Free Checked Bags via Credit Card Complete Guide

Many airline credit cards offer free checked bags to cardholders.  However, the details vary a lot by airline.  Are international flights included?  How about the bags of companions on the same reservation?  Do you have to pay for the flight with the airline credit card?  Answers are below…

Free Checked Bags

Is this bag free to check?

General Info, Common Across Credit Cards

In all cases that I’ve found, baggage fee waivers are only for normal bag fees and do not include oversized bags or pets.  Credit cards allow a maximum of 1 free checked bag per person.  Additionally, when you get free bags through other means (such as elite status), the baggage allowance is not cumulative.  In other words, if your elite status allows 2 checked bags, you do not get 3 free checked bags.  Additionally, free checked bags are available only to primary cardholders.  Those with authorized user cards do not get this benefit.

Comparison Chart

AA Delta United Alaska JetBlue
Must pay for flight with credit card to get free checked bag? No No Yes No Yes
Max number of companions that get free first bag 4 or 8* 8 1 or 2* 6 3
Free bags on international flights? No*** Yes Yes Yes Yes
# of days before flight that card must be open 7  0**  14 0? 7
# of days before flight that loyalty number must be attached to reservation 7  0  0 0 7

* With some airlines, the number of companions with free first checked bags depends on the credit card:

  • American Airlines: Most AA cards offer 4 companions with free first checked bag, but the following cards offer 8: Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard, and Barclaycard AAdvantage Aviator Silver World Elite Mastercard.
  • United Airlines: Most United cards offer 1 companion with free first checked bag, but the following cards offer 2: United MileagePlus Club Card, United Presidential Plus Card.

** Delta claims that you must have received your card before you can get the bag fee waiver, but some have reported getting the benefit on the same day they opened their account.

*** This restriction is not really bad.  AA explicitly allows 1 free checked bag to all passengers on Transatlantic routes, and 2 free checked bags on Transpacific routes.  Additionally, there are exceptions to the “domestic-only” rule.  See the AA section below.

Alaska Airlines

  • Eligible credit cards: Alaska Airlines Visa Signature, Alaska Airlines Visa Business
  • Prerequisites: The cardholder must be traveling and the cardholder’s Mileage Plan™ number must be in the reservation before checking in at alaskaair.com, virginamerica.com, the Alaska Airlines or Virgin America mobile apps, or at any of our Alaska Airlines or Virgin America airport kiosks.
  • Eligible flights: Alaska Airlines or Virgin America operated and ticketed flights, including flights operated for Alaska by Horizon, SkyWest, or PenAir (AS 001-999, 1000-1999, 2000-2999, 3300-3499)
  • Other restrictions: For reservations made with group booking codes or through the group desk, only primary cardholders will receive the free checked bag.

More details can be found here.

American Airlines

  • Eligible credit cards: Citi AAdvantage Executive Card (8 companions), Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select Card (4 companions), CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select Card (4 companions), AAdvantage Aviator Silver World Elite Mastercard (8 companions), AAdvantage Aviator Red MasterCard (4 companions), AAdvantage Aviator Business Mastercard (4 companions)
  • Prerequisites: Account must be open 7 days prior to air travel AND reservation must include the primary cardmember’s AAdvantage number 7 days prior to air travel.
  • Eligible flights: Domestic itineraries marketed and operated by American Airlines, or on itineraries marketed by American Airlines and operated as American Eagle® flights by Compass Airlines, LLC, Envoy Air Inc., ExpressJet Airlines, Inc., Mesa Airlines, Inc., Republic Airline Inc., PSA Airlines, Inc., Piedmont Airlines, Inc., Air Wisconsin Airline Corp., SkyWest Airlines, Inc., Trans States Airlines, LLC. All flights on the itinerary must be domestic flights marketed by American Airlines and operated by American Airlines or American Eagle® carriers. This benefit will not be available for travel on codeshare flights booked with an American Airlines flight number but operated by another airline.  In addition to domestic itineraries, the following international destinations allow a free first checked bag: Colombia*, Ecuador, El Salvador*, Haiti, Panama, Venezuela (*1st bag fee applies for travel to San Salvador, El Salvador and Cali, Colombia June 20 – August 9, 2017 and December 8 – 24, 2017)
  • Other restrictions: N/A

Note that even though the free checked bag benefit mostly only applies to domestic flights, AA allows 1 free checked bag to all passengers on Transatlantic routes, and 2 free checked bags on Transpacific routes.

More details can be found here.

Delta

  • Eligible credit cards: Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card, Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card, Delta Reserve Credit Card, Gold Delta SkyMiles Business Credit Card, Platinum Delta SkyMiles Business Credit Card, and Delta Reserve for Business Credit Card.
  • Prerequisites: New Card Members and Card Members upgrading from another Delta SkyMiles Credit Card product will be eligible for the checked baggage fee waiver benefit after receiving their Card from American Express.
  • Eligible flights: Delta or Delta Connection when you check-in with Delta for both a Delta marketed and Delta operated flight. Codeshare flights are not eligible.
  • Other restrictions: N/A

More details can be found here.

