United Club Card review: Try our calculator to see if it maximizes your miles

by on Sun May 19, 2013 • 45 Comments
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The United Mileage Plus Club card is a premium credit card that earns 1.5 United miles per dollar spent on all purchases (a 50% bonus vs normal United credit cards), and 2 miles per dollar on all United purchases. No other credit card earns United Mileage Plus miles more quickly.

It comes with a $395 annual fee, which includes full membership to the United Club (a $475 value for non-Premier level flyers), and you get the first 2 checked bags per person (up to 2 people) free. On flights to Asia and Europe that saves $100 each way for the recently increased 2nd checked bag fee, or $400 roundtrip for two. Great if you visit family there a couple times a year.

Here are the benefits (scroll down to try our calculator which will help you compare its earning power versus other United cards).

You earn a 50% mile bonus on all purchases — earn 1.5 United miles per dollar spent. There is also a 100% mile bonus on United purchases – earn 2 United miles per dollar spent.

Travel benefits

Lounge access: You get full United Club membership (up to $500 value if purchased separately, includes access to all United Clubs, US Airways Clubs, Star Alliance business class lounges, and Amtrak Club Acela lounges).

Premium travel privileges:  The first two bags are free for you and a companion in your reservation. This includes Asia and Europe flights, where the 2nd bag fee charge is $100 each. You can save $400 roundtrip when 2 people on a trip check 2 bags each on flights to Europe and Asia, enough to offset the cost of the $395 annual fee. You also get Premier Access airport privileges (priority boarding in Premier Access lane, priority check-in, priority security lanes).

MileagePlus benefits: You enjoy no close in award booking fees (up to $75 savings per ticket), Premier upgrades on award tickets (if you are a Premier member), and no expiration on miles as long as you hold the card. You also get access to  2 for 1 business class fares (valid for full fare tickets on flights with international ‘Business First’ service) Click here to learn how it works.

Other travel benefits: No foreign transaction fees, Avis First membership (space available upgrades on Avis car rentals), Hyatt Gold Passport Platinum status (preferred rooms, 2pm checkout, free internet), Luxury Hotels and Resorts (free breakfast, room upgrades, late checkout, amenity on arrival), and Primary car rental insurance coverage (check with Chase for eligibility).

> Detailed Full Benefits guide to the United Mileage Plus Club Card

> Frequently Asked Questions about the United Mileage Plus Club Card

If you are already a United Club member this card is an easy decision — you get the most powerful United mileage earning available for less than the price you’re already paying for membership. No other card earns United miles at a faster rate thanks to the 50% mile bonus on all spending. United will prorate and refund the United Club membership fee you’ve already paid if you get this credit card. Also, if you are a 1K or higher frequent flyer with United you will receive a $60 annual credit on your Chase card to help offset the annual fee.

If you currently hold a Presidential Plus credit card you have options. While the Continental Presidential Plus credit card is no longer available to new applicants, current cardholders can keep the benefits unchanged. That means if you do nothing, you’ll continue to earn elite qualifying miles and all the benefits you’re used to. However if you wish, you can switch your account to a United Mileage Plus Club and instead of earning elite qualifying miles earn 1.5 ‘regular’ miles per dollar spent.

If you are not a United Club member, then there are more things to consider…including the extra mile earning bonus, how much the bag savings are worth (a lot if you check 2 bags to Europe or Asia at $100 each) how much you think having club membership at hand is worth, and several other travel benefits we talk about below.

See how the 50% mile bonus stacks up

Click to try our calculator to see how many more miles the United Mileage Plus Club Card’s 50% mile bonus can earn you versus the other United credit card options — the United Mileage Plus Explorer (which earns 1 mile per dollar, but a 10,000 mile bonus after $25,000 in spending) and the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card (which offers 2x points on all dining and travel spend).

Both of those carry a $95 annual fee versus the $395 on the Mileage Plus Club Card. Unless more than half of your spending is on dining and travel, the United Mileage Plus Club Card will earn United miles faster than the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.

However you miss out on the fact the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card lets you transfer miles into Southwest Airlines, British Airways, Amtrak, Marriott, Hyatt, Priority Club, and Korean Airlines 1:1 — in addition to United. That gives you the most flexibility when you choose to book free travel. United branded cards like the Mileage Plus Club and Explorer only earn you United miles, which can be used on United and its partners like US Airways, Lufthansa, and Air Canada.

