January 27th, 2013
Update, 01/27/13: Today is the last day to apply for Avis President’s Club if you are a United Club cardholder. That benefit is being discontinued and on April 1st Avis President’s Club members with status from United credit cards will be downgraded to Avis First elite status.
Originally posted on 04/30/12:
The United Club card is the premium version of the United Explorer card, just click on the MileagePlus Club card tab.
The United Club card costs a whopping $395 per year, though you get a $95 statement credit for signing up. People have had success sending a secure message to get it matched to a first year free offer.
It is a heavy metal card, like the Sapphire Preferred.
You can have the card even if you already have an Explorer card. While the Explorer card offers 30K miles for signing up and spending $1,000 (and you can SM to be matched to 55K miles+$50 cash back) on the Club card there’s no mileage bonus for signing up.
So should you get the card? That depends on how often you travel with luggage, how much you spend, and how you value having a full club membership. Even if you just value 1 of those things it can be worth being a cardholder.
So what do you get for having the card? These incredibly sweet benefits:
-Full United Club membership:
This membership normally costs $500 per year for non-elites and it’s the only club network that can’t be accessed with the AMEX Platinum card or the Priority Pass lounge membership that comes with that card.
A full United Club membership allows your entire family, or you and 2 guests, to enter hundreds of United and partner lounges worldwide, regardless of which airline you are flying of even if you are even flying at all! Just show your membership card and you’re in!
Here is a dreadfully incomplete list of lounges. For example I’ve used my United membership card in Tel Aviv but they’re not listed.
-Unlimited Airport Terminal Access:
Another very nice benefit of being a full United Club member is that you can access the secured part of the airport even when you’re not flying! When I pick someone up from the airport I often like to meet them at the gate and surprise them and go for a free drink in the club. All you have to do is go to the checkin counter, show your United Club membership, and request a gate pass to get past security to access the lounge.
This will work in any airport where there is a United or USAirways lounge.
With free wifi, snacks, drinks, newspapers, magazines, and even showers and free ironing services in some locations, you can even make the United Club your new office if you wanted to!
Or you can just take your kid past security to see the planes taking off when not rushing to a flight, just like in the pre 9/11 days.
-1.5 United Miles per dollar spent everywhere!
This blows every other card out of the water. You’ll get 1.5 miles for every dollar you spend anywhere. No other card out there offers anything near this earning rate on everyday purchases! Even the great Starwood card earns an effective 1.25 miles per dollar spent and those can’t be directly transferred to United (though they can be used on United via an airline like USAirways though they have harsher award policies), or the excellent Freedom card with checking offers 1.1 points per dollar spent on everyday purchases.
It’s not hard at all to get at least 1.8 cents value per mile (or much more than that), but at that rate it’s a 2.7% rebate on everything you buy. Considering you can pay your federal income taxes for a 1.88% fee, you will be able to load up on miles the next time you pay taxes and be excited about getting a discounted vacation out of it! It would come out to a cost of just 1.25 cents per United mile, which is an incredible bargain (A business class ticket to Europe is 100,000 miles with no fuel surcharges, so you would be paying just $1,250 for business to Europe or $1,500 for business to Israel or the Maldives), plus you may even be able to deduct the 1.88% fee!
You also earn 2 miles per dollar on United purchases, though that is beat by the 2.14 points per dollar offered by Sapphire Preferred.
-2 Free Checked Bags:
You and one companion automatically get 2 free checked bags on United worldwide. If you bring 2 bags each that’s a savings of $240 domestically or a savings of $400 to most international destinations (Europe, Israel, Argentina, Asia, Australia, etc) on a round-trip.
Not only that but additional cards are free, and although additional cardholders don’t automatically get 2 free bags like the primary cardholder, they will at the checkin counter by just showing the agent their United Club card if you purchase their ticket using the United Club card. I have tested this out many times to confirm that this works. For a family of 4 with 8 checked bags you can split your itinerary into 2 after purchasing it, and then with 1 primary card and 1 additional card all 8 checked bags will be free, a savings of $480 domestically or $800 to most international destinations on a round-trip.
As the free luggage benefit can be attained by just showing a checkin agent your credit card, it will last until the card’s expiration date, which is 3 years from when you are approved.
-Premier Access and Boarding:
You’ll get priority check-in, priority baggage handling (your bags will arrive ahead of the general public’s), and priority security line access.
Plus you will board at the same time as Premier Silver elite members, ahead of Explorer cardholders, ahead of families with children, and way ahead of the general public, so that you will have plenty of space for your carry-ons.
-Waived Award Expedite/Close-In Fees:
Those pesky $75 per passenger fees for booking an award ticket within 21 days (which is right when the best award availability starts to open up) are automatically waived for cardholders!
-No foreign Transaction fees:
Get the best rates and pay no exchange rate fees.
-Avis President’s Club Elite Status:
Cardholders get Avis’ invite only President’s Club elite status!
With this status you get guaranteed 2 class upgrades, and often will get free luxury car upgrades, just like Chairman members!
-Hyatt Platinum Elite Status:
Cardmembers get Platinum status at Hyatt, giving them free internet, upgrades, bonus points, and a sweetened offer when they apply for the Hyatt credit card.
As with the Explorer card, you also get these benefits:
-Primary CDW Rental Car Insurance:
Almost all credit cards only offer secondary CDW rental car insurance, meaning that you must first file a claim with your personal insurance which will affect your rates. The United consumers cards cover accidents without the need to make any claim with your personal insurance and should definitely be your go-to card for all car rentals outside of Israel.
-Premier upgrades on award tickets:
Premier members will be eligible for upgrades by being a United cardholder.
As long as you’re a United cardholder your miles will never expire.
-Last-Seat Standard Awards:
As long as there’s a seat on the plane you’ll be able to use double miles for it. This level is now capacity controlled for general members.
-Travel Accident Insurance
-Trip Cancellation Insurance
-Lost Luggage Reimbursement
-Delayed Luggage Reimbursement
-Delayed Trip Reimbursement
-Extended Warranty Protection
-Price Drop Protection
-Worldwide Emergency Card Replacement