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Compare the Features and Benefits of United℠ Explorer Card and
Chase Sapphire Reserve®

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
Airport Lounge Access
Global Entry / TSA PreCheck Reimbursement
Primary Car Rental CDW Waiver
Trip Protections
Purchase Protection
Extended Warranty
No Foreign Transaction Fees
Concierge Services
Travel and Emergency Assistance Services
Free Access to Credit Score
Free Checked Bags
Priority Boarding
Earns Transferable Points
Annual Statement Credits
Return Protection
Roadside Assistance
Metal Card
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
Airport Lounge Access
yes
Global Entry / TSA PreCheck Reimbursement
yes
Primary Car Rental CDW Waiver
yes
Trip Protections
yes
Purchase Protection
yes
Extended Warranty
yes
No Foreign Transaction Fees
yes
Concierge Services
yes
Travel and Emergency Assistance Services
yes
Free Access to Credit Score
yes
Free Checked Bags
yes
Priority Boarding
yes
Earns Transferable Points
no
Annual Statement Credits
no
Return Protection
no
Roadside Assistance
no
Metal Card
no
Annual Fee
$550
Avg. Min. Credit Score
800-850 *
Ongoing APR
22.49%-29.49% (Variable)
Balance transfers fees
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Best Multiplier
10x Car Rentals

Only applies to bookings made via the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. Otherwise earn 3X points per dollar.

10x Hotels

Only applies to bookings made via the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. Otherwise earn 3X points per dollar.

10x Lyft
5x Airfare

Only applies to bookings made via the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. Otherwise earn 3X points per dollar.

3x Transit
3x Dining Out / Food Delivery
3x Cruises
1x Everything Else
Avg. Point Value
(Learn More)
$0.01 - $0.0175
Bonus Offer
Earn 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points when you spend $4,000 in 3 months
Rating
YBCC Card Rate Stars Filled
YBCC Card Rate Stars Empty
(4.45) 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 Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card is the one that, in a sense, started it all. While rewards cards have been around for decades, The Chase Sapphire Reserve quickly became a must-have upon its launch in 2016. With a huge bonus offer, the Priority Pass airport lounge access, the easy to use $300 travel credits, and 3X Chase Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on all dining and travel made it an easy sell.

Today, it remains one of the strongest travel credit cards on the market, even if other cards like the newer Capital One Venture X and The Platinum Card® from American Express both get solid market share.

The beauty of the Chase Sapphire Reserve lies in its simplicity.

The $300 annual travel credit works itself off without you even noticing, since travel purchases are automatically applied. With the Venture X, for instance, you also get a $300 annual travel credit but can only use it in the Capital One portal.

Then the Chase Sapphire Reserve is just plain “easy” when it comes to earning, knowing that just about every possible travel or dining purchase (including eligible delivery services) will earn 3X Chase Ultimate Rewards points.

And to that end, with a MilesTalk value of 1.75 cents per point when used via transfer partners like World of Hyatt or for First and Business Class airfare via its many airline partners, you know you’ll get value for those points you earn. In fact, your travel and dining purchases (earning 3X points) have a minimum return on spend value of 4.5% (if you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal at 1.5 cents each or an average redemption yield of around 5.25% (3X * 1.75) when you use the Ultimate Rewards airline and hotel partners.

travel-chase-sapphire-reserve

The card is also full of the most important benefits, namely the Priority Pass select membership for airport lounge access for you and 2 guests, including Priority Pass dining as well as primary collision/damage coverage on car rentals and trip delay coverage that kicks in after just a 6 hour delay as well as lost luggage insurance. And then there are the somewhat smaller but still valuable perks like your Global Entry fee reimbursement and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards® and Chase dining purchases.

And of course, there’s that huge bonus when you spend $4,000 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening….

So yes, it does have a high annual fee, but after the $300 travel credit, it’s effectively just $250 which the card gives you back via it’s earn rate, redemption rate (1.5 cents per point in the portal) and rich benefits.

Read more
Unique Card Benefits
yes
Airport Lounge Access
yes
Global Entry / TSA PreCheck Reimbursement
yes
Primary Car Rental CDW Waiver
yes
Trip Protections
yes
Purchase Protection
yes
Extended Warranty
yes
No Foreign Transaction Fees
yes
Concierge Services
yes
Travel and Emergency Assistance Services
yes
Free Access to Credit Score
yes
Free Checked Bags
no
Priority Boarding
no
Earns Transferable Points
yes
Annual Statement Credits
yes
Return Protection
yes
Roadside Assistance
yes
Metal Card
yes

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