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This article was last updated Feb 19, 2019. Terms and conditions may have changed. For the most accurate information, please consult the issuer website.
The information related to the United Club℠ Card and the United℠ Explorer Card has been collected by CompareCards and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication. Terms apply to Chase credit card offers. See chase.com for more information.
No one likes paying annual fees for credit cards or premium airport lounge access. For credit cards that waive the annual fee the first year, it can be especially annoying to be hit with one after that year is up. And if there’s an option to avoid forking over money for expensive lounge membership fee, why not?
United Airlines offers a solution for its cardholders. The MileagePlus Choices program allows those with the United Club℠ Card or the United℠ Explorer Card to use miles to cover each card’s annual fee, at $450 and $0 Intro for First Year, then $95, respectively.
Your miles can also be used to pay the yearly United Club℠ membership, which starts at $550 a year, or applied as statement credits for airfare purchased on the card or paid subscriptions that allow MileagePlus members to pay a yearly fee for perks such as Economy Plus seating or in-flight Wi-Fi. We’ll show you how to use your United MileagePlus miles to do it all.
How to use MileagePlus miles to cover the annual card fee
The steps for using your miles to cover your credit card’s annual fee is pretty simple.
- Log into MileagePlus Choices within 90 days of your annual fee posting to your statement.
- Look up the date your annual fee posted on your statement.
- Enter the date of the fee and the amount on the MileagePlus Choices form.
- You’ll see how many miles you have to redeem for a statement credit against the annual fee.
It’s a good way to make your card effectively have no annual fee each year, if you have enough miles banked. Here’s how many miles you will need to redeem for each card’s annual fee:
Note that you can only use the miles earned on your United Club℠ Card or your United℠ Explorer Card to cover these fees.
How to use MileagePlus miles to pay for airfare
You can use MileagePlus Choices to get an airfare statement credit when you buy United tickets on united.com with the MileagePlus credit card. After the purchase posts to your credit card account, log in at united.com/chase to use award miles earned with your MileagePlus credit card for an airfare statement credit against that charge.
The credit can’t exceed the ticket purchase amount charged to your MileagePlus credit card. Partial statement credits are allowed with a minimum of 5,000 award miles, but only one statement credit request can be made per unique transaction.
*Image provided by Benet Wilson
How to use MileagePlus miles to pay for United Club access
United Club airport lounge membership provides a nice respite from the airport masses. It comes with comfortable seating, free Wi-Fi, outlets to charge your electronics, free food, snacks and beverages, a business center and help from customer service agents.
A United Club membership starts at $550 a year, but you can pay for it with miles at any time. This can be a good deal if you have the United℠ Explorer Card and have a pile of miles lying around. But if you have the United Club℠ Card, United Club membership is free.
There’s an initiation fee of $50, or 7,000 miles, for all new United Club memberships and for renewals for memberships that are more than 30 days past expiration. One initiation fee will be charged for a membership with a spouse.
Here is a chart showing the number of miles you’ll need to redeem for an annual United Club membership, based on MileagePlus status and individual versus spouse.
Effective Nov. 1, 2019, United Club members and their guests must show a same-day arrival and/or departure boarding pass in the customer’s name on a United or Star AllianceTM partner-operated flight for entry.
Use miles to pay for passenger Wi-Fi subscriptions
If you use Wi-Fi regularly on flights, it may make sense to pay money or redeem miles for a monthly or annual Wi-Fi subscription on United and United Express flights for North America or internationally. The miles needed are:
- North America monthly: $49 or 7,500 miles
- North America annually: $539 or 80,000 miles
- Global monthly: $69 or 10,500 miles
- Global annually: $689 or 100,000 miles
A 24-hour Gogo Wi-Fi pass on United Airlines costs $19. The monthly pass pays for itself after three one-way flights on North American flights or four on a global one. Annually, you’d need to take 29 North American or 37 global one-way flights to make the pass worth it. Frequent flyers could make that work.
