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If you're hungry, United Clubs are actually better than before the pandemic -- here's why

Sept. 14, 2021
4 min read
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While I've flown a number of times in the last 18 months, I haven't visited a United Club since ... March 2020. But on a recent trip to Turks and Caicos, we had time to pop into United Clubs both before our flight out of Houston (IAH) and then again when landing back in the U.S. in Washington-Dulles (IAD).

I went in just hoping for a cup of Illy coffee and a nicer-than-the-terminal restroom. But what I found surprised me. The truth is that that the pandemic has actually improved the United Clubs, at least as far as I'm concerned. Here are the things that stood out from my experience.

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United Club changes

United Club. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Before my visits, I already knew that there were pandemic-era changes to the United Clubs. But seeing is believing. Both United Club locations I visited were quite busy during Labor Day weekend, so it wasn't a good place to go if you were looking to get away from crowds on those dates.

We still decided to brave it, though, for the chance to snag some snacks and have a place to sit that wasn't in the main concourse of an airport.

The first thing I noticed was that the pre-packaged food, especially at the Houston location, was much better than I remember. During our 9:00 a.m. visit, there were both breakfast and lunch options available.

If you were in the mood for breakfast, there was a hot sausage, egg and cheese breakfast sandwich that tasted like a McDonald's biscuit. Which is to say it certainly wasn't healthy, but it tasted pretty decent.

Related: Here are the U.S. airline lounges that have reopened

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

A few minutes later, out came egg, sausage and cheese breakfast burritos.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

For those who preferred lunch-related items to eat later, there were pre-made containers of fruit and cheese, a pinwheel sandwich snack pack and a variety of turkey sandwiches on offer right around the corner closer to the bar.

Related: Ultimate guide to United Club access

Sure, none of these items was beyond amazing in quality, but they were the sort of dishes that would probably sell for about $10 each out in the airport terminal, and they were easy to eat in the lounge, or carry with you onto your flight.

Those previously mentioned items were the highlights in my mind (er, stomach), but between the two clubs we visited, there were also packaged fruit, muffins, chips, salsa, veggies and even gummy candy treats.

This food selection in the United Club obviously isn't on par with what you will find with the fresh, chef-curated options in an Amex Centurion Lounge. However, being able to grab a cheese and fruit package to enjoy along your journey was actually pretty fantastic, and in some ways handier, than a traditional airline lounge buffet offering that has to be consumed at that moment.

While I"m not in favor of increasing packaging and waste at airline lounges, given that we're likely to see these materials as necessities for health and sanitation for the duration of the pandemic, at least it makes it easier to "grab and go" with food from United Clubs.

Bottom line

Knowing that I can pop into a United Club and snag something delicious to enjoy along the way actually makes the club a much more useful resource for me than it was before the pandemic. It also sets my mind at ease since it means I don't have to plan on camping out in the lounge and spending time there among other travelers during the pandemic just in order to get something to eat.

If you want United Club access, know that membership comes with the United Club Infinite Card, or you can get a two, annual one-time passes with select United co-branded credit cards including the United Explorer Card.

Featured image by (Photo by Summer Hull/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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  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
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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

3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

    Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points
    60,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $95
  • 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.

    670-850
    Excellent, Good

Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases