Update, 02/27: It’s worth making an update to this post to note that if you use United.com’s “Remember Me” button it can cause your award searches to exclude your expanded availability.
You must be logged into your mileage account to have access to expanded award availability. If you check the “remember me” option it will look just like you are logged in, but after a short period of time it will stop searching for expanded awards.
I was searching for an award flight to Tel Aviv on 01/25/14 while logged into my account with “Remember Me” and got this goose egg:
However after logging out and back in again that same search came up with award seats:
Using expert mode (as described in the original post below) you can see exactly what’s going on:
There are no award seats available for non cardholders (X class) but there are at least 9 award seats available for cardholders (XN class).
Same thing happened when I searched yesterday for an award from Cleveland to Fort Lauderdale for Pesach and expert mode shows why, 3 seats available just for cardholders or elites who are logged in without remember me:
Moral of the story is simple, don’t have United.com remember you if you have elite status or a United credit card.
Originally posted on 01/15/14:
The Chase United Explorer card and the United Club card are the only currently available credit cards that gives you access to expanded award ticket availability.
It also is one of the only cards that comes with primary rental car CDW insurance. Almost every other card only has secondary coverage when you rent a car in your home country. This means that if you damage your rental vehicle you must file the claim with your own personal insurance policy first, and only if they won’t cover the damage will the credit card cover the damage. Even additional cardholders get primary coverage when they rent.
With primary rental car CDW insurance you will not have to file anything with your own insurance company. Chase will cover the entire bill for any damage to your rental car. Just be sure to decline the rental agency’s CDW coverage. This primary coverage applies in every country in the world. The Sapphire Preferred is what I use in Israel and other foreign countries, but that’s just because of the 2.14 points per dollar it awards on car rentals. In the US the United card is the way to go.
How do you find expanded award availability? All you need to do is login to your United.com account before you search for award flights.
How do you know if your card is properly linked to your account? Just login on United.com and then hover over the words “Mileage Expiration”
If your card isn’t properly linked then you will see the following message that your miles will expire if you don’t have activity every 18 months:
Expanded saver coach example:
When logged into an account with a United Explorer card there is 40K saver award space from Newark to Tel Aviv on November 23, 25, and 30:
When not logged in or when logged into an account without a credit card or elite status there is no space on any of those dates.
Just how much space is there? Using this link you can click the box to enable United.com expert mode.
After enabling expert mode you can search for a paid flight from Newark to Tel Aviv on 11/23 and then click on “fare class” which will bring up the available cabins box:
Everything in that alphabet soup stands for important stuff but all we care about right now is XN and X class availability. There are at least 9 XN seats, meaning there are at least 9 saver award seats available to someone who has a United Explorer card or who has United elite status. It never shows more than 9, so 9 means 9 or more.
There are 0 X seats, meaning that if you don’t have a United credit card and want a seat on that flight you would have to book a standard award for 75K miles. Those 75K coach standard seats actually come out of the HN bucket for non-cardholders, so there are at least 9 of those.
Expanded standard coach and business example:
When logged into an account with a United Explorer card there is 75K coach standard award space and 150K business standard award space from Newark to Tel Aviv on the red-eye flight on 04/12. This is an extremely popular flight for people flying to Israel for Pesach.
When not logged in or when logged into an account without a credit card or elite status there isn’t even standard award space available for that flight. The flight doesn’t even show up when performing an award search from such an account.
How many seats are available for cardholders and elites?
HN class is standard coach availability for non-cardholders, no seats there. ZN is standard business availability for non-cardholders, no seats there either.
YN is standard coach availability for cardholders and elites, at least 9 seats there. JN is standard business availability for cardholders and elites, at least 9 seats there. In fact as long as there is a seat on the plane you can use the standard mileage award for get it if you are a cardholder.
Expanded saver business example:
Only United Platinum, 1K, and Global Services elites have access to expanded business class award availability (IN class as shown in expert mode).
As United cardholders have more coach saver award space available they will automatically have more business saver award space as well thanks to Plan B.
Other card benefits:
Besides for the signup bonus of 30K miles for spending $1,000 and another 5K miles for adding a free authorized user, the primary CDW insurance, and the expanded award space, there are other nice benefits of the Explorer card:
-First checked bag free.
-Priority boarding so that you’ll have space for your carry-ons.
-No foreign transaction fees.
-2 free United passes per year.
-10K mileage bonus every year that you spend $25K, a 40% mileage bonus which means you’ll have earned 1.4 miles per dollar everywhere. Spending $25K in a year also waives the requirement to spend $2.5K on United flights to get Silver status, $5K on United flights to get Gold status, and $7.5K on United flights to get Platinum status. You only need to fly the 25K, 50K, or 75K miles like in the good old days.
-Double miles on United purchases.
-Elite members can get upgrades on coach award tickets on upgrade eligible routes if they have a United card.
-Miles don’t expire as long as you are a cardholder.
The $95 annual fee is waived for the first year.
-You can also get the business version of the Chase United Explorer card. Just click on “Are you a business owner” in the top-right of the Explorer card link.
-Want a 2nd free bag, a 50% mileage bonus per dollar spent everywhere, United club access for you and your entire family, post-security terminal access without a ticket, priority baggage handling and priority security access, and waived award expedite fees? The United Club card comes with all of that. Just click on the MileagePlus Club tab at the top of the Explorer card link.
Other Chase consumer cards you can get at the time as the United card include the Chase Sapphire Preferred (40K signup points plus another 5K points for adding a free additional user, no fee the first year, plus 2.14 points per dollar on travel and dining with no Foreign Exchange fees), Chase Southwest (50K signup points), Chase British Airways (50K signup points and 10% off BA flights), and Chase Freedom (which gives 5 points per dollar in rotating categories and 10% bonus points if you have a Chase checking account).
The Chase Ink Plus and Chase Ink Bold business cards both give 50,000 signup points and offer 5 points per dollar on telecom, cable, and office supply stores, 2 points per dollar for gas and lodging, no foreign exchange fees, free lounge visits, and a waived annual fee for the first year.