When is your free checked bag free?

In response to yesterday’s post about Sapphire Reserve Travel Insurance, one reader noted that they had to pay for flights with their airline credit card rather than their Sapphire Reserve card to get a free checked bag.  Is that true?  The answer depends on the airline.

Free Checked Bags

Do you qualify for a free checked bag?  Are you sure?

I created a new resource post, “Free Checked Bags via Credit Card Complete Guide,” where I listed the policies of the major US airlines with regards to free checked bags for credit card holders.  While creating that page, I found a few interesting things:

  • Only United and JetBlue require you to pay with the airline credit card in order to get your first bag free.  With AA, Delta, and Alaska, you can pay with any credit card and still get the free bag benefit.
  • With respect to companions, United is the stingiest and allows only 1 or 2 companions to check their first bag free (depending on which card you have)
  • With a few exceptions, American Airlines credit cards do not offer a free checked bag on international flights.  As far as I can tell, neither Delta nor United have similar restrictions.  UPDATE: On the other hand, AA allows 1 free checked bag to all passengers on Transatlantic routes, and 2 free checked bags on Transpacific routes.

Anyway, please check out the new page and it’s handy dandy “at a glance” chart: Free Checked Bags via Credit Card Complete Guide.

Here’s a preview of the handy dandy first bag free chart. Please click through for full details.

Last updated on March 31st, 2019

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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I used my Amex Delta platinum card pay with points option for a ticket for a flight next January but will be cancelling the card in October. Will my suitcase be free?


AA’s free checked bag rules for cc holders (either Citi or Barclays) are ridiculous. Free checked bags for domestic flights (and maybe Canada) only.

So in my case, being in near MIA, I can check a bag to Hawaii on connecting flights for free. But for a 30 minute nonstop puddle hop to the Bahamas? I would have to pay up for the bag.

Most folks don’t find out about this until they are at the AA counter about to leave for their Caribbean vacation. Doesn’t provide customers with a warm fuzzy feeling. This is compounded by lots of their CC ads claiming “FREE CHECKED BAG” loudly and proudly, leaving folks to follow the small asterisk to the fine print to learn the restrictions.

James B.
James B.

Same thing happened to me on a flight MIA-SJO. AA has gradually been adding baggage fees to more and more international destinations. A sneeky way for AA to pad their revenues without the passenger’s knowledge.

Now I try to call and ask AA agents before the flight. Most of the AA agents cannot keep track of the constant changes to baggage fees and put me on pause for a couple minutes to look it up.

Buyer beware!!!!!!!! LOL


I have Citi and Barclay AA cards. I’m using my AA # on my ticket so I can get the free checked bag. Will family on the same itinerary get the benefit through me if they credit to Alaska?