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If you fly more than a couple of times a year, opening an airline credit card can make a lot of sense, even if it charges an annual fee. These cards typically offer benefits that can save you money and hassle — and offset the annual fee cost — including free checked bags, priority boarding, and even travel insurance.
It’s an easy decision if the airline card you’re considering has a lower (sub-$100) annual fee, but what about premium credit cards that cost several times that? Those come with more bells and whistles and often include upscale perks like airport lounge access, but calculating the value you’ll get relative to the yearly fee can get a little murky.
United flyers have five Chase co-branded cards to choose from, and the most expensive of them — the New United Quest℠ Card and United Club℠ Infinite Card — offer big welcome bonuses and hefty travel benefits. They also have annual fees to match — $250 per year on the New United Quest℠ Card, and a whopping $525 on the United Club℠ Infinite Card.
These cards aren’t for the casual United flyer (if that’s you, check out the United℠ Explorer Card instead), and each has its pros and cons. The right card for you depends highly on your spending habits, travel preferences, and even your home airport — and whether or not you can squeeze enough value from the card’s perks to justify the annual fee.
Here’s a breakdown of what each card offers and a side-by-side comparison to help you decide if the New United Quest℠ Card or United Club℠ Infinite Card is a better fit.
16.49% – 23.49% Variable
Good to Excellent
80,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open, plus an additional 20,000 bonus miles after you spend $10,000 in the first 6 months
United Quest and United Club Infinite benefits and rewards
16.49% – 23.49% Variable
75,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
If you’re looking at the cards’ welcome bonuses alone, the New United Quest℠ Card offers the potential to earn more miles — though you’ll have to spend much more to unlock the full bonus. Beyond that, the benefits are the key to deciding which card is better for you.
United Club airport lounge access
As the name suggests, the United Club℠ Infinite Card includes United Club membership, which gets you access to over 45 United Club airport lounge locations plus partner lounges and Star Alliance lounges. To access United Club lounges, you (and up to two guests, or one adult guest and dependent children) must be flying on a United, partner, or Star Alliance partner-operated flight that day.
A paid United Club membership can cost up to $650, so if this is something you’d pay for anyway, the United Club℠ Infinite Card is a better value. United also sells lounge day passes for $59, so if you find yourself purchasing these a few times a year, it might be worth upgrading to a full membership through this card instead.
Read more: Your credit card could get you a free drink and a comfortable place to relax at the airport
The value you’ll get from a United Club membership really depends on how often you fly United and which airports you frequent. If your home airport has a United Club lounge, or you visit airports with United or partner lounges on a regular basis, having airport lounge access can be invaluable.
United Club lounges offer amenities like free food and beverages (including alcohol), better Wi-Fi, and a quieter place to work and relax before your flight. If you’d otherwise spend cash to grab meals, drinks, or upgraded Wi-Fi at the airport, a lounge membership could represent substantial savings.
The New United Quest℠ Card doesn’t offer any sort of lounge membership or day passes, though it does come with up to $125 in credits per year toward United purchases.
The New United Quest℠ Card has a benefit that can effectively knock out half of the $250 annual fee. Each year, cardholders receive up to $125 statement credits toward eligible United purchases, so if you buy a United ticket even once a year, you should be able to maximize this perk.
Purchases that qualify include:
- Airline tickets purchased from United
- Seat upgrades
- Economy Plus
- Inflight food, beverages, and Wi-Fi
- Baggage fees
- Other United fees
- United Card Events from Chase purchases
However, United tickets booked through some discount travel websites or as part of a third-party travel package won’t qualify, nor will United Cruises, United MileagePlus X, DIRECTV, and merchandise awards.
The United Club℠ Infinite Card doesn’t come with statement credits for United purchases. However, both the New United Quest℠ Card and United Club℠ Infinite Card offer a credit toward the Global Entry ($100) or TSA PreCheck ($85) application fee every four years.
Read more: 11 travel rewards credit cards that will reimburse your Global Entry fee every 4 years
Even if you’re already enrolled in one of these trusted-traveler programs, you can use your card to pay for someone else’s fee and get reimbursed.
Free first and second checked bags on United flights
Many lower-tier airline credit cards (including the United℠ Explorer Card) offer a single free checked bag on eligible itineraries. The New United Quest℠ Card and United Club℠ Infinite Card take that perk a step further with a free first and second checked bag on United flights for yourself and one companion traveling on the same reservation.
