United Club Card - downgrade to what?

Discussion in 'United Airlines | MileagePlus' started by davythefatboy, Apr 21, 2013.  |  Print Topic

  1. davythefatboy

    davythefatboy Silver Member

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    I'm coming up on the anniversary of my United Club Card. $395 is crazy steep. I mostly fly international in business and already have club access there. In the US Amex platinum gets me into enough Clubs. Any other feature of this card seriously worthwhile? I have other cards with no foreign exchange fees.

    Which Chase United card should I drop down to?
     
  2. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    I'd drop to the Chase Sapphire Preferred unless the potential for upgrades on CPU-eligible flights is compelling. If it is then the Explorer card.

    The CSP earning rates are roughly the same (lower for UA purchases, higher for everything else) and the transfers to UA are instant. And if you decide you want to put the points in to one of their many other partners you have that option, too. Better value overall IMO.
     
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  3. redtailshark

    redtailshark Silver Member

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    I agree. I let my UA Club Card - former PPMC - lapse a year ago. Not really worth it. I didn't like the cut to the 25% bonus RDMs that CO offered when it was under their aegis. I had an Explorer and then cancelled because I didn't see much benefit in it - on numerous occasions I flew award tickets on UA and was never on the UG list even after I asked at the gate. That was one benefit they seemed singularly unable to deliver. It might as well have been administered by DL SM management for all the good it did.
     
  4. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    Alternatively, if you fly internationally and in business class as you just stated, then earning redeemable miles should be fairly easy for you. How about paying the UC card annual fee with redeemable miles? It is how I intend to renew mine going forward...
     
  5. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    Do you mean paying the UClub membership fee with miles or the CC annual fee with miles? I was unaware that the latter was possible.

    I also think that if one is generally flying on tickets which provide access then the incremental cost of the membership is not worth it. I haven't paid for a membership in years and I spend a decent amount of time in the lounges, even on coach fares.
     
  6. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    It is possible because they are one and the same through the UA Choices Program. I have posted about this program several times (see here, e.g., and recently here). Many, if not most, cardholders do not seem to be aware of it because PMCO did not have it, and it was fairly obscure in PMUA, which had it. Anyone who wishes to get the most out of a UA-branded Chase CC should bookmark the link to the UA Choices Program. Below are one's redemption options:

    ua cc choices.png

    The Explorer card is shown but the Program is good for all UA-branded Chase CCs. Just go to the terms and conditions from the link at the bottom of the Program page for how it works.

    YMMV. With an option like the one above, it is painless for someone who earns miles relatively easily. Sure, people who get upgraded most of the time (and I do) do not need to spend on airport lounge memberships because the class of service usually comes with access to a lounge but one never knows about rainy days.... especially since it is painless for some to get lounge memberships...
     
  7. LETTERBOY
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    LETTERBOY Gold Member

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    Earning 1.5 miles per $ would make the card worth it to me.
     
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  8. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    I believe that the UC card earns 2 miles/$ on UA -related purchases... The explorer is 1.5 miles/$ but I need to check...
     
  9. chris_poland

    chris_poland Silver Member

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    I keep this card because it is the only card that has flex PQM. Or at least my Pres Plus Club Card does...
    And the 2x miles for .bomb spend.
     
  10. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    There are actually notables differences between FlexPQMs and miles earned through the UC card. One cannot top one's BIS PQMs with FlexPQMs above 75K to achieve 1K status, whereas one can convert miles earned with the UC card at 1 PQM/10K miles, for up to 5K PQMs/50K miles, and then use those PQMs to top one's PQMs to reach 1K. This means that if one is at 95K+ PQMs, up to 5K PQMs can be derived from the UC card miles through the Choices Program to reach 1K.
     
  11. edcho

    edcho Silver Member

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    Just FYI -- I have the PPlus card and still am able to participate in the choices program.

    I'm just saving my FPQMs for a rainy year where I might not hit Plat or worse (although the 39 month expiration thingy is annoying).
     
  12. LETTERBOY
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    LETTERBOY Gold Member

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    They both earn 2 miles per $ on UA purchases. The explorer earns 1 miles per $ on all other purchases, and the club card earns 1.5 miles per $ on all other purchases, which is what makes the card so attractive to me, as I get most of my miles through credit card spending.
     
  13. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    I have the old Mileage Plus Select card, so I get 3X on United purchases (and 5k PQM).

    I have the Club card, so I could get 1.5X+ on everything.

    But... the vast majority of my spend is probably covered by the 2X that the Select card gives for Groceries, Dining, Gas, and Star Alliance. With the help of, eg, Amazon gift cards purchased at the grocery store I can turn a lot of other purchases into 2X as well. Hotels and other travel is covered with CSP 2X.

    So while 1.5X on everything sounds attractive, I don't think it's ultimately earning me much.