Full United Club membership – not just United lounges

If you are approved for the United Mileage Plus Club credit card, you will be sent a separate full United Club membership card. This card allows you and up to 2 guests or your children access to all United Clubs and US Airways clubs, regardless of what airline you are flying.

You also have access to all 970 Star Alliance partner business class lounges worldwide for you and one guest, even when traveling in coach when you present a Star Alliance partner boarding pass. If you don’t feel like carrying your card around you can just use your United Mileage Plus number to get into the United Clubs, though you’ll need the separate card for access to US Airways and Star Alliance partner lounges.

United Club access normally costs $475 per year for non-Premier members, $450 for Silver Premier, $425 Gold Premier, $400 Platinum Premier, and $375 for Premier 1K. Without this membership, one time entry passes, which are only valid in United owned clubs, only allow one person entry, cost $50. So if you use clubs 8 times per year you’ve made up that cost with the $395 annual fee of this credit card.

If you haven’t had a United Club membership before, you’ll find clubs offer free beverages (including beer/wine/cocktails), dedicated agents to help you with your reservation on the spot, free internet, light snacks, and work stations. Nothing opulent, but they can make travel more convenient, especially when things go wrong.

United Airlines flight benefits

If you’re not a Premier level flyer with United (someone who flies 25,000 miles or more on United and its partners each year) then the travel benefits also have big value. You’re skipping most bag fees and getting the same priority airport privileges as people who fly 25,000 – 49,999 miles per year on United.

Travel benefits — beyond United

Avis First status - this offers you space available one car class upgrades when you rent with Avis.

Hyatt Platinum status — This normally requires 5 stays per year, and gets you 2pm late checkout, free wireless internet, and preferred rooms.

Luxury Hotel Collection – You get Breakfast for two daily, a room upgrade, if available at check-in, Early check-in and late check-out, if available, and a very special amenity unique to every property. These aren’t all super expensive hotels either…you can get these benefits at places like the Grand Hyatt Orlando, Westin Maui, and Century City Hyatt in Los Angeles. You just have to book using the explorelhrcollection.com site.

Conclusion

We think the Mileage Plus Club Card is the right choice if you fly 5 or more times per year and could get some use out of the club benefits, or you have heavy spending on your credit card and can rack up the extra points the 1.5 miles per dollar offers. It’s also helpful if you want your family to enjoy a more comfortable experience on the way to vacations.

 

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45 thoughts on “United Club Card review: Try our calculator to see if it maximizes your miles

  1. john

    This says that a Club card member gets zone 4 boarding privileges, the same as Silver.

    As a current Silver premiere, I’m getting zone 2 boarding. Zone 4 is next to last.

    How is the Club card the same as silver status?

    Reply
    1. MileCards

      @John- Yes it is Zone 2 as of this year. United went through about 5 boarding process changes over the last two years.

      Reply
  2. Yok

    I am interested in the CDW benefit for rental cars. How do I activate it and what if any are the restrictions? How do I make a claim if the rental company says I have to pay for scratches etc.

    Reply
    1. MileCards

      @Yok – The benefit is automatic when you use your card to reserve and pay for the rental. As for specific coverage you’ll need to call the number on the back of the card to get full terms, but generally it will cover damage caused by collision, theft, or other accident. If you have a claim, call the number on the back of your card and they’ll walk you through the process.

      Reply
  3. Stephanie

    Hi, I have the presidential plus card, travel on United probably 4 times a year. We spend about $7K a month on the credit card. Should I keep the Presidential Plus card or switch to the United Mileage Plus card?

    Reply
    1. MileCards

      @Stephanie – The big decision point is whether you are aiming for United ‘Premier’ elite status (Silver, Gold, Platinum). Starting next year, United will require you to buy a minimum dollar value of tickets each year to reach that status. That is, unless you hold the Presidential Plus card, in which case they won’t require it. You just need Premier qualifying miles as you currently do.

      The United Club card has no Premier elite status qualifying benefit.

      But if you have no interest in Premier status then the Club card is a better deal for you, since it earns regular miles 50% faster by offering 1.5 miles per dollar spent, versus 1 mile per dollar for the Presidential Plus.

      Reply
  4. Kristi

    I just bought a ticket from IAH to Bogota using my Presidental Plus card. Is there any way the card helps me secure an upgrade on the flight?

    Reply
    1. MileCards

      @Kristi – Unfortunately no, unless you are a “Premier” level flyer who has flown 25,000 or miles on United in a calendar year. You can request to use your miles to upgrade if there is space, though it is expensive. It costs 25,000 miles each way plus $125 each way.

