Chase Sapphire Preferred or United Explorer MileagePlus Card Offer?

Updated Feb., 2017

The question is “Chase Sapphire Preferred or United Explorer MileagePlus Card Offer?” Chase makes it hard for us. They have so many great rewards card offers, it can hurt your head trying to decide which offer is best for you. So today, I’ll be comparing the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and United Explorer rewards card offers.

Link: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Link: United MileagePlus® Explorer Card

 

Best Sign-Up Bonus

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card has a sign-up bonus of 50,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months . Plus, you will receive a 5,000 points bonus if you add an authorized user and they make a purchase in the same 3 month period.

The “United MileagePlus® Explorer Card” has a standard sign-up offer of 50,000 United miles after spending $3,000 3 months. Plus, an additional 5,000 miles bonus if you add an authorized user and they make a purchase in the same 3 month period. But there’s a limited time offer that you can see on the United’s Explorer here. 

For those of you who have had this card before, the application terms from the United landing page state: “This new cardmember bonus offer is not available to either (i) current cardmembers of this consumer credit card, or (ii) previous cardmembers of this consumer credit card who received a new cardmember bonus for this consumer credit card within the last 24 months.

Both cards waive the $95 annual fee the first year.

Winner: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

 

Best Spending Benefits 

The “United MileagePlus® Explorer Card” gives you 2x miles per $1 on airline tickets purchased from United, and 1x on all other purchases. So, no lucrative category bonuses. For big spenders, you will receive an additional 10,000 United miles if you spend $25,000 in a calendar year.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred gives you 2x Ultimate Rewards points per $1 on dining and travel, and 1x on all other purchases.

Even though you can earn an additional 10,000 United miles if you spend $25,000 in a calendar year, I would rather spend on my Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card because of the 2x on ALL travel, and dining. Plus, I value Ultimate Rewards point higher, but more on that in a sec.

Winner: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

 

Best Perks

The Chase Sapphire Preferred has no foreign transaction fees, is chip & signature enabled, comes with primary CDW on car rentals, $10,000 trip cancelation/insurance, 1:1 point transfers to 11 top travel partners, 20% bonus when you redeem your Ultimate Rewards points through the UR travel portal, and 24/7 direct access to customer service representatives.

The United Explorer comes with two free lounge passes every year, free first checked bag, priority boarding, primary CDW on car rentals, and no fees on foreign transactions.

Both of these cards have Visa Signatures benefits, like free movies, hotel discounts, and wine tastings.

If you fly United a handful of times per year, and don’t have status, the United Explorer packs a lot perks and easily justifies the annual fee. The Sapphire Preferred has chip technology, and more flexible points, so I’m going to just call this one a tie. Hope that’s cool.

Winner: Tie

 

Best Points System 

Ok, on to the points.

United Miles

The United Explorer card earns United miles. Obviously. United is a part of the Star Alliance, so that means you can fly any airline in the Star Alliance with your United miles. United doesn’t charge fuel surcharges on partner flights, but did raise the cost to fly partners in premium cabins. Those redemptions are now 140,000 in business class, and 222,000 in First Class round-trip. Ouch.

Traveling premium cabin to Europe on United metal is a cheaper option at 115,000 in business class, and 160,000 in first class round-trip. Here’s a review of our one-way business/first flight from Dulles to Ireland.

The price for international economy tickets on United and their partners stayed the same at 60,000 miles round-trip (which can basically get you to Europe and back in economy…pretty sweet).

Domestic trips on United will cost you 20,000 – 25,000 miles round-trip in economy, or 50,000 miles in business class. Economy class round-trip tickets to Hawaii will cost you 45,000 miles.

Chase Ultimate Rewards Points

The Chase Sapphire Preferred earns Ultimate Rewards points that can be transferred out to 11 travel partners, including United. Transfers to Ultimate Rewards travel partners are instant and at a 1:1 ratio.

I prefer to transfer my Ultimate Rewards points out to Hyatt, British Airways, and now Singapore Air. Here are some of my posts that break down the crazy value of transferring your Ultimate Rewards points out to travel partners.

Transferring Ultimate Rewards points out to travel partners is so easy, a Noob could do it.

In addition to your transfer options, you can get 20% off by booking travel through the Ultimate Rewards site. The nice thing about this option is that your booking will count towards airline elite status, even though you’re paying with points. That means 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points is at the very least worth $625 in travel.

When it comes to deciding which points currency is better, I think having the option to transfer Ultimate Rewards points out to travel partners makes them more valuable than United MileagePlus miles, especially since United is one of the transfer partners.

