Credit Card Review: United MileagePlus Club Card
May 8, 2012

After the final merger of Continental and United and the end of the OnePass Plus and Presidential Plus cards, United announced it would be releasing a new version of the MileagePlus Club Card comparable to Continental’s old Presidential Plus card, with many of the same benefits. Unfortunately the Flex EQM benefits (the ability to earn elite qualifying miles) is not a benefit on the Club Card, but the new card does pack in some other benefits that could save you money if you are a United flyer. Note: Some United clubs are offering coupons to have the first year annual fee waived on this card, so it can’t hurt to check if you have a club visit planned anytime soon.
Key Details

-United Club Membership. Cardholders and a travel companion receive membership to the United Club, and access to the airline’s 50+ lounges, as well as affiliated Star Alliance member lounges around the world. Club membership costs $475 normally (without elite status), so if this is important to you, this one benefit alone could be worth getting the card. It’s also worth noting that Amex Platinum cardholders no longer get access to United Clubs, so this card is your primary shot at access. Here’s a list of United Club and partner lounges (this card gives access to the ones with a blue dot for United Club members).

-1.5 United MileagePlus miles on every dollar spent. This is a 50% bonus above both the Explorer card and most other airline cards, which only give you 1 mile per dollar, and even beats the British Airways Visa, which only earns 1.25 Avios per dollar spent.

-2 United MileagePlus miles on United purchases. If you’re planning on spending a lot on United flights, you could rake in tons of bonus points thanks to this earning ratio.

-2 free checked bags each for cardholder and a companion.

-Premier Access: priority check-in, security screening and boarding.

-Hyatt Gold Passport Platinum elite status. This is one of the more valuable perks of this card in my opinion. Hyatt Platinum status confers a rich slate of perks including a 15% bonus on points earned on Hyatt spend, preferred rooms, 72-hour guaranteed room availability, free in-room internet and late check-out. Plus, if you have Platinum status when you get the Hyatt Visa, you’ll not only get two free nights with sign-up, but also two suite upgrade certificates good on stays up to 7 days.

-Avis President’s Club elite status. Avis President’s Club elite status is usually extended by invitation only and includes perks like guaranteed two-class rental upgrades and even luxury upgrades sometimes.

-No last-minute award fees. Like most airlines, United charges non-elites a $75 fee to book award tickets within 21 days, when some great award availability usually opens up, so you could end up saving a lot of money with this benefit.

-Primary Collision Damage Waiver insurance on car rentals. This can be extremely valuable–especially in worst-case scenarios–and means you won’t have to purchase expensive insurance from rental agencies.

-$395 annual fee not waived for the first year.

-$95 statement credit with first purchase.

- No foreign transaction fees

So Is It Worth It?

If you value United Club membership (which you’re essentially getting for $300 with the first year’s $95 statement credit), as well as making last-minute award bookings and looking to build up your MileagePlus account by spending a fair amount of money on United purchases (as well as putting your other spend on this card for the 1.5 mile/dollar earning ratio), then this card could be a good option for you. Even if you’ve already purchased United club membership, you can apply for the United MileagePlus Club Card and be reimbursed for the unused portion of your membership once approved for the Card. So if you are paying the same amount anyway, might as well get the other perks that go along with this card. 1.5 miles per dollar is a pretty strong earning ratio for day to day spending, especially since I think United miles are the most valuable miles out there today.

A potential play here if you have and want to keep your Amex Platinum card, but also get United lounge access, is to use the $200 fee rebate to purchase a membership for $475 (less if you have United elite status), and then once you get this Club card you’ll get reimbursed for the unused portion of the membership. So you only lay out $275 since you get $200 back from Amex and in turn you get back $475, plus get the $95 statement credit- all for a $395 annual fee. Of course the Amex Platinum has a $450 annual fee, but it’s easy to get more than that in value from the card, especially with the $200 fee rebate.

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