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

Best Sign-Up Bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred or United Explorer Card?

The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card has a sign-up bonus of 80,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. The 80,000 Ultimate Rewards points are worth $800 in cash, or at least $1000 in travel redeemed through the Chase portal. The ability to transfer points on a 1:1 basis makes this card one of the best rewards credit cards 2020

The United Explorer Card has a sign-up offer of 40,000 United miles after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months after your account is open. United credit cards come with United specific options to earn more points as well. 

For those of you who have had one of these travel cards before, the application terms from the 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.

Also, Chase will likely not approve your application if you have applied for 5+ credit cards in the last 24 months too.

United waives the $95 annual fee the first year. The Sapphire Preferred does not.

Winner: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Best Spending Benefits: Chase Sapphire Preferred vs United Explorer Card?

The United Explorer Card gives you 2x miles per $1 on restaurants, hotel accommodations booked directly through the hotel, and United purchases including tickets, food, Wi-Fi, and beverages. You’ll earn 1x mile per $1 spent on all other purchases. You also get 25% back as a statement credit on purchases of food, beverages and Wi-Fi onboard United-operated flights when you pay with your Explorer Card.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card gives you 2x Ultimate Rewards points per $1 on dining and travel, and 1x on all other purchases. Cardholders also get unlimited deliveries with no delivery fee and reduced service fees on orders over $12 for a minimum of one year on qualifying food purchases with a DashPass subscription from DoorDash. This is worth over a $100 value. But, you must activate with your card by December 31, 2021. Also, cardholders earn 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022. That’s 3X points in addition to the 2X points you already earn on travel.

Even though you can earn United miles, 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: Chase Sapphire Preferred vs United Explorer Card?

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card has no foreign transaction fees, is chip & signature enabled, comes with primary CDW on car rentals, $10,000 trip cancellation/insurance, 1:1 point transfers to 13 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.

United does have options for some of the best credit cards for miles in 2020. The United℠ Explorer Card comes with two United Club one-time passes annually, free first checked bag, up to $100 Global Entry or TSA Pre✓® fee credit, priority boarding, primary CDW on car rentals, and no fees on foreign transactions. 

Both of these cards have Visa Signature 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 of perks and easily justifies the annual fee. The Chase 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 (Unless you primarily fly United) 

Best Points System: Ultimate Rewards or MileagePlus?

Ok, on to the points.

United MileagePlus Miles

The United℠ Explorer Card earns United Airlines 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 in a premium cabin to Europe on United metal is a cheaper option. It starts at 115,000 in business class, and 160,000 in first-class round-trip. The price for international economy tickets on United and their partners stayed the same. Those began at 60,000 miles round-trip (which can basically get you to Europe and back in economy…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.

Learn more: Best United Credit Cards

Chase Ultimate Rewards Points

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card earns Ultimate Rewards points that can be transferred out to 13 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, United, and Singapore Air.

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. This is even though you’re paying with points. That means 80,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points are at the very least worth $1000 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. This is especially because United is one of the transfer partners.

Winner: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

I used my points from the best travel credit cards to fly first class
Lufthansa A380 first class can be booked through United with Chase Ultimate Rewards points.

Conclusion: Chase Sapphire Preferred vs United Explorer Card

Overall, I think the Chase Sapphire Preferred is a better daily rewards card, and consider the points more valuable. The Chase Sapphire Preferred 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® Card and United℠ Explorer Card rewards cards.

If you’re still not sure but want to earn points and miles, there are other options. For instance, check out our comparison of the Chase Sapphire Preferred vs Capital One Venture. Both of these travel credit cards are powerhouses in the travel rewards category.

Johnny Jet Editorial

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide, eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on orders over $12 for a minimum of one year on qualifying food purchases with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Earn 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022. That’s 3X points in addition to the 2X points you already earn on travel.

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15 Comments On "Chase Sapphire Preferred vs United Explorer Card Review 2020"
  1. Bryan|

    Can one apply for both and get the bonus for both?