Winner: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Conclusion 

Overall, I think the Chase Sapphire Preferred is a better daily rewards card, and consider the points more valuable. The CSP also currently has a larger sign-up bonus which makes it more appealing, but if you fly United often, then you may want the benefits the United Explorer card offers.

I hope this helps if you are trying to decide between the Chase Sapphire Preferred and United Explorer rewards cards. If one of these cards is right for you, the applications links for these cards on Chase’s secure website are below.

Link: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Link: United MileagePlus® Explorer Card

 

Geoff Whitmore

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Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Chase Sapphire Preferred or United Explorer MileagePlus Card Offer?
4.55 (90.91%) 11 votes

About the Author

Geoff Whitmore
Geoff Whitmore is lead traveler/writer at noobtraveler.com, a blog dedicated to educating its readers on credit cards, reward points, and and cost-saving travel techniques. The blog particularly focuses on new travelers (or as they like to call them, “Noobs”), and it teaches its readers how to save BIG. All the while, the site maintains a humorous writing style that is both fun and informative.

20 Comments on "Chase Sapphire Preferred or United Explorer MileagePlus Card Offer?"

  1. I have a great deal of expertise in the subject that Justin posts. I’ve been in the financial advice business and licensed appropriately (series 66, 7) for the past 12 years. Each year I received extensive anti-money laundering training as well as individualized analysis of ongoing financial transactions. I’ve advised private equity groups who manage hundreds of millions of dollars and have been involved with several fraud AND money laundering investigations. I would tell you that none of what Justin says about credit fraud and money laundering is true.

    First – what is credit fraud? Correctly defined it is the use of another persons credit for your own gain. There are several categories including application fraud (familiar and unfamiliar – applying for credit when you are not that person), lost/stolen card, mail intercept, counterfeit, account takeover, and card-not-present transactions. Clearly the use of credit cards, where the authorized owner makes authorized purchases, pays off the card and gains points for so doing falls into none of the above categories. Fraud? Clearly not. If the terms of service prohibit certain types of transactions, the violation of terms of service is NOT fraud or money laundering and does not subject you to arrest.

    Lets look at the assertion that buying a business card and buying $35k – $100K of “random charges”, and paying it off AND writing it off on your taxes is either illegal, dumb or invites the IRS to audit you. It is all of the above. BUT, my first question is this – who would be stupid enough to do that? My second point is that Geoff doesn’t recommend you do so – he simply looks at the relative advantages of one card over another. If you look through his recommendations you won’t find anywhere the comments to “go make $100K of random charges on your business CC to build points.” If you are stupid enough to buy non-business items and then take tax credits/write-offs just to get mileage – that has NOTHING to do with the NOOB program. There is no cure for stupidity.

    Now, lets look at money laundering. Money laundering, again correctly defined, refers to a financial transaction scheme that aims to conceal the identity, source, and destination of illicitly-obtained money. The first step in money laundering is to make a legitimate transaction – for example a deposit into a financial institution. The second step is to then immediately transfer the money and receive it as cash, or in a transfer to another financial institution. There are several strategies/ways to do so – but NONE of them involve paying off credit cards. Further, the USA PATRIOT act requires financial institutions to put procedures into place tracking the movement of sums of money totally $10,000 or more (or combined totals in a few days of the same amount or higher). Never ever EVER has any government entity been told to “track money laundering by watching credit card transactions”. The idea that someone will show up at your door and accuse of same because you participate in mileage point strategies is beyond possibility. I know of no possible way to launder money through credit card transaction payoff.

    Trust me, the feds won’t accuse you of credit fraud, nor will you be subject to anti-money laundering investigations because of this program.

    You are correct in that the average american shouldn’t have 17 credit cards – but CLEARLY Geoff warns everyone to protect their credit, and to take appropriate measures against securing their credit score and to never spend beyond their means (or words to that effect). He does so repeatedly and often and it is sound advice. Applying for a card or two and subsequently cancelling other cards will ding your credit score a bit, but if you have long term credit, keep your balances low, your payments on time, you shouldn’t be in danger of slipping below 750 in FICO. If you are – figure out why and fix it.

    I could not disagree more strongly with your analysis. I am a professional in the field of financial advice.

    Also, one last comment Justin if you use acronyms please explain them unless they are very well understood by the reader. KWIM?

    • Thanks for the support and inside information!!

      • I may have been too rash in my earlier post. I apologize for that. Just because something isn’t illegal does not mean you won’t bring problems on yourself when you are pushing thousands through cards and do not have the revenue to support it. That makes the irs and banking institutions interested in you. I was wrong to say it was illegal. Unethical May be a better word.

