Free Checked Bags via Credit Card Complete Guide

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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?  Find answers about free checked bags via credit card below…

This post has been updated since last publication to include the Hawaiian Airlines card.
Many airline credit cards offer free checked bags, but the details can be confusing. Tip: Even if you get free checked bags, I recommend bringing your kids along as carry-ons rather than trying to check them through.

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.  Most credit cards allow a maximum of 1 free checked bag per person, but usually cover a free bag for at least one companion as well.  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.  One exception is with the Hawaiian Airlines card which gives elite members one additional free checked bag.  In all cases, free checked bags are available only to primary cardholders.  Those with authorized user cards do not get this benefit.

Free Checked Bags via Credit Card Comparison Chart

AA Delta United Alaska JetBlue Hawaiian
Must pay with card to get free bag? No No Yes No No1 Yes6
Max # companions that get free first bag 4 or 82 8 1 or 23 6 3 0
Free bags on international flights? No4 Yes Yes Yes Yes No
# of days before flight that card must be open  05  05  14 0?  05  0
# of days before flight that loyalty number must be attached to reservation 7  0  0 0 7 0
  1. JetBlue’s documentation states that you must pay with your card, but multiple readers have reported that this is not true in practice.
  2. Most American Airlines cards offer 4 companions with free first checked bag, but the following cards offer 8: Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard, and AAdvantage Aviator Silver World Elite MasterCard.
  3. Most United Airlines cards offer 1 companion with free first checked bag, but the following cards offer 2 free checked bags for both the cardholder and one companion: United Quest Card, United Club Infinite Card, United Club Business Card, United Club Card (no longer available new), Presidential Plus Card (no longer available new), and Presidential Plus Business Card (no longer available new).
  4. This restriction is not as terrible as it sounds.  AA explicitly allows 1 free checked bag to all passengers on Transpacific routes and a free checked bag to all but basic economy passengers on Transatlantic routes.  That said, international trips that do not cross the Atlantic or Pacific can be a big problem.
  5. Each of these cards’ terms suggests that the card needs to be open longer, but readers have reported that this benefit becomes available immediately after opening the card.
  6. The Hawaiian Airlines card offers two free checked bags to the primary cardholder only (companions do not get this benefit) and only when booking directly through Hawaiian Airlines.

 

Alaska Airlines

  • Eligible credit cards: Alaska Airlines Visa Signature, Alaska Airlines Visa Business, and Alaska Airlines World Elite Mastercard.
  • Prerequisites: The cardholder must be traveling and the cardholder’s Mileage Plan™ number must be in the reservation before checking in.
  • Eligible flights: If you’re flying on Alaska Airlines operated and ticketed flights, including flights operated for Alaska by Horizon, SkyWest, or PenAir (AS 001-999, 1000-1999, 2000-2999, 3300-3499), you are eligible for the first checked bag free benefit. If your flight connects to or from another airline, standard baggage fees will apply.
  • 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

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 Transpacific routes and a free checked bag to all but basic economy passengers on Transatlantic routes.

More details can be found here.

Delta

More details can be found here.

Hawaiian

The Hawaiian Airlines consumer card from Barclays now offers 2 free checked bags, but only to the primary cardholder. Companions on the same ticket do not get free checked bags.

  • Eligible credit cards: The Hawaiian Airlines® World Elite MasterCard® issued by Barclays (the Hawaiian business card does not offer free checked bags)
  • Prerequisites: Must book directly through Hawaiian Airlines and must pay with your Hawaiian Airlines card.
  • Eligible flights: This is only for travel between North America and Hawaii and between Neighbor Islands (interisland).  International flights are excluded.  Offer is not valid on codeshare flight segments operated by Hawaiian Airlines and marketed by other airline partners.
  • 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.  Update: Readers have reported that the previous sentence is not true in practice.  In their experience, the bag waiver becomes available immediately upon approval of the card and you do not have to pay for your flight with the card.
  • 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:

  • Credit cards eligible for 1 checked bag: United Explorer Card, United Business Card, United Explorer Business Card (no longer available).
  • Credit cards eligible for 2 checked bagsUnited Quest Card, United Club Infinite Card, United Club Business Card, United Club Card (no longer available new), Presidential Plus Card (no longer available new), and Presidential Plus Business Card (no longer available new).
  • Prerequisites:
    • The primary cardmember must Include their MileagePlus number in the reservation and purchase the tickets with their United MileagePlus Chase Card.  If booking an award ticket, the free bag benefit will apply if you pay the award taxes and fees with your United 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.
  • See also: How to get free checked bags on United flights booked with partner miles.

