United Quest Card vs United Explorer Card: Which One is Better?

by joeheg

When it comes to the line of United MileagePlus co-brand credit cards from Chase, the names are a little confusing. The entry-level card (which I’ll call the “gold” level) is the United Explorer Card. The next step up, which I’d consider the “platinum” level, is the United Quest Card. I know, not the catchiest name nor does it tell anything about the card. At least United isn’t Marriott Bonvoy and at least they make the names easy to differentiate from one another.

So what benefits does United add to the Quest Card to make it better than the Explorer?

United Quest Card

Annual Fee

The United Quest Card has a $250 annual fee.

Sign Up Benefits

If you’ve signed up for several new credit cards in the last 2 years, this card is subject to Chase’s 5/24 rule (to learn more about that, check out this list of 8 commonly heard questions regarding the 5/24 rule).

You also must not have received a new card member bonus for this credit card within the last 24 months. Fortunately, that means getting a bonus for the United Explorer card doesn’t exclude earning the bonus for the Quest card.

There is a limited-time offer for this card which provides 70,000 United MileagePlus Miles and 500 PQP after spending $4,000 on qualifying purchases in the first three months of opening an account. The offer ends on January 24, 2024.

Spending Bonus Categories

The United Quest Card earns 3X points for airline tickets purchased from United, and on the following purchases made from United: seat upgrades; Economy Plus; inflight food, beverages and Wi-Fi; baggage service charges or other United fees on tickets purchased from United. You’ll also earn 3X points on United Card Events from Chase.

You earn 2X points for the following categories:

  • Charges at restaurants and food delivery services
  • All other travel expenses, including airfare, trains, local transit, cruise lines, hotels, car rentals, taxicabs, resorts, ride-share services and tolls
  • Select streaming services

All other purchases earn 1 point per dollar spent.

$125 Annual United Purchase Credit

Cardholders will receive a $125 statement credit for qualifying United purchases. The credit resets yearly on the anniversary date. The categories match those that earn 3X bonus points with the card. You will not earn any points for charges reimbursed by statement credit.

Anniversary Award Flight Credit

After the first anniversary date, cardholders will receive two 5,000-mile award flight credits which will be deposited after completing an award flight. To be eligible, the flight must include at least one United or United Express-operated flight and include the primary cardholder on the reservation.

Earn Extra PQP towards MileagePlus Premier status

You’ll earn an additional 500 Premier Qualifying Points (PQP) for every $12,000 you spend on the Quest card up to a maximum of 6,000 PQP per calendar year.

Global Entry, TSA Pre, or NEXUS Credit

Cardholders get a statement credit of up to $100 once every four years to reimburse the application fee for either program when the fee is charged to the Quest card. This is one of the only cards which includes NEXUS payment as a reimbursable expense.

No Foreign Transaction Fees 

As you would hope a card used on United flights worldwide would, the United Quest Card doesn’t charge any foreign transaction fees.

Priority Boarding

The primary cardmember and companions on the same reservation will be invited to board United-operated flights before general boarding, after MileagePlus Premier members, customers with Premier Access and travelers requiring special assistance.

According to the United boarding process, Quest cardholders board with Group 2, along with Star Alliance Silver members. This advanced boarding sounds great, but at least eight other groups board before Group 2. If you book a basic economy ticket on United (which I wouldn’t even do on United), having the credit card will allow you to boarding earlier and bring a bag for the overhead on the plane.

Free Checked Bags

The primary cardholder and one traveling companion on the same reservation are each eligible to receive their first AND SECOND standard checked bag for free. There are some restrictions on this benefit that need to be followed.

To receive first and second standard checked bags free, the primary Cardmember must include their MileagePlus® number in their reservation and use their United Quest Card to purchase their ticket(s). First and second standard checked bags free is only available on United- and United Express-operated flights.

Unlike other co-brand cards, you do have to pay for your ticket with the United Quest card to get the free bags benefit.

25% Back On In-Flight Food, Beverage & Wi-Fi and United Club Beverage Savings 

Cardmembers receive 25% back as a statement credit on purchases of food, beverages and Wi-Fi onboard United-operated flights, Wi-Fi subscription purchases and United Club premium drink purchases when paying with your Quest Card.

Expanded Award Availability

This is an often-overlooked perk of having a United co-brand credit card.

As long as tickets are still available for sale for the applicable cabin on any United-operated flight, MileagePlus members can use miles to book award travel on such flight.

If you’re searching for award seats using your United miles, just having this card will open up access to flights that would be otherwise unavailable with points. Award pricing is higher for these tickets but if cash prices are astronomical, using some miles to get that “gotta-have-it” ticket can be invaluable.

Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver

If you decline the rental company’s collision insurance and charge the entire rental cost to your Card. Coverage is primary and provides reimbursement up to the vehicle’s actual cash value for theft and collision damage for most rental cars in the U.S. and abroad.

This PRIMARY coverage is a HUGE benefit and something most other cards don’t offer. Primary coverage means you don’t have to report the damage to a rental car to your insurance company, so if you get into an accident, the card will cover you.

Travel Coverages 

  • Baggage Delay (6 hours) – $100/day x 3 days
  • Lost Luggage –  $3,000
  • Trip Cancellation/Interruption – $1,500 per person and $6,000 trip
  • Trip Delay  (12 hours or overnight) – $500 per ticket

Purchase Protections

  • Purchase protection (120 days)  – $10,000 per claim, $50,000 per year
  • Extended Warranty – Additional warranty for 1 year on eligible warranties of 3 years or less.

Final Thoughts

The big question is whether the United Quest Card is worth the extra $155 compared to the United Explorer. If you regularly fly on United, redeeming the $125 United purchase credit should be easy, and I’ll give it full value. That means you’ll have to get an additional $30 worth of value.

If you ever check a second bag, that’s your money back and then some. The same if you’re able to get the 5,000 miles back for award flights.

And with a 70,000-mile sign-up bonus, it’s hard to ignore that the United Quest Card is a good bet if you like to fly with United.

Want to comment on this post? Great! Read this first to help ensure it gets approved.

Want to sponsor a post, write something for Your Mileage May Vary, or put ads on our site? Click here for more info.

Like this post? Please share it! We have plenty more just like it and would love it if you decided to hang around and sign up to get emailed notifications of when we post.

Whether you’ve read our articles before or this is the first time you’re stopping by, we’re really glad you’re here and hope you come back to visit again!

This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary

1 comment

Eric December 1, 2023 - 2:39 pm

Question about the 5,000 mile rebate. I understand it’s only after the first account anniversary. But does that mean the *redemption* of miles has to happen after the anniversary, or just the travel for which miles were redeemed?

Example: I open the Quest card in January 2024. After achieving the sign-up bonus, sometime in, say, fall 2024 I book a trip with miles for summer 2025. That travel is after my January 2025 account anniversary; would I get the 5,000 mile rebate after that summer 2025 trip?


Leave a Comment