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How to get free checked bags on United Airlines

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Leverage credit cards, elite status and premium fare classes.

Like most carriers, United Airlines charges baggage fees that can get expensive — especially if you take several flights each year and don’t pack light.

Find out how to get around these fees using certain credit cards, earning elite status or by flying premium fare classes.

How do I get a free checked bag on United Airlines?

Airlines largely offer similar ways to avoid baggage fees, and United is no exception. However, with United as one of the largest carriers in the world, it offers an extra method: elite status in an airline alliance.

Here’s how to get free checked baggage on flights operated by United and United Express:

  • Get a United Airlines credit card.
    Four of the airline’s cards offer complimentary checked bags.
  • Get a credit card with travel credits.
    With travel credits, you can charge baggage fees, in-flight purchases, seat upgrades and more to your card, then get reimbursed on your card bill.
  • 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.
See more: Complimentary baggage allowance for MileagePlus Premier members
Premier Silver Premier Gold Premier Platinum Premier 1K
Economy travel between US and:
  • Continental US
  • Alaska
  • Hawaii
  • Canada
  • Mexico
  • Caribbean
  • Central America
1 bag 2 bags 3 bags 3 bags
Economy travel between the US and:
  • South America
  • Asia
  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • Europe
  • Middle East
  • Africa
2 bags 3 bags 3 bags 3 bags
All other Economy travel 1 bag in addition to included checked baggage allowance 1 bag in addition to included checked baggage allowance 1 bag in addition to included checked baggage allowance 1 bag in addition to included checked baggage allowance

Data obtained April 2019. Values are subject to change and should be used only as a general guide.

  • 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.
  • 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.

Guide to the Star Alliance Global Airline Network

How much does it usually cost to check a bag on United Airlines?

These rates apply to bags of up to 50 pounds with maximum linear dimensions of 62 inches. You’ll pay extra if your bags are oversized or overweight.

Baggage fees for flights within the United States
First bag Second bag Each additional bag
$30 $40 $150

Data obtained April 2019. Values are subject to change and should be used only as a general guide.

Use the United Airlines baggage fee calculator to see how much you’ll pay

United Airlines doesn’t publish an extensive table of baggage fees. But you can use its fee calculator to see how much you’ll pay.
If you’ve already booked a flight, you can log in to your MileagePlus account or input your flight confirmation number. The calculator will show you baggage fees based on your route.

On the “Any flights” tab, you can see baggage fees on a route of your choice.
checked bag charges Image: Suppliedbaggage charges

How to get a free checked bag with a United Airlines credit card

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

United Airlines credit card Free Checked Bag Allowances Annual Fee
United℠ Explorer Card First bag free $0 intro annual fee, then $95
United℠ Explorer Business Card First bag free $0 intro annual fee, then $95
United MileagePlus® Club card First and second bag free $450 annual fee
United MileagePlus® Club Business Card First 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.

Baggage fees with Delta credit cards vs. United credit cards

Almost every Delta credit card offers a checked baggage benefit. However, each card lets you check only one bag. Meanwhile, United’s premium credit cards let you check up to two bags.

To be fair, Delta’s higher-tier cards offer annual companion certificates, which could be worth hundreds of dollars a year. United’s cards don’t offer these perks.

Compare credit cards that offer free checked bags on United Airlines

United credit cards offer airline-specific benefits such as savings on inflight purchases, priority boarding and United Club access. But if you don’t fly with the carrier often, these perks might not be very valuable.

You might like a general travel card, which could offer strong rewards on everyday purchases. If the card offers travel credits, you can use them for charges such as baggage fees and in-flight purchases.

Our pick for baggage credit with no annual fee

PenFed Pathfinder Rewards American Express® Card

  • 0% APR promo balance transfer rate for 12 months with 3% balance transfer fee now through September 30, 2019. After that, the APR for the unpaid balance and any new balance transfers will be 12.99% to 17.99%. APR will vary with the market based on prime rate. Subject to credit approval.
  • Earn 25,000 bonus points by spending $2,500 in the first 90 days of account opening.
  • Earn 4x points on travel purchases through the PenFed Honors Advantage program. Earn 3x points on travel purchases for all other card holders.
  • Earn 1.5x points on all other purchases unrelated to travel.
  • $100 annual air travel credit
  • $100 Global Entry or $85 TSA PreCheck benefit every 5 years
  • No caps or limits on rewards. No annual or foreign transaction fees.
  • Chip enabled for added security.
  • Variable rate as low as 12.99% APR. Rate and offers current as of June 1, 2019 and are subject to change.
  • Federally insured by NCUA.
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How do I get a free checked bag on United Airlines?

Updated June 19th, 2019
Name Product Filter values Rewards Purchase APR Annual Fee
2x miles at restaurants, on hotel stays and purchases from United and 1x miles on all other purchases
18.24% to 25.24% variable
$0 intro annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
Earn 2x miles at restaurants, gas stations and office supply stores, 2x miles on tickets purchased from United and 1x miles on all other purchases.
18.24% to 25.24% variable
$0 intro annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
75,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
2x miles on tickets purchased from United and 1.5x miles on all other purchases
18.24% to 25.24% variable
$450
50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
Earn 2x miles on tickets purchased from United and 1.5x miles on all other purchases.
18.24% to 25.24% variable
$450
Enjoy access to all United Club locations and participating Star Alliance™ affiliated lounges worldwide.

Compare up to 4 providers

Name Product Welcome Offer Rewards Annual Fee Filter values
60,000 points after spending $5,000 in your first 3 months
5x points on directly-booked flights or on flights and hotels on Amex Travel. 1x points on all other purchases
$550
Get 5x Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel and 5x points on eligible hotels booked on amextravel.com. Rates & fees
35,000 points after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months
3x points on directly-booked flights; 4x at restaurants; 4x at US supermarkets on up to $25,000 annually (then 1x points)
$250
35,000 bonus Membership Rewards® Points when you spend $2,000 in the first 3 months. Rates & fees
25,000 points after spending $2,500 in the first 90 days
3x points on travel or 4x points if you’re a PenFed Honors Advantage member and 1.5x points on all other purchases
$0
25,000 bonus points when you spend $2,500 in the first 90 days from account opening.
50,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months
3x points on dining and travel after earning your $300 travel credit. 1x points on all other purchases
$450
Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
50,000 points after spending $4,500 in the first 90 days
3x points on travel and mobile wallet purchases and 1x points on all other purchases
$400
Earm 50,000 points after spending $4,500 in the first 90 days from account opening.

Compare up to 4 providers

Bottom line

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

If you’re not sure a United card is right for you, consider other airline credit cards.

Frequently asked questions

Pictures: Getty Images

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