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Airlines with free checked bags
Avoid baggage fees of up to hundreds of dollars per flight.
Baggage fees are one of the annoying extra costs that come with flying on most major US airlines. But there are a few ways to get around those fees, including using credit cards, elite status and fare upgrades.
What are the airlines with free checked bags?
Checked baggage fees are standard across the airline industry — except for with Southwest — where you can check two bags free. But for every other airline, you can get the fees waived.
How to get a free checked bag with a credit card
There are two types of credit cards that can get you a free checked bag:
- A cobranded airline card.
This type of card is sponsored by two entities. An example is the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®, which is sponsored by Citi and American Airlines. An airline card may let you check one or two bags for free on flights operated by the cobranded carrier.
- A general travel card with travel credits.
This type of card is usually more flexible than a cobranded card. You’ll earn points or miles that you can use for a variety of travel redemptions, such as flights, hotels and car rentals. If the card has travel credits, you can use them to offset different travel expenses: baggage fees, in-flight purchases, airport lounge access and more.
Recommended airlines with free baggage
|Card||Annual fee||# of free bags per traveler||Max # of travelers perk applies to (including cardholder)||Potential savings for one traveler (round-trip)||Maximum potential savings (round-trip)|
|Alaska Airlines: Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Card||$75||1||7||$60||$420|
|Alaska Airlines: Alaska Airlines Visa® Business credit card||$50||1||7||$60||$420|
AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®
Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®
|$99 (waived for the first 12 months)||1||5||$60||$300|
Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®
CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard®
|$99 (waived for the first 12 months)||1 on each domestic flight||5||$60||$300|
|Delta Airlines: Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card||$0 intro for the first year, then $99 (Terms apply, see rates & fees)||1||9||$60||$540|
|Delta Airlines: Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card||$250 (Terms apply, see rates & fees)||1||9||$60||$540|
|Delta Airlines: Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card||$550 (Terms apply, see rates & fees)||1||9||$60||$540|
|Delta Airlines: Delta SkyMiles® Gold Business American Express Card||$0 intro for the first year, then $99 (Terms apply, see rates & fees)||1||9||$60||$540|
|Delta Airlines: Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card||$250 (Terms apply, see rates & fees)||1||9||$60||$540|
|Delta Airlines: Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card||$550 (Terms apply, see rates & fees)||1||9||$60||$540|
|Hawaiian Airlines: Hawaiian Airlines® World Elite Mastercard®||$99||1||1||$60||$60|
|JetBlue: JetBlue Plus Card||$99||1||4||$60||$240|
|JetBlue: JetBlue Business Card||$99||1||4||$60||$240|
|United Airlines: United℠ Explorer Card||$0 intro for the first year, then $95||1||2||$60||$120|
|United Airlines: United MileagePlus® Club card||$450||2||2||$140||$280|
|United Airlines: United℠ Explorer Business Card||$95||1||2||$60||$120|
|United Airlines: United Club℠ Business Card||$450||2||2||$140||$280|
Compare credit cards with checked bag perks
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How to get a free checked bag with airline status
Airlines have loyalty programs in which you can earn elite status. You’ll reach higher status tiers based on how frequently you fly.
Elite status may afford you privileges such as free checked baggage, priority boarding and fare upgrades.
Who gets a free checked bag with elite status?
If you get free checked baggage with your elite status, travel companions on the same reservation may get the benefit as well.
For example, if you have Delta Gold Medallion Status, you and up to eight of your travel companions can each check one bag free on Delta flights.
How to get a free checked bag with a premium ticket
The quickest way to get a free checked bag is usually by upgrading your fare class. When you fly premium classes, you can often check two to three bags free.
For example, you can check two bags free when flying Premium Economy or Business on American Airlines. And you can check three bags free when you fly First Class on a three-cabin American Airlines aircraft.
How much does it normally cost to check baggage?