    For the annual fee I could buy a lot of day passes to the UC on eBay (or drinks/real food at the airport). And the award ticket upgrades never worked for me, and I don't travel much on domestic awards anyway. Leaves me with the primary car rental insurance. So the Club card is on my endangered species list.
     
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  14. LETTERBOY
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    LETTERBOY Gold Member

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    If the Select card were still available, that would actually be my first choice, because a good chunk of my spending is on dining, but alas, it's not available anymore. :( There's the CSP card with 2 points per $ on dining, but I'm not sure I'll be able to meet the minimum spending to get the sign-up bonus. I don't do manufactured spending, and $3000 in 3 months is above my budget.
     
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  15. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    The Explorer Card is the Winner...

    The Explorer card is the card that I use for my daily purchases that do not require cash, including for the purchase of tickets on united.com. The reason for this is that, in addition to the miles on all the purchases, one gets 10,000 bonus miles if one spends $25K on the Explorer, which makes it better than the UC card for me since the biggest spend on the Explorer is on airline tickets on united.com.

    Let's do some back of the envelop calculations.**

    Call 'UA' the spend on UA, and ''EE' the spend on everything else. Now, assume I spent $25K this year on a CC, of which $15K were on 'UA' purchases and $10K on 'EE' purchases, what would be my total haul in points if the CC used were the Explorer or the UC card?
    Code:
    Explorer total = 2 * UA + 1.0 * EE + 10,000
                   = 2*15K + 1.0 * 10K + 10K = 50,000 miles.
     
    UC card total = 2 * UA + 1.5 * EE
                  = 2 * 15K + 1.5 * 10K = 45,000 miles
     
    
    50K miles on the Explorer and 45K miles on the UC card

    The winner is...the Explorer!

    So how much more would one have to spend on everything else (EE) for the UC card to be better than the Explorer?

    We need to solve the equations above so that the difference is zero:

    Code:
    Difference = UC spend minus Explorer spend = 0
               = (2*UA+1.5*EE) - (2*UA + 1.0*EE +10,000) = 0
     
    Difference = 2*UA + 1.5*EE - 2*UA -1.0*EE - 10,000 = 0
     
    Difference = 1.5EE - EE -10,000  = 0
    Difference = 0.5 * EE -10,000 = 0
     
    We now need to solve for EE that will make the spends equal:
     
    0.5 * EE = 10,000
    EE = 10,000/0.5 =  $20,000
    
    This means that one must spend at least $20,000 of $25K or more on everything else (EE) in order for the UC card to earn as many miles as or more than the Explorer. With the $25K yearly requirement on the Explorer being a cinch to meet, a $25K spend on the UC would have to be at least $20K on everything else and 5K or more on UA purchases or ALL $25K on EE for the UC card to be the winner. My big ticket items are, well, tickets on united.com, and I do not think that I get anywhere near to spending $20K on everything else (EE), which is why the Explorer is the better everyday card for me. If all the purchases are UA-related (UA), the Explorer again "wins". Only if one spends $20K or more on everything else would the UC card be the winner...

    ...assuming all domestic spending! The UC card has no foreign transaction fee whereas the Explorer does. The solution is clear if you have both cards...;)

    ** All of the above applies when one spends $25K or more per year. Below that spend, the UC card will clearly be better because the Explorer would not enjoy its 10K bonus miles advantage. It is just Q2 and I have nearly reached the $25K spend on the Explorer, which would then "free" me to use the UC card during my upcoming overseas trips to take advantages of the UC card's higher value at low spend end (<$25k) and no forex fee...;)
     
  16. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    Tale of the Tape from the associated Chase Accounts

    Explorer Card:
    • First Checked Bag Free on United flights
    • Priority boarding privileges
    • 2 Complimentary Club Passes at your Cardmember anniversary
    • Earn one award mile on all purchases
    • Double miles for tickets purchased through United
    • 10,000 bonus miles with $25,000 in spend each year
    UC Card:
    With your United MileagePlus® Club Business Card, every purchase earns one mile per dollar you spend, plus a 50% bonus. And, you’ll earn even more on tickets purchased from United.
    • Earn 2 miles for every $1 spent on tickets purchased from United
    • Earn 1.5 miles for every $1 spent on all other purchases
     
  17. LETTERBOY
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    LETTERBOY Gold Member

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    Did you not read the part of my post where I said that spending $3000 in 3 months for the CSP sign up bonus is above my budget? If I can't spend $3000 in 3 months, how am I going to spend $25,000 in a year? :rolleyes:
     
  18. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    Frankly, I did not and too bad for you. :rolleyes::). I am attending a meeting in SLC at the moment and just pop in here intermittently, responding mostly to posts that clearly address something I posted.

    However, I had not meant to address your particular situation. In fact, I had initially posted a standalone post that did not respond to anyone because I felt that the quantitative analysis/comparison may be beneficial to others. I later decided to quote a post and yours seemed perfect. I am sorry that this would not benefit you personally, but I hope others would find it useful.

    Cheers, mate!
     