    1. Johnny Jet Editorial|

      Yes, as long as you qualify since they are separate products.

  2. Alma|

    I have miles on my United Explorer card. If I get the Sapphire Chase card can transfer points into my United account at no cost and would they just be added to my total in my united account? I don’t want to loose my miles on United. Or would it be better to apply for a united business card instead, $95 fee, 50,000 bonus miles after $5000 spent in 3 months.

    1. Johnny Jet Editorial|

      Yes, you can transfer Chase Sapphire Preferred points to your United account at 1:1 ratio instantly. The Sapphire is a better option since it has a bigger sign-up bonus, and the flexibility to transfer out to other travel partners.

    2. Johnny Jet Editorial|

      Yes, you can transfer your Sapphire Preferred points to your United account instantly. I would recommend the Sapphire Preferred over the United biz card because of point flexibility and better spending perks.

  3. Tiffany|

    Hi there Johnny Jet. I recently found your site and appreciate your insightful travel info. I have another question to add to this thread. I have the United Explorer card and received the sign-up bonus. I am looking to apply for the Sapphire Preferred card, as well. I will be spending approx $4000+ in the next month or two on United flights. If I purchase the flights with the Sapphire Preferred card, that qualifies me for the 60000 points. However, I wondered if I would then lose out on the Explorer card travel benefits (ie: 25% back inflight purchase, free checked bags, priority boarding, lounge access, etc)? What are your thoughts on that? Thanks!!

    1. Johnny Jet Editorial|

      You must buy your flights with the United Explorer to receive free checked bags, etc. Hope this helps and thanks for tuning in to the blog!

  4. Ian|

    If I have both card, can I combine the points or does it have to be two separate points accounts basically? If I’m buying 2 tickets, but only have enough points on either to get on. Do I get them separately or can I combine the totals & get both together?

    1. Johnny Jet Editorial|

      You will have two accounts – 1 United and 1 Ultimate Rewards account. You can transfer your Ultimate Rewards to United instantly at a 1:1 ratio.

  5. Barry Cox|

    I have 300k plus Avios points with BA but find it impossible to use them to upgrade the cabin class.
    Can I book AA flights with cash and upgrades using Avios points?

    1. Johnny Jet Editorial|

      Unfortunately, that’s not possible. However, you can book premium cabin flights on AA metal with your Avios. Depending on your routing this can be a great option.

  6. Cynthia Joy|

    I have a United MileagePlus card with lots of miles and was considering switching to sapphire preferred and I too do not want to lose those miles. I’ve recently learned about the MileagePlus shopping portals where you can earn up to 4x and 5x miles per $1 spent on everyday online shopping. It has many of my favorite stores- except the main one I shop on the most- AMAZON!!! But then I researched the stores available on the Ultimate Rewards shopping portal and they DO have Amazon! Of course, you have to ha e a sapphire or ink card to get in and see what rewards ratios you can get on there, but it has peaked my interest. However, since I’ve had the United MileagePlus card so long, and have finally become accustomed to redeeming my miles for travel, I find all the talk about “instant transfers” confusing. I’m wondering if I might end up regretting it if I switched, but sapphire cards offer southwest and Hawaiian and the online shopping points in Amazon- which I like! Ugghhhh. My head DOES hurt!!!

    1. Johnny Jet Editorial|

      Hey Cynthia, The Sapphire Preferred offers more flexibility than the United card. Transfers from you Sapphire to United MileagePlus are instant and very easy to do on Chase’s website. Also, as you mentioned the Ultimate Rewards shopping portal has some better options too. I don’t think you will regret a move to the Sapphire Preferred. Hope this helps!

  7. Cynthia Joy|

    Thank you for the feedback Johnny. Yes, after researching more, I’m increasingly interested in the Sapphire cards.

    1. Johnny Jet Editorial|

      Happy to help!

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