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How to get free checked bags on United Airlines

Leverage credit cards, elite status and premium fare classes.

If you’re booking a trip with United, save money on checked bags by doing your research ahead of time. Here’s how to get your extra cargo from point A to point B for free.

6 ways to get free checked bags

A free checked bag on United can save you up to $70 per person on a round-trip flight, as this privilege usually costs up to $35 each way. The United℠ Explorer Card offers a free checked bag for you and one companion on each United-operated flight. You can also get one to three free checked bags per flight as a Premier member in United’s MileagePlus loyalty program.

Checked baggage can weigh a maximum of 50 pounds in economy and 70 pounds in premium fare classes. It can have maximum overall measurements of 62 inches.

Here are more details on how to get free checked baggage on flights operated by United and United Express:

1. Get a United Airlines credit card.

Four of the airline’s cards offer complimentary checked bags.

2. Get a credit card with travel credits.

With travel credits, charge baggage fees, in-flight purchases, seat upgrades and more to your card, then get reimbursed on your card bill.

3. Become a MileagePlus Premier member.

United’s loyalty program, MileagePlus, has four elite tiers. Each offers one to three complimentary checked bags per flight, a benefit that extends to up to nine travel companions on your reservation. You’ll also enjoy a maximum baggage weight of 70 pounds each, up from the standard 50 pounds.

4. As active military personnel.

If you’re an active US military member on personal travel, you and your dependents on the same reservation can each check three bags free. Maximum overall dimensions per bag are 62 inches and maximum weight per bag is 70 pounds.

If you’re an active US military member on official business, you and your dependents on the same reservation can each check five bags free. Maximum overall dimensions per bag are 115 inches and maximum weight per bag is 100 pounds.

5. Fly a premium fare class.

When you fly United First, United Business or United Polaris, you can check three bags free, up to 70 pounds each.

6. Reach Star Alliance Gold status.

Star Alliance Gold lets you check an additional bag or get an additional 44 pounds of baggage weight free on eligible flights. Silver doesn’t come with these benefits. This can be a good way to waive baggage fees if you’re an elite with another Star Alliance carrier but not with United.

How much does it normally cost?

It depends on whether your United flight is domestic or international. Keep in mind that you can usually save $5 per bag when you purchase it in advance online.

FlightFirst bagSecond bagEach additional bag
  • $60 in basic economy
  • Free with a higher tier ticket
$100You’re typically only allowed to check two bags on international flights.

United credit cards that get you free checked bags

Four United Airlines cards offer free checked baggage on United- and United Express-operated flights.

United Airlines credit cardFree Checked Bag AllowancesAnnual Fee
United℠ Explorer CardFirst bag free$0 intro annual fee, then $95
United℠ Business CardFirst bag free$99
United MileagePlus® Club cardFirst and second bag free$450 annual fee

To get the checked baggage benefit, purchase your flight with your United credit card and include your MileagePlus number in your reservation. One companion on the same reservation gets the baggage benefit as well.

Free checked bags for MileagePlus Premier members

Premier SilverPremier GoldPremier PlatinumPremier 1K
Economy travel between US and:
  • Continental US
  • Alaska
  • Hawaii
  • Canada
  • Mexico
  • Caribbean
  • Central America
1 bag2 bags3 bags3 bags
Economy travel between the US and:
  • South America
  • Asia
  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • Europe
  • Middle East
  • Africa
2 bags3 bags3 bags3 bags
All other Economy travel1 bag in addition to included checked baggage allowance1 bag in addition to included checked baggage allowance1 bag in addition to included checked baggage allowance1 bag in addition to included checked baggage allowance

Data obtained September 2021. Values are subject to change and should be used only as a general guide.

Bottom line

United offers a variety of ways to avoid baggage fees. The easiest methods include upgrading your fare class and getting a United credit card.

If getting free checked bags is a deal breaker for you, consider booking with Southwest. It gives all customers two checked bags for free, regardless of the ticket you buy. You might also compare other airline credit cards to find a company you’ll fly with on the regular.

Pictures: Getty Images

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