Yesterday, Chase unveiled its new United “Mileage Plus Explorer” credit card, which will replace the current Chase Continental and United credit cards.
The sign-up bonus is not all that exciting: 25K miles after your first purchase, 5K for adding an authorized user, and 10K for spending at least $25,000. You will earn one mile for every dollar spent on most purchases and two miles per dollar on United/Continental purchases.
The card comes with other perks as well, including two Red Carpet Club passes and one free piece of checked baggage for you and a companion. If you are traveling on United or Continental without elite and status and checking bags, this alone makes the card worthwhile.
Your miles will no longer expire if you hold this card, even without any account activity. Members of Mileage Plus who are sitting on a big bank of miles but don’t travel much anymore might find this perk worth the $95 annual fee, which is waived during the fist year.
Chase also advertises that card members will enjoy priority boarding behind elites but ahead of general boarding. I am not convinced UA gate agents will start performing card checks when “Mileage Plus Explorer” members are invited to board…
Then there were a couple change buried deep in the fine print that Gary picked up on that signify a notable shift in the Mileage Plus program:
- Upgrades on Reward tickets for Elites. Unlimited domestic upgrade benefits apply the same to award tickets as to purchased tickets “beginning in early 2012″ for those elite members with the card. Presumably for upgrade prioritization, award tickets will be treated as the lowest fare class, so Premier Executives on award tickets will be below Premier Executives on paid tickets but about Premier members.
- Last seat availability on standard awards will be restricted to elite members and cardholders. This is a huge break in the value proposition of the program — previously any Mileage Plus member willing to spend enough miles could have a seat on any United flight. That is no longer true. Following the Continental model where only their elite members had true last seat availability for additional miles, the combined program will offer this only to their own elites and now also to cardholders. Everyone else will have additional inventory for more miles, but not any seat on any flight.
Is that enough to make me sign-up for the card? Yes. I have travelled on economy class award tickets before—if I need a last minute ticket and revenue prices are sky high, I do not have a problem with burning 10-12.5K miles for a o/w award. The incentive that my award ticket can now be upgraded (and the fact that as a 1K I will still enjoy high priority on the upgrade list) makes it even more likely I will redeem miles for high-priced trips in the U.S. and Canada. I have a feeling, though, that this benefit will be made available to all elites and not just elite cardholders once the OnePass and Mileage Plus programs are combined next year.
If you are interested in signing up for the new card, you can do so here.
(tip of the hat to Gary)