  19. davythefatboy

    davythefatboy Silver Member

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    Thanks, that worked for me. Actually, the Choices redemption rate for paying the card fee was below a penny a point, so instead I took the Choices penny a point against $500 of recent air travel. I know that in frequent flyer terms that's a terrible redemption, but I have a ton of UA miles, and this made me comfortable keeping the card for another year despite the fee. I do have a large amount of business spend, so the 1.5 miles per $ is a feature for me.
     
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  20. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    At 10 cents/mile (cpm), there is no question that the monetary "value" of redeeming the Choices miles for the annual CC fee is terrible, especially since reward accelerator miles (RAMs) are going for ~3 cpm. But I think that the key is to have a ton of miles or, at the very least, the ability to replenish them very quickly. Since I generally have a ton of miles as well as the ability to replenish them quickly, I do not think twice about using miles ("just" 39,500) to pay for my UC CC annual fee, which also automatically renews my United Club membership. This again goes to the subjectivity of "value"...It is worth it to me, but may not be to someone else.
     
  21. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    It doesn't matter if you can earn a ton of miles... the value of miles doesn't depend on the quantity you generate. If you have no good opportunities to use them for higher value travel, then you should find other uses. I use the miles I generate to buy award tickets for my wife, so we don't have to buy expensive revenue tickets for her. I generally buy rev tickets for myself to earn status and GPUs, and she shares many of the benefits of my status, Those 39,500 would find better use in my household than renewing a UC membership.

    But ultimately it's a case of YMMV... if you value UC access enough and you have more miles than you can use for higher value stuff, then by all means don't let anyone tell you that you got a bad deal.
     
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  22. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    You provided as good an answer as any:
    However, whether or not something is a "bad deal" is just as YMMV. In the present context, it does matter a lot that I can earn a ton of miles, because, while I value access to UC, I do not really use my membership much since I almost always get in based on the fact that I have a C or F ticket (they just scan my electronic or paper BP and I am in). This means that the only reason for me to shell out miles to pay for the UC card annual fee (aka UC membership fee) is that I do not feel the hit in my miles bank. Thus, just because something makes no sense to you does not make it a "bad deal". My using of miles to pay for a UC membership that I seldom need makes perfect sense to me: It costs just a fraction of my total yearly haul, but there will be times when I will actually need the membership -- if the latter concept sounds familiar that's because it is the same as paying for any kind of insurance . In short, the disagreement here is why I have repeatedly brought up the concept of subjectivity of "value" in similar contexts.
     
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  23. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    I wonder if in your case (which seems similar to mine in that I have access to clubs via *G on international trips, which is a significant and important portion) it would make sense to look at just acquiring one time access passes on eBay or elsewhere for those occasional visits. The more I think about it, the more I think that's what I'll do when my card comes up for renewal. I have seen them on eBay for $15, so if I were to buy ten, those $150 would be significant less less than the UA Club Card fee. And I don't think I would value the primary car insurance more than the annual fee of of the Explorer card, which is $95.
     
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  24. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    Again, it is what one can do comfortably. There has not been a single year when I have been short on miles. Even after redeeming to fly family members to family events (as I will be doing to fly a couple of relatives coast-to-coast to attend a nephew's wedding in September), I usually have more than enough RDMs to redeem to criss-cross North and SE Asia in C or F at the end of the year, and even that does not completely deplete my miles bank. I now have 210K RDMs after my miles to SLC this past week posted, and that is before my upcoming TCON to SAN next month, TPAC to PVG-KIX in June-July, MR to EZE in August, TATL to LIS-LHR in September, and MRs in October (SFO) and November (HNL). All long distance trips for which I will get 100% bonus RDMs, in addition to the base PQMs. The yearly haul will be huge. So, what do 39.5K miles mean to me? Not very much. Therefore, instead of hunting for UC deals on e-Bay, I will just drop a few miles to have my insurance for rainy days: I will renew the UC card and membership. Note that I can access airport lounges multiple ways, including the full Priority Pass, AMEX Biz Platinum, *G status, C or F tickets. But, as I reported earlier this year, you never know: I was in the southernmost China province of Hainan (Hilton Sanya Resort & Spa) in the middle of South China Sea, where I had gotten on a cheap economy ticket on Dragon Air from HKG, and had a bit of wait at SYX on my way back to HKG.There was one lounge but only for F ticket holders and I had a Y ticket ; *G status, UC membership or the AMEX Biz Plat was useless. The only way I was able to get in was with Priority Pass...That was a "rainy day".;)

    Everything considered, 39.5K miles is a small price to pay for the UC card, which is, in fact, the card that I preferentially use overseas, when I am not using the Explorer card for most of my non-cash and non-hotel purchases, because it has no forex fee and still earns me 1.5 miles/$...
     
  25. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    Everyone is in a different situation and values things differently. Hence YMMV. Don't let me tell you what you are doing is wrong; this thread should be about exchanging thoughts and exploring alternatives and options that may not be obvious.
     
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