JetBlue

  • Eligible credit cards: JetBlue Plus Card and JetBlue Business Card
  • Prerequisites: All ticket purchases (original and exchanges) must be made with the JetBlue Plus MasterCard Account and the cardmember’s TrueBlue member number must be entered at the time of booking.  Additionally, the account must be open 7 days prior to air travel AND, reservation must include the primary cardmember’s TrueBlue member number 7 days prior to air travel.
  • Eligible flights: All JetBlue operated flights. Not available for travel on codeshare flights booked with a JetBlue flight number but operated by another airline.
  • Other restrictions: Perk only applies to “Blue” fares (since other fares include free checked bags)

More details can be found here.

United Airlines

Additional details:

  • Eligible credit cards: United MileagePlus Explorer (1 companion), United MileagePlus Club (2 companions), United Presidential Plus (2 companions)
  • Prerequisites:
    • The primary cardmember must Include their MileagePlus number in the reservation and purchase the tickets with their United MileagePlus Chase Card.
    • The Primary Cardmember may use miles to book award travel on United-operated flights, as long as they pay for their award ticket taxes and service charges with their qualifying Card and include their MileagePlus account number in their reservation.
    • A new United MileagePlus Chase primary credit Cardmember will be eligible for their applicable free standard checked bag(s) 2 weeks after account opening.
  • Eligible flights: United- and United Express®-operated flights
  • Other restrictions: Unpublished fares, such as those purchased on priceline.com and Hotwire, are not eligible.

More details can be found here.

Comments

  1. Any chance of getting free checked bags on United flights when booking w UR via the portal? I have a MileagePlus Awards Visa. I booked one flight yesterday (100% UR points) and I have to book 2 more flights today. Wondering if I should cancel the flights booked yesterday and book all 3 of the flights with ~99% UR points and pay the last bit w my MP CC in hopes of getting free checked bag?

      • Thank you for your quick response! I realized that my MP Awards CC doesn’t even confer the free-bag benefit, but it would still be an interesting test/DP to try paying like $5 on MP CC and using UR for the remainder.

        It would be a great trick to know about for people that use UR for 1.5cpp through the portal to book United (who also hold a United CC).

  2. You should add HA to your chart. Unfortunately, you must pay for the flight with the Hawaiian credit card to get the free bag.

  3. AA International: allows all phx 1 free checked bag on transatlantic flights and 2 free checked bags on transpacific flights.

  4. Top of linked Delta page states “As a benefit of Card Membership, you can check your first bag free on Delta flights booked with your Card.” In practice you actually get free checked bag on all flights? Have a flight booked from Bonaire to Detroit in Feb and will probably try and get a card for free bags if it’ll work. Thanks

  5. I’ve got the DL gold Amex that offers free checked bags that covers my family of five. We will all be flying KIX-DPS on GA in Y. Booked using son’s SM number. My SM # is in my booking. Will we have free bag on flight? Wasn’t sure if nature of international (Osaka to Bali) already covered that.

  6. Very helpful arricle. Thank you. Another Delta follow up question: I followed your link to Delta website, which states “As a benefit of Card Membership, you can check your first bag free on Delta flights booked with your Card,” while you’ve stated you do not need to pay for your flight with your Delta AX card. Can you kindly clarify this point. Also, assuming another credit card can be used, (1) does the alternative card need to be in the name of the person with the Delta AX, and (2) can a passenger on same record locator still get the free bag automatically? Thanks much.

    • It doesn’t matter how you pay for your Delta flight. Even though top sentence says to pay with your card, you don’t have to. That’s more of a marketing suggestion than a requirement.

      So:
      (1) No, it doesn’t matter what card is used or who’s name is on it
      (2) A passenger on the same record locator should still get their first bag free, but I can’t promise that it’s automatic. One reader reported having to go to the check-in desk to get an agent to apply the free bags to other passengers on the itinerary. In other words, if you select to check bags online, it might not show up as free, but if you bypass that and check bags in person, it should be free. Make sure to tell the desk agent that each person has 1 bag (so that they don’t load multiple bags to the same person’s ticket)

  7. If you fly AA on a domestic BA award ticket and you have one of the AA cards listed above, and you have your AA number in the BA reservation at least 7 days in advance should you get a free bag? I also get an AA confirmation/reservation number.
    Any suggestions on how to deal with check in AA employees who do not allow free checked bag in this case?

    • No, it’s not transpacific and no the Aviator card wont cover a checked bag. Whether their will be a charge apparently depends on the season. The AA website says this of flights to/from Central & South America: “**Baggage fee based on travel date and destination. Seasonal pricing applies to trips booked on / after July 26, 2016.”

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