United Quest versus United Explorer: How to decide which Chase United credit card is best for you

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  • Chase recently introduced the New United Quest℠ Card, with a big welcome bonus and excellent perks.
  • The United℠ Explorer Card has a lower annual fee and many of the same benefits.
  • The best card for you depends on how you value the welcome bonus and which perks you’ll use.
  • Read Insider’s guide to the best airline credit cards.

Chase offers a number of personal and small-business United credit cards, and the most recent addition to its line-up — the New United Quest℠ Card — is an excellent choice if you fly United, even just a few times a year. It’s offering an eye-popping 80,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open, plus an additional 20,000 bonus miles after you spend $10,000 in the first 6 months.

The New United Quest℠ Card comes with an array of perks that can more than offset the card’s $250 annual fee. That hefty upfront cost might be a turn-off at first glance, but if you can maximize the card’s benefits, like a free first and second checked bag and United statement credits, it’s worth it.

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If you’re not sure you want to commit to such a high annual fee, there’s an alternative: The United℠ Explorer Card is a long-time favorite of United flyers, and with an annual fee of $95, waived the first year, it offers many of the same benefits as its pricier sibling. You can earn 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open, plus 25,000 bonus miles after you spend $10,000 in the first 6 months, and you’ll still get perks like a free first checked bag on United flights and valuable travel and purchase protections.

Chase United Explorer and United Quest sign-up bonuses

  • United℠ Explorer Card: Earn 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open, plus 25,000 bonus miles after you spend $10,000 in the first 6 months
  • New United Quest℠ Card: Earn 80,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open, plus an additional 20,000 bonus miles after you spend $10,000 in the first 6 months

If you’re trying to choose between the New United Quest℠ Card and United℠ Explorer Card, you’ll want to look at a few factors:

  • How much do you value the higher welcome bonus on the New United Quest℠ Card?
  • Will you make use of extra benefits like a second free checked bag and award flight rebates that the United℠ Explorer Card doesn’t offer?
  • Do your spending habits match the bonus categories more closely on one card rather than the other?
  • Will you spend at least $125 on United airfare or incidental fees to take advantage of the statement credits on the New United Quest℠ Card?

Here’s what to know to help you make your decision.

We’re focused here on the rewards and perks that come with each card. These cards won’t be worth it if you’re paying interest or late fees. When using a credit card, it’s important to pay your balance in full each month, make payments on time, and only spend what you can afford to pay.

Comparison: Chase United Explorer vs United Quest 

 

United℠ Explorer Card

New United Quest℠ Card
Annual fee

$95, waived the first year

$250
Welcome bonus

40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open, plus 25,000 bonus miles after you spend $10,000 in the first 6 months

80,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open, plus an additional 20,000 bonus miles after you spend $10,000 in the first 6 months
Rewards rate

2x miles on eligible United purchases

2x miles on dining

2x miles on hotel stays booked directly with the hotel

1 mile per dollar on everything else

3x miles on eligible United purchases (after earning the $125 United credit)

2x miles on travel

2x miles on dining

2x miles on streaming services

1 mile per dollar on everything else

United benefits

Free first checked bag

Priority boarding

25% back on inflight purchases

Two one-time United Club passes per anniversary year

Complimentary Premier Upgrades on award tickets (when available) for Premier members on eligible domestic United-operated flights (primary cardholder only)

Expanded United award availability (no blackout dates)

500 Premier Qualifying Points (PQP) for every $12,000 spent on purchases with the card, up to 3,000 PQP per calendar year

Free first and second checked bags

Priority boarding

25% back on inflight purchases

5,000-mile award flight rebate twice a year starting on your first anniversary

Complimentary Premier Upgrades on award tickets (when available) for Premier members on eligible domestic United-operated flights (primary cardholder only)

Expanded United award availability (no blackout dates)

500 Premier Qualifying Points (PQP) for every $12,000 spent on purchases with the card, up to 3,000 PQP per calendar year

Statement creditsUp to $100 every four years toward the Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee

Up to $125 per year in statement credits toward United purchases

Up to $100 every four years toward the Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee

Travel and purchase benefits

Primary car rental insurance 

Trip cancellation/interruption insurance

Trip delay reimbursement

Baggage delay insurance

Lost luggage reimbursement

Travel accident insurance Purchase protection

Extended warranty protection

Primary car rental insurance 

Trip cancellation/interruption insurance

Trip delay reimbursement

Baggage delay insurance

Lost luggage reimbursement

Travel accident insurance Purchase protection

Extended warranty protection

Foreign transaction fee

No

No
Review

United Explorer card review

United Quest card review

United Quest and United Explorer sign-up bonuses

United℠ Explorer Card

Chase United℠ Explorer CardChase New United Quest℠ Card

The New United Quest℠ Card offers the potential to earn up to 100,000 miles: 80,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open, plus an additional 20,000 bonus miles after you spend $10,000 in the first 6 months. The United℠ Explorer Card comes with a smaller (but not insignificant) bonus of up to 65,000 miles: 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open, plus 25,000 bonus miles after you spend $10,000 in the first 6 months. 

United miles are worth 1.3 cents apiece on average, based on Insider’s latest points and miles valuations. So you can expect to get around $1,300 in United flights if you unlock the full 100,000-mile bonus on the New United Quest℠ Card, and about $845 from the 65,000-mile bonus on the United℠ Explorer Card.

