Skip to content

The ultimate guide to United Club access

March 06, 2021
7 min read
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information and offers.


Airport lounges can be an oasis from a busy, crowded and outdated terminal. They're also a great place to socially distance from others, especially if you find a private nook or phone booth.

Some lounges belong to a membership network, like Priority Pass. Others are airline-specific, like the United Club.

If you're a loyal United flyer or frequent one of the carrier's largest hubs, here's what you need to know about accessing the United Club.

For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our free daily newsletter.

Same-day boarding pass requirement

United Club at London Heathrow. (Photo by Daniel Ross/The Points Guy)

The "Big Three" U.S. airlines — American, Delta and United — all require a same-day boarding pass to access their lounges. That means you can't use a United Club when you're flying with American.

Related: The best credit cards for flying United

For starters, you'll need a same-day boarding pass on United or a Star Alliance partner airline to gain entry to a United Club.

Credit cards

The United Club Infinite Card is the newest (and potentially most affordable) way to access United Clubs for frequent travelers. The card comes with a lounge membership that allows the primary cardholder and two adult companions (or one adult and any children under the age of 21) access to United Clubs for as long as you hold the card.

Sign up for our daily newsletter

The United Club Infinite Card carries a $525 annual fee, which is lower than any discount you'd get with Premier elite status (see below). The card currently offers a sign-up bonus of 100,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.

If you'd prefer to avoid the hefty annual fee, you can opt for the entry-level United Explorer Card, which includes two single-use United Club passes each year. Note that these day passes don't include guest access.

Paid membership

You can pay for a United Club membership with either cash or miles, though the price varies depending on your United Premier elite status, with rates as follows:

MileagePlus Premier statusAnnual membership
General member$650 or 85,000 miles
Premier Silver$650 or 85,000 miles
Premier Gold$650 or 85,000 miles
Premier Platinum$600 or 80,000 miles
Premier 1K$550 or 75,000 miles

While top-tier elite members (Premier Platinum and Premier 1K) members do enjoy a discount, the prices are still quite high. TPG values United MileagePlus miles at 1.21 cents each, so your best bet is to pay the annual membership fee with cash, as opposed to miles. (Of course, opening the United Club Infinite Card is an even better deal.)

If you don't travel enough to commit to an annual membership, you can also purchase day passes for $59 at United Club locations or through the United mobile app.

Since Jan. 1, 2021, United's invite-only Global Services members can enjoy lounge access on all United-operated flights, including those operating exclusively within the United States. Note that this new perk only covers the Global Services member — you’ll only be able to bring a guest into the lounge with a separate membership or when flying internationally.

Elite status

Select Premier members can use the United Club at any time during their travel journey.

United Premier Gold (and higher) members have access to the carrier's lounges when traveling internationally on any Star Alliance carrier, regardless of their class of service. They can also bring along one guest departing on a Star Alliance carrier from the same airport. Note that starting May 3, 2021, the guest must be traveling on the same flight.

Star Alliance Gold members who hold status with another partner airline can use the United Club with any same-day Star Alliance boarding pass, including during domestic United travel. The same guest rules apply. Effective May 3, the Star Alliance will require guests to be traveling on the same flight as the elite member.

(Note that Premier elites can't use the carrier's Polaris lounges, as those locations have separate entry requirements that we'll discuss in a moment.)

Ticket type

Premium-cabin Star Alliance travelers can also use United Clubs, though the exact terms and guest privileges vary by ticket type, as seen below.

(Screenshot courtesy of United)

Of course, Star Alliance premium-cabin passengers also have access to United's Polaris lounges, which offer modern furnishings, private spa-like shower suites and elevated culinary experiences.

Three types of passengers are eligible for Polaris lounge access:

  • Travelers in United Polaris business class: Available at departure, connecting and/or arrival airports (no guests)
  • Travelers in Star Alliance first class: Only available at the departure airport for a long-haul first-class flight (one guest)
  • Travelers in Star Alliance business class: Only available at the departure airport for a long-haul business-class flight (no guests)

Note that all Polaris lounges are currently closed due to the pandemic.

Locations

You'll find a plethora of United Clubs in the carrier's main hubs, including:

  • Chicago O'Hare (ORD) — Four locations: Three in Terminal 1 (near gates B6, B18 and C16) plus another in Terminal 2 across from Gate F8
  • Denver (DEN) — Two locations: One near Gate B32 and the other near Gate B44
  • Houston (IAH) — Five locations: One in Terminal A (across from Gate A9), one in Terminal B (south mezzanine), two in Terminal C (near Gate C1 and toward Gate C33) and one in Terminal E (between gates E11 and E12)
  • Los Angeles (LAX) — One location adjacent to Gate 71A
  • Newark (EWR) — Three locations: One is a "pop-up" in Terminal C (near Gate C93), plus full clubs in Terminal A (Concourse A2) and Terminal C (upper level, near Gate C74)
  • San Francisco (SFO) — Four locations: Three in Terminal 3 (near gates E2, E4 and F11) and one in the international terminal (between gates G6 and G9)
  • Washington Dulles (IAD) — Four locations in the Midfield Terminal (near gates C4, C7, C17 and D8)

Note that five of these airports (Chicago O'Hare, Newark, San Francisco, Houston and Los Angeles) also have Polaris lounges.

Most of the other clubs are scattered across the U.S., including in airports such as Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW), Philadelphia (PHL) and Phoenix (PHX), along with some in enemy territory like Delta's Atlanta (ATL) and Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) hubs.

For complete details on all of these locations, including hours of operation, you can visit this page. Note that due to the pandemic, many lounges are temporarily closed.

Extending memberships

Due to the pandemic, United gave a six-month extension for all existing Club memberships back in April 2020. If you had an existing membership at the time, you should've automatically received an extension of your expiration and renewal date.

Bottom line

United offers a variety of ways to access its United Clubs, both for premium-cabin frequent flyers and for those with a membership.

If you frequently travel with United, it's worth analyzing which of these options offers the best bang for your buck to unlock a relaxing lounge experience.

Ethan Steinberg contributed to this story.

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.

Top offers from our partners

How we chose these cards

Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
See all best card offers

TPG featured card

Best premium travel card for value
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

1 - 10X points
10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Intro offer

80,000 bonus points
Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

Annual Fee

$550

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more
Best premium travel card for value
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

    80,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $550
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more