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We just applied for (and got) the Chase United Explorer credit card. This time around it’s in Lisa’s name (my wife).
What’s funny is that I really don’t think this is the best travel rewards card out there for a lot of people. There are so many choices and some others can actually be a better bang for the buck depending on your needs.
For some reason though, we’ve come back to this card more than any other. I believe I’ve had it 2 or 3 times over the years and my wife’s done the same.
In fact, although it wasn’t my first credit card, I think the United Explorer Card was the first travel rewards card I ever had. That was so long ago, it definitely wasn’t called the Chase United Explorer Card at the time. I hate to date myself, but it was actually a Continental Airlines card way before the merger… dang, I’m old!
So if there are so many credit cards for travel rewards, why did we come back to the Chase United Explorer Card yet again?
60,000 bonus miles
The first rule of travel rewards is: you do not talk about travel rewards. The second rule of travel rewards is: you do not talk about travel rewards. Wait, I don’t think that’s right – I might be thinking of something else.
Oh, wait, I remember – the first rule of travel rewards is not to just apply for credit cards willy-nilly. Don’t go after a juicy Hawaiian Airlines bonus, for example, if you never plan to go to Hawaii. Be strategic in the process and have a plan for using the rewards.
And that’s what we did here. We have some fun travel plans this year and one includes a big trip this summer that we haven’t booked yet. I’m excited about it but I’m not ready to tell you about this one just yet.
What I can tell you is that we’ll need to make a separate reservation with a small flight likely on a United partner. Right now, the United Explorer Card is offering 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
That 60k miles we receive from the Chase United Explorer Card should cover most of the cost for this flight on the United partner. I also already have additional miles in the account to cover it if it goes above the 60k.
So, that’s one piece of the puzzle – the other is to make sure to spend enough to get that bonus. The good news is that $3,000 in 3 months isn’t too big of a hurdle. But in this case, we signed up for this card specifically because we’ll be making a big purchase. We don’t want those dollars spent to go to waste without some rewards as part of the deal.
We’ll be doing a different family vacation in the fall and our family is nice enough to let us put the beach house on our credit card. Then they’ll just pay us their portion in cash. The total cost is going to come to just over $2,800. So this one purchase plus a grocery shopping trip or two will clinch this mileage reward for us.
Easy peasy, lemon squeezy!
After that, it’s pretty safe to say that we’ll start evaluating another card to get for our next reward. Travel rewards have allowed us to travel so much for free or for next to nothing. Here are some of the posts I’ve written the subject:
- Is It Worth It to Open a Credit Card With a Huge Annual Fee?
- The #1 Best Way To Track Credit Card Rewards
- The #1 Easy Way We’re Getting the Southwest Companion Pass
- Our Travel Perks Are Drying Up and That’s Big $$$!
- Free Nights – We’ve Had 5 at Hilton Hotels Recently
- We Got Turned Down for a Credit Card… Ok, Four!
- Travel Rewards – 12 Free Flights Earned in 9 Months!
Contrary to popular belief, credit cards actually help your credit score (we’re both in the 800+ range) because you’re increasing your available credit, which also decreases your credit utilization. Our main focus is usually the signup bonus and the perks that come with each card. Some folks have systems for optimizing spending categories to get the most out of every dollar spent but that’s just something I don’t want to spend time thinking about.
So we just track the cards we have open and go from there. As a subscriber to my email list, I’ll send you a copy of my spreadsheet that I use for tracking credit cards (as well as some other spreadsheet goodies)…
Another option is to use a free tool like Travel Freely to track your cards. I wrote about this in my post, The #1 Best Way To Track Credit Card Rewards. I use a combination of my spreadsheet and Travel Freely and life is good, my friend!
Reimbursement for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck Fee
The other thing Lisa and I talked about was deciding if it’s time to get a credit card that does Global Entry reimbursement.
If you’re not familiar, Global Entry gets you expedited entry through customs when coming back into the U.S. That’s been wonderful for international travel, but the bonus is that Global Entry includes TSA PreCheck. A Global Entry membership costs $100 and TSA PreCheck costs $70 (down from $85). Really though, unless you never plan to leave the U.S., it’s hard to justify not getting Global Entry over TSA PreCheck.
Having Global Entry with the included TSA PreCheck has made airport travel much smoother for us over the past few years. But… it doesn’t go on forever. Both TSA PreCheck and Global Entry are good for about 5 years.
Global Entry renewal is based on your birthday and can be renewed up to a year in advance. So, you can renew anytime after your birthday during your last year of membership. The birthdays of me, my wife, and our daughter are all in the summer. So after our birthdays this coming summer, we’ll be eligible to renew. Because I don’t like to wait until the last minute along with the backlogs that these programs seem to run into, renewing sooner than later works for me!
Several travel credit cards offer reimbursement of up to $100 for these programs, including the Chase United Explorer Card. In other words, you get a reimbursement credit for one transaction per year with them.
We used credit cards with this perk back in 2019 to get Global Entry for me and Lisa. We were still learning back then and didn’t have enough time to cover Faith’s as well before leaving for Panama so we paid for hers out of pocket.
But now with Global Entry renewal time coming up, we’ll make sure to take advantage of cards like the United Explorer to cover the $100 fee for each of us. I might be able to cover mine with the Capital One Venture X card I got last summer. I’ll probably cancel that card after the year is up and that’s just a month and a half after my birthday so that’ll be close.
Lisa will use her new United Explorer Card to cover her Global Entry renewal cost. And by this summer, we should have another credit card in my name that will cover the cost of Faith’s renewal. On that note, the credit isn’t applied to a specific person just to the transaction on the card, which is why we can cover her cost.
