The ultimate guide to United Club access
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Airport lounges can be an oasis from a busy, crowded and outdated terminal.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.
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Same-day boarding pass requirement
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.
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.
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 80,000 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.
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 status||Annual 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.
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.)
Premium-cabin Star Alliance travelers can also use United Clubs, though the exact terms and guest privileges vary by ticket type, as seen below.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
Featured photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy
Ethan Steinberg contributed to this story.
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