We see it all the time – people who walk through the hardwood sliding doors of the United Club at the airport hoping to get in with a random card from their wallet, only to be turned away. That’s only increased since the American Express Platinum Card ended its relationship with United / Continental.
Well, access isn’t as hard or expensive as you might think, and here is a guide to all the ways you can access the club…
First, if you want free access for a year, and are a Premier level flyer with United, consider applying for the United Club credit card. This link has instructions to see if you are eligible for the offer.
Other ways to get in include…
- Full membership. This costs from $375 – $475 per year depending on your frequent flyer status with United. Rates through 12/31/12 are: 1K – $375, Platinum $400, Gold $425, Silver $450, all others $475. These will increase $25 on 1/1/13. ’Global Services’ members get special rates depending on their annual airfare spending. Full membership entitles you to bring 2 guests, or your spouse and children under the age of 21 to all United Clubs and US Airways Clubs. It also allows you access to all Star Alliance partner airline lounges for yourself and one guest when travelling on a Star Alliance carrier. A spouse membership so your spouse can enjoy privileges when you’re not flying is available for $275 – $325.
- United Mileage Plus Club Card (credit card). This costs $395 per year, and includes a full United Club membership card. So, for most people this costs less than buying a standalone membership. It also gives you 1.5 miles per dollar spent on all purchases, Priority Access security / boarding, and other travel benefits like Avis President’s Club status (car upgrades), Hyatt Platinum status (free internet), and upgrades / late checkout at many hotels.
- One time passes. These cost $50, but only allow you yourself to enter. You must buy a separate pass for everyone who wishes to enter, and they are valid for one club only. For now, you must purchase them in person at the club. You can use the cost of one pass ($50) toward the cost of membership if you purchase it within 30 days.
- Priority Pass – full membership. This is a membership card that gives you access to over 600 lounges worldwide, including United Clubs. Note though we are referring to full standalone Priority Pass membership. There is a version given to holders of credit cards like the Platinum American Express. That version, the ‘Select,’ is not valid for United Club entry. Membership is $399 for unlimited visits, but guests are $27 per visit, including children. People who use this card generally travel a lot for business overseas and value having access to many different types of lounges regardless of what airline they are flying.
- Priority pass – ‘standard’ membership. This gets you in the club for a discounted rate of $27 per visit. You pay an annual fee of $99 – $249, with the $249 including 10 ‘free’ visits. It’s a better deal than buying a day pass or full membership if you’re visiting the club by yourself 5-10 times per year.
- Star Alliance Gold status when on an international ticket. If you are a United or US Airways ‘Gold’ or higher frequent flyer member, you can access the lounge with one guest when you are travelling on an international itinerary involving a Star Alliance carrier, including United.
- First class / business class international ticket. If you are travelling in a premium cabin internationally you can access the club. If you are in First / Global First class you can bring one guest. If you are in Business /Business First class you cannot bring a guest.
- ‘P.S.’ New York JFK – LAX/SFO business / first class ticket. If you are travelling on this route you can access the club with the same rules as if you were on an international ticket.
- United Explorer credit card. You get 2 one visit passes to the club each year on the anniversary date of your card.
- Amtrak Select Plus status. If you earn 10,000 Amtrak status points in a year, you will have their ‘Select Plus’ status. This entitles you and a guest access to all United Clubs when flying United.
- Search on eBay or Craigslist. People with one visit passes often try to sell them online; the going rate is typically $25 (half the price of buying in person).
Finally, if you are lucky you might encounter a United Club member who is willing to guest you in. Don’t beg for it, and standing outside the clubs to ask is a no-no.
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