To determine whether this is a good card, we have to compare the features with other airline affinity cards. If we look at all the affinity airline cards available, they all offer you a combination of features. Some of these features include free first baggage, annual companion tickets, club lounge access, discount to purchases on board the plane, reduced mileage awards and doing away with foreign transaction fees.
Things We Like About This Card - One of the great perks of this card is that you can check in your first baggage for free. And this perk applies to your companion traveling with you as well. The reason why this is a great perk is because you only get free baggage check ins if you are a Mileage Plus or Star Alliance Elite member.
If you are a Mileage Plus Silver member, the first baggage checked in is free. If you are Gold member, the first three baggage are free when you check them in.
This also applies to Star Alliance members. If you are at the Silver level, you get your first baggage checked in for free. If you are at the Gold level, you get to check in three baggages for free. So unless you are a Mileage Plus Star Alliance silver member, this is a really valuable perk. And even if you were, the fact that your companion enjoys this privilege is a plus.
The cost of the first checked in baggages are $25, $35 and $100 respectively for the first three bags. So depending on your status with either United or Star Alliance, the number of times you fly (with or without a companion), and the number of baggages you carry, this perk alone can save you quite a bit of money every year.
Another perk that we think will appeal to folks is the priority boarding. But this requires a bit of explanation. United divides their boarding into eight zones. Holders of this card will board in zone 5 (though it looks like the middle of the pack, you still get to board before most people). Here is how their boarding works.
Zone 1 - For Premier 1K, First and Business Class Passengers.
Zone 2 - Premier Platinum members.
Zone 3 - Premier Gold and Star Alliance Gold Members.
Zone 4 - Premier Silver and Star Alliance Silver Members.
Zone 5 - Priority Boarding for Card members.
Zone 6 to 8 - General Boarding for everyone else
Once again, if you are at least a Silver elite member with either United or Star Alliance, then you will get to board in zone 4 (one zone less) and this perk may not matter to you.
How Much is the Lounge Access Worth? - Every year as a card member, you will get two access to the United Red Carpet Club Lounge. If you do not have an annual membership, it will cost you $50 per entry per person. So this perk is worth $100 and already covers the annual fee of this card.
Features They Lack - The features mentioned are great and can save you money. But I just wished they had a couple of other features. For example, it would be nice if they had a free annual companion ticket feature. They could also do away with the foreign transaction fee.
Verdict - If you fly United often enough, then this is a card that you should consider if you want to earn more miles from your credit card spending. If you fly with a companion, you can save money on baggage fees (even if you have a Silver or Gold level Premier or Star ALliance status). The two lounge passes that you get a year alone will cover the annual fee. You will also get to board earlier than most passengers (though this perk will not matter if you are an elite member).
As we have mentioned previously, you also have to be aware that the Chase Sapphire Preferred(SM) Card allows you to transfer points to Continental United Miles and hence, must be considered an alternative card to this card. But more often than not, United flyers have both this card and the Sapphire Preferred in the wallets as they are really complementary. For example, Sapphire Preferred has no foreign transaction fees and lets you earn double points for dining expenses!
If you fly United and wish to accumulate miles faster through credit card spending, then you should get this card.