United MileagePlus Club card review

Published: November 15, 2017
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Ratings Policy
Airline Rating:
2.5 rating
2.5 rating
2.5 / 5
Rewards Value: 0.2
Annual Percentage Rate: 2.6
Rewards Flexibility: 4.4
Flight Options: 5.0
Features: 5.0

In a nutshell:

With its sky-high annual fee and practically nonexistent sign-up bonus, most frequent United Airlines flyers would be smart to forgo signing up for the United MileagePlus Club credit card.

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Rewards Rate

  • 2:1 directly purchased United airfare
  • 1.5:1 other purchases

Sign-up Bonus
$100 statement credit with your first purchase

 

Annual Bonus
None

Annual Fee
$450

Average Yearly Rewards Value ($1,325 monthly spend)
$(32)

APR
16.99-23.99% (variable)

Rewards Redemption
Pros

  • Use miles for airfare on United, car rentals, hotel stays, merchandise, donation or annual fee reimbursement
  • Book any available seat at any time (no blackout dates)
  • No fuel surcharges
  • 2 open-jaws permitted
  • One stopover permitted
  • Miles don’t expire as long as your account is open
  • No limit to the number of miles you can earn

Cons

  • All awards are one-way (no round-trip bookings)
  • $25 phone booking fee
  • Minimum 5,000 miles to redeem for partial statement credit

Flight Options

  • Airline partners: 28
  • Daily flights: 21,000
  • Destinations: 1,300
  • Countries served: 192

Other Notable Features: United Club membership, including access to Star Alliance-affiliated lounges (authorized users not eligible), first and second checked bags free for you and one companion, priority check-in, priority security screening, boarding and baggage handling privileges, no close-in booking fees, Hyatt Discoverist status, Visa concierge, Chase luxury hotel & resort collection, Visa Signature luxury hotel collection, exclusive events (celebrity meet-and-greets, private culinary and sports events, etc.), no foreign transaction fees, auto rental collision damage waiver, baggage delay insurance, lost luggage reimbursement, trip cancellation/interruption insurance, trip delay reimbursement, purchase protection, price protection, return protection, extended warranty, EMV chip technology

Rewards Rating:
2.1 rating
2.1 rating
2.1 / 5
Rewards Value: 0.0
Annual Percentage Rate: 1.4
Rewards Flexibility: 3.9
Features: 5.0

In a nutshell:

Cardholders who aren’t specifically looking for a United Club membership will find a plethora of rewards cards with better perks and much lower annual fees than the United MileagePlus Club card.

Learn more about this card

Rewards Rate

  • 2:1 directly purchased United airfare
  • 1.5 other purchases

Sign-up Bonus
$100 statement credit with your first purchase

 

Annual Fee
$450

Average Yearly Rewards Value ($1,325 monthly spend)
$(32)

APR
16.99-23.99% (variable)

Rewards Redemption
Pros

  • Use miles for airfare on United, car rentals, hotel stays, merchandise, donation or annual fee reimbursement
  • Book any available seat at any time (no blackout dates)
  • No fuel surcharges
  • 2 open-jaws permitted
  • One stopover permitted
  • Miles don’t expire as long as your account is open
  • No limit to the number of miles you can earn

Cons

  • All awards are one-way (no round-trip bookings)
  • $25 phone booking fee
  • Minimum 5,000 miles to redeem for partial statement credit

Other Notable Features: United Club membership, including access to Star Alliance-affiliated lounges (authorized users not eligible), first and second checked bags free for you and one companion, priority check-in, priority security screening, boarding and baggage handling privileges, no close-in booking fees, Hyatt Discoverist status, Visa concierge, Chase luxury hotel & resort collection, Visa Signature luxury hotel collection, exclusive events (celebrity meet-and-greets, private culinary and sports events, etc.), no foreign transaction fees, auto rental collision damage waiver, baggage delay insurance, lost luggage reimbursement, trip cancellation/interruption insurance, trip delay reimbursement, purchase protection, price protection, return protection, extended warranty, EMV chip technology

Travel Rating:
2.1 rating
2.1 rating
2.1 / 5
Rewards Value: 0.1
Annual Percentage Rate: 1.3
Rewards Flexibility: 3.9
Features: 5.0

In a nutshell:

The United MileagePlus Club card is the go-to card for United Club access, but it pales in comparison to similar elite travel cards that offer lounge access plus better rewards and more valuable perks.

Learn more about this card

Rewards Rate

  • 2:1 directly purchased United airfare
  • 1.5 other purchases

Sign-up Bonus
$100 statement credit with your first purchase

Annual Fee
$450

Average Yearly Rewards Value ($1,325 monthly spend)
$(32)

APR
16.99-23.99% (variable)

Rewards Redemption
Pros

  • Use miles for airfare on United, car rentals, hotel stays, merchandise, donation or annual fee reimbursement
  • Book any available seat at any time (no blackout dates)
  • No fuel surcharges
  • 2 open-jaws permitted
  • One stopover permitted
  • Miles don’t expire as long as your account is open
  • No limit to the number of miles you can earn

Cons

  • All awards are one-way (no round-trip bookings)
  • $25 phone booking fee
  • Minimum 5,000 miles to redeem for partial statement credit

