Video Sunday Reader Question: How Do I Get United Club Access With A Credit Card?

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Update: The offer mentioned below for the Platinum Card from American Express has expired. View the current offer here

Update: Beginning March 22, 2014, American Express Card Members will no longer have access to American Airlines Admiral Club and US Airways Club airport lounges through Airport Club Access / Airport Lounge Program. This means that Card Members will no longer be able to gain complimentary access to the American Airlines airport lounges (known as Admirals Club lounges) or the US Airways Club airport lounges as a benefit of their Platinum Card Membership. Cardmembers will continue to receive access to participating Delta Sky Club lounges, Priority Pass Select (enrollment is required), and Airspace lounges in JFK, CLE and BWI airports.

TPG reader Gabi was hoping an Amex Platinum card would come with access to United Clubs, but that’s not the case. Here’s the question, and you can find my answer in the video as well as in detail below:

“I am wondering  about the Amex Platinum card and access to airline clubs. We tried to access a United Club and were denied. Any advice or info on this?”

Unfortunately, in September 2011 United (then Continental) exited the American Express Airport Club Access Program and also stopped being a transfer partner of Amex Membership Rewards. However, there are still a couple ways you can leverage your Platinum card to get United lounge access.

$200 Airline Fee Credit
Put your annual $200 airline fee rebate toward lounge membership.

The first way is to maximize your annual $200 airline fee credit by buying access. With the Platinum card, every year you can select an airline and American Express will automatically refund you up to $200 throughout the year when you incur any fees. The marketing materials about this benefit state that the Airline Fee Credit can apply to baggage, in-flight food and drink, flight change fees and lounge day passes, though people regularly report being issued a credit for airline annual lounge membership charges. So you could buy day passes or an annual membership from United and get a discount that way.

I would actually recommend buying a US Airways Club membership since membership  includes access not only to all US Airways Clubs, but to United Clubs and Star Alliance lounges as well.

Priority Pass
Priority Pass membership can get you into lounges but you’ll be paying an entrance fee each time.

The Platinum card also comes with Priority Pass Select Access, which does not include United lounges, but to get access to United Clubs with Priority Pass you would have to purchase the Prestige Pass for $399 annually, though you’ll still have to pay $27 per visit for each guest, which ends up being pretty pricy. You can also go down to the $99 Standard level where you (the primary member) pay $27 per visit as well as $27 per visit for each guest, if that makes more sense for you.

United Club Card
The United Club card comes with lounge access, but also a hefty annual fee.

If United Club lounge access is your main priority with a credit card, you could always get the United Club Card, which will give you full United Club Membership that will be renewed each year on your cardmember anniversary as long as the account is still open and not in default. Just keep in mind the annual fee is $395 (though the current offer on the card comes with a $95 statement credit and some United MileagePlus members are getting targeted with a first year free offer), but unlike the Amex Platinum card, you won’t get access to American or Delta lounges. Aside from free United Club lounge access you will also get Premier Access, Hyatt Platinum status and Avis car rental upgrades.

Membership Rewards

Also keep in mind when flying that if you redeem your Membership Rewards points through Aeroplan or Singapore Airlines for international business class award tickets on United you can access the United Club. But otherwise you may just want to get that United Club card.

In my opinion United lounges aren’t that amazing, but it is always nice to go hang out and get help in a lounge when there are operational delays or flight cancellations. Of course, think about it and do the math to see if paying for lounge access makes sense for you and if it’s really worth the price.

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