United charges $35 for a first checked bag and $45 for the second, so if you’re flying with a companion, you could get a value of $160 each way or $320 round-trip if you each check two bags. This could be a particularly lucrative benefit if you travel as a family or group, because you could easily make up the annual fee on either card in just a trip or two.
5,000-mile rebate on award travel
When you have the New United Quest℠ Card, starting on your first card anniversary, you can earn a 5,000-mile credit up to two times a year when you redeem United miles for an award ticket. These credits will be applied (for future use) to your account approximately four weeks after your card anniversary.
You’ll actually get the 5,000-mile rebate in your United account within two weeks of completing (not booking) an eligible award flight. Eligible award flights are those that include at least one United- or United Express-operated flight, and must include the primary cardholder on the reservation. Unused credits will expire 12 months after issue, and you can’t transfer, combine, or extend them.
The United Club℠ Infinite Card doesn’t offer a mileage rebate of any kind.
Travel and purchase protection and United flight benefits
When it comes to other travel benefits, like inflight discounts, priority boarding, and protections like primary car rental and trip delay insurance, both cards are fairly evenly matched.
The United Club℠ Infinite Card does come with a handful of extras that give it a slight edge over the New United Quest℠ Card, including:
- Better trip cancellation/interruption insurance: The United Club℠ Infinite Card covers up to $10,000 per person and $20,000 per trip; the New United Quest℠ Card maxes out at a much lower $1,500 per person and $6,000 per trip.
- Premier Access travel services: Both cards offer priority boarding, but United Club℠ Infinite Card cardholders also get perks like priority check-in and security (where available) and baggage handling.
- Return protection: If you purchase an eligible item and the store won’t take it back within 90 days of purchases, the United Club℠ Infinite Card offers up to $500 per item and up to $1,000 per year in reimbursement.
- Hertz Gold Plus Rewards President’s Circle elite status: United Club℠ Infinite Card cardholders can enroll and receive Hertz President’s Circle elite status, which offers a 50% points bonus, upgrades, and other perks.
Earning United miles for everyday spending
For those who spend a lot on paid United tickets, the United Club℠ Infinite Card has a better earning rate of 4x miles on United purchases versus 3x miles on the New United Quest℠ Card. The New United Quest℠ Card does have one advantage — it earns 2x miles on streaming services, which isn’t a bonus category on the United Club℠ Infinite Card.
Read more: How to earn, redeem, and maximize United MileagePlus miles — even if you’re not a frequent flyer
Otherwise, the cards are equal, earning 2x miles on travel and dining and 1 mile per dollar on all other purchases.
If making up for the annual fee on the United Club℠ Infinite Card or New United Quest℠ Card in a way that’s easy to quantify is important to you — especially when the upfront expense is a factor — the New United Quest℠ Card is probably a better bet.
Right off the bat, you can offset half the annual fee when you max out the $125 United statement credit, and perks like free checked bags and the 5,000-mile rebates (after the first year) can get you a value that far exceeds the annual fee.
Read more: The best credit cards for getting benefits and bonus rewards with United Airlines, no matter how often you fly
However, if the out-of-pocket cost isn’t a dealbreaker — and you fly United often enough to take advantage of United Club airport lounge access — the United Club℠ Infinite Card can be an excellent deal. This is especially true if you’d otherwise pay for United Club membership or day passes and put a high value on airport lounge amenities.
Before you decide to apply for either card, think about your travel plans for the upcoming year. Will you fly United a lot of the time and check bags? Does your home airport have a United Club lounge, or do you often travel to airports that do?
If the answer is no to both, you’re probably better off skipping these cards altogether and looking at the United℠ Explorer Card instead. The annual fee is $95, waived the first year, and it offers a welcome bonus of 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open, plus 25,000 bonus miles after you spend $10,000 in the first 6 months. Cardholders get one free checked bag on United flights, which is plenty for most people, plus two one-time day passes to United Club lounges each year.
Read more: United Quest versus United Explorer: How to decide which Chase United credit card is best for you
It also has many of the same travel and shopping benefits the premium United cards do, including priority boarding, primary car rental insurance, and trip cancellation/interruption coverage. You can find out all the details in our United Explorer card review.
Jasmin Baron is an associate editor at Personal Finance Insider, where she helps readers maximize rewards and find the best credit cards to fit their lifestyles. She has covered credit cards, points and miles, and loyalty programs for over seven years, and she’s a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF).