A United Club membership for less: United Club Card review

Jan 29, 2020

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The United Club Card is a solid choice for travelers who frequently fly United and who value having a United Club membership. The card doesn’t offer standout earning, but the benefits can more than justify the card’s $450 annual fee for some travelers due to its checked baggage allowance on United flights, United Club membership, travel protections, shopping protections and more. Card Rating*: ⭐⭐⭐½

*Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG’s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.

Editor’s note: This post has been updated with the current card information. It was originally published on Dec. 13, 2017.

Airport lounges are useful because they allow me to remain productive while traveling. Whether you want to work or relax, if you’re a frequent United flyer you may want lounge access when flying United and its partners. Luckily, a United Club membership is one of the many benefits that come with the United Club Card. There’s more to this card than lounge access, though, so let’s take a closer look at this card and all of its benefits.

The information for the United Club Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

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In This Post

Who is this card for?

A United Express Embraer 175 in the airline
If you frequently fly United, you may find the United Club Card’s perks useful. (Photo by Edward Russell/The Points Guy)

It probably goes without saying, but the United Club Card will mostly make sense for those who regularly fly United. Not only does the card earn United miles, but the majority of its perks are specific to United, from a free checked baggage allowance to Premier Access travel services.

In particular, this card is best suited for travelers who value lounge access when flying United and its partners. For these travelers, the United Club membership that comes as a benefit of the card is the real standout perk. Although other premium travel cards provide access to select lounges, having access to United Clubs and participating Star Alliance-affiliated lounges can be extremely useful if you often travel on United through airports that don’t have many other lounge options.

Related reading: AA, Delta and United lounges have limited access to customers flying with them: Here’s what to do

Sign-up bonus: As much as $975 in value

The United Club Card currently offers a sign-up bonus of 75,000 United miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. Based on TPG’s valuations, these bonus miles are worth about $975. This offer ends on March 12, 2020.

You won’t be eligible for the United Club Card if you currently have the card or have received a new cardmember bonus for the card in the past 24 months.

Related reading: How United credit cards fit into the new MileagePlus program

Main benefits and perks

The card’s benefits are most useful if you frequently fly United. (Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy)

Let’s take a closer look at the top perks you’ll get for the card’s $450 annual fee:

United Club membership

The most popular — and for most cardholders, the most valuable — perk is United Club membership for the primary cardholder. This membership, which automatically renews on each card anniversary date as long as the account is open and not in default, allows the cardmember to access United Clubs and select Star Alliance lounges when flying United and its partners. With a United Club membership, you can bring along two adult companions or one adult and any dependent children under the age of 21.

United Club membership costs between $550 and $650 each year depending on your elite status. So, if you would otherwise plan to purchase a United Club membership, this one benefit alone could be worth getting the card. If you already have a United Club membership, you’ll be reimbursed for the unused portion of your membership once you’re approved for the card.

Two free checked bags

The primary cardholder and one traveling companion on the same reservation will each receive their first and second checked bags free on United-operated flights when the primary cardholder includes his or her MileagePlus number in the reservation and pays for the flight with the United Club Card.

Note that this perk differs from most other cobranded airline cards that offer free checked baggage in that you must use the card offering the benefit to purchase the flight in order to get the free luggage perk. However, enjoying this fee waiver for two bags is a notable step up over its competitors’ premium-tier credit cards.

Premier Access

When you fly United or United Express, you’ll enjoy priority access for check-in, security screening (where available), boarding and baggage handling. For check-in and security, Premier Access gets you access to designated lanes at the airport. The priority boarding benefit allows you to board with Group 2 — even if you purchase a United Basic Economy fare.

Travel and shopping protection

When you purchase eligible travel or items with your United Club Card, you’ll get access to the following protections:

  • Trip cancellation/trip interruption insurance: If your trip is canceled or cut short by sickness, severe weather or other covered situations, you can be reimbursed up to $10,000 per person and $20,000 per trip for your pre-paid, non-refundable travel expenses, including passenger fares, tours and hotels.
  • Baggage delay insurance: Reimburses you for essential purchases such as toiletries and clothing for baggage delays over six hours by the passenger carrier, at up to $100 a day for three days.
  • Lost luggage reimbursement: If you or an immediate family member checks or carries on luggage that is damaged or lost by the carrier, you’re covered up to $3,000 per passenger.
  • Trip delay reimbursement: If your common carrier travel is delayed more than 12 hours or requires an overnight stay, you and your family are covered for unreimbursed expenses, such as meals and lodging, for up to $500 per ticket.
  • Primary auto rental collision damage waiver: Decline the rental company’s collision insurance and charge the entire rental cost to your card to get coverage up to the actual cash value of the vehicle for theft and collision damage on most rental cars.
  • Purchase protection: Covers your new purchases for 120 days against damage or theft, up to $10,000 per claim and $50,000 per year.
  • Price protection: If a purchase you made in the U.S. is advertised for less in print or online within 90 days, you can be reimbursed the difference up to $500 per item, or $2,500 per year.
  • Extended warranty protection: Extends the U.S. manufacturer’s warranty by an additional year on eligible warranties of three years or less.
  • Return protection: You can be reimbursed up to $500 per item, and $1,000 per year, for eligible items that the store won’t take back within 90 days of purchase.

Other perks

Related reading: The best credit cards for flying United

How to earn miles

The United Club Card earns two United miles per dollar spent on purchases from United and 1.5 miles per dollar spent on non-United purchases. Based on TPG’s valuations, that equals a return of 2.6% on purchases from United and a 1.95% return on all other spending.

Unfortunately, neither of these return rates are impressive. Many cards provide a greater return on airfare and everyday non-bonus spending, so you may not be spending much on this card — although you’ll want to use it for United airfare purchases to get the checked baggage allowance. It also may be worthwhile to put some travel and shopping purchases on the card for its various travel and shopping protections.

Related reading: How to earn miles with the United Airlines MileagePlus program

How to redeem miles

(Photo by Katie Genter / The Points Guy)
United-operated flights don’t follow an award chart anymore. (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

You’ll generally get the best value from your United miles when you use them to book award travel on United or partner airlines. Although United no longer publishes award charts for travel on flights it operates, sweet spots such as the United Excursionist perk can provide outsized value if you know how to leverage the benefit. And there’s still solid value to be found when booking partner awards with United miles.

You can use your United miles to enhance your travel with upgrades, inflight Wi-Fi, hotel stays and car rentals. Miles can also be used for merchandise, gift cards, exclusive experiences and once-in-a-lifetime events. However, our recommendation is to use your miles for flights — especially if you can do so in first or business class.

Related reading: What United eliminating its award chart means for your credit card strategy

United Explorer Card vs United Club Card

If you’re in the market for a cobranded United card, you’re likely deciding between the United Explorer Card and the United Club Card. Let’s take a quick look at the differences between them:

Benefit/perk United Explorer Card United Club Card
Sign-up bonus 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open 75,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open (offer ends on 3/12/2020)
Annual fee $95 (waived the first year) $450
Earning rates 2x on United, at restaurants and on hotel accommodations when purchased directly with the hotel

1x on everything else

2x on United

1.5x on everything else

Baggage allowance on United One checked bag free for the primary cardholder and a companion on the same reservation when the flight is booked with the United Explorer Card Two checked bags free for the primary cardholder and a companion on the same reservation when the flight is booked with the United Club Card
Boarding group on United Group 2 Group 2
Lounge access Two United Club one-time passes after account opening and on each anniversary United Club membership
Other standout benefits Up to $100 Global Entry or TSA Precheck fee credit every four years

Premier upgrades on award tickets

25% back on United inflight purchases

Premier Access

Premier upgrades on award tickets

Hertz Gold Plus Rewards President’s Circle

25% back on United inflight purchases

For many travelers, the United Explorer Card may provide all the necessary benefits: a complimentary checked bag, a couple of lounge passes each year, Group 2 boarding and select travel protections. Plus, the United Explorer Card offers a Global Entry or TSA Precheck fee credit every four years as well as better earning at restaurants and on hotel accommodations purchased directly with the hotel.

However, if you’re looking for United Club membership, a second complimentary checked bag and/or elite status with Hertz Gold Plus Rewards, you may find the United Club Card’s higher annual fee is worth the buy-up. Additionally, the United Club card still offers price protection, which can provide up to $500 per item and $2,500 per year in reimbursement when a purchase you made in the U.S. is advertised for less in print or online within 90 days.

Related reading: Premium perks without a high annual fee: United Explorer Card review

Bottom line

The United Club Card provides many benefits for travelers who fly on United frequently. However, the card’s earning rates are relatively disappointing, especially considering the $450 annual fee.

The United Club Card makes the most sense for travelers that can get value from the United Club membership — especially those who would consider purchasing a United Club membership anyway. Paying for United Club membership outright costs between $550 and $650 each year depending on whether you have status with United. So paying $450 each year for the United Club Card may make sense — especially considering the other benefits that come with the card.

Featured photo of the United Club at London Heathrow by Daniel Ross/The Points Guy.

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*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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