      Reply
  5. Paula Murnane

    If you book a united flight with another website ie Travelocity using your united club card do you still get all the benefits , free bags , premier access etc.

    Reply
    1. MileCards

      @Paula – Yes, regardless of what site you use, as long as a United ticket with your name on it is purchased using the card and you include your MileagePlus number in the reservation, you will get the benefits. The exception is cases when you don’t know it’s a United ticket before you buy it (like a Priceline.com bid).

      Reply
      1. Therese

        Even through Travelocity, this includes the 2x miles/dollar on the Club card, right?
        So if I book a United flight with the Club card through Travelocity through Ultimate Rewards, I get the 2x miles from the Club card and the 2x UR points? Is that correct? thanks

        Reply
        1. MileCards

          @Therese- Not quite. The 2x per dollar on the Club card is only for United coded purchases. That is, purchases made directly through United with the United merchant code.

          Reply
  6. doug wasserman

    As a Canadian and a long time member of United Airlines.

    Can as a Canadian get a Mileage Plus Card. We have a mailing address in the USA but live in Canada.
    We have a Priority card but please advise as we would like to enjoy the benefits.

    best,

    Reply
    1. MileCards

      @Doug – Unfortunately unless you have a US social security number you won’t be able to apply. For now there are no Canadian based United credit cards. The back door way is to get a Canadian Starwood Preferred Guest credit card and transfer the points to United.

      The catch is your points are cut in half when you transfer to United – it’s a 2 Starwood points = 1 United mile ratio.

      Reply
  7. JenJ

    Anyway to convert or apply for a MasterCard version of the United Club card or my Sapphire Preferred? It would be nice to get points/miles at Sam’s Club =)

    Reply
  8. Kevin

    How do I switch my Presidential Plus card to a Mileage Plus Club card? I didn’t notice the switch from Premier miles to 1.5 miles per dollar spent and that would be much more valuable for my wife and me since we only fly about 7 times a year. Chase sent us a new Presidential Plus card last fall so will we get a whole new account and card and have to update all of our other accounts?

    Reply
    1. MileCards

      @Kevin – You can call the number on the back of your card to switch and keep the same account number.

      But if you’re willing to have a different account number you might be able to take advantage of promotional discounts by applying as a brand new United Club Card holder. Right now you can get $100 to the full annual fee discounted for the first year if you apply fresh. You can learn more here:

      http://milecards.com/5238/free-united-club-card-for-one-year-offer-for-premier-elite-members/

      Reply
  9. William Midon

    I am a United Club Lifetime member and a United Mileage Plus member. I am traveling Economy Plus from Boston to Singapore. Am i allowed 1 or 2 bags fro free?

    Reply
  10. Devchandbhai Patel

    Hello. I have an International business first ticket by United Airlines and Luftuansa. During my flight to India I travelled with 3 free check-in bags (70 lbs each) along with my wife. Going back I am traveling by Luftansa from Mumbai to Frankfurt. I am also a Presidential plus (World Elite) member. I am wondering how many bags can I and my wife travel with on the way back to USA.

    Reply
  11. Rick

    Hi,
    I’m heading from BWI to Florida on United.
    I have a United Mileage Plus Club membership.
    I am checking one bag… A golf bag, holding my set of clubs.
    I have 2 questions:

    1. Will there be any charge for an oversized (note: not overweight) bag?
    2. In the event it does weigh over 50 pounds….lets speculate about 60 lbs, since I am entitled to two at 50 pounds each (100 lbs), would there be a charge?

    Thanks

    Reply
    1. MileCards

      @Rick – Golf club bags usually aren’t considered oversize unless the L+W+H is more than 62″ so you should be okay there. But you would be subject to any overweight fee.

      Reply
  12. Brian

    I’m thinking of purchasing a 3-year membership with spouse option from United to take advantage of my premier discount and the 3-year offer before United discontinues the 3-year membership on 31 Dec 12. If I get the Club card, will they reimburse the entire prorated 3-year fee with spouse membership and give my spouse (also a frequent flyer) and I a Club membership card with a 3-year expiration date?

    Reply
  13. Dan

    If I am traveling using miles awards do I show my presidential plus credit card at check-in to receive the two free bags for me and one other person, or does my MileagePlus number automatically signal that to the person who checks me in? Thanks

    Reply
    1. MileCards

      @Dan – Yes it is linked to your Mileage Plus number if you used it to pay for the taxes on the award ticket. If it doesn’t waive it checking in online try showing your card to the airport checkin agent.