Note that some readers have reported success getting free checked bags even without paying for the flight with their United credit card by haggling at the check-in counter, but others have reported the opposite.

More details can be found here.

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Paul

That baby would fit in that bag. Not suggesting you do it.

Boo Boo Bear

For Alaska card holders — Are Saver (basic economy) fares eligible for the free checked bag? I still won’t get a carry-on in cabin, right? I only get a small personal item in cabin?

Rusty

It was for me to Hawaii. Both people on the reservation got luggage.

JohnB

AA is the most variable on CC free bags. We have been charged for bags when another family member paid for our tickets. They have the Citi AA Platinum CC and so do we. They charged our tickets on their card. This has happened twice. Agents at check-in, stated the computer said no free bags. I even wrote AA and they agreed that we should not have been charged. They said they would refund and we received not a cent back.

We now avoid AA like the plague

patrick

Never mind…

Last edited 3 months ago by patrick
turgutbey

If I have Alaska CC and book a AS flight with Avios, paying taxes with CC, can I get a free bag? There’s some flyertalk threads indicating yes, but it’s unclear.

wayne

3 of the 4 biggest airlines offer free bag for international flights via credit card. American needs to up their game.

EricF

Are bag(s) included free for United cardholders paying with United TravelBank?

EricF

Thanks. I’ll try partial TravelBank and partial United card.

Mariusz

Does JetBlue points pooling member (without JetBlue credit card) get free checked bag if leader does have JetBlue credit card?

chris

No they dont, tried that a few weeks ago.

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Azz

Partial payment with a United credit card (in addition to e.g. travel certificates) also gets free checked bag.

Ross

Maybe the article can include a blurb about Southwest’s policy. Casual travelers aren’t the target audience here, but people who don’t typically book on Southwest sometimes aren’t aware they still have their awesome policy.

jeph36

I recognize this is a different (though similar) topic, but it would not hurt my feelings if the rules for United Basic Economy carry-on fee waiver was included in this guide. I think all the rest allow carry-on for BE without needing a CC.

Matt

I signed up for the AA Platinum Select Card the day before my flight (during online check-in), got the free checked bag benefit then and there.

Jennifer

Just did the same during check in today and was approved for the card for my flight tomorrow. Linked it to my AAdvantage account and was not given the free checked bag.

Last edited 3 months ago by Jennifer
Mariusz

On JetBlue I paid taxes with Ritz Carlton CC on award ticket and bags ware free. Several times.

Victor

Same. Didn’t have to pay using JetBlue CC to get bag fee waiver. Also bag fee waiver showed same day as approval.

chris

Same here, I did not have to pay via Jetblue card and the automatic free baggage showed.

Kyle

So no freebie on JetBlue if paying with points…

Lukas

“Note that some readers have reported success getting free checked bags even without paying for the flight with their United credit card. No promises though!”

Not this reader! Used United travel bank funds and had to pay $35 out of pocket. For that reason, I would take that tidbit out of the article.

Lee

Sorry if I missed this somewhere, but I can’t find where Canada is explicitly mentioned for AA (here or on the AA website). Does the free bag benefit apply to Canada?
Along with JC1 I’m not a fan of the Caribbean being excluded. Bummer when you first find this out.
Thank You!

Lee

Awesome thank you Greg!

JC1

The glaring issue is that American Airlines does not offer free bags to the Caribbean or Mexico and many of their cardholders travel there so they wind up paying fees. I can’t tell you how many times I have had friends and family travel with American to these destinations and because they are a cardholder think they will get a free bag and are so upset with American after their trip because it cost an extra $120 in baggage fees (1 bag per person roundtrip). They tell me if they had known that they would have flown another airline that was less expensive.

This is a major issue for American Airlines cardholders because the benefit is marketed as a free bag in almost all literature and even on the PA announcements onboard but it really is just for domestic flights. No other airline card has these restrictions that I am aware of that offers a complimentary bag.

Tonei Glavinic

Agreed. Especially since the bag fees they charge are the same as domestic flights. I’m based in Mexico City and have actively avoided booking American because of this.

Ashley Y

Yep, they got me too. I signed up for an AA credit card to avoid baggage fees for my trip to Belize only to find out it was not included for that destination

Kim

I could have used this reminder article sooner. For the last 3 United award tickets I have booked since acquiring the United Biz card, I misunderstood the rules. My thought is if it is that easy to screw it up, perhaps I should just cancel. Grhhh!

Jacinto

For ‘Must pay with card to get free bag’, this includes award flights too, correct?