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For frequent flyers on United Airlines who enjoy escaping the hubbub and congestion of the airport terminal, the United MileagePlus® Club Card allows access to the carrier’s exclusive lounges that can provide an oasis in a land of travel stress.
The card also provides accelerated rewards on everyday spending, making it more useful as a top-of-wallet card than some airline cards.
But that premium experience comes at a premium cost annually: $450 (This offer is no longer valid on our site).
The card is chock-full of features and perks, but ultimately the decision comes down to whether you want unlimited United Club℠ access, something no other credit card can provide.
United MileagePlus® Club Card: Benefits and basics
- United Club℠ membership
- Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on tickets purchased from United
- Earn 1.5 miles per $1 spent on all other purchases
- Annual fee of $450 (This offer is no longer valid on our site)
- Sign-up bonus: Earn 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. (This offer is no longer valid on our site)
- First and second checked bag free
- Premier Access travel services
- No foreign transaction fees
- APR: The ongoing APR is 16.99% - 23.99% Variable APR
United Club℠ membership
A regular membership to United Club℠ airport lounges generally costs $550 per year, with a $50 initiation fee. So if you’ll join the airport lounge, it’s a no-brainer to get the credit card instead and save money.
Membership offers access to more than 45 United Club℠ locations as of October 2017 and airport clubs of participating partners in the Star Alliance airline group. United Club℠ one-time passes cost $59. So, based on lounge visits alone, you’ll need to enter the club more than seven times to break even on the credit card’s annual fee.
In the lounges, many of which have been renovated in recent years, you’ll generally find bar service, light snacks, free Wi-Fi, and usually quieter and more comfortable surroundings than an airport gate.
United Club℠ members can bring along their spouse and dependent children under age 21, or up to two guests, according to membership rules. Authorized users do not receive their own United Club℠ membership and are eligible for access only if they are traveling with the primary cardmember.
Earnings on everyday spending
At 1.5 miles per $1 spent on non-United purchases, the card’s everyday earnings are on par with decent flat-rate cards and more generous than some other co-branded airline cards. NerdWallet values United MileagePlus miles at 1 cent per mile on average, though miles can be worth more or less depending on how they’re redeemed. However, spending on the card does not earn progress toward elite-flyer status on the airline like other premium airline cards offer.
The top-tier United Airlines card gives you and your companions on the same reservation more than priority boarding. It comes with Premier Access, a type of elite status that includes priority airport check-in, security screening (where available), boarding and baggage handling.
The card includes numerous other benefits, such as primary rental car coverage, no fees for close-in award booking (a savings of up to $75), perks at some hotels and resorts, and additional benefits at Hyatt hotels and Hertz rental cars.
United MileagePlus® Club Card: Pitfalls and other possibilities
The most obvious drawback is the card’s hefty annual fee of $450 (This offer is no longer valid on our site). However, the fee is on par with other premium cards, including airline cards that offer airport lounge access.
Free checked bag allowance
The primary cardmember and one traveling companion on the same reservation are each eligible to receive their first checked bag free, worth $25, and a second checked bag, a $35 value. Two checked bags each is nice and might suffice for many trips, but many other airlines offer a free checked bag for far more travel companions. For example, American Airlines’ comparable card, Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®, offers a free checked bag for the cardholder plus eight companions, potentially worth $450 roundtrip. And Delta Air Lines’ lower-tier card, the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express, also offers free checked bags for a total of nine travel partners.
No reimbursement for Federal expedited security
The card might get you quicker security screening at some airports via its Premier Access, but it offers no reimbursement for application fees to federal trusted-traveler programs Global Entry or TSA Precheck like many competing cards do.
For United loyalists, the other choices among consumer cards are the United℠ Explorer Card and United℠ TravelBank Card, which offer lesser rewards and perks without the big fee and without unlimited airport lounge access.
Here’s how the United Airlines consumer cards compare on key features:
|United MileagePlus® Club Card||United℠ Explorer Card||United℠ TravelBank Card|
|Annual fee||$450 (This offer is no longer valid on our site)||$0 for the first year, then $95||$0 (This offer is no longer valid on our site)|
|United Club℠ access||Unlimited||Two passes annually||None|
|Checked bags||2 free checked bags for you and a companion||1 free checked bag for you and a companion||No|
|Rewards currency||MileagePlus miles||MileagePlus miles||TravelBank cash|
|Rewards rate||2 miles per dollar spent on ticket purchases from United and 1.5 miles per dollar on everything else||2 miles per dollar spent on ticket purchases from United, restaurants and hotels, and 1 mile per dollar on everything else||2% back in TravelBank cash per dollar spent on ticket purchases from United and 1.5% back on everything else|
|Sign-up bonus||Earn 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. (This offer is no longer valid on our site)||40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open plus $100 statement credit after your first purchase||$150 in TravelBank cash after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. (This offer is no longer valid on our site)|
If you mix your flying with other airlines, a general travel card might be a better fit. For those looking for premium perks, good choices include:
If you mostly fly a different network airline, its own premium card with airport lounge access would be a better fit. For example, American Airlines flyers wanting access to the airline’s Admirals Clubs have a good choice in the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®.
Is the United MileagePlus® Club Card right for you?
Frequent flyers on United Airlines have one overriding reason to get the United MileagePlus® Club Card: United Club℠ airport lounge access. It’s an easy decision to forgo the stand-alone club membership, which is more expensive, and instead get the card, which carries the same benefits. You’ll also get some enhanced perks over the lower-fee United co-branded card. If United isn’t your go-to airline, a general travel card — some of which have premium features and similar fees — might suit you better.
Top image courtesy of United.