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VS

Compare the Features and Benefits of Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card and
United℠ Explorer Card

Detailed Comparison Overview

Key Facts
Annual Fee
Avg. Min. Credit Score
Ongoing APR
Balance transfers fees
Best Multiplier
Avg. Point Value
(Learn More)
Bonus Offer
Rating
Review
Key features
Unique Card Benefits
Free Checked Bags
Extended Warranty
Purchase Protection
Trip Protections
Travel and Emergency Assistance Services
Free Access to Credit Score
Secondary Car Rental CDW Waiver
Roadside Assistance
No Fees for Authorized Users
Airport Lounge Access
Priority Boarding
Global Entry / TSA PreCheck Reimbursement
Primary Car Rental CDW Waiver
No Foreign Transaction Fees
Concierge Services
Annual Fee
$69
Avg. Min. Credit Score
670-850 *
Ongoing APR
21.49%-28.49% (Variable)
Balance transfers fees
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Best Multiplier
3x Airfare

Applies only to tickets purchased directly from Southwest. Other airfare earns 1X.

2x Transit
2x Cable / Internet / VOIP Phone
2x Cellular Phone Service
2x Streaming Services
1x Everything Else
Avg. Point Value
(Learn More)
$0.014
Bonus Offer

Limited-time offer: Earn Companion Pass® good through 2/28/25 plus 30,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Offer ends 3/11/24.

Rating
YBCC Card Rate Stars Filled
YBCC Card Rate Stars Empty
(3.73) Our Review

Our ratings are determined by the authors and editors on our team. Each individual card feature is compared against all other cards we offer and the total score is an average of those 4 ratings.

Review

The Southwest Plus Card charges the lowest annual fee of any Southwest credit card, making it a tempting option for travelers that enjoy flying Southwest.

In exchange for the modest $69 annual fee, cardholders will be reimbursed for up to two EarlyBird Check-In purchases each year, get 25% back on inflight purchases on Southwest Airlines, plus get 3,000 bonus points each card anniversary.

Get 25% back on Southwest inflight purchases.

Cardholders earn 2 Southwest points per dollar spent in a range of spending categories, including Southwest purchases (including inflight purchases), Southwest Rapid Rewards hotel and car partners, local transit, commuting, rideshare, internet, cable, phone services, and select streaming services.

Points earned count toward earning the Southwest Companion Pass. However, Southwest Plus Credit cardholders won’t get Tier Qualifying Points toward earning A-List Status. If you want to earn Tier Qualifying Points, you’ll need to get the Southwest Priority or Premier Credit Card instead.

Southwest Plus cardholders can't earn Tier Qualifying Points on purchases

In addition, the Southwest Plus credit card charges foreign transaction fees on overseas purchases. While that might not be a problem for some travelers, international flyers may want to get the Priority or Premier Card instead.

Frequent Southwest flyers should consider the Southwest Priority Credit Card instead. Although it charges the highest annual fee of any Southwest credit card, the card offers a $75 Southwest annual travel credit, four Upgraded Boardings every cardmember anniversary, and a 7,500-point anniversary bonus. Plus, the card doesn’t charge a foreign transaction fee. Those perks more than offset the additional annual fee.

Lastly, this card is great for getting a large piece of the to a Southwest Companion Pass with the bonus offer, since the points earned from the signup bonus count. Read our guide on earning a Southwest Companion Pass for up to two years via new account bonuses.

Read more
Unique Card Benefits
yes
Free Checked Bags
yes
Extended Warranty
yes
Purchase Protection
yes
Trip Protections
yes
Travel and Emergency Assistance Services
yes
Free Access to Credit Score
yes
Secondary Car Rental CDW Waiver
yes
Roadside Assistance
yes
No Fees for Authorized Users
yes
Airport Lounge Access
no
Priority Boarding
no
Global Entry / TSA PreCheck Reimbursement
no
Primary Car Rental CDW Waiver
no
No Foreign Transaction Fees
no
Concierge Services
no
Annual Fee
$0 Introductory Annual Fee for the first year, then $95
Avg. Min. Credit Score
670-850 *
Ongoing APR
21.99%-28.99% (Variable)
Balance transfers fees
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Best Multiplier
2x Airfare

On United flights only; otherwise earn 1X

2x Dining Out / Food Delivery
2x Hotels
1x Everything Else
Avg. Point Value
(Learn More)
$0.012
Bonus Offer

Earn 60,000 United MileagePlus Miles after spending $3,000 on qualifying purchases in the first three months of opening an account, plus Annual Fee waived for the first year. Offer ends January 24, 2024.  

Rating
YBCC Card Rate Stars Filled
YBCC Card Rate Stars Empty
(4.05) Our Review

Our ratings are determined by the authors and editors on our team. Each individual card feature is compared against all other cards we offer and the total score is an average of those 4 ratings.

Review

The United Explorer is one of the best credit cards out there for occasional United flyers. That’s because you’ll get useful perks, such as free first checked bags, priority boarding privileges, a 25% food and beverage discount on board United operated flights, and even get a taste of airport lounge access with two anniversary United Club passes. Plus. the annual fee is waived the first year, then just $95 thereafter.

Consider this scenario: Even if you only fly United a couple of times per year, the Explorer Card is worth it for the free checked bag benefit alone. Keep in mind, this applies to the primary card holder and one companion on the same reservation, as long as you use the card to pay for your ticket. At $35 for one checked bag, and $140 for a round-trip flight for two people, it’s easy to get value that exceeds the card’s annual fee.

In addition to the sign-up bonus earned after account opening, the United Explorer card earns a decent 2X miles on United Airlines purchases, 2X miles on dining, including eligible delivery services, 2X miles on hotel stays when booked with the hotel and 1x miles on all other purchases. Also, the card helps to fast track your United elite status goals with 500 Premier Qualifying Points (PQPs) for every $12,000 you spend on purchases (up to 1,000 PQPs in a calendar year). These PQPs can be applied toward your Premier status qualification — up to the Premier 1K level.

And don’t forget the ability to earn PQPs towards elite status from spend. You’ll earn 25 Premier Qualifying Points (PQPs) for every $500 you spend on purchases – up to 1,000 PQPs per year.

If you’re in need of extra miles besides flying on United flights, keep in mind that Chase Ultimate Rewards points can be transferred to the United Mileage Plus program at a 1:1 ratio to help you top up your miles balance.

While the United Explorer card is a fantastic option for the occasional United flyer, those that travel more often with the airline might want to consider other options, including United’s other, more premium, credit cards.

In more simple terms, the Explorer card fits the “occasional United flyer” once or twice per year mold, while the $250-per-year United Quest fits the “semi-frequent United flyer.” Then, there’s the United Club Infinite Card for the “frequent United flyer.” If you’re looking for a United Club membership and need more than just two one-time passes, you’ll probably be better off with the United Club Infinite Card, which comes with a full United Club membership but also charges the highest annual fee of the United cards at $525.

Read more
Unique Card Benefits
yes
Free Checked Bags
yes
Extended Warranty
yes
Purchase Protection
yes
Trip Protections
yes
Travel and Emergency Assistance Services
yes
Free Access to Credit Score
yes
Secondary Car Rental CDW Waiver
no
Roadside Assistance
no
No Fees for Authorized Users
no
Airport Lounge Access
yes
Priority Boarding
yes
Global Entry / TSA PreCheck Reimbursement
yes
Primary Car Rental CDW Waiver
yes
No Foreign Transaction Fees
yes
Concierge Services
yes

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