United frequent flyers looking to enhance their travel experience have several credit cards to choose from, each of which offer different perks, points earning opportunities and annual fees. 

Today we’re going to take a look at the two cards likely to be of interest to most United flyers: the United Club℠ Infinite Card and the United℠ Explorer Card.


Mile bonus

Welcome Bonus

United Club℠ Infinite Card

The United Club℠ Infinite Card typically has a higher bonus, but it also comes with a higher annual fee.



United℠ Explorer Card

The United℠ Explorer Card’s bonus tends to vary over time, so be sure to look at the most recent bonus when comparing the two. Typically, the bonus on the Explorer card is lower than that of the Club card, but it is offset with a lower annual fee.

United Travel Benefits

United Club Access

The United Club℠ Infinite Card comes with a complimentary United Club membership, which grants you access to United Club lounges and select Star Alliance partner lounges when flying on United, United Express or another Star Alliance airline. The membership covers you and up to two adult guests, or one adult and your dependent children.

United℠ Explorer Card holders get two one-time United Club passes when opening the card, and again when renewing. One-time passes are subject to lounge capacity limits.

Suitcase or luggage with conveyor belt in the international airport.

Free checked bags

When you pay for a United flight with the United Club℠ Infinite Card, you’ll get up to two free checked bags for you and one companion traveling on the same reservation – a value of up to $320 per roundtrip flight.

United℠ Explorer Card holders will get one free checked bag for themselves and a companion on the same reservation when they use their card to pay for a United ticket – up to $140 in savings per roundtrip flight.

25% back on in-flight purchases

Both cards give you a 25% back as a statement credit on purchases of food, beverages and Wi-Fi on board United-operated flights and on Club premium drinks when you pay with your Explorer Card.

Priority Boarding and Premier Access

United Club℠ Infinite Cardholders get Premier Access when flying United, which gives you the same access to priority check-in, security, and boarding as MileagePlus Premier members. 

United℠ Explorer Cardholders get priority boarding on United flights – after MileagePlus Premier members and United Club℠ Infinite Cardholders, and before other passengers – but do not get access to priority check-in or security screening.

united airlines

Expanded award inventory

Both cards come with expanded access to award seats on United flights – a benefit otherwise reserved for MileagePlus Premier members – making it even easier to use your miles.

Upgrades on award tickets

If you have MileagePlus Premier status, having either of these cards makes you eligible for complimentary upgrades on award tickets (normally this is only available on paid United flights).

Bonus Categories

After you receive your welcome bonus, it’s important to look at how many points you’ll earn for ongoing spending.

United Club℠ Infinite Card

With the United Club℠ Infinite Card you’ll earn 4X miles per dollar spent on United purchases including tickets, upgrades, bag fees, change fees, lounge access, in-flight food and beverages, and in-flight WiFi.

You’ll also earn 2X miles per dollar spent in these categories:

  • All other travel purchases including hotels, rental cars, taxis and rideshare services, public transportation and purchases on other airlines.
  • Restaurants and eligible delivery services

All other purchases earn 1 point per dollar spent. There’s no limit to how many miles you can earn.

Airline boarding pass in passport holder held by man's hands

United℠ Explorer Card

The United℠ Explorer Card earns 2X miles per dollar spent on the following purchases:

  • United Airlines, including tickets, upgrades, bag fees, change fees, lounge access and in-flight purchases.
  • Restaurants and eligible food delivery services
  • Hotel accommodations purchased directly from the hotel

All other purchases earn 1 point per dollar spent. There’s no limit to how many miles you can earn.


chase sapphire preferred vs reserve

Other Card Benefits

Both cards come with the following benefits.

Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver

Both cards include automatic coverage for rentals of 31 days or less, as long as you decline the rental company’s collision insurance and use your card to pay for the rental. You don’t have to file a claim with your personal auto insurance, and you’re covered for up to the actual value of the car.

Travel protections

When you use your card to pay for travel expenses, you’ll automatically be covered against unexpected fees and out-of-pocket expenses if your trip is delayed, canceled or interrupted, as well as if your baggage is delayed, damaged or lost.

Purchase protection

New purchases are covered against damage or theft during the first 120 days since you paid for them, up to $10,000 per claim and $50,000 per card account.

Global Entry and TSA PreCheck enrollment credit

Every four years, you’ll get up to $100 back as a statement credit when you sign up for or renew membership in Global Entry, TSA PreCheck® or NEXUS.

Chase Offers

Both cards are eligible for cashback offers at specific merchants such as Starbucks, Intercontinental Hotels or Xfinity. These are unpredictable and usually fairly low value, but it’s worth checking the Chase website or mobile app periodically for new opportunities.

Annual Fee

The United Club℠ Infinite Card has a $525 annual fee, while the United℠ Explorer Card has a $95 annual fee (waived for first year). 


Final Thoughts

Both of these cards offer useful benefits for frequent United fliers. If you place a high value on United Club access and/or frequently check two bags when flying United, the United Club℠ Infinite Card is a good fit for you. Otherwise, you’ll get most of the same perks with the United℠ Explorer Card for a far lower annual fee.