Every airline has its own checked baggage fees. Typically, you’ll pay around $30 for your first checked bag and around $40 for your second.
Here are one-way baggage fees for a few major US airlines:
|Airline||Checked baggage policy (each way; terms apply)|
*For domestic flights.
*For domestic flights.
*For domestic flights between Hawaii and destinations in North America.
*For Blue fares.
*Prices at time of Spirit.com booking.
*For domestic economy flights.
Read more about airlines with free baggage
The fine print: Things to remember to get your free checked baggage
Unfortunately, just because your credit card offers free checked baggage doesn’t mean you automatically get the benefit. There are certain rules to follow beforehand, and the list is rather long:
1. Open your card well in advance.
You might not get your free checked bags if you open your credit card too soon before your flight. For some airlines with free baggage, you must open your card a certain number of days before takeoff — usually seven. United says you should wait at least two weeks after account opening before using your checked-bag benefit.
2. You may need to book your flight with your cobranded airline card.
While most airlines don’t have this requirement, some do — such as United, JetBlue and Hawaiian. Read your card’s fine print to make sure.
Booking an award flight with miles? Use your cobranded card to pay for the fees and taxes.
3. Add your frequent flyer number while booking your flight.
Most airlines will require this. Because you’ll need to link your frequent flyer number to your cobranded credit card, adding this information lets your airline know you’re a cardholder. If you forget to add your frequent flyer number, add it to your reservation before you check in for your flight.
4. The benefit usually doesn’t apply to codeshare flights.
Codeshare means an airline sells tickets for a flight that is operated by another carrier. If you buy one of these flights, your card’s checked-baggage benefit probably won’t apply. Instead, you’ll need to follow the baggage policy of the operating carrier.
5. Your card account may need to be active at the time of check-in.
If you’re thinking about booking your flight with your credit card and then canceling the card, beware: You might later find you’re not eligible for free baggage. Many airlines require an active card at check-in to receive the bag benefit, including Alaska, American, Delta and United.
6. Book published fares.
According to United’s terms, you won’t be eligible for free checked baggage from your card if you buy unpublished fares — for example, those you might find on sites like Hotwire and Priceline.
If you have the Hawaiian Airlines® World Elite Mastercard®, you’ll receive the free checked baggage benefit only if you buy your flight directly from the airline. This includes the airline’s website, reservations department and ticket counters.
7. Your credit card usually doesn’t give you additional bags on top of your elite-status benefit.
If your elite status gives you two free checked bags, for example, you typically won’t get another waiver from your credit card.
There’s a notable exception if you’re a Silver Medallion member in Delta SkyMiles. While typically your status gives you just one free checked bag, an eligible Delta credit card will give you a second bag free.
8. The benefit is usually limited to the primary cardholder.
The checked-bag benefit usually goes to the primary cardholder and companions on their flight reservation. The waiver typically isn’t available to authorized users.
9. Know your airline’s baggage policies.
Typically, you’ll be charged extra if you bring oversized or overweight bags. Also, the free checked bag benefit usually doesn’t include pets.
Most airlines charge checked baggage fees. Luckily, there are ways to get around these costs — including credit cards, elite status and fare upgrades.
For help finding the right airline credit card, check out our guide on the topic.
Frequently asked questions
- How heavy can my checked baggage be?
Airlines have different checked baggage policies, but typically your checked bag can weigh a maximum of 50 pounds. You may be allowed a heavier bag in certain instances, such as if you have elite status.
- How big can my checked baggage be?
Most airlines set the maximum linear dimensions of checked baggage at 62 inches.
- What happens if my checked baggage exceeds the maximum weight or dimensions?
You’ll pay extra fees. Many airlines charge around $100 per overweight bag and around $200 per oversized bag.
- See rates and fees for Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card
- See rates and fees for Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card
- See rates and fees for Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card
- See rates and fees for Delta SkyMiles® Gold Business American Express Card
- See rates and fees for Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card
- See rates and fees for Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card
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