Juicy Details on the New United Credit Card, and What it Says About the Future of Mileage Plus

United’s New “Explorer” Visa was supposed to be embargoed until tomorrow but they’ve already got the application page up.

Current offer is 25,000 miles with first purchase, 5000 miles for adding an authorized cardholder, and then 10,000 miles after $25,000 in spend each year. First year fee is waived. Personally I wouldn’t jump on the offer just yet, I’ll hold out for something more lucrative. Especially since the headline 40,000 mile signup bonus isn’t really a 40,000 mile bonus..

The card comes with priority boarding (after elites but before general boarding, but since United stuck with zone boarding presumably this means boarding with Premiers but after Premier Executives and higher) and first checked bag free. It also comes with 2 club passes annually, like the Continental Mastercard did. But the annual fee (waived the first year) is $95, so an increase. Also interesting that this is a Visa, whereas Continental’s card was a Mastercard. It looks like going forward they will be offering Visa.

One strong point is that like the Continental Mastercard, they’re keeping primary collision damage waiver coverage for rental cars. In other words, if you ding your rental car the credit card’s coverage pays first before your insurance. Most credit card programs offer secondary coverage, which usually amounts to just paying out your deductible. I still use my Diners Club card for car rentals, precisely for the primary coverage. But Diners Club isn’t even open to new applicants currently. This is the cheapest card offering this coverage and a good option for folks who rent regularly.

Buried in the card details, though, is this clue about the future of the combined United/Continental program:

Your miles don’t expire*
Your miles don’t expire as long as you are a Cardmember with no limit to the number of miles you can earn.

Continental miles didn’t expire. United miles expired after 18 months of inactivity. This tidbit means that the combined program will have expiring miles. Jeff Foland told us as much at the Randy Petersen Travel Executive Summit in New York in April. But it hadn’t been official. Technically it hasn’t yet been announced, but the credit card offer makes it clear — miles will expire, but if you have this card they won’t. Of course even $1 charged to the card every 18 months would keep your miles from expiring. People with co-branded credit cards generally don’t have their miles expire in the account their credit card charges are dumping miles into. So it’s a marketing gimmick rather than a meaningful benefit for most cardmembers. Still, it gives away details of the program plans going forward.

There’s a business version of the card as well, with 25,000 miles after first purchase and 10,000 more miles after $25,000 in spend each year — plus first year fee waived just like the personal card.

While it’s nice to see a ‘new’ credit card product, especially for credit card churners because that makes it much more likely to get signup bonuses again, the terms and conditions here explicitly say otherwise — past United credit card holders are not eligible. We’ll see how that works in practice. Regardless, though, I wouldn’t jump on this offer — I’d wait and monitor — because these offers themselves aren’t that compelling, certainly in a world where 50,000 seems the new baseline and 100,000 has been done by at least 3 different cards.

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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  1. Wonder if United will target me like Continental did just last week:

    Continental OnePass Plus Card
    50K miles after first purchase,
    Additional 10K miles after $25K spend per year,
    First checked bag free for me and a companion,
    Two Presidents Club passes every anniversary,
    Two miles per $1 spent on tickets at Continental,
    One mile per $1 spent on all other purchases

  2. Meh. Given that one can have 40K US miles as a first-purchase bonus, this is really weak. And the baggage/boarding perks seem completely redundant for anyone who has UA status.

  3. Thank you for this. So I wonder now what will happen with my OnePass card, which I like. Will I just get a notice that it is being replaced or will the benefits be stripped away ‘encouraging me to drop it’?

  4. The existing Chase Sapphire Preferred card offer beats this one hands down. I’m really disappointed in the offer for this NEW card that doesn’t allow previous cardholders to partake in the signup bonus.

  5. Newtothegame- why do you think you were targeted? Do you have other chase cards or are a FF without these cards?

  6. Was holding off getting a Presidential Plus. Not sure if I should attempt to get one now or wait for the United version?

  7. Levi Flight – I have no Chase cards, but I did sign up for a Continental FF account within the past 90 days.

  8. Would anyone have tried to use the primary auto rental collision waiver with the Continental Mastercard before? Was it hard to redeem? I can’t seem to find any page that tells me whom I should contact.

    I don’t have a claim, but I’m trying to figure out if Chase makes you jump through a whole bunch of hoops to use it.

  9. How far back does the term “previous cardholders” go? I haven’t had a United CC in several years but I did have one once. Is there any kind of cutoff?

  10. I’m going to take advantage of the targeted 50K continental offer in a month or so. I’m curious if you know, Rick, if they will convert that card into this new card once the programs merge! I might need to get this card or cancel the CO card prior to the end of the year.

  11. @Ryan expectation is that Continental Onepass Plus cards will become United Explorer cards, but will stay Mastercards instead of becoming Visa products.

    @rich(arizona) we don’t know yet, or if they’ll even enforce this rule, it’ll have to be trial and error to figure it out and no one yet has this card

  12. There’s as much to be excited about with this new card as there is with the merger in general……

  13. +1. I just hope they never unilaterally cancel my legacy MP Plat card. MUCH better suite of benefits for a (1K fee waived) $140 than this new “offering”.

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