        With that said, I use a great many of the techniques I have learned here and have been hugely successful earning points and miles. I value noob traveler immensely for both inside knowledge and support for my questions. I mean to only caution people on going overboard. View the ms threads on flyertalk and make sure you know the ins and outs before attempting large ms strategies.

        My post came off a little scathing and I certainly wasn’t intending that. From personal experience I have been escorted out of staples, publix, and walmart for attempting too much ms. Did I get anything more than embarrassed? Nope

        However I have been questioned by IRS on spending on my business card because my bank reported the 40 or 50k I was pushing though my bank account. My bad I didn’t know what I was doing and didn’t go about it the right way. I ended up having to float 15k for 90 days while I waited for my account to be unfrozen. There are a lot of noobs out there and Jump in without reading all the material noob traveler has to offer because they only read the 1 post. It’s not noob travelers problem but I don’t want someone getting in financial straits because they didn’t understand the game. I’m sure noob traveler doesn’t either.

  2. Thanks got it! Responded to your email.

  3. Thanks for the comparison. I just applied for the Sapphire Preferred over the United card. There are just too many options with Ultimate Rewards points.

  4. Out of curiosity….I have the United Mileage Plus, and have had it for several years. Racked up some points, gotten a couple free flights. Lots of free checked bags – this is where my question lies…

    I just applied for the Sapphire Preferred – hoping that means I’ll get 40k in points as well.
    If I book a flight thru the Sapphire Card, do I still qualify for the perks that the Mileage Plus card gives me (early boarding, free checked bag?) – are the perks linked to me and my United Account, or directly to the card that purchased the ticket?

    Thanks for the wonderful round up above! Makes me feel good about trying out the new card!

    • I’m glad you liked the review and thanks for tuning into the site! You will definitely receive the sign-up bonus on the Sapphire Preferred even though you hold the United MileagePlus Explorer card. You will need to purchase your tickets or pay for the taxes on an award booking with your United card to receive its benefits.

  5. I have both cards, as I have to use the Explorer when making reservations with United in order to avoid paying for baggage.
    If I use Biz Ink to make the reservation, will I be exempt from baggage fees?

  6. Thanks for the great comparison! for the United Milage Plus, what does “free first checked bag” refer to? The first bag you check when flying each year? First bag if you’re traveling with someone who wants to check their bag, or something else?

  7. My United mileage plus explorer card is in my wife’s name. When I used this card for a recent trip I did not get the first baggage free. Since I had to it was $35 and $25 charge for $60 one-way. United explore said the tickets had to be made in the primary holder which was my wife. Since she did not travel I did not get the baggage fee free. This seems to be a mark against United explore.

  8. I am on the fence about buying an airline credit card or the Chase Sapphire Card. After reading this review, I think the Chase Sapphire card has a few more perks. However, I am not a big spender but I know the Chase Sapphire card will give me more for my purchases. In order to receive the free baggages, does the purchase of the tickets have to be through the United MileagePlus card? And if so, can the rewards accumulated on the Chase Sapphire card transfer over to receive free packaging? Thank you for the wonderful review!

    • Yes, you must purchases the tickets or pay for the award fees with your United card to receive free bags. And yes, you can use your Sapphire Preferred for statement credits to cover any purchases. I hope this helps and thanks for the support if you if apply through the blog!

  9. Thanks for the informative blog! I have been United Mileage user for over 10 years using United mileage regular card. Now I am thinking of upgrading either Sapphire or United Mileage business card (yes I am a small business owner), and I make international trips at least once a year. That case, I usually use ANA’s flight. If I redeem mileage flight through Sapphire, can I still reserve ANA’s flight via United mileage program? My question is if I can redeem Star Alliance members’ flight (not United) using Sapphire card??

    • Yes, you can. You will transfer your Chase Sapphire Preferred Ultimate Rewards points to United. Once they are in the United MileagePlus program – you will be able to use them for any Star Alliance flight.

  10. Hii so I think this article needs to be updated. The United Mileage Plus explorer card now offers 50,000 bonus miles after spending $2,000 within the first 3 months….. i am torn. Help please! I’m debating between the Sapphire Preferred or the United.

    • You should get the Sapphire Preferred since you can transfer UR points out to United, and many other travel partners. Only get the United card if you fly United frequently.

  11. I have the Sapphire Card, but live in Central America and must fly United frequently. Now that United has started charging for all luggage, and the United Rewards would allow for the first bag free for my whole family, it looks appealing. Any updated advice?

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