Full Review of United Club Card
Valuable rewards program
Generous bonus offer
Premium perks on United
Other travel benefits and protections
Restrictive redemption options
Missing benefits compared with other premium airline cards
High annual fee
- Valuable Rewards Program: According to our research, United MileagePlus miles are worth 2.16 cents apiece on average. This means that your effective rewards rates are 4.32% on United purchases (2 miles per dollar multiplied by 2.16 cents per mile in value) and 2.16% on everything else (1 mile per dollar multiplied by 2.16 cents per mile). Few rewards credit cards offer more than 2% back as a base rewards rate. But that's just an average. Unlike general travel rewards programs, the value of United miles varies based on where you're traveling, the fare class you book, the cash price of the ticket, and more. In other words, you may get more or less than the average based on how you redeem your miles. Squeezing the most value out of your miles might require flexibility with your travel plans and time and effort spent researching and comparing different itineraries.
- Premium Perks on United: This card offers complimentary access to all United Club locations and participating Star Alliance-affiliated lounges worldwide. If you've already paid for a United Club membership, which costs $650 per year, you’ll get a refund for the unused portion. You also get preferential treatment from the airline, including priority check-in, security screening, boarding, and baggage handling. In addition, your first and second checked bags are free for you and one other person on your reservation. This perk alone can provide a savings of up to $280 per round-trip flight.
- Access to Other Travel Benefits and Protections: In addition to United-specific benefits, cardholders enjoy other travel benefits. For example, you get a complimentary membership in the Hertz Gold Plus Rewards President’s Circle program, which comes with upgrades, the chance to pick your vehicle with Hertz Ultimate Choice, and 50% bonus Hertz points when you elect to earn points on your rentals. Another way to qualify for the President's Circle program is to complete 20 rentals or spend $4,000 or more on rentals in a 12-month period. You're also covered by various trip protections, including trip cancellation and interruption insurance, primary rental car insurance, baggage delay insurance, and emergency evacuation and transportation coverage.
- Restrictive Redemption Options: Like other airline credit cards, the United Club card limits your flexibility with rewards redemption. If you want to maximize the value of your MileagePlus miles, your best bet is to use them to book award tickets. It is possible to redeem your United miles for more than just award flights. But you’ll likely lose value if you use miles to get flight upgrades; book hotel stays, rental cars and cruises; shop for merchandise or gift cards; or turn your miles into experiences.
- Missing Benefits Compared with Other Premium Airline Cards: This card is missing some key benefits typical of premium airline cards. For one, it doesn't offer opportunities to earn Premier Qualifying Miles, which help you qualify for United's Premier elite status. Both the Delta Reserve card and the Citi/AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard provide a path toward elite status with their versions of status-qualifying miles. The Delta Reserve card also offers a round-trip companion certificate each year that's good for first, comfort or main cabin fare class on a domestic flight. The United Club card lacks this benefit, too.
- High Annual Fee: The United Club card charges a $450 annual fee. That's a significant amount to justify each year, unless you are a frequent United flyer. But with the United Explorer card, you pay no annual fee for the first year, then $95. There are also some features you can only get with the less expensive card. For starters, the United Explorer card offers 2 miles per dollar on United purchases, as well as at restaurants and on hotel stays. The United Club card only offers double miles on United purchases (although it does offer 1.5 miles per dollar on everything else, whereas the United Explorer card offers just 1 mile per dollar on general spending). Both the United Explorer and United Club cards give cardholders a 25% statement credit on in-flight purchases but the United Explorer card also provides up to a $100 reimbursement for the application fee for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck every five years.
This Card is Best For
Seeks the recognition and perks of branded travel partner status
Flies often for business or leisure
Dines out regularly while traveling or in home city
Travels outside of U.S. on occasion or frequently
The $450 annual fee effectively limits the pool of people for whom this card is a good fit. Consumers who fly frequently with United will best be able to justify an annual fee this high.
Between frequent visits to United Club lounges, free checked bags, priority perks, and access to other travel benefits, it’s possible to get more value out of the card than it costs.
But if you're not sure you'd use the perks enough to rationalize the annual fee, consider the United Explorer card. Its rewards and benefits include priority boarding, one free checked bag for you and a companion, and a couple of complimentary passes to the United Club lounge every year.
If you really want a premium airline credit card but aren't loyal to any one carrier, compare the United Club card to the Delta Reserve card and Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard. Depending on which benefits and features you’re looking for, one of those may be better for you.
United Club Card Bonus
This card offers 75,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 in the first three months—just $1,000 per month. Based on our research, the bonus is worth about $1,620, giving you a return on spend of about 26%.
Depending on where you fly domestically, this card's bonus is likely enough to redeem for two round-trip flights in the main cabin or one first-class ticket.
Rewards Earning Details
This card offers 2 miles per dollar on United purchases and 1.5 miles per dollar on everything else. Although there aren't any other opportunities to earn bonus miles outside of United purchases, the base rewards rate is higher than what’s typical for airline credit cards, including premium cards from other airlines.
Rewards Redemption Details
United offers several ways to redeem your MileagePlus miles, but if you're looking to maximize the value of your rewards, your best bet is to book flights with United and one of its more than 35 partner airlines.
And remember, there's no set value for the program's currency, so although we calculated an average value of 2.16 cents per mile, you may get more or less than that based on your redemption.
Other redemption options include:
- United flight upgrades on cash fares
- Hotel stays, rental cars, and cruises
- Apple products or other merchandise
- E-gift cards or retail gift cards through the MileagePlus X mobile app
- Tickets for Broadway shows, events, and other experiences
You can transfer MileagePlus miles to Marriott Bonvoy points at a 1:1 ratio. But based on our research, Marriott points are worth 1.43 cents apiece, so you’ll lose value by making that trade.
