United MileagePlus® Club Card review: Is it the airline’s friendliest card?

Young woman on a trip to Europe after maximizing the benefits of the United MileagePlus Club Card Young woman on a trip to Europe after maximizing the benefits of the United MileagePlus Club Card Image:

In a Nutshell

The United MileagePlus® Club Card offers plenty to frequent United Airlines flyers looking for a luxury travel experience. With United Club lounge membership, designated check-in lines, priority security lanes where available, and two free checked bags, you could end up getting a lot of value from the card — if you’re looking for these kinds of perks.

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Pros Cons
Strong sign-up bonus High annual fee
United Club lounge access No TSA PreCheck or Global Entry statement credit
2 free checked bags for primary cardholder and one companion on the same reservation
Premier Access benefits that include designated check-in lines, priority security lanes and priority boarding

What frequent flyers need to know about the United MileagePlus® Club Card

Like many premium credit cards with high annual fees, the value of the United MileagePlus® Club Card depends on how you intend to use it. Having no foreign transaction fees is a given with a card of this caliber, but some perks stand out and make this card quite lucrative — if you can take full advantage of them.

United Club lounge membership

The first notable benefit with this card is membership in the United Club lounge program. As a member, you’ll gain access to more than 45 United Club locations and many other Star Alliance lounges worldwide. The United Club has amenities like complimentary drinks, snacks and Wi-Fi. Some locations offer private phone booths with speakerphones.

You can bring up to two guests or one adult guest and dependent children with you into the lounge each visit. Effective Nov. 1, 2019, you’ll need to have a same-day boarding pass for a United or Star Alliance partner flight to enter one of these lounges.

United says membership is worth up to $550 per year — the cost of an annual general membership to the United Club. But it’s worth noting that you’ll only really get that value if you plan to use the lounge regularly.

Premier Access can help you avoid lines

If you hate waiting in lines, this benefit may sell you on the United MileagePlus® Club Card. You’ll get to use a dedicated fast lane at United check-in, a faster security lane for premium passengers (where available) and priority boarding. You also get priority baggage handling so you can get out of the airport quickly when you check your bags.

Keep in mind, though, that while Premier Access will get you into the priority lane at TSA security lines, it doesn’t give you all of the benefits of TSA PreCheck. In fact, the United MileagePlus® Club Card is the rare premium travel card with a $450 annual fee that doesn’t include a statement credit for PreCheck or Global Entry application fees.

A strong sign-up bonus and rewards rate

New cardholders can earn 50,000 bonus miles when they spend at least $3,000 on purchases in the first three months after opening their account. You can use your MileagePlus® miles for travel on United, with rewards flights starting at 12,500 miles each way. The sign-up bonus alone could be enough for two round-trip flights in the continental United States.

For regular purchase activity, the card gives you two miles per $1 spent on United bookings and 1.5 miles per $1 spent on all other purchases.

If you earn the sign-up bonus on non-United purchases, you could tally up nearly enough miles for a European getaway. Rewards flights from the continental United States to Europe start at around 30,000 miles each way, or 60,000 total. Add the 50,000 miles to the 4,500 miles you could get from spending $3,000 to earn the bonus and you’re just 5,500 miles short of that 60,000-mile threshold.

The best credit card sign-up bonuses of 2019

Two free checked bags for you and a companion

If you travel with luggage, you’ll likely get serious value out of this card’s two free checked bags for both you and a companion. Regular bag fees on United are $30 for the first bag and $40 for a second bag each way, so this benefit could be worth as much as $280 for two people on a round-trip flight.

Maximizing the benefits of the United MileagePlus Club Card

If you do decide this card is right for you, your travel habits will help determine if you get maximum value. At the same time, it might not be terribly difficult to cover the hefty $450 annual fee. For instance, if you take a companion on two domestic trips and check two bags each both ways, you’ve already covered it.

For many cardholders, the best value of the United MileagePlus® Club Card comes from the United Club membership. More visits mean more value, so you won’t get as much from this perk if you can’t access a United Club lounge at airports you frequent.

This card also gives you opportunities for upgrades when available, elite status at Hertz and a wide range of trip and purchase protections and insurance. If you like to use these safety nets when you travel, you have one more reason to appreciate this card.

Who this card is good for

This card is geared toward frequent and loyal customers of United Airlines. But only those who want to check bags, enjoy the luxury of a United Club and zip through many airport lines without the benefit of TSA PreCheck will likely feel like they’re getting full value. It’s a card for those who want extra perks specifically with United, not at the airport generally.

On the flip side, this card probably won’t be worth it for United flyers who typically don’t check bags and don’t expect to spend a lot of time in the United Club. United fans could get better value out of one of the airline’s cards with a lower annual fee, even if the sign-up bonus and rewards rates aren’t as impressive.

Not sure this is the card for you? Consider these alternatives.