      Reply
    1. MileCards

      @Coderblix – Officially no, the terms say the ticket must be purchased with the card for the free bags. I think the logic is, when traveling on business the company will pick up that expense. Unofficially, you might have luck with the free bag being tied to your Mileage Plus account, or by showing the card to an agent at check-in, but no guarantees.

      Reply
  14. Martin

    The chase website makes no mention of the 2 for 1 business class tickets for the mileage plus card, although it is stated on the top of this webpage.

    Reply
  15. Pat

    I think I’ll hold on to my existing Presidential Plus card but I’m fairly disappointed with the change in benefits. You used to get two free bags per person on the same reservation. Now that benefit is restricted to two people. Same goes for seating at the front section of economy. I think I’m most disappointed in the extremely slow posting of the flexible elite qualifying miles now. This happened like clockwork before the merger. It’s the end of June and I’ve not had any flex miles posted since March 22nd. I don’t usually fly more than about 15K miles per year but we spend a lot on our credit card (usually about $15K per month and never less than $10K) so I feel like I need this card if I ever hope to get premier status (I’m gold now by virtue of the flexible miles). But the 50% benefit sure sounds tempting! You mentioned that Delta had a good card but we live in Houston and given United’s presence here I question whether switching to Delta would be a good idea. I’m generally displeased with the changes since the merger.

    Reply
    1. MileCards

      @Pat- If you spend that much then the flex elite miles are reason enough to not change the card. It’s unfortunate things are gummed up with the merger, though hopefully some improvements will happen over time. Delta was a mess during the Northwest merger, but has improved quite a bit in the last two years.

      Reply
  16. Darren

    I have the Continental Presidential Plus for Business.. a United Mileage plus card also came in the mail.

    Does this mean that I and my family of 7 can enter a United club for free? ( we have united tickets)
    Also if we are on another airline for future flights do we also gain access?

    We didn’t buy our tickets with the card.. do we still have premier access and priority boarding?

    Thank you

    Reply
    1. MileCards

      @Darren – As long as your kids are under 21 and you are present they can enter the United operated lounges regardless of how you bought the ticket or what airline you’re flying that day. Just present the membership club.

      Priority benefits should show on their boarding pass if you book then in the same reservation record as yourself.

      Reply
  17. Lori

    I have the Presidential Plus Card now. My United Club access card that you send out is due to expire in May. When will I receive the new card I’m traveling in late May and early June and don’t want any probelms getting into the Club?

    Reply
    1. MileCards

      @ Lori – Give United Club a call at 800 322 2640 to see when it should come.

      Usually you don’t need the card itself to get into the United owned clubs — they can look it up using your Mileage Plus number.

      Reply
  18. Scott

    If I’m traveling with my wife and 3 small children, will we all be allowed entry to the Red Carpet/ Star Alliance lounge?

    Reply
    1. MileCards

      @Scott – If it’s a United operated club, then yes you can all enter. For partner lounges you are allowed yourself and one guest.

      Reply
  19. James Gremillion

    My company buys my tickets… will I still get Premier Boarding if I have the card even though I don’t use it to buy the tickets?

    Reply
  20. ALAN

    BAD DEAL United! The now-unavailable Continental Presidential Plus card was MUCH better because of the ability to earn 1PQM for each $5 spent with credit card purchases. For bigger card users, this was (and still is for those who have the card) is a fantastic premium and made it possible to get higher Elite levels with purchases. For example, if you spent $250,000 you would have enough PQMs to be Gold Elite instantly! My wife was going to apply for a card too but since the new United Mileage Plus card does not have the same PQM benefit (it has one but so little as to not be worth it) I will not bother unless they change the program to offer the same as the Presidential Plus card.

    Reply
    1. MileCards

      @Alan – It is a disappointing change for high spenders who earned elite status that way. Apparently the reason was too many people were earning elite status as a whole and the benefits were getting diluted (upgraded rates, etc) so they made it tougher to earn elite status without flying. Delta and American still have credit cards that earn elite status via spending, with Delta’s the most generous.

      http://milecards.com/1748/delta-airlines-credit-cards/

      Reply
  21. Higgy

    If I pay for a party of 4 (family and friend) airfare on the Club card, will everyone get the benefit of priority boarding , priority check-in and priority security lanes?

    Thanks for your work !

    Reply
    1. MileCards

      @HIggy – If you book the party of four in the same reservation as yours, then yes, each of them will have the Premier Access and Zone 4 priority boarding listed on their boarding pass.

      Reply

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