These travel rewards are great, aren’t they?!
Check your first bag for free
One of the perks of the United Explorer Card is that you can check your first bag for free when you use the card to purchase your ticket. That can be a good deal since checking bags is getting to be stupidly expensive. As an aside, here’s a great bit about airport check-ins…
The “problem” is that most of our flights tend to be on Southwest where you don’t have to pay to check your bags! We earned the Southwest Companion Pass again last year, which essentially gives us a buy-one-get-one-free on every Southwest flight we book. That’s good throughout the rest of this year, too, so that tends to be our go-to with most of our travel.
And right now, we don’t have any trips we’re planning that will likely be on United (outside of their partners).
So, we’ll have to see if we’re able to take advantage of this benefit sometime this year. Happily, though, this isn’t the reason we applied for this card.
Passes to the United Club
As I mentioned before, this isn’t the first time that we’ve had the Chase United Explorer Card in one of its variations over the years.
One of the biggest perks we loved about this card has been the two passes that come with it for the United Club. While two passes don’t get us too far, it’s better than nothing. If you haven’t stayed in an airport lounge, you might not realize how night and day it is compared to just sitting in the terminal.
Having a nice quiet place to sit outside of all the hustle and bustle of the crowded terminals is a relief in itself. Throw in that you generally have access to free food or snacks, free drinks (including alcoholic drinks), couches, and plenty of places to charge electronics, and you’ll find these places to be a win in almost all cases.
Now, we don’t currently need these passes right now since we have a complimentary Priority Pass subscription through my Capital One Venture X card. But since I’ll probably be canceling that card this summer, the Priority Pass membership goes bye-bye. And then, as long as we’re flying United (a newer stipulation they require), we’ll make sure to use up these passes.
Annual fee waived the first year
So, we’ve covered some of the cool benefits that this card has (there are more!). I’ve also mentioned that there are other credit cards we could have applied for instead of the United Explorer Card.
The reason we went with this card though is that it covered our bases for a quick and easy win to get miles along with some other perks on essentially one purchase. We have several different credit cards already and this is one we didn’t have.
When you take into account that the annual fee is waived for the first year, it made for an easy decision. We can take advantage of the signup bonus and other perks and then decide if it’s worth keeping when the year is over.
Additionally, the card can be downgraded to the Chase United Gateway credit card, which doesn’t have an annual fee. So that allows us to keep our available credit line and prevent a small ding to our credit scores.
So that’s why we went with Chase United Explorer Card this time around. It was an easy win and helps reduce our travel costs.
I hope you appreciate posts like this. I know not everyone takes advantage of travel rewards, but it can be a great way to make travel much more affordable.
If you enjoyed this and you’re thinking about signing up for a credit card (this one or any others) at some point, please consider clicking using the links on my Recommended Credit Cards page. I do receive a small commission at no cost to you. And know that I never recommend any products or services that I don’t use or believe in.
Now it’s time to work on planning our next big trip!
Plan well, take action, and live your best life!
Thanks for reading!!
6 thoughts on “We Got the Chase United Explorer Card… Again. Boom! Easy Free Travel!”
Thanks for posting this Jim, I am in the market for a new Credit Card. I had the Blockfi credit card, but they went bankrupt, so I need to find something else, perhaps with travel rewards. Do I need to formally cancel the Blockfi one? Also, I have a Capital One Visa, that just gives me points on each purchase, but I’ve had it for about 7 years, not sure if there is something better out there.
Hmm, that’s an interesting one, Jim. I know that my routine with credit cards is that if they don’t have an annual fee, I just hang onto them (keeps the credit score up) and use them for a couple of transactions each year just so the bank doesn’t cancel it due to inactivity. If they have a fee, I’ll either downgrade them to a no-annual-fee version if available or cancel the card.
I’m not too familiar with the BlockFi card but it looks like it doesn’t have an annual fee, so I would probably just leave it alone and let the bank decide its future at some point. In the meantime, maybe it’s time to re-evaluate your goals and determine if a new card (or two) makes sense to reap some of the better deals out there. There are some really good travel rewards as well as cash-back cards available.
If your goal is travel, Chase, Capital One, and American Express are usually the go-to issuers since they offer a lot of flexibility. We’ve done several cards from each of them over the years with ones that aligned with our goals. If you tend to travel frequently, the Capital One Venture X card is one that I got last summer and really like it. I’ve found the higher fee to be nothing compared to the value it’s given us in return. I wrote about that card in Is It Worth It to Open a Credit Card With a Huge Annual Fee?.
You could also look at the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card (assuming the latter isn’t the same one you already have).
Regardless, I hope you find a card that makes sense and hooks you up with some valuable goodies, Jim! 🙂
Thanks Jim, and when I do, I’ll give you a little ‘LINK’ love from your Recommended card post! Take care!
Hey, muchas gracias, my friend! If you have any card questions, let me know. 🙂
We love credit card churning and my wife and I each have this card. Many perks but one downside that surprised me – we used miles as we were returning from Asia to LA and then on Orlando for Christmas. We arrived in LA and when we transferred to United, even though we both have the credit card, we had to pay for our bags 🙁 as there was no payment made when using miles. We used our United card to get 2x miles and used our lounge pass that night but disappointed I had to pay for bags when using miles for a cross country trip….. oh well…. Still love the credit card game! And your summaries are spot on!
Oh, that stinks! I feel like stupid details like that trip us up quite a bit more often than I’d like. At least you got to take advantage of the lounge! 🙂