Find out more about how Insider calculated the value of points and miles here»

If you’re stockpiling United miles for a specific redemption, the higher bonus on the New United Quest℠ Card might make the most sense for you, even with the higher annual fee. United miles don’t expire, so even if you don’t have immediate travel plans, earning more miles now can put you in a great position to book award flights when you decide you’re ready to hit the skies again.

United Quest and Explorer earning rates

If your goal is to earn lots of United miles from your everyday purchases, the right card for you may be the one with bonus categories that best align with your spending habits.

You’ll have a higher (and broader) earning potential with the New United Quest℠ Card — it earns 3x miles on United purchases (after earning the $125 United credit) and 2x miles on all other eligible travel purchases (things like airfare, hotels, car rentals, and more). You’ll also earn 2x miles on dining and 2x miles on eligible streaming services. 

The United℠ Explorer Card only earns 2x miles on United purchases, and earns the same 2x miles on dining, as well as hotel stays booked directly with the property. If you spend a lot on United airfare (or on travel in general), you’ll earn more miles with the New United Quest℠ Card.

Comparing United card benefits 

As you might expect from a card with a higher annual fee, the New United Quest℠ Card comes with benefits you won’t find on the United℠ Explorer Card, including:

  • A free first and second checked bag on United flights for yourself and one companion on the same reservation when you use the card to pay for your ticket (worth $35 and $45 each time) — the United℠ Explorer Card only offers a free first checked bag
  • Up to $125 a year in statement credits toward United purchases (like airfare and incidental fees)
  • A 5,000-mile award flight credit, up to twice a year (10,000 miles total), starting on your first card anniversary (worth about $130 in United flights, based on Insider’s valuations)
  • 500 Premier Qualifying Points (PQP) for every $12,000 spent on purchases with the card, up to 3,000 PQP per calendar year (the United℠ Explorer Card maxes out at up to 1,000 PQP per year)

There’s one perk offered by the United℠ Explorer Card that isn’t included on the New United Quest℠ Card: Each year, cardholders receive two one-time United Club airport lounge passes (worth $59 apiece).

Apart from these differences, you’ll get the same travel and purchase protections from both cards — so the best pick for you should be based on whether or not you can make the most of the perks unique to either card.

Benefits offered by both cards:

  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit
  • Priority boarding
  • Expanded United award availability
  • 25% back on United inflight purchases
  • Primary car rental insurance

  • Trip cancellation/interruption insurance

  • Trip delay reimbursement

  • Baggage delay insurance

  • Lost luggage reimbursement

  • Travel accident insurance

  • Purchase protection

  • Extended warranty protection

  • No foreign transaction fees

 

Here’s where you’ll have to run some numbers. The New United Quest℠ Card has a $250 annual fee, and it’s not waived the first year. Because you can get many of the same benefits with the United℠ Explorer Card (which has an annual fee of $95, waived the first year), you’ll essentially need to determine if the additional benefits on the New United Quest℠ Card are worth $250 to you in the first year.

If you spend at least $125 per year on United purchases, you’ll effectively reduce your annual fee to $125 — which is just $30 more than the annual fee on the United℠ Explorer Card (though that fee isn’t charged in year one). Beyond that, the biggest money-saving difference here is the checked bag benefit.

Both cards offer a first free checked bag (worth $35) for the cardholder and one companion on the same reservation — as long as you use the card to pay for your ticket (or the taxes and fees on an award ticket). Only the New United Quest℠ Card offers a second free checked bag, which would normally cost $45 per person. If you frequently check multiple bags and travel with a companion, the second checked bag benefit could be enough to offset the card’s annual fee in just a couple of trips.

One other perk to consider is the 5,000-mile award flight rebate, which doesn’t kick in until your first card anniversary. This benefit is only good if you have plans to redeem your miles for award tickets that include at least one United flight on the itinerary (so redeeming solely on partners won’t work), and keep in mind it’s only valid for the primary cardholder. You’ll have to look far ahead in your travel plans to decide if this benefit is worth anything for you.

Which United card is best for you?

For an average, infrequent United flyer, the United℠ Explorer Card is likely a better bet. It comes with a wide variety of United benefits, offers solid travel and purchase protections, has a decent earning rate, and waives the annual fee the first year. Because there’s no upfront cost in year one, it’s also a good pick if you’re just testing the waters to see if a United credit card is worth it for you.

The New United Quest℠ Card is the better choice if you know you’ll get at least $250 in value from the additional perks it offers. If you spend at least $125 on United purchases each year, you can effectively reduce your annual cost to $125 — then you’ll have to decide if you can get enough return from the card’s increased earning rates, mileage rebate, and second free checked bag benefit to make it worthwhile.

The United℠ Explorer Card card is better if you:

  • Don’t want to pay an annual fee the first year, and prefer a moderate annual fee beyond that
  • Don’t check more than one bag
  • Aren’t sure if you’ll spend $125 or more each year on United purchases
  • Can use two one-time United Club airport lounge passes each year

Choose the New United Quest℠ Card if you:

  • Spend $125 or more on United purchases each year
  • Frequently check two bags (or travel with a companion who checks two bags)
  • Can use the 5,000-mile award flight credits after the first year
  • Want to earn more United miles and the card’s bonus categories match your spending 

Jasmin Baron is an associate editor at Personal Finance Insider, where she helps readers maximize rewards and find the best credit cards to fit their lifestyles. She has covered credit cards, points and miles, and loyalty programs for over seven years, and she’s a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF).

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Please note: While the offers mentioned above are accurate at the time of publication, they’re subject to change at any time and may have changed, or may no longer be available.

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