Editorial Review

United Club Credit Card Review: Worth It for Lounge Lovers

Get unlimited access to United's airport lounges for less than the price of a standalone membership, along with free checked bags and a very good rewards rate.

Gregory KarpMarch 18, 2019

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Our Take

3.7

NerdWallet rating 

The Bottom Line: If you consider lounge access a must-have and you frequently fly (and check bags on) United, then this card's jumbo annual fee can be a relative bargain. Occasional travelers should look elsewhere.

Chase United MileagePlus(R) Club Card Credit Card

United MileagePlus® Club Card

Annual Fee

$450

Regular APR

18.24% - 25.24% Variable APR

Intro APR

N/A

recommended credit score

Pros & Cons

Pros
  • High rewards rate

  • No foreign transaction fee

Cons
  • Has annual fee

  • High APR

Alternate Pick: Lower fee

United℠ Explorer Card

2 lounge visits a year for a lot less

Less-frequent United travelers should consider this option, which gives you a pair of one-time passes to the United Club each year plus a free checked bag for you and a traveling companion. You earn 2 miles per dollar on tickets purchased from United and 1 mile per dollar on everything else. There's a nice sign-up offer, too. Annual fee: $0 for the first year, then $95.

Read our review

Compare to Other Cards

Annual Fee

$550

Annual Fee

$95

Regular APR
Regular APR

18.24% - 25.24% Variable APR

Intro APR

N/A

Intro APR

N/A

Recommended Credit Score
Recommended Credit Score

Full Review

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.

The card also provides accelerated rewards on everyday spending, making it more useful as a top-of-wallet card than some other airline cards.

But that premium experience comes at a premium cost annually: $450.

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: Basics

Card type: Airline.

Annual fee: $450.

Sign-up bonus: Earn 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

Ongoing rewards:

  • 2 miles per dollar spent on tickets purchased from United.

  • 1.5 miles per dollar on all other purchases.

Interest rate: The ongoing APR is 18.24% - 25.24% Variable APR.

Foreign transaction fee: None.

Perks:

  • United Club membership

  • First and second checked bags free for you and a companion on your reservation.

  • Premier Access travel services (see below).

Why you might want the United MileagePlus® Club Card

Lounge membership

A regular membership to United Club airport lounges generally costs $550 a year, with a $50 initiation fee. So if you’re planning on joining anyway, it’s a no-brainer to get the credit card instead and save money.

Membership offers access to more than 50 United Club locations at about 30 airports worldwide as of March 2019, as well to airport clubs of participating partners in the Star Alliance airline group. One-time passes to United Club lounges 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 adult guests, according to membership rules. Authorized users on a card account 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 many other co-branded airline cards, which often give you only 1 mile per dollar spent. NerdWallet values United MileagePlus miles at an average of 1.3 cents per mile for domestic travel and 3.3 cents for international, although 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.

ExTRA FREE BAGS AND PREMIER ACCESS

You and a companion traveling on your reservation can each get your first two checked bags free. The first bag typically costs $30; the second, $40. So this perk alone could save as much as $280 on single a round trip.

The top-tier United Airlines card also 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.

OTHER PERKS

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.

Why you might want a different card

ANNUAL FEE is high

The most obvious drawback is the card’s annual fee of $450. However, the fee is on par with other premium cards, including airline cards that offer airport lounge access.

lounge access might not be that important to you

United Club membership is the primary selling point of the United MileagePlus® Club Card. If you don't consider it all that important to park yourself in the lounge on every trip, take a look at this card's more basic sibling, the United℠ Explorer Card. It gives you two one-time United Club passes each year, along with a free checked bag for you and a companion, for an annual fee that's 79% lower when it takes effect: $0 for the first year, then $95. The sign-up bonus is smaller (but not 79% smaller): 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.

baggage benefit is Limited to 2 people

The primary cardmember and one traveling companion on the same reservation are each eligible to receive their first two checked bags free. 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, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®, offers a free checked bag for the cardholder plus eight companions, potentially worth $540 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 (terms apply).

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.

Other cards offer more flexibility

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 the Chase Sapphire Reserve® and the The Platinum Card® from American Express.

For a lower annual fee in a general travel card, check out the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card.

How the United cards stack up

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:

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.

Information related to the United MileagePlus® Club Card and the United℠ TravelBank Card has been collected by NerdWallet and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of these cards.