Chase has just released the details of their new United Mileage Plus Visa Explorer card, which has a few unique benefits. The card offers priority boarding, one free checked bag, and two single entry United Club passes annually. You also earn double miles for all United purchases and your miles never expire as long as you have the card.
The card’s annual fee is $95, so it’s much more of a “middle of the road” card than their high end card which comes with Red Carpet Club access. The card offers a 25,000 mile sign-up bonus after the first use, 5,000 miles for adding an authorized user, and 10,000 bonus miles when you spend $25,000 on the card each calendar year.
The sign-up bonus isn’t especially compelling as of now, and on the surface this sounds like a card for non-elites, though they have a couple of huge benefits for elites that have the card.
First, starting in early 2012, elite members that have this credit card will get unlimited domestic upgrades on award tickets. Upgrades will still be prioritized by status and then fare class, with award tickets being considered the lowest fare class in each category.
The other huge change coming to the Mileage Plus program is that non-elites and non-cardholders will no longer have last seat availability on standard awards. Currently at United, anyone can burn miles at the “standard” rate for an award ticket as long as a seat is for sale. In an ideal world no one would have to redeem for a standard award, though when traveling during peak periods (like late December to Australia), it may just be the lesser of evils.
Well, United is following the Continental model here, and only giving elite members and now cardholders the ability to redeem for last seat availability.
So while the sign-up bonus is less than tempting, there’s definitely huge value in having the card, whether you’re an elite member or not.