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You might be considering applying for the United Explorer Card for benefits like free checked bags and priority boarding. Maybe you already have a go-to travel credit card to buy United flights with (or you even have one of the other best United credit cards available). If so, can you still qualify for the United Explorer Card benefits even though you book these flights with another credit card?

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

United Explorer Card Benefits

The short answer is yes. You will need to use your United Explorer Card to enjoy the exclusive perks in most cases. However, depending on the privilege and your loyalty status, there might be an exception to the rule.

It’s also important to note that the United Explorer benefits may not activate until two weeks after account opening. Let’s take a look at the various United Explorer Card benefits to find out.

Free First Checked Bag

United waives the fee for the first checked bag for the primary card member and one travel companion. To qualify for this waiver, you must buy the United flight with your United Explorer Card. You will also need to include your MileagePlus number on the reservation.

There are other ways to avoid United Airlines baggage fees. For instance, you pay $0 for your first bag when flying from the U.S. to Europe, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and South America. Being a MileagePlus Premier member or flying in business class or first class automatically gives you a free bag.

However, if your flight reservation includes a free first-checked bag, you can’t use the credit card benefit to waive your second-checked bag fee.

Priority Boarding

United Explorer Card card members and their companions on the same itinerary can also get priority boarding. You will board after the MileagePlus Premier, Premier Access, and flyers needing special assistance. This perk applies to United- and United Express-operated flights. You must include the primary card member’s MileagePlus number in the flight reservation.

Though, it appears you can qualify for priority boarding even if you buy United flights with another credit card.

25% In-Flight Statement Credit

Get 25% back on United® inflight purchases made with your United Explorer Card. This perk applies to food, beverage, and WiFi purchases on United- and United Express-operated flights. You will also earn 2x miles per $1 on United® purchases.

United Club Passes

Owning the United Explorer Card gives you two one-time passes at account opening and each card anniversary. It can take 4 weeks for the passes to deposit into your account each year. You can access your passes inside the United mobile app or by printing a paper copy.

You don’t need to own a United Airlines credit card to get a United Club membership. But, you will (usually) need to purchase a one-time pass without this annual benefit.

Exclusive Award Bookings

Owning the United Explorer Card gives you access to more award flight options than a general UnitedPlus member. For example, MileagePlus Premier members and Chase United credit card members have first dibs on the last award seat.

You will also have more access to more open seats without blackout dates. It’s possible to enjoy this perk without owning the Explorer Card, but you must be a MileagePlus Premier.

Premier Upgrades

If you’re a MileagePlus Premier member, you can get complimentary space-available upgrades on select United flights. Owning the United Explorer Card (or the more luxurious United Club℠ Card) might give you a special preference.

NEXUS, Global Entry, or TSA PreCheck

The primary card member can enjoy a fee credit of up to $100 for NEXUS, Global Entry, or TSA PreCheck with their United Explorer Card. Once approved, NEXUS, Global Entry, or TSA PreCheck applies to all eligible airlines. To get the appropriate seal on your airline ticket, you will need to link your Known Traveler Number to each airline frequent flyer account.

It doesn’t matter which credit card you use to buy United Airlines flights to avoid long airport security lines.

Related: Credit Cards Get TSA PreCheck or Global Entry For Free

CLEAR Membership

United Airlines now offers discounted CLEAR membership for all MileagePlus members. But, you can get an extra $10 discount if you own the Explorer Card.

Below is how much you can pay yearly for CLEAR:

  • $0 for Premier 1K members.
  • $109 for United U.S. cardmembers and Premier Platinum, Gold, and Silver members
  • $119 for all basic MileagePlus members

This post can help you determine if PreCheck, Global Entry, or CLEAR is best for you.

Signup Bonus

New United Explorer Card cardholders can earn 60,000 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.

MileagePlus Miles Don’t Expire

United recently changed its policy so that MileagePlus miles no longer expire. Previously, owning a United Airlines credit card or having MileagePlus account activity once every 18 months meant your points never expired. However, all United Explorer Card purchases earn MileagePlus miles.

When buying United flights, you will earn 2 miles per $1 plus the standard amount based on your MileagePlus loyalty status. You will also earn 2x miles on card purchases for United® purchases, dining including eligible delivery services, and hotel stays. It’s one of the best miles credit cards because it’s one of the few airline co-brand cards that earn for purchases outside of the airline.

All non-bonus card purchases earn 1 mile per $1.

Trip Cancellation/Trip Interruption Insurance

Any common carrier travel you purchase using your United Explorer Card is eligible for complimentary trip cancellation insurance. Even if you book a flight on a competing airline, you can qualify for this benefit if qualifying events happen.

Your coverage amounts are up to $1,500 per person and $6,000 per trip. This perk reimburses your eligible pre-paid non-refundable travel expenses. Covered events include sickness and injury.

It’s one of the best credit cards with travel insurance.

Baggage Delay Insurance

If your checked bags are delayed over 6 hours with any passenger carrier, you can get a $100 daily credit for up to 3 days. This credit reimburses your essential purchases like toiletries and clothing.

Lost Luggage Reimbursement

You can get up to $3,000 in lost luggage reimbursement. This benefit applies to you and your immediate family.

Like some of the other best travel credit cards, this benefit is similar to most credit cards.

Primary Rental Car Insurance

If you rent a car, paying for it with the United Explorer Card gives you primary rental car collision and theft insurance. Coverage is worth up to the actual cash value of the vehicle for most U.S. and global rentals.

You don’t need to fly United or book your rental car through the United Airlines website to get this perk. This benefit activates before any other insurance policies you might have. Make sure you decline the rental car agency’s collision damage insurance to qualify.

Related: Best credit cards with car rental insurance


Most of the United Explorer Card benefits require you to make the entire purchase on your Explorer Card. If booking award flights, make sure you pay the fees and taxes with your Explorer Card with the primary cardmembers MileagePlus account number. These loyalty perks can save you money and make your travel more pleasant.


Is the United Explorer Card worth it?

The United Explorer Card can be worth it if you can use the free checked bag and one-time United Club benefits. These two perks can help you save the most money and offset the $95 annual fee ($0 for the first year). The 25% back on United® inflight purchases savings on United- and United Express-operated flights plus the Priority Boarding and Premier upgrades can also add extra value.

This card may not be worth it if you don’t want to earn United MileagePlus miles on every card purchase.

Does the United Explorer Card pay for Global Entry?

The primary cardmember can get the Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee reimbursed, up to $100. You will need to charge this fee to your United Explorer Card. Once you get this clearance, it works for all qualifying United and non-United flights. Make sure your Known Traveler Number (KTN) is linked to your various frequent flyer accounts.

Does the United Explorer Card have travel insurance?

Yes, the Chase United Explorer Card offers travel insurance for most common carrier travel. Your United and non-United airlines travel purchases can qualify for these travel insurance benefits:

  • Trip cancellation/trip interruption insurance: Up to $1,500 per person and up to $6,000 per trip
  • Baggage delay reimbursement: Up to $100 per day for 3 days when luggage delayed at least 6 hours
  • Lost luggage reimbursement: Up to $3,000 per person for you and your immediate family
  • Primary auto rental car insurance: Up to actual cash value of the rental car for collision and theft damage

New United Explorer Card cardholders can earn 60,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening.

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