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Should you apply for the United Club Infinite card with no first-year annual fee?

Oct. 16, 2020
6 min read
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For those in the market for a new credit card, a premium travel card is harder to justify, given the current travel limitations.

However, card issuers have been making adjustments with limited-time benefits for things you're spending on now. United and Chase have yet another approach with the United Club Infinite Card: a waived first-year annual fee, then $525. With no first-year annual fee, the card may seem enticing at first glance. However, it comes at a cost -- no sign-up bonus to boost your MileagePlus balance. Let’s take a closer look at the United Club Infinite Card's value proposition to see if it’s worth applying for.

The United Airlines Polaris Lounge bar at Chicago O'Hare International Airport.

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The United Club Infinite Card offer 

The annual fee on the United Club Infinite Card is $525, but with this new offer, that fee is waived for year one. The perennial perk of the Infinite Card is a United Club membership, which typically costs $650 per year for a general United MileagePlus member.

Other travel-related benefits include free first and second checked bag for the cardholder and one traveling companion, Premier Access, Global Entry or TSA PreCheck reimbursement, 25% back on in-flight food, beverage and Wi-Fi purchases, improved access to United award availability and more.

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

Looking at this offer strictly from a lounge access cost perspective, you’d clearly be coming out ahead versus paying for a membership outright. However, the obvious fact is that many United Clubs are temporarily closed and travel, in general, continues to be curtailed. To take advantage of free lounge access, you’ll likely need to wait until later this year or 2021.

Related: Which U.S. airline lounges are currently open?

The previous welcome offer

While a waived annual fee is appealing, the previous sign-up bonus on this card was 100,000 United miles after meeting minimum spend requirements. TPG values United miles at 1.3 cents each, which makes the prior bonus worth $1,300. The annual fee was not waived, but from a TPG valuation perspective, the former offer was undoubtedly better.

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Related: What to do if you have a premium airline credit card but you aren’t flying

Factors to consider before applying

United Club LGA Terminal B
United Club LGA (Photo by Brendan Dorsey / The Points Guy)

There may be instances where it still makes sense to apply for the United Infinite Club Card, despite the lack of a welcome bonus.

You don’t care much about United miles

If you don’t personally consider United miles as a worthwhile currency, then this waived annual-fee offer may be more powerful than the previous offer. With various devaluations and the elimination of award charts, some frequent flyers may not want to deal with the MileagePlus program but still want access to lounges when they reopen.

You don’t think you can meet the spending requirement for a sign-up bonus

If you are cutting back on your spending in the short-term but still plan to utilize premium card benefits in the future, then applying for the United Club Infinite card may make sense.

You’ll save $525 on the annual fee and get access to premium perks that will come in handy when you’re able to travel again. On a similar note, if the previous spending requirement wasn’t attainable for you, then saving on the annual fee might be appealing. Of course, the most important rule of travel rewards is never to spend money you don’t have while chasing rewards.

You plan to use the United Club benefit when lounges reopen

Many United Club lounges are still closed, except for select hub locations where there is limited service. Once more lounges come back to life in the months to come, you should be confident that you’ll be using them.

Related: Use miles to pay United card annual fee

Bottom line

Besides lounge access, many of the Infinite Club Card’s offerings are also included as part of the United Explorer Card. That card carries a much lower annual fee of $95 (waived for the first year) and is currently offering a sign-up bonus of 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. Plus, an additional 10,000 bonus miles after spending $6,000 total in the first six months.

You’ll only receive two one-time United Club passes each year, but with travel curtailed, limited access may not make a difference.

For many people, this United Infinite Club Card offer isn’t worth it without a sign-up bonus -- but if you want lounge access for a year for free, this card is a solid option.

Featured image by United Club at London Heathrow (Photo by Daniel Ross/The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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