United Club Card Review

Best for: United Airlines loyalists who value lounge access and free checked bags

For frequent travelers and United Airlines loyalists, the United Club Card offers premium advantages, like airport lounge access through United and its travel partners, free checked bags and priority boarding. Not sure if this card’s $450 annual fee is right for you? By crunching the numbers to see how frequently you’ll use the United lounge or fly with checked bags, you can easily figure out how to overcome this cost.

The basics

  • APR: 17.99%-24.99% variable
  • Annual Fee: $450
  • Rewards Rates: Earn two miles per dollar spent on tickets bought from United and earn 1.5 miles per dollar on everything else.
  • Intro offer: Earn 75,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 during the first three months of account activation (offer available until March 12, 2020).

Standout features

  • No foreign transaction fee: For travelers who regularly take international trips, you won’t have to worry about racking up foreign transaction fees. You can spend abroad without an extra cost that usually runs around 3% per transaction for other similar credit cards.
  • No blackout dates: As a cardmember, you can use your award travel whenever you want to put your miles to use.
  • United Club membership: A regular membership at the United Club airport lounge costs around $550 a year plus a $50 initiation fee. But for significantly less, you can get this credit card and enjoy the same exact perk. You’ll need to use the United lounges at least seven times to neutralize the card’s annual fee since it’s $59 for a single-time access pass. As a bonus, you are also granted membership to participating Star Alliance affiliated lounges across the globe.
  • Free bags and upgraded access: If you become a United Club cardmember, you and your travel companion on the same reservation can check two bags free of charge. Your first checked bag costs $30, and the second will set you back $40, so this perk can save you $280 for a round trip.
  • Premier Access travel services: This card grants you Premier Access, which gives you priority airport check-in, priority baggage handling and even security screening where available.
  • Rental car coverage: If you decline rental car coverage at the counter but use the United Club card for the purchase, you’re still protected from damage and theft if you use your card.
  • Purchase and travel protections: Travelers will receive trip cancellation and trip interruption insurance in addition to baggage delay and baggage loss insurance. Plus, travelers will get purchase protection from damage or theft for 120 days.
  • In-flight purchases: While flying United, you’ll receive 25% back on in-flight purchases.
  • Flexible redemption options: Use your miles to book award travel on United and partner airlines, in-flight WiFi, hotel stays, gift cards, merchandise and events.

Best way to use this card

To get the most value out of the United Club Card, it’s important to put your miles toward booking award travel on United or partner airlines. Why? This strategy is the best way to take advantage of the 2X earning rate for flights purchased on United and its travel partners. If you’re a frequent flier, you can easily start to build up points and award travel. This card also provides earning potential beyond travel if you use it for your everyday expenses; the 1.5X earning rate can put you on the fast track to your next vacation.

In addition, if you prefer the peace and quiet of airport lounges as a respite from travel stress or a workplace haven, this card pays for itself. As mentioned earlier, you’ll need to use the United lounges at least seven times to cancel out the card’s annual fee.

Another smart way to make the most of the card is if you and a travel companion plan to check two bags on multiple round trip flights. The first checked bag costs $30 and the second costs $40, so between two people, that’s $280 in baggage fees for each round trip. If you fly with family or friends and take at least two round trips in the year, you’ve already saved yourself $560 and made up for that annual fee.

Of course, the less flashy suite of perks the United Club Card offers is also incredibly important to savvy travelers. Card members who use their card to book flights, travel and rental cars enjoy comprehensive protection should travel plans go awry. As any experienced traveler knows, airports and airlines are notoriously unpredictable, especially when bad weather strikes. But luckily, card members are protected from these inevitable travel hiccups in the form of travel delay and cancellation insurance. Was your bag lost or trapped in another state for the day? The United Club Card offers you insurance for those instances, too.

In a nutshell

If you have an excellent credit score and you’d like to make the most of your travel experience, the United Club Card might be a good choice. In order to extract the most value from this card, you’ll need to be a frequent United Airlines flyer and want access to United lounges more than seven times per year.

If you prefer a lower annual fee, you might like the United Explorer Card, which offers one free checked bag for the cardholder and one travel companion on the same reservation. In addition, you’ll get the same earning rate of 2X per dollar spent on United and 1X on all other purchases. For $95, this card pays for itself in one fell swoop by offering travelers up to $100 in Global Entry or TSA Precheck fee credit once every four years, plus 25% back on in-flight purchases on United flights.

If your lifestyle, desired travel perks and flying frequency match up with the prestigious advantages of the United Club Card, it can be a worthwhile card to keep in your wallet.

Michelle Wilson

Michelle Wilson is a San Diego-based writer specializing in the topics of personal finance, technology, and culture. You can find her writing on sites such as HP Tech Takes, The Simple Dollar, and San Diego Magazine. In her spare time, she enjoys finding new cats to follow on Instagram.