It’s that time of year for me to renew my United Club membership and I received the following reminder email from United.

United Club renewal notice

United Club renewal notice

But after six consecutive years of membership, I’ve decided to let it lapse. I’m probably in the minority of travel bloggers (and you, my readers) who actually dole out cash directly to United for lounge access instead of having the Chase Club credit card or Star Alliance Gold status with an international carrier.

And it wasn’t until this time last year that I matched my United elite status with Turkish Airlines’ Miles&Smiles program to receive their Star Gold card.

Turkish Airlines Star Gold Card

Turkish Airlines Star Gold Card

At that time, they were (oddly) only providing a status match to other Star Alliance elites – not those in oneworld or SkyTeam. But Turkish has since made changes to their unpublished program.

According to this forum thread, Turkish is currently matching SkyTeam Elite Plus and oneworld Emerald members, in addition to Star Alliance Golds. And since we’re nearing the end of the year and status match programs can expire at any time, now might be the time to get your “soft landing” to United Club access by holding Turkish’s Star Gold card.

First, you’ll need to sign up for a regular Miles&Smiles account if you don’t already have one. Then, you’ll need to send a webmail requesting a match, including a PDF of your latest account statement and image of your card. Back when I matched, there was a dedicated email set up for status matches, but it appears to no longer be working.

It took about a month to receive the physical card after I was approved and it generously had an expiration date two years later (12/31/14 in my case). [Edited to add: Based on Alex's comments below, Turkish won't send a card until at least one flight posts to your Miles&Smiles account.]

There are reports that some United Club agents require you to have your Miles&Smiles number in your United reservation to get club access when flying domestically. While that’s not really the policy, people have simply appeased the lounge dragons by having them switch frequent flyer numbers on the spot, only to later go to another agent, the gate or a kiosk to swap their MileagePlus number back in.

So, United, while I won’t be renewing my membership, I’ll still be visiting your clubs for another year at least. After that, I’ll hope for another status match or finally break down and get the Chase Club card if my travel volume dictates it.

– Follow Darren Booth on Twitter, @FrequentlyFlyin, for more airline, hotel and travel industry news, reviews and opinions.


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Posted by Darren | 11 Comments

11 Responses to “Bidding Adieu to My United Club Membership With a ‘Soft Landing’”

  1. FWIW, I was also able to match my UA status to AF Elite Gold (which is Elite Plus in SkyTeam). No idea if that is still live, but could be a 2-step way to get from UA to TK :)

  2. Darren says:

    @Food Wine and Miles: Good to know, thanks for the info/tip!

  3. FYD says:

    This might be a short-lived benefit. states as credentials required for access to United Clubs:
    Star Alliance Gold card
    Boarding pass for travel in conjunction with a Star Alliance international flight

    the days of getting access with a *A Gold card on a domestic flight might come to an end…

  4. Alex (@NoviceFlyer) says:

    I called Turkish airlines, inquiring about when my card will arrive. They told me I won’t get it until I credit a flight with them :(.. ugh..

    At least I have *A gold for 2 more years.

  5. Darren says:

    @Alex: Oh! That has certainly changed… thanks… I’ll update the post. Might not be a bad idea to credit a short segment to TK for the lounge access.

  6. Darren says:

    @FYD: I believe United’s page refers to if you hold Star Gold only via United, not an international carrier. The official Star Alliance lounge access policy still shows a *G will get lounge access when traveling on a carrier’s flight domestic or international as long as it has the Star Gold symbol on the lounge. (look at the “Star Alliance Gold Customers Travelling in Any Class” section):

  7. Andrew says:

    Thanks for ruining it for the rest of us who matched way back when. As if TK needs more Gold members… their lounge is already packed and the priority check in line are at times longer than the regular line!

    I know as a blogger, you need stuff to write, but these little secrets are best kept as secret! Thanks for nothing! I’m deleting your blog from my feed!

  8. Darren says:

    @Andrew: I’m sorry to lose you as a reader. FWIW, this has been blogged about for more than a year by many, many people and it’s hardly a secret.

  9. Stephen Kalman says:

    I have TK via status match a year ago (just before I lost UA *G).

    I flew 30K this year and credited it to TK. A few more trips in early 2014 and it will renew TK *G.

    I also bought UA annual E+.

    Here’s how I manage my reservations:

    1. buy tix under UA membership number. Needed to pick E+ seats
    2. pick seats, change as needed (try for open middle seat)
    3. day of flight check in, print boarding pass (also, my TSA Pre-check comes thru that way)
    4. Change FF to TK
    5. Check in at *G line, get free bag, print boarding pass with TK number on it. Using print-at-home pass at pre-check line
    6. Enter club using new boarding pass (they do not ask to see the card; the TK number and *G is printed on the boarding pass)
    7. After arrival change back to UA number, manage seats
    8. Day of flight, Repeat 3, 4, 5

    Only difference is no upgrade possibility, but after merger, I only saw one UA *G upgrade come through anyway, on a very short flight. Besides, I don’t fly enough to get UA *G anymore (semi-retired)

  10. Darren says:

    @Stephen: Thanks for sharing your process… very helpful!

  11. Joe says:

    This seems like a lot of effort for a couple of free Bud Lights and some snack mix. It could also be part of the reason that UA has been cutting back on the amenities in the clubs, too many people utilizing loopholes and not actually paying for the product.

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