Finder is committed to editorial independence. While we receive compensation when you click links to partners, they do not influence our opinions or reviews. Learn how we make money.

How to get free checked bags on United Airlines

Leverage credit cards, elite status and premium fare classes.

Updated . What changed?

Fact checked

Our pick for free checked bags on United: United℠ Explorer Card

United℠ Explorer Card logo

40,000-mile

Signup bonus after spending $2,000 in first 3 months

  • Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit
  • Get 2x miles at restaurants, hotels and on United Airlines
  • $0 intro annual fee, then $95
See offer
Like most carriers, United charges baggage fees that can get expensive — especially if you take several flights each year and don’t pack light. However, there are some ways around these charges.

Here’s how to get free checked bags on United flights:

  • 1 checked bag is free for those with the United℠ Explorer Card or United℠ Business Card.
  • 2 checked bags are free for those with the United Club℠ Infinite Card.
  • 1-3 checked bags are free for United elite status tiers and Star Alliance Gold members, varying by domestic and international itineraries.

You can also get free checked bags by flying premium fare classes, flying to certain destinations and if you’re active military personnel.

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

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 1 to 3 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:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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

See more: Complimentary baggage allowance 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 July 2020. Values are subject to change and should be used only as a general guide.

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 bagSecond bagEach additional bag
$30 or $35$40 or $45$150 or $200 for oversized bags

Data obtained July 2020. 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 cardFree Checked Bag AllowancesAnnual Fee
United℠ Explorer CardFirst bag free$0 intro annual fee, then $95
United℠ Explorer Business CardFirst bag free$95 annual fee
United MileagePlus® Club cardFirst and second bag free$450 annual fee
United Club℠ Business 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.

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 card lets 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 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.

Data indicated here is updated regularly
Name Product Filter values Rewards Purchase APR Annual fee
United℠ Explorer Card
2x miles at restaurants, hotels and United and 1.5x miles on all other purchases
16.49% to 23.49% 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.
United Club℠ Infinite Card
4x miles on United purchases, 2x miles on travel and dining and 1x miles on all other purchases
16.49% to 23.49% variable
$0 intro annual fee for the first year ($525 thereafter)
Get United Club membership with access for you and two guests at any United Club or Star Alliance lounge -- a value of up to $650 annually.
United℠ Business Card
2x miles on United, restaurants, gas stations, office supply stores, local transit and commuting, and 1x miles on all other purchases
16.49% to 23.49% variable
$0 intro annual fee for the first year ($99 thereafter)
Earn 75,000 miles once after spending $5,000 in your first 3 months.
CardMatch™ from creditcards.com
See terms
See issuer's website
See terms
Use the CardMatch tool to find cards you're likely to qualify for with your credit score, without a hard pull on your credit.
loading

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

Related Posts

Ask an Expert

You are about to post a question on finder.com:

  • Do not enter personal information (eg. surname, phone number, bank details) as your question will be made public
  • finder.com is a financial comparison and information service, not a bank or product provider
  • We cannot provide you with personal advice or recommendations
  • Your answer might already be waiting – check previous questions below to see if yours has already been asked

Finder.com provides guides and information on a range of products and services. Because our content is not financial advice, we suggest talking with a professional before you make any decision.

By submitting your comment or question, you agree to our Privacy and Cookies Policy and finder.com Terms of Use.

Questions and responses on finder.com are not provided, paid for or otherwise endorsed by any bank or brand. These banks and brands are not responsible for ensuring that comments are answered or accurate.
Go to site