United MileagePlus Explorer Card: Keep or Cancel?
Hilary Stockton

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TravelSort reader Louis writes "I got the United MileagePlus Explorer card for the 65,000 bonus miles (ok, actually 55,000 miles, since I didn't want to spend $25,000 to earn the final 10,000 miles). My card will be coming up for renewal next month and I haven't used it that much, so I plan to cancel. Is there anything I'm missing? Isn't this card mainly just good for the signup bonus?"

While everyone's situation is a bit different, it's safe to say that many of us were highly motivated to sign up for the United MileagePlus Explorer card with the 55,000 bonus miles, especially when it was after first purchase, but even with $1000 minimum spend. Heck, that's why I still rank this offer as #2 on my Best Travel Credit Cards list, although do note it is targeted, and you may or may not be able to see it when logged into your United MileagePlus account.

But what about the decision on whether to keep the card? Many folks will probably opt not to keep the card as the main motivation was the signup bonus miles, and they don't want to pay the annual fee when it comes due. Here are the main reasons I see to keep the card and the main reasons to cancel the card. Only you can determine how much you value the various benefits cited as reasons to keep the card.

Reasons to Keep the United MileagePlus Explorer Card

  • Access to greater United economy award availability: In case you missed it in my post on United Expert Mode and United Fare Codes, United credit card holders get access to the XN fare bucket, just as United elites do. So even if you don't have elite status with United, you can improve your chances of nabbing United economy award seats by holding the United MileagePlus Explorer card.
  • Annual fee waiver or retention bonus: It never hurts to ask for an annual fee waiver or retention bonus--the worst that can happen is they'll say no. Just don't expect a fee waiver or retention bonus if you haven't used the card at all since earning the signup bonus. Also see our Retention Bonus Tips
  • Value of the benefits is worth the annual fee to you: The United MileagePlus Visa offers first checked bag free, priority boarding, and 2 United Club passes. Everyone will value these benefits a bit differently, from not at all (for example for elites, who already get these benefits) to quite a bit. And make sure to value these against the annual fee less any reduction/retention bonus you receive
  • Improve Average Age of Accounts: This isn't of course unique to the United MileagePlus Explorer and on its own is likely not enough to warrant keeping the card, but in conjunction with a fee waiver or retention bonus, it can make sense. You ideally want to already have a couple of no annual fee cards that you never close, but it can also be helpful to keep open any credit cards that are free or nearly so, thanks to a fee waiver or retention bonus. 


Reasons to Cancel the United MileagePlus Explorer Card

  • You're a United Elite: It's a bit ironic, but the United MileagePlus Card just doesn't make as much sense to hold if you're already an elite MileagePlus member. You already receive priority boarding and also are entitled to 1 checked bag free as a United Silver, and 3 free checked bags for Gold, Platinum, 1K and Global Services members. 
  • You Don't Book Economy Award Flights: The access to the XN award space is pretty nifty if you're not already a United Elite, but if you don't actually book economy awards, it doesn't help you.
  • No Fee Waiver or Retention Bonus: If you don't receive any kind of fee waiver or retention bonus, you probably also haven't been using the card much and it makes sense to cancel.
  • You Earn Your United Miles at 2.14X-5X or More: If you have the Sapphire Preferred, Ink Bold or Ink Plus and the Chase Freedom, it's not hard to earn most of your United miles at 2.14X-5X or more per dollar spent. It's pretty hard for the United MileagePlus Explorer's 2X miles per dollar spent to compete with that.

Have you decided to keep or cancel the United MileagePlus Explorer card, and why?

Related Posts

United MileagePlus Explorer 65,000 Bonus Miles Offer Tips

United Expert Mode and United Fare Codes

Best United Miles Bonus Offers Available Now

How to Find Star Alliance Award Space

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User_avatar_default Tong Q. commented 01 May 2013
I have elite status with united but decided to keep the card for 10k bonus points (for 25k annual spending) and retention points. I have a lot of nonbonus category spending. To get 1.4 miles/$ for these spending as well as manufactured spending is pretty good deal.
Avatar_60_hilary Hilary Stockton commented 01 May 2013
Tong, thanks for sharing your decision--it's always great to hear a different perspective from an elite frequent flyer member, since my take is from the vantage point of a non-elite who simply earns and redeems a lot of miles and points across several programs. And while the $25K spend for 10K bonus miles didn't make sense for my situation, I have recommended it to those with much higher annual spend seeking to deploy it all for bonus miles/points.
Avatar_60_2012-03-14_14.10.53 Nicholas N. commented 20 Jul 2013
I am United elite as well. I thought long and hard about getting this card, not for the perks of course, but for the extra 10K points after $25K spend. I ended up deciding not to get it. I was going to add it to my Sapphire Preferred, NOT replace it, since I need the flexibility of Ultimate Reward points since I transfer to Hyatt as well as United. So my AF would've been $190 instead of $95. Yes I get more miles with the Explorer, but I decided the cpm wasn't worth it. Lets say I already earn 35K points with my Sapphire Preferred. Adding the Explorer would net me the extra 10K, which would be 45K total: CSP = 35000 pts for $95 AF = .27 cpm Explorer = 45,000 pts for 190 AF = .42 cpm sure. .42 cpm is great!, but .27 cpm is better. Plus, there is no inconvenience of carrying yet another credit card in which i have to put the $25K spend on to it.
Avatar_60_hilary Hilary Stockton commented 22 Jul 2013
Nicholas, makes sense, if you haven't been targeted for the higher offer. But if you haven't already, I'd double check to see if you're able to get to the application page of the 65K offer. Pls. see http://travelsort.com/blog/united-mileageplus-explorer-65000-bonus-miles-offer-tips
Picture?type=large Glen M. commented 06 Sep 2015
I have decided to cancel the card. I'm not United Elite and I usually fly coach (even on award tickets), and rarely check bags. The $95 annual fee doesn't make sense to me.
Avatar_60_hilary Hilary Stockton commented 06 Sep 2015
Glen, makes sense; particularly after the United Award Chart Devaluation in 2014, unless you receive a very good retention offer or find that the baggage, United Club pass etc. benefits are worth the $95 annual fee, most will find it makes sense to cancel.
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