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The United MileagePlus® Explorer Business Card is designed for small business owners who routinely travel for business on United Airlines and its global partners. If you’re looking for ways to cut business expenses and save money on international travel, this card’s rewards scheme is definitely worth a closer look – and well worth the $95 annual fee.
In fact, United MileagePlus Explorer Business Card is a perennial contender for our best small business credit cards list, which we update regularly to include newly released cards and newly announced deals. It’s also a worthy addition to our best small business credit card sign-up bonuses list.
When you sign up for United MileagePlus Explorer Business Card, you’re automatically enrolled in United’s complimentary MileagePlus loyalty program. You can also take advantage of a great sign-up bonus: 50,000 MileagePlus miles, good for up to two round-trip economy flights anywhere in the continental U.S. and Canada, when you spend $3,000 in purchases within 3 months.
Going forward, you’ll earn 2 MileagePlus miles for every $1 spent on United airfare, restaurant purchases, office supply store purchases, and gas station purchases. When you spend at least $25,000 within a calendar year, you get an additional 10,000 miles – good for a short-haul flight within the continental U.S. and Canada. And you’ll enjoy a nice lineup of travel benefits for United flyers, including priority boarding and a free first checked bag.
Intrigued by United MileagePlus Explorer Business Card? Here’s what you need to know about its features, advantages, disadvantages, and overall suitability.
When you spend at least $3,000 in qualifying purchases within 3 months of opening your account, you get 50,000 bonus MileagePlus miles.
Depending on how you redeem, this is enough to earn two round-trip economy award flights within the continental United States and Canada, four one-way economy flights anywhere within the continental U.S. and Canada. Refundable tickets require additional miles.
Annual Mileage Bonus
When you spend at least $25,000 in any calendar year, you get 10,000 bonus MileagePlus miles. You’re entitled to this bonus for as long as you remain a cardholder in good standing.
Earning MileagePlus Miles
This card earns unlimited 2 MileagePlus miles per $1 spent on United Airlines airfare. It also earns unlimited 2 miles per $1 spent at restaurants, office supply stores, and gas stations – making it an excellent choice for saving money at restaurants. All other purchases earn an unlimited 1 mile per $1 spent.
You can accumulate as many miles as you wish. As long as your account remains open and in good standing, your miles never expire.
Redeeming MileagePlus Miles
The most effective way to redeem accumulated miles is for United Airlines and partner airfare (which comes in handy on international routes not directly served by United). Redemptions generally start at 12,500 miles for one-way economy flights within the U.S. and Canada, or 25,000 miles for fully refundable tickets. First- and business-class one-ways start at 25,000 miles as well. There are no blackout dates or other restrictions on award travel. Check United’s award chart for up-to-date redemption information.
As a cardholder, you’re always entitled to priority boarding privileges – getting you on the plane and seated before the general boarding process begins.
Free First Checked Bag
You and a traveling companion get a free first checked bag on all flights paid with your card – a potential value of $50 for each one-way flight.
United Club Passes
As long as your account remains open and in good standing, you receive two complimentary United Club airport lounge passes per year. This benefit has a combined value of more than $100 per year, and entitles you to complimentary food, beverages, WiFi, office services, and more at participating lounges.
Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection Benefits
You’re entitled to a slew of benefits at more than 900 Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection partners worldwide, including complimentary room upgrades when available, free breakfast, extended check-in/check-out hours, and more.
Travel and Purchase Benefits
This card comes with a slew of additional travel and purchase benefits. The most noteworthy include:
- Complimentary loss and damage coverage on rental cars paid in full with the card
- Trip cancellation and interruption insurance
- Insurance for delayed and lost bags
- 24/7 concierge service
- Purchase and price protection on select purchases charged to the card
The $95 annual fee is waived for the first year. There is no foreign transaction fee or fee for additional employee cards. Balance transfers cost the greater of $5 or 5%. Cash advances cost the greater of $15 or 5%. Late and returned payments cost up to $39.
United MileagePlus Explorer Business Card requires excellent credit. If your business doesn’t have a near-flawless credit history, you may have trouble with your application.
- Excellent Sign-Up Bonus. The Explorer Business Card has an excellent sign-up bonus: 50,000 bonus miles when you spend at least $3,000 within 3 months of opening your account. That’s worth up to 2 round-trip economy flights anywhere in the continental U.S. and Canada. Depending on the underlying dollar cost of the flights for which it’s redeemed, the total dollar value of this bonus can easily exceed $1,000.
- Very Good Airport and In-Flight Benefits. For a business travel card with an annual fee of less than $100, this card has a robust lineup of perks and benefits for frequent travelers. The most valuable is likely the free checked bag allowance, which is worth up to $50 on every one-way flight. The two complimentary United Club lounge passes benefit is also a welcome addition to any hectic travel schedule. If you can take full advantage of these airport and in-flight benefits, you’ll be well on your way to getting your money’s worth out of your Explorer Business Card.
- 2x Miles on a Wide Range of Spending. Unlike the consumer MileagePlus Explorer credit card, Explorer Business earns 2 MileagePlus miles per $1 spent on a lot more than just United airfare. Restaurant, office supply store, and gas station purchases are all covered as well. If you spend heavily on these everyday business expenses, you’ll have no trouble racking up the miles with this card.
- Tangible Benefits at Partner Hotels. When you stay at any of more than 900 hotels and resorts in the Luxury Hotels & Resorts collection, you enjoy a smorgasbord of convenient, potentially luxurious benefits: extended-hours check-in and check-out, free breakfast, discounted spa services, welcome gifts, and complimentary room upgrades where available.
- 10,000-Mile Bonus for Heavy Spenders. When you spend at least $25,000 in any calendar year, you get 10,000 bonus MileagePlus miles. That’s enough for a short-haul one-way domestic flight – for instance, from New York to Chicago – or enough for 80% of a one-way award fare anywhere in the continental U.S. or Canada. $25,000 is a lot for many consumers, but if you run a business that needs lots of inventory or services, or you travel often, you should have no trouble clearing it.
- Generous Redemption Terms. United’s redemption terms are more generous than some other airlines. Your accumulated miles never expire, and your redemptions are never subject to blackout dates or other restrictions. Basically, you can redeem for any flight, anywhere, anytime.
- No Foreign Transaction Fee. Explorer Business has no foreign transaction fee. If you regularly travel outside the United States on business, this is a valuable perk. Many fellow business credit cards charge 2% to 3% on foreign transactions, severely cutting into or entirely negating the value of any earned rewards.
- No Fee for Employee Cards. The Explorer Business Card charges no fee for additional employee credit cards. If you entrust multiple employees with credit card spending, this is a tremendous benefit that can potentially save you hundreds of dollars per year.
- $95 Annual Fee. After your first year as a cardholder, United MileagePlus Explorer Business Card has a $95 annual fee. If you’re looking for a business travel card with a more manageable annual fee, try Capital One Spark Miles for Business ($59 annual fee) or Alaska Airlines Visa Business Credit Card ($75 annual fee).
- Low Baseline Rewards Rate. This card earns just 1 mile per $1 spent on most purchases. Assuming you don’t spend in any of the favored categories, you’d need to spend $10,000 in purchases to earn a single short-haul domestic economy award flight. If you don’t fly United, eat at restaurants, gas up your business vehicle, or head to office supply stores very often, this card probably isn’t your best choice. Look instead to a general-purpose business travel card, such as Capital One Spark Miles for Business or Capital One Spark Miles Select for Business, both of which earn 1.5 to 2 points per $1 spent on all purchases.
- Limited Redemption Options for Non-United Flyers. MileagePlus miles are great for folks who regularly fly United Airlines and its partners. However, if you travel infrequently, this card’s redemption options probably aren’t expansive enough for your needs. If you’re looking for a business credit card that lets you redeem for cash, gift cards, or a wider range of travel items at favorable rates, look to Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card or Chase Ink Business Cash Credit Card.
- No Companion Certificate. This card doesn’t offer companion certificates for loyal cardmembers or heavy spenders. Many other business travel cards, including some attached to rival airlines, do offer this benefit. For instance, CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select Credit Card and Alaska Airlines Visa Business Credit Card both offer free or discounted companion certificates to cardholders who clear certain annual spending thresholds.
U.S. business owners with good to excellent credit have dozens of worthy business credit cards to choose from, and it seems like more pop up all the time. The United MileagePlus® Explorer Business Card is one of the best options out there for moderate- to heavy-spending business owners who regularly travel for work, but it’s certainly not the only fish in the sea.
Before you commit to this or any card, make sure you’ve weighed all your options. And don’t be afraid to ask hard questions about how exactly you’ll use any rewards you accumulate. It’s better to exact maximum value out of every mile you earn than go for the card that seems to offer the most bang for your buck, only to discover that those rewards aren’t as valuable as you thought.