The United Club card from Chase is United’s high-end card for flyers similar to Delta’s Reserve card and AA’s Executive AAdvantage card. All of these cards sit at the top of the credit card pile when it comes to annual fees with each card doing their best to try to be deserving of those high fees.
But, every traveler and their needs are different so it will depend on whether the perks offered by those cards will make sense for you. In this post, we will look at the United Club card and try to compare it to the United MileagePlus Explorer card to see how it stacks up and whether it is worth the high annual fee.
United Club Card
This card is a standout from the other airlines’ high-end cards for one big reason – it has no sign-up bonus with miles. In the credit card world of miles and points, sign-up bonuses are what lure us to various cards and make us become willing to stick it in our pocket for spending. With the United Club card, that big miles draw is not there. So, what would draw someone to get and use this card?
The Annual Fee
So, how does the United Club card try to get your business without any sign-up bonus in miles? Well, first of all, the annual fee is now $450 (recently raised from $395) and, like the other high-end cards, is due in the first year. To counteract that somewhat, Chase offers a $100 statement credit for the first year.
Get It Waived The First Year!
But, to make it better, you can use this link (and you will need to sign-in with your United information) and you should be able to get the offer with the annual fee waived for the first year. That is a huge plus for this card, at least for the first year, because of what it offers.
However, even if the link does not show that same offer for you, it has been possible for people to call Chase or visit in a branch to actually get the annual fee waived for the first year. I had that happen with me – it took a simple secure message to Chase on their website asking if the annual fee would be waived and they agreed to it no problem.
If you are able to get the annual fee waived, that is $450 that you will not have to put out and that is quite the reverse sign-up bonus. However, even if you are not able to get it waived, with the public offer having a $100 statement credit, you would “only” be paying $295 for the first year. Let’s look at the card’s offerings to see how it stacks up and whether this card is worth having.
Of course, another thing to consider doing is to upgrade from another Chase card. This way, you are not risking a hard pull on your credit report to open yet another card (or risk denial if you have had 5 or more new cards in the last 24 months). There have been reports of customers being offered a fee-free upgrade for the first year (I received one myself one time).
There are a few benefits that I would consider very good for this card. Here is what they are:
- No fee for 2 bags for the primary cardholder and one traveling companion
- United Club membership
- Waived close-in booking fee for United flights
- Premier Access
- 1.5 United miles per dollar spent
Let’s break those down one by one to see how much value this card could provide. For a baseline, let’s assume that it is a couple that travels 4 times domestically each year and 1 time internationally.
2 Free Bags
The United MileagePlus Explorer card gives 1 free bag to you and a single companion. The United Club card gives 2 free bags. That is much better because international flights are already giving you a single bag for free and these cards do not add on to free bags you may already get (so the MileagePlus Explorer card does not let you take 2 free bags to Europe since just flying already gives you 1).
All you have to do is to walk through a European airport in peak travel seasons to find that there are many couples/families that have more than one piece of checked luggage each. If people are going on cruises, visiting family, a couple of week vacation, they often pack for all eventualities and that many times means 2 bags each. Since the cost of the 2nd bag to Europe is $100 per person, the United Club card would save our traveling couple $200 each year on their international trip.
Traveling domestically may not give as much value on this one as the majority of people travel with just a single bag each. However, if they travel with other people, they could check the other people’s bags and save another $25 on each 2nd bag (the $25 is what someone would pay to check a bag domestically if they had no card waiver).
But, we will keep it just the couple and say that this benefit saves $200 per year.
United Club Membership
Having Club membership is huge because it gives you access to any Star Alliance lounge when traveling and you do not have to be traveling on United flights to access these lounges. While domestic United Clubs are really nothing to get excited about, having access to lounges within the Star Alliance network worldwide opens many doors of relaxation and assistance when traveling.
When traveling domestic, our traveling couple would have receive 2 free lounge passes with the United MileagePlus Explorer card so we can skip 1 domestic trip. That would leave 3 more domestic trips and the single international trip. Assuming one visit each way on the international trip, that would save at least $25 per person per visit (considering that you can buy United club passes for cheap online but they do not work for Star lounges so calling it an even $25 in value).
I have access to Star Alliance lounges thanks to my Star Gold status with Aegean, but if you do not have status and travel internationally in economy class, lounge membership is a huge help to help you ease into a trip! With showers, comfortable seating, and food tables in international lounges, it can save you money and give you a chance to refresh yourself enroute.
For our earnings, this would be a little more difficult because you cannot really buy your way into many of the international lounges that this card gives you access to. But, we will conservatively put a value of $200 on it for our traveling couple and their domestic and international trips.
Waived Close-In Booking Fee On United Flights
This is a great help! If you do not have status with United, you will be on the hook for $75 per award ticket that is booked within 21 days of departure. Even with just having this work for United flights, it is a great cost saver because there are many times that trips must be booked within 21 days of departure – shifting award availability, family emergency, vacation time granted late, etc.
This only applies to the United account that the United Club card is tied to, of course, but we will assume that our traveling couple is booking all of their award travel from that account to take advantage of the perks of this card.
We will assume that just one of our traveling couple’s trips is booked within the 21 day period. That is 2 tickets times the $75 fee for a savings of $150.
Premier Access allows you to use the same line that elite members (or in some cases, the lower elite members) get to use. This is for check-in, security lines (where allowed), and boarding. This is a great benefit that I have become spoiled with as a result of my elite status. To get to walk by the very long lines and go to a dedicated line is a big deal!
When you print your ticket out, it will say PREMIER ACCESS on the top just like it does for elite members and partner elite members. That gives you similar access as someone who flies at least 25,000 miles with United or their partners per year!
Putting a price on this is hard because it is not about something you would pay for but the added convenience of the card and allowing you to spend less time in the airport because of lines. But, we will again go conservative and place a value of $50 on this perk for all of the trips for our traveling couple.
1.5 United Miles Per Dollar
This is a great one and where someone could really rackup the potential benefits. While many Chase cards that feed into the Ultimate Reward program (and, in turn, can convert to United miles) have category bonuses up to 5X per dollar, that does not apply to all spending. The United MileagePlus Explorer card does give you an extra boost of 10,000 miles each year you spend $25,000 so that helps for sure.
But, if you spend a lot in non-bonus categories as a part of your everyday spend or maybe business spend, the extra .5 mile per dollar can really add up. To be fair, you would need to spend more than $25,000 on this card per calendar year to compete against the MileagePlus Explorer card (and its $95 annual fee).
If you were to spend $40,000 per year on this card, it would give you a total of 60,000 United miles – enough for a roundtrip ticket to Europe. The same spending on the MileagePlus Explorer card would get you 50,000 miles so that one is not too far behind. If you value your United miles around 1.7 cents per mile, that means you are getting an extra $170 in value using this card over the MileagePlus Explorer card.
So, is this card for you? If you can either upgrade for free (which some have received offers for) or get it for free, and you travel on United, it very well might be for you! But, I would think that if you already have United elite status or a partner’s elite status, this may not be the best card as you will already get many of the perks that the card offers.
Instead, this is a great card for someone who uses United miles for award travel and flies at least 4-5 times per year. If all of your travel is done with miles, it could be for you if that award travel is even up to 10 times per year.
At the end of the day, the decision is up to you but I hope this breakdown has helped you in deciding if it is right for you. If you would have to pay the annual fee (so, you do not get it waived), I would think you may be better off skipping this card and getting the United MileagePlus Explorer card instead. That is a solid card that will only cost you $95 per year and still get you a free bag and mileage earning.