United Club access guide: Cards, passes, and other ways to get in

by on Sat December 22, 2012 • 18 Comments
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United Club

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…

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. ‘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.
  9. United Explorer credit card. You get 2 one visit passes to the club each year on the anniversary date of your card.
  10. 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.
  11. 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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18 thoughts on “United Club access guide: Cards, passes, and other ways to get in

  1. Leslie

    I have a one time united lounge pass and there is no united lounge in ezeiza buenos aires, so why won’t the star alliance grant me access when UA is part of star alliance? Very unhappy about this

    Reply
    1. MileCards

      @Leslie- Unfortunately the passes are only good for United Club lounges. But when you arrive in the US or fly back to Argentina from the US you can definitely use the pass at the airports there, which have United Club lounges.

      Reply
  2. Brent

    Hello
    I am flying with Malaysian out of Melbourne Australia with my family, I have a United one time pass for each of them, can we access the lounge with these.
    Thanks

    Reply
    1. MileCards

      @Brent – As long as the United Club is in your terminal yes you can use the pass without flying United. You can check the terms on the back of the pass but there should be no mention of needing to fly United on it.

      Reply
  3. Carol

    I have Chase United Club One Time Passes. Someone in United customer service told me I could use these in Frankfurt Lufthansa as they are a Star Alliance member. But I see threads on the internet where I can not use these in Frankfurt? Please help.

    Reply
  4. Ramsey

    I know this is an old thread, but I just ran across it. From reading the info above, does that mean if I am a domestic first class traveller on United I cannot access the United Club?

    Reply
    1. MileCards

      @Ramsey – That’s right. A domestic first class ticket doesn’t grant any more lounge privileges than a domestic coach ticket.

      Reply
    1. MileCards

      @Dawn – Unfortunately there is no US Airways Club in O’Hare. But you’re probably flying from Phoenix, Philadelphia, Las Vegas, Pittsburgh, or Charlotte and you can use the pass in those clubs.

      Reply
  5. Steve Zulawinski

    I have an United Explorer credit card that provides two complimentary passes each year. I’ve misplaced the cards. Can I still gain access or be issued new passes?

    Reply
    1. MileCards

      @Steve – Unfortunately these passes are entirely paper based, with no electronic record. So you’ll need the original passes to access the lounge.

      Reply
  6. Amy

    I have those ‘one-time pass’ United Club cards I got from having the credit card….
    do I HAVE to be on a UNITED flight in order to use it? if I happen to be travelling on a different airline for any reason, can I still access United Clubs with this pass, or do I have to also present my ticket/itinerary that indicates I’m flying United?

    Reply
    1. MileCards

      @Amy- For those one time passes, no you don’t, though it’s rare to be in a terminal that has a United club but has other airlines on the same side of security.

      Reply
  7. ken wilkinson

    we will be in denver airport aug.21, we have a continental airlines one pass plus credit card and a mileage plus united tag are we eligible for the u nited club? thanks ken wilkinson

    Reply
    1. MileCards

      @ Ken – The card itself won’t get you in. They might have sent you a couple of one day passes initially so if you have them lying around that will work.

      Otherwise you might find some for sale on eBay.

      But Denver isn’t a bad airport to wait around without a club. Lots of space and plenty of food and drink options.

      Reply
  8. Susan Veis

    Hi! I am flying economy plus from Los Angeles to Tel Aviv. I have an American Express Platinum Card. Can I use that to get into the United Clubs domestically and internationally? Thank you.

    Reply
    1. MileCards

      @Susan – Unfortunately Amex and United no longer have a relationship. However in LAX if you have some extra time, the ‘Priority Pass’ card you can request separately from Amex will get you entry to the Alaska Airlines lounge in Terminal 6, which is one of the United terminals at LAX. If you bring a guest it will cost an extra fee. In Tel Aviv you can use either of the Dan lounges with the ‘Priority Pass’ card but again a guest will cost an extra fee.

      The Priority Pass card can be requested by calling the customer service number on your Amex.

      Reply

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