It's not possible to transfer United miles to another airline. But you can use United miles to book flights with one of the airline’s many partner airlines, including Star Alliance members as well as codeshare and connecting partners.
Instead of booking directly with those airlines, however. you have to use United’s website to search availability and confirm your itinerary.
How to Maximize Your Rewards
Maximizing your rewards with the United Club card can be challenging, but it's well worth the effort once you get the hang of it.
Remember: the value of your rewards can vary based on different factors. You need to have some flexibility with your travel plans, and take time to compare multiple itineraries to make sure you’re getting the best redemption rates.
If you're not interested in researching opportunities to maximize rewards, you can just use your rewards to book flights based on your travel plans. The only downside is that you may not get as much value out of your miles. For example, we found a nonstop flight from Los Angeles to Chicago in economy for $366 or 34,000 miles, which would give you a rate of 1.08 cents per mile—well below the average of 2.16 cents.
With aspirational redemptions, the goal is to squeeze as much value out of your miles as possible. It can require more legwork but it’s possible to get more than the average value per mile.
As one example, we found a flight from Chicago to Berlin in business class through partner Turkish Airlines for 140,000 miles plus about $100 in taxes and fees. But if you were to pay cash for the same dates, the best we could find with any partner airline was $3,050 plus $164 in taxes and fees. In this scenario, you’d get 2.18 cents per mile if you were to use miles over cash.
To make sure you're always getting good value, use the average value of 2.16 cents per mile as a benchmark. With our examples above, for instance, getting 2.18 cents per mile on an international business-class fare would be a decent redemption, though not remarkable given that such international flights usually deliver more value vs. domestic flights. But if you're only getting 1.08 cents per mile on a domestic trip, you may be better off paying cash and saving your miles for a better opportunity.
As you research different plans, figure out your redemption rate by dividing the cash price of the fare by the number of miles needed to book.
United Club Card's Outstanding Benefits
- Trip cancellation and interruption insurance: If your trip is canceled due to an illness, severe weather, or another covered situation, you can get reimbursed for up to $10,000 per person ($20,000 per trip) for non-refundable travel expenses as long as they were paid for with this card.
- Trip delay reimbursement: If you're traveling on a common carrier and your trip is delayed more than 12 hours or requires an overnight stay, you and your family members can get reimbursed for meals, lodging, and other unreimbursed expenses, up to $500 per ticket.
- Baggage delay insurance: You can get reimbursed up to $100 per day for three days if your luggage is delayed more than six hours. Covered expenses include essential purchases such as toiletries and clothing.
- Lost luggage reimbursement: If you or an immediate family member has carry-on or checked baggage that is lost or damaged by a common carrier, you may be reimbursed up to $3,000 to replace the contents.
- Emergency evacuation and transportation: If you or an immediate family member gets sick or injured on a trip far from home and you need an emergency evacuation, this card may cover medical services and transportation.
- Primary rental car insurance: Most credit cards offer rental car insurance, but the coverage is typically secondary, which means you need to first file a claim with your personal auto insurance company. This card offers primary coverage, so you don’t have to involve anyone else.
- Luxury hotel benefits: You get special benefits, including room upgrades, complimentary breakfast for two, early check-in, and late check-out, when you stay at properties in the Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection.
- Travel accident insurance
- Travel and emergency assistance services
- Purchase protection
- Price protection
- Extended warranty protection
- Return protection
- No foreign transaction fees
Chase ranked fourth in J.D. Power's 2019 Credit Card Customer Satisfaction study of national credit card issuers. The bank’s overall rating is one point above the industry average.
Chase provides VantageScore credit score access to cardholders and the general public alike through its Credit Journey program. Many major credit card issuers provide free access to your FICO credit score, which is the score lenders typically use in credit decisions.
Chase provides 24/7 phone customer service at 800-888-8756 or you can send a secure message through your online account. You can also manage your account online or with the Chase mobile app.
You can lock and unlock the card through the mobile app, which can come in handy if your card is lost or stolen. This isn't a standard feature of all major credit cards.
You can also use the United Club card for contactless purchases. With this feature, you tap the card to a contactless-enabled card reader rather than swiping or inserting it. Contactless transactions have the same level of security as your card's chip and mobile wallets like Apple Pay. Contactless capability isn't yet standard for the credit card industry.
- Ongoing Annual Fee: $450
- Foreign Transaction Fee: None
- Balance Transfer Fee: 5% or $5, whichever is greater
- Ongoing Balance Transfer APR: 17.99% to 24.99% variable
- Authorized User Fee: None
- Returned Payment Fee: Up to $39
- Late Payment Fee: Up to $39
- Penalty APR: None
- Cash Advance APR: 26.49% variable
- Cash Advance Fee: $10 or 5% of the transaction amount, whichever is greater
- Minimum Finance Charge (Minimum Interest Charge): None
- Overlimit Fee: None
- Credit Limit Increase Fee: None
- Inactive Account Fee: None
- Account Maintenance Fee: None
Other than this card's high annual fee, its costs aren't out of line with industry standards for travel credit cards. Even with the annual fee, you still may be able to get enough value out of the United Club card to make it worth your while.
If you're loyal to United and a frequent flier, the United Club card may be worth the high annual fee With some effort, potential value the premium credit card offers in perks and a solid rewards rate on both United and everyday purchases can more justify the $450 fee.
But if you’re only a casual traveler on United or you're not sure you want to commit to just one airline, consider a less expensive airline credit card like the United Explorer card. It may not provide the same level of travel benefits, but the lower annual fee can make it easier to get the value you want.