Frankly, you’re much better off using those miles to travel, since you can redeem them for some pretty sweet reward travel in business class, although it’s nice to have this option if you have quite a bit of extra miles banked.
Earn more miles with Economy Plus, baggage fee subscriptions
While you can’t use your MileagePlus miles for annual subscriptions that cover Economy Plus seating or baggage fees, you can earn miles when you pay for them with your credit cards. The Economy Plus subscription allows travelers to reserve a seat with extra legroom toward the front of the plane, when available, on any United or United Express flight with this annual subscription. The cost is:
- Continental United States (excluding Alaska and Hawaii): $599 for one subscriber; $799 for a subscriber and a companion; and $1,099 for a subscriber and eight companions.
- North and Central America: $699 for one subscriber; $899 for a subscriber and a companion; and $1,199 for a subscriber and eight companions.
- Global: $799 for one subscriber; $999 for a subscriber and a companion; and $1,299 for a subscriber and eight companions.
Let’s say you book a coach ticket between New York and Los Angeles a month out. The fare would be $392.56 roundtrip, but United gives you the option to buy an Economy Plus/checked bag bundle for an additional $266 roundtrip, making your fare $716.60, including taxes. The Continental U.S. subscription would pay for itself after three trips for one traveler or two trips for two companions. A subscriber and eight companions would be covered after only one trip, considering that the bundle alone would cost $2,934 for everyone.
The subscription can’t be used for Basic Economy fares. If you’re United MileagePlus gold or above, you automatically receive upgrades to Economy Plus when seats are available and up to two checked bags for free — but not for traveling companions, so if you fly regularly with friends or family, this could be a good deal.
If you’re tired of paying fees for your luggage every time you fly on United, an annual baggage subscription may be a solution. For general flyers, those fees are $30 each way for the first checked bag and $40 for the second.
United Club℠ Cardholders and one traveling companion receive two free checked bags; United℠ Explorer Cardholders and a companion receive one.
Under an annual baggage subscription, one checked bag costs:
- Continental United States (excluding Alaska and Hawaii): $349 for one subscriber; $449 for a subscriber and a companion; and $649 for a subscriber and eight companions.
- North and Central America: $449 for one subscriber; $549 for a subscriber and a companion; and $849 for a subscriber and eight companions.
- Intra-Asia and Oceania (excludes flights from Honolulu to Guam) (with two checked bags): $399 for one subscriber; $499 for a subscriber and a companion; and $699 for a subscriber and eight companions.
- Global (with two checked bags): $799 for one subscriber; $899 for a subscriber and a companion; and $999 for a subscriber and eight companions.
You would need to fly at least six roundtrips a year for one subscriber, eight roundtrips for a subscriber and a companion or three roundtrips for a subscriber and eight companions to cover the subscription fee for the Continental U.S. alone. If you travel regularly, you can make this math work for you.
Once you’ve subscribed, simply make sure that your MileagePlus number is associated with each United ticket that you purchase, and your standard checked baggage service charges will be waived at check-in. Your baggage subscription doesn’t waive oversized or overweight bag fees and doesn’t cover the cost of checking more than two standard-size bags.
Learn more about Credit Cards That Offer Free Checked Bags.
The bottom line
If you travel on the regular and have been piling up the United MileagePlus miles, it’s nice to know that you have more options to redeem them than the usual reward flights, seat upgrades or experiences. Being able to pay for amenities that help improve the passenger experience or cover airfare you charge on your United credit cards under the MileagePlus Choices program is a valuable benefit.
A United Club membership gives you a respite away from the traveling public in a calm space with free Wi-Fi, comfortable seating, food and beverages, newspapers and magazines and help from customer service agents when you need it. Using the miles you earn to cover the annual fees on your United credit cards is money you can spend elsewhere.
Check out our roundup of the Best Airline Credit Cards.