Be warned… this airline credit card is definitely not for everyone. Light to moderate spenders may be better off going with a lower cost airline reward card.
However if you’re a United frequent flier AND a big spender, the rewards might offset the annual fee.
Disclosure: I do not advertise this card. All info about it is presented without warranty.
Benefit #1: More miles than their normal card
The United MileagePlus Club card costs $395 per year but it earns you 1.5 miles on all your purchases (except for United purchases, which earn 2 miles per dollar).Now obviously, if you only spend $10k a year it’s not worth paying $395 for a credit card. But think about… if you spend $50k annually, that equals an extra 25,000 miles every year. Considering that 25k miles is enough for a round-trip domestic flight, for the heavy spender this card could make sense.
Benefit #2: United Club Membership
If you want access to the United Club lounges, your options are few and far between:
A. Buy first-class tickets which come with access. Not all of them do. You have to be traveling internationally; domestic flights (including those to Hawaii) won’t get you in.
B. Buy a United Club Membership which will set you back this much money:
C. Apply for the Chase United Club Visa Signature.
Hmm let’s see… the credit card costs $395/year, while lounge access alone costs $500 if you don’t have status with United.
The choice is quite obvious – if you want lounge access all the time without having to buy first-class tickets, then the MileagePlus Club credit card is definitely the way to go.
By the way it’s worth pointing out that back in 2011, American Express and United Airlines parted ways. That means you can no longer use the Platinum Card ($450 fee) to gain access to the United lounges.
Benefit #3: Receive first AND second checked bags for free
Even for those who don’t fly frequently, I’m a huge advocate of airline-branded cards that come with a free checked bag benefit. Because at $25/bag one way ($50 round trip), that savings will add up fast, even if you only fly once or twice per year.
You get this benefit for you as well as one other person on your reservation (so combined, 2 people can check 4 bags for free). That’s a savings of up to $200 per round trip!
Just like the 1.5 miles/dollar, this is another one of the benefits which can offset the annual fee, assuming you take advantage of it.
Benefit #4: The many, many benefits
As you can probably guess, this card comes crammed with quite a few bells and whistles…
- Premier Access – This is probably my favorite. When available you get to use designated check-in lines, exclusive airport security lanes, priority boarding, and your checked bags are among the first to be delivered. We all know time is money, so depending on how much you value your time, paying $395 to get all of this VIP treatment every time you fly could be a bargain.
- No restrictions or blackout dates – It’s no secret that airline cards are sneaky when it comes to mileage redemption. Fortunately you won’t have to worry about United Airlines doing that if you have their Club Card. With it you can use miles for any seat, any time, on any United flight. Assuming the seat is available, you can use your miles at the Standard Award level to get it.
- No expiration on miles – As long as you have the card, you don’t have to worry about the miles you earn expiring.
- No foreign transaction fees – You won’t have to pay that 3 percent surcharge while traveling internationally.
- Concierge – It comes with the dedicated Chase MileagePlus Club Card concierge service.
- Purchase protection – Coverage for eligible items stolen or damaged within 90 days of purchase.
- Extended protection – Get up to one year of extra warranty coverage for free on eligible manufacturer warranties of three years or less.
- Price Protection – Reimburses you under some circumstances if the price of an item goes on sale after you buy it.
- Return protection – Coverage for when a store will not accept your return.
- Emergency card replacement – Get a replacement within 24 hours inside the US and Canada, up to 1 business day elsewhere.
- Emergency cash service – Get up to $1,000 in emergency cash within 24 hours inside the US and Canada, within 1 biz day elsewhere.
- Travel Insurance Benefits
Who should apply?
Really it just comes down to how much you will use the benefits. To summarize this review, the standout perks are:
- 1.5 miles per dollar on purchases
- United Club lounge access
- Premier Access at airport, when/where available
I’m not claiming this $395 Visa card makes sense for the average Joe or Jane (in fact, it might be a major waste of money for them). But if you’re a high-income business traveler, the card might be worth it.
However there are a couple major downsides to contemplate:
- The $395 annual fee is NOT waived the first year
- The sign-up offer is lackluster. Throughout all of 2014 I’ve only seen them offer a $100 statement credit after first purchase.
My opinion? For most people it will make more sense to go with a different card or consider the lower-tiered United card; the MileagePlus Explorer.
Updated June 12, 2014