Changes to United’s Premium Credit Card: Why United Doesn’t Like its Card Customers, and Avis Isn’t About to Start

United’s Legacy Premium Credit Card Still Exists — But You Can’t Apply for It

The United Presidential Plus card can’t be applied for anymore. Back before the merger with Continental, Chase issued a fantastic premium credit card that allowed you to earn top tier elite status through spend alone, came with club lounge benefits, and threw in fantastic benefits with other travel providers like Avis Presidents Club (a status which gets you great upgrades and guaranteed availability, and which you cannot earn through rentals alone) and Hyatt Platinum status just for having the card.

It had primary collision damage waiver for rental cars, too, so if you damaged the car you were driving you might not even have to let your insurance company know.

Back when the card was introduced, the IT on it wasn’t the greatest, you could even just sign up online for Presidents Club status whether you had the card or not.

United Only Does As Much for its Legacy Cardholders as it Must

United downgraded the Presidential Plus cards for folks who already had it — they said that since you could earn Continental’s 75,000 mile elite status with the card, you would only be able to earn 75,000 mile status going forward with it. Spend on the card wouldn’t help you to earn 100,000 mile elite status. And United probably didn’t do a good enough job communicating this change.

United’s Replacement – the Club Card — Doesn’t Treat Cardholders as Well

When United and Continental merged and the co-brand cards were rethought, the opportunity for new applications for this card were withdrawn from the market.

In its place Chase introduced the Club Card that came with club access, and had these status and rental car benefits, but that didn’t help you earn elite status. In its place, Chase offered earning 1.5 miles per dollar on all spending.

The Club card lost Avis Presidents Club status last year.

The Club Card Will Maintain Avis Presidents Club Status

Clearly United made a move against the Presidential Plus card. But Chase keeps looking out for existing cardmembers. Even though the Club Card has lost Avis Presidents Club status, Chase’s Presidential Plus card will continue to keep Avis Presidents Club status throughout 2014.

Folks who chose to keep the Presidential Plus card should rejoice. Sometimes scarcity alone causes people to want something. I know I had a hard time letting go of my Diners Club card, knowing that I could not apply for a new one later. Here for United regulars this card has continued to offer value, and indeed it continues to offer something you can’t just get anywhere else (other than an Amex Black card) in terms of Avis status.

Perhaps Avis Won’t Be Re-thinking their Elite Status Program So Soon

Avis really hasn’t figured out what it’s doing with its elite recognition.

The American Express Platinum card used to come with Avis “Preferred Select,” a status level that offered a one car class upgrade (and when I would use a free rental day on a premium car I’d generally a Cadillac). Avis re-thought their elite recognition, ditched preferred select, and replaced it with Avis First that basically meant earning free rental days (with lots of restrictions). Amex Platinum cards lost elite status with Avis.

They’ve continually re-thinking their status offerings, and I thought that removing Presidents Club status from the Club Card was a sign that they were on the verge of coming out with new status levels, a re-tooled program that they sorely need in my view. Right now you cannot earn great treatment from the rental company no matter how frequently you rent.

But if they’re still giving away Presidents Club status for 2014, my guess is that a new elite offering isn’t imminent. And that’s too bad.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I have this card, and i have to say, it continues to be fantastic. The customer service is second to none, the purchase protection is superb, the fraud prevention, while a bit over the top, has been very good at crediting items that were either damaged or not shipped when i did make purchases with the card. Plus, it gets lots of “oohs & aaahs” when paying since its so heavy and slick. Despite my dropping United after the fiasco merger (gawd i miss CO), i have found an even better home on American. I’ll still keep the card tho!

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