11 Things I Love About the Biggest Airline Rewards Card Offer in 5 Years

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UnitedSM Explorer Business Card

Five years ago there was a 100,000 mile offer for the premium American Airlines card with $450 annual fee. But we haven’t seen a U.S. airline credit card offering 100,000 miles as an initial bonus since then.

At the beginning of the year the UnitedSM Explorer Business Card had a best-ever 75,000 mile offer. Right now – definitely for a limited time – you can earn up to 100,000 bonus miles after qualifying spend.

This is a fantastic card to have if you live in a city with lots of United service, fly them regularly but not enough for elite status, or you’re an elite who wants upgrades on award tickets or help towards the spending requirement for status.

While I definitely prefer to put spending on the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve because their points transfer to United or other airlines (in other words I prefer the flexibility), the UnitedSM Explorer Business Card is a great card to have for its benefits. And the initial bonus offer is unprecedented for the card.

  1. 100,000 bonus miles. For a limited-time Chase has boosted the initial bonus to earn 100,000 miles: 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open and another 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $25,000 total on purchases in the first 6 months your account is open.

    United’s Europe and Asia Award Availability in Premium Cabins is Great Because of Star Alliance Partners

  2. It’s really a 110,000 mile offer. Since the card gives you 10,000 bonus miles for spending $25,000 or more in a calendar year, if you get the card and finish your $25,000 in total spending for the initial bonus by December 31 you won’t just get the 100,000 initial bonus offer you’ll pick up an additional 10,000 miles as well. Of course that would mean meeting the required spend in about four months instead of six.

  3. First checked bag free. What’s great about the UnitedSM Explorer Business Card is the travel benefits when flying United. You get first bag for free when you use your card to purchase your ticket. Two people traveling with a bag each way really scales the savings.

  4. Priority boarding. Avoid having to gate check your carry on, you don’t actually want to be the first to board this card helps ensure you don’t have to be last.

  5. Bring full sized carry on bags on board even on a basic economy fare. On a Basic Economy fare you can still bring on a full-sized carry on bag since the Basic Economy prohibition on full-sized carry on bags is handled via boarding group).

  6. United Club passes With this card you’ll get 2 one-time United Club passes each year for your account anniversary as well. United now charges $59 each for one time club passes.

  7. Waive spending requirement for elite status up to the Platinum level. United requires you to spend $3000 on tickets for silver, $6000 for Gold, or $9000 for Platinum status in addition to miles or segments flown. If you spend $25,000 a year on this card you waive the minimum ‘premier qualifying dollars’ requirement for earning up to Platinum elite status.

  8. United elites get upgrades on domestic award tickets. That’s a benefit which requires a co-brand card to access, including the UnitedSM Explorer Business Card, while elites without a United credit card aren’t eligible.

  9. Miles don’t expire when you have the card. If you’re using the card miles won’t expire anyway, but if you have it just for the benefits and spend on other cards it’s nice to know you can stick it in a drawer and still not face expiring points.

  10. Extra saver award availability United does a really nice job of making extra award space available to elites and credit card customers.

  11. Last seat availability when redeeming extra mileage awards. Airlines offer awards that charge extra miles and in American’s case you get access to the last seat on the plane when spending more miles, at United to get the very last seat on the plane (where these awards can offer real value) you need to be an elite or a co-brand credit card customer.

The UnitedSM Explorer Business Card is a great tool for someone who flies United semi-regularly but not enough to earn elite status, since many of the benefits of the card approximate was entry-level status would be like. And you can get it now with the most bonus miles we’ve seen from an airline credit card in several years.

And it’s good for someone looking to waive United’s ‘premier qualifying dollars’ minimum spend for elite status (up to Platinum, the 75,000 mile tier) via credit card spend, as combined spend of $25,000 or more on a United co-brand credit card can take the place of that requirement for a U.S.-based member.

It’s subject to ‘5/24’ meaning they’re most appropriate for folks that haven’t signed up for 5 or more new cards in the last 24 months.

Since you get the bonus and the benefits in year one it’s a no brainer but I also think the card is well worth it if you fly United semi-regularly for the benefits. If you find yourself buying basic economy fares you’re not just saving on checked bag fees each trip but on the fare buy up too and still getting to bring your carry on bag onboard.

UnitedSM Explorer Business Card

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Editorial note: any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer. Comments made in response to this post are not provided or commissioned nor have they been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any bank. It is not the responsibility of any advertiser to ensure that questions are answered, either. Terms and limitations apply to all offers.


  1. Thanks Gary. So if you met all the requirements, you’d actually have 135,000 miles, correct? If so, that’s more than 5x on all spending (up to $25,000). That’s worth considering, even using something like Plastiq to cover.

  2. I have signed up for the card, again. The big uncertainty is the value of UA points come the devaluation to dynamic pricing later this year. That said I’ll take the 135k (plus any bonus category) for using the card and will decide at end of year whether to keep it.

  3. Some of the card benefits look attractive, but I’m scratching my head thinking of how to use 135k UA miles.

  4. I guess I’ll have to be the moderately grumpy person here. I do not think it should be labeled as an “initial bonus” if you have to spend $25,000 to get it. The “initial bonus” is 50k miles for $5k spend. After that there is a spend bonus on all spend of 2.5x on the first $20k, provided that at least $20k is indeed spent.

    I am not saying the offer or card is a bad deal. For some it will be a good deal just for the 50k; for others it will make sense to make the major spend. I am saying that there needs to be a clearer distinction between what is legitimately an “initial bonus” and what is not. I know 100k looks glamorous, but it is not an “initial bonus” in my book.

  5. But in a year this type of offer may need less spend to get those miles. With a recession looming in 18 months, offers will get better.

  6. I have to say I’m not so grabbed. It’s really a 50k bonus, and the 2x spending earn on UA tix, restaurants and gas isn’t that great. That low spend multiple is a disincentive to put $25k spend compared to many other cards.

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