United Club℠ Card Review: Only for United Airlines' Most Frequent Flyers

Lyle is a writer specializing in credit cards, travel rewards programs, and banking. His work has also appeared on MSN Money, USA Today, and Yahoo! Finance.

For those who travel with United Airlines often, the airline offers a few different credit cards that earn miles on every purchase and include valuable travel benefits. The most luxurious, feature-rich option is the United Club℠ Card.

There's a lot to like about the card, including an excellent sign-up bonus and a membership in United's airport lounge program. However, those benefits do come at a cost -- in this case, a $450 annual fee. With this review of the United Club℠ Card, you'll learn about all its benefits and drawbacks to help you figure out if it's the card for you.

Top perks

75,000 bonus miles: You earn this sign-up bonus by spending $3,000 within the first three months. To put the bonus amount into perspective, 75,000 miles can cover at least two to three roundtrip domestic flights in economy class. If you shop around, it could even be enough for a roundtrip international flight in business class.

Earn up to 2 miles per $1: This card earns 2 miles per $1 on purchases with United and 1.5 miles per $1 on all other spending. Both rates are competitive with other top airline credit cards.

United Club℠ membership: As a cardholder, you'll receive a complimentary membership to United Club℠, the airline's airport lounge program. This membership allows you and up to two guests to visit United Club℠ locations. You and any guests will need a boarding pass for same-day travel.

Lounges usually provide free food, drinks, Wi-Fi, comfortable seating, and a more relaxed atmosphere than the general boarding area. The cost for an annual membership is $650 unless you have a high-enough status in the United MileagePlus program, in which case prices can be as low as $550. A one-time pass costs $59.

Two free checked bags: You and one companion traveling on the same reservation can check two bags free of charge. Without this benefit, you'd pay $30 for your first checked bag and $40 for the second with United. Keep in mind that you must pay for the ticket using your United Club℠ Card to get your free checked bags. If you redeemed miles to book an award ticket with United, then you must use your card to pay for the taxes and fees.

Complimentary upgrades on award tickets: On award tickets for flights operated by United, you'll be eligible for a complimentary upgrade when available.

Premier Access benefits: At the airport, you'll have access to a designated check-in line and exclusive security lanes. You'll also get priority boarding and baggage handling, meaning you'll be among the first travelers to board the plane and your checked bags will be among the first delivered.

Travel and purchase coverages: While many card issuers have been cutting travel and purchase protections, this card offers several helpful coverages, including:

  • Trip cancellation/interruption insurance
  • Baggage delay insurance
  • Lost luggage reimbursement
  • Trip delay reimbursement
  • Auto rental collision damage waiver
  • Purchase protection against damage or theft
  • Price protection
  • Return protection

No foreign transaction fees: Like most travel credit cards, the United Club℠ Card doesn't charge a foreign transaction fee.

What could be improved

No Global Entry/TSA Precheck credit: Several of the best travel cards automatically reimburse your membership in either the Global Entry or TSA Precheck program, which can save you a lot of time going through airport security. This is a great benefit, but it's one that the United Club℠ Card doesn't have.

No access to Polaris lounges: A United Club℠ membership won't allow you to access the airline's best lounges, which are its United Polaris lounges. While United Club℠ lounges are far more widespread, it's disappointing that this credit card can't get you into the most luxurious lounges United has to offer.

Suggested credit score

If you're interested in applying for the United Club℠ Card, you should have good to excellent credit, meaning a credit score of at least 670. Although your credit score is one of many factors a card issuer will use to evaluate your application, it's difficult to get rewards or travel cards without good credit.

Is the annual fee worth it?

The United Club℠ Card isn't cheap, as it carries an annual fee of $450. The card can be worth the annual fee, but only if you're a frequent flyer with United and you're going to make use of its travel benefits often.

Airport lounge access is the card's most valuable benefit. Depending on your status in the United MileagePlus program, an annual United Club℠ membership would cost you between $550 and $650, already more than this card's annual fee.

The value of this card's additional features will depend in large part on how often you use them. The more you travel, the more time and money you'll save due to benefits such as free checked luggage and priority baggage handling.

Alternatives to consider

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® is also worth checking out if you'd like more versatile travel benefits and rewards. Although it has a more expensive annual fee, it earns 3 points per $1 on all your travel and dining spending. Its rewards program includes many different partner programs where you can transfer your points, including the United MileagePlus program, opening up more travel redemption options.

As of Mar. 18, 2020
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
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Credit Rating Requirement: Good/Excellent Clickable tooltip icon for credit rating info.

Bonus: 50,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Worth $750 redeemed for travel through Chase
Rewards Program: 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. $0 foreign transaction fees
Intro APR: Purchases: N/A Balance Transfers: N/A
Regular APR: 16.99% - 23.99% Variable
Annual Fee: $550

Highlights:

  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. $0 foreign transaction fees.
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,000+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select
  • Up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
  • One Year Complimentary Lyft Pink ($199 minimum value). Complimentary DashPass subscription from DoorDash after activating by 12/31/21.

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This credit card is right for you if:

The United Club℠ Card is best suited for those who fly with the airline at least a half-dozen times per year. When you're taking that many trips with United, you'll likely be able to maximize this card's perks, including airport lounge access, free checked bags, and priority boarding and baggage handling.

If you were planning on purchasing a United Club℠ membership, you should get this card instead. The United Club℠ Card costs $100 to $200 less, and it includes more benefits.

Anyone who flies with United Airlines less often will have trouble getting the most out of this card. In that situation, you'd be better off with either a cheaper travel card or one that has more versatile perks.

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