you can book premium cabin flights on AA metal with your Avios. Depending on your routing this can be a great option.

  6. Cynthia Joy|

    I have a United MileagePlus card with lots of miles and was considering switching to sapphire preferred and I too do not want to lose those miles. I’ve recently learned about the MileagePlus shopping portals where you can earn up to 4x and 5x miles per $1 spent on everyday online shopping. It has many of my favorite stores- except the main one I shop on the most- AMAZON!!! But then I researched the stores available on the Ultimate Rewards shopping portal and they DO have Amazon! Of course, you have to ha e a sapphire or ink card to get in and see what rewards ratios you can get on there, but it has peaked my interest. However, since I’ve had the United MileagePlus card so long, and have finally become accustomed to redeeming my miles for travel, I find all the talk about “instant transfers” confusing. I’m wondering if I might end up regretting it if I switched, but sapphire cards offer southwest and Hawaiian and the online shopping points in Amazon- which I like! Ugghhhh. My head DOES hurt!!!

    1. Johnny Jet Editorial|

      Hey Cynthia, The Sapphire Preferred offers more flexibility than the United card. Transfers from you Sapphire to United MileagePlus are instant and very easy to do on Chase’s website. Also, as you mentioned the Ultimate Rewards shopping portal has some better options too. I don’t think you will regret a move to the Sapphire Preferred. Hope this helps!

  7. Cynthia Joy|

    Thank you for the feedback Johnny. Yes, after researching more, I’m increasingly interested in the Sapphire cards.

    1. Johnny Jet Editorial|

      Happy to help!

  8. Rafael|

    Hi there, good stuff! I just got the CSP and considering also getting the United card to get their travel benefits. Any best practices to maximize travel benefits leveraging having both? For example, should I use the CSP for everything non travel related and focus on the United one just for booking flights?

  9. carolina A|

    I have a United Mileage plus card but I don’t find myself traveling as much during these times. Is there a way my credit could be transfered to a Saffire card, or do I have to open one separately?

  10. Lauri|

    Be great to read an updated review now that Chase United appears to have changed their point structure for redemption to mirror their retail flight costs instead of tiered and Sapphire Reserve has raised their annual fee. Also, the Peloton “benefit” with the Reserve – why including vs something more of their customer base can utilize like raising the travel (fuel, hotel, air) benefit?
    Be interested to see how the Southwest Rapid Rewards currently fares vs United Explorer and Sapphire Preferred/Reserve cards.

    1. Johnny Jet Editorial|

      Thx for your feedback, we’ll look into those topics!

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