Other Notable Features: United Club membership, including access to Star Alliance-affiliated lounges (authorized users not eligible), first and second checked bags free for you and one companion, priority check-in, priority security screening, boarding and baggage handling privileges, no close-in booking fees, Hyatt Discoverist status, Visa concierge, Chase luxury hotel & resort collection, Visa Signature luxury hotel collection, exclusive events (celebrity meet-and-greets, private culinary and sports events, etc.), no foreign transaction fees, auto rental collision damage waiver, baggage delay insurance, lost luggage reimbursement, trip cancellation/interruption insurance, trip delay reimbursement, purchase protection, price protection, return protection, extended warranty, EMV chip technology

If your biggest goal is gaining entry to the airline’s United Club locations — as well as Star Alliance-affiliated lounges worldwide — then the United MileagePlus Club card might be worthy of consideration. But if you prefer hunting for great deals on airfare or booking travel through aggregator websites, you probably want to pass on the United MileagePlus Club card and proceed directly to a general travel credit card that offers better rewards and greater flexibility when it comes to redemption.

For example, the Discover it Miles card comes with 1.5 miles per dollar spent and then doubles those miles at the end of your first year; plus, you won’t be limited to flying with certain airlines or booking travel through the card issuer’s portal.

Average rewards

With double points on directly purchased United airfare and 1.5 points per $1 spent everywhere else, United MileagePlus Club card rewards are slightly better than average for a travel credit card. But when you factor in the annual fee and an approximate value of 1.5 cents per point, you’d have to charge quite a bit each year to make the card worth your while: With a $1,325 monthly spend, we calculated the card’s average yearly rewards value at a negative $31.97. That’s right — typical spenders are likely to end up in the red with this one. 

Hefty annual fee

The United MileagePlus Club card’s annual fee isn’t for the faint of heart. At $450, it ranks up there with the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, but without the stellar sign-up bonus, $300 annual travel credit and triple points on all travel and restaurant spending.

There is one easy way to offset the annual fee, but it depends on one thing: your United Club membership status. With United Club rates starting at $450 annually — though most flyers will pay $550 — it makes sense to sign up for the credit card instead and enjoy the enhanced perks that come with it (more on that later). So, if access to United’s airport lounges and participating Star Alliance-affiliated clubs is what you’re after, the card might suit you better than a standalone United Club membership.

Stingy sign-up bonus

Besides the steep annual fee, one of the United MileagePlus Club card’s biggest drawbacks is its unexciting sign-up bonus. While many competing cards offer outstanding sign-up bonuses that are often valuable enough to score you a free round-trip flight right off the bat (see the Barclaycard World Elite Mastercard and Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select Mastercard), new MileagePlus Club cardholders receive a mere $100 statement credit with their first purchase.

Even when you factor in the lack of a minimum spending requirement on said purchase, this sign-up bonus doesn’t even begin to compare to that of other cards in the travel category — many of which have much lower annual fees to boot.

Good availability

Thanks to United’s 28 Star Alliance partners, global route network and flexible booking policies, you’ll enjoy decent flight availability with the United MileagePlus Club card, especially in the economy seating section. However, there are some downsides: Not all tickets with Star Alliance partners can be booked online, which means you’ll have to pay a $25 fee to book over the phone. Plus, United Saver Awards, which require fewer miles to redeem, are more difficult to find when you’re not flexible on travel dates.

Beginning Nov. 1, United MileagePlus is replacing its Standard Awards with Everyday Awards, where the points required to book awards seats will be based on ticket prices instead of the airline’s previous flat-rate policy. While Saver Awards for continental U.S. flights will remain unchanged, the new policy — which you can read about in more detail here — means those who book business or first-class awards flights will fork over an additional 5,000 to 10,000 miles per leg on most routes, and even more during peak travel seasons. The airline will also charge members a $125 fee when they fail to show up for their flight and request a redeposit of their miles.

Other luxury benefits

In addition to United Club membership, the MileagePlus Club card comes with plenty of posh perks that are sure to entice frequent United flyers to open an account. Some examples: free first and second checked bags for you and one companion, priority check-in, priority security screening, Visa concierge, Chase luxury hotel & resort collection, no foreign transaction fees, lost luggage reimbursement, trip cancellation/interruption insurance, trip delay reimbursement and much more.

Why get the United MileagePlus Club card?

  • You frequently fly with United Airlines (or one of its 28 Star Alliance partners).
  • You can spend enough on the card every year to outweigh its $450 annual fee.
  • You want to avoid typical airport congestion with priority security screening, boarding and baggage handling privileges.
  • You’re interested in the amenities and other benefits associated with a United Club membership.
  • You stand to save considerable money with free checked bags for you and one companion (valued at up to $240 per round-trip flight).

How to use the United MileagePlus Club card:

  • Use the card to pay for all United ticket purchases to help maximize your earnings.
  • Try to redeem rewards seats with a United Saver Award to use fewer miles (subject to capacity and demand).
  • Wherever possible, book travel on United.com to avoid paying a $25 phone booking fee.
  • Use the card when traveling overseas to take advantage of no foreign transaction fees.
  • Keep your account open to prevent your miles from expiring.

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