I sucked it up and got the most expensive fucking card I’ve ever owned: the Chase United Club card.

I’ve long been tantalized by the United Club card, but could never justify it to myself, because it is trés cher. It’s $450 per year, with no way of offsetting that amount because it does not come with some amount of dollars towards towards travel credit, like most premium bank branded cards, such as Chase Sapphire Reserve, Citi Prestige, and Amex Platinum and Gold. Those cost me between $100-$250 each out of pocket after I use their travel credit. Ok, not terrible, but I have all four of those freaking cards. Did I really need to throw down a full fucking $450 for another credit card?

  • I decided the Chase United Club card was worth $450, at least for this year, while I claw my way back to United Premier status.
  • It offers some of the same perks that having Premier status does, which I can use before I make it back.
  • It earns an additional 12,500 United miles over the Explorer for the spending I’m required to put on it to waive the United Premier Qualifying Dollars requirement.
  • It offers United lounge access, which was not enough motivation by itself, but I certainly won’t mind having.

I’m not eligible (yet!) to re-apply for Chase cards due to their abominable “5/24” rule which prevents you from getting a new card if you’ve opened 5 personal cards with anyone in the last two years. Jerks. But I have had some form of United branded card since, what, 2014, and you can switch (or “product change,” in bank parlance) that to any other still-available United branded card, as long as you’re willing to forgo the signup bonus. So I called up Chase, said I wanted to change Explorer to Club, they read me 97 disclosures, and that was that.

Anyhoo, why did I get the stupid Club card? Well, I shoot for United status every two years, since it lasts for one year past the year you achieve it in, and having to chase it every year would be exhausting. My Premier Gold status about to expire (on Jan 31), so I’m trying to frontload as many flights as I can right now so I can get back, as soon as I can, to Premier Silver at minimum, and ideally Gold. (How I’m gonna do that is a separate post.)

The Club card will be my good luck charm during February and March where I am, for the first time in 4 years, going to be traveling as a statusless, gen-pop, plebian face among the masses. The Club card provides Premier Access (priority checkin/security/boarding/baggage). In truth, most of those things don’t matter, since I don’t usually check bags, I have TSA PreCheck, and the Explorer card also gets priority boarding. But, still, if I do need to check bags, being able to skip the line will be nice, and once in a while I need to use the expedited security line when PreCheck is a mile long. (And that’s probably all doubly true now, because it turns out people don’t like to work without getting paid, for some strange reason.)

What else? Well, access to the United Club (but, grr, not the Polaris Lounge) for me and a guest. At Newark in particular, I’m not sure their badly-in-need-of-renovation lounge in Terminal C is inherently nicer than the gate/dining area, but the snacks are free. The lounge in Terminal A is nothing to get excited about, but it is Shangri-Fucking-La compared to the dump outside its frosted glass doors. And some of the United Clubs are, in fact, pretty nice; the one at LAX is phenomenal. At any rate, the Club is great if, like me, you are developing your alcoholism, and it’s always going to be nicer than knocking knees with a stranger in the food court.

Irritatingly, you now have to have a United or Star Alliance boarding pass for a flight on the same day to enter, so I can’t just hang out at a United lounge if I happen to be flying another airline. Unless, of course, I take strategic advantage of United’s 24-hour cancellation policy. But I would never, ever do something like that. No sirree Bob. I also get access to Star Alliance lounges worldwide, so, hey, that’s a thing. I’ve never been in one. I probably had access to those all along this year because I was United Gold, but I only just figured it out. I’m not bitter. But in truth, I didn’t travel a fuck of a lot this year, except for Moldova, which, believe it or don’t, does not have a Star Alliance Lounge.

Ok, but so the fuck what. Let’s get to the good stuff: 1.5 United miles per dollar spent (or 2 on United itself). I plan on putting $25K on this card so that I can nullify United’s unsavory Premier Quaifying Dollar requirement for status, since part of how I plan on getting that status is by flying on long cheap flights, or on partner airline flights, which earn no qualifying dollars at all when not booked as a United ticket. So, if I am having to put that $25K on the card that I would normally put elsewhere, I’d rather get an extra 12,500 United miles for my trouble, which at minimum is worth a domestic saver-level one-way ticket, and potentially much more if contributed towards an international flight in business class. I’m spending the money anyway, and the value of the extra points offsets decently the cost of the card.

Finally, le pièce de résistance: The Club card waives the fucking close-in booking fee that United charges if you book an award ticket within 21 days. Which I do. As a nobody, it’s $75, as a Silver, it’s $50, as a Gold, it’s $25. You have to climb your way to Platinum to have it waived — or you can have the Club card. In my world, this also offsets the cost. I can’t believe I didn’t just get the dumb card three years ago for this reason alone. (If it also waived the $75 same day change fee you suffer as a plebe or a Silver, I probably would have.)

I can also make myself feel better about the change, because I had recently changed my no-fee MileagePlus card to the paid Explorer card, for its two lounge passes and the hope of upgrades during award travel. That cost me $95. I used those passes, and made the change to the Club quickly enough to have my $95 refunded. So I essentially got two Club passes for free. Whoop de dee!

I’ve long felt the Club card was underrated, but couldn’t Get To Yes for $450, especially when I already had status, and thus had no reason to spend on it nor benefit from most of its perks. But soon I’m going to be naked and shivering in the anonymous, indifferent, grey light of General Membership, and my Club card will keep me warm.

Any of you people been in any United or Star Alliance lounges I should make a point of checking out?

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