How to get free checked bags on United Airlines

Leverage credit cards, elite status and premium fare classes.

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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?

A free checked bag on United can save you up to $60 per person on a round-trip flight, as this privilege usually costs $30 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.
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 $95 annual fee
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 free checked bags on United

United℠ Explorer Card

  • $0 first-year intro annual fee, then $95.
  • Signup bonus: 40,000 miles after you make $2,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening. Plus, earn an additional 25,000 miles after spending $10,000 in the first 6 months.
  • 2x miles on United purchases, hotel stays and restaurant purchases.
  • Credit every four years for your Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee.
  • 25% back as statement credit on United inflight purchases. Plus, priority boarding and your first checked bag free on United-operated flights.
  • 2 United Club one-time passes each card anniversary.
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See Rates & Fees

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

Updated December 7th, 2019
Name Product Filter values Rewards Purchase APR Annual fee
2x miles at restaurants, hotels and United and 1x miles on all other purchases
17.99% to 24.99% 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 plus 25,000 miles after spending $10,000 in the first 6 months.
2x miles at restaurants, gas stations and office supply stores, 2x miles on United and 1x miles on all other purchases
17.49% to 24.49% variable
$95
Earn 50,000 miles after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months. Earn another 50,000 miles after spending $25,000 total in the first 6 months.
2x miles on United and 1.5x miles on all other purchases
17.99% to 24.99% variable
$450
50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
2% back on United and 1.5% on all other purchases
17.49% to 24.49% variable
$0
Earn $150 after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months.
2x miles on United and 1.5x miles on all other purchases
17.99% to 24.99% variable
$450
Enjoy access to all United Club locations and participating Star Alliance™ affiliated lounges worldwide.
See terms
See issuer's website
See terms
Can't decide on a card? Get personalized credit card offers with CardMatch™.

Compare up to 4 providers

Name Product Welcome offer Rewards Annual fee Filter values
30,000 points after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months
3x Membership Rewards® points on all eligible travel, 3x points at restaurants and 1x points on all other purchases
$150
Earn 3x Membership Rewards® points on all eligible travel, 3x points at restaurants and 1x points on all other purchases. Rates & fees
35,000 points after spending $4,000 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
Earn 4x points at restaurants worldwide. Rates & fees
See terms
See terms
See terms
Can't decide on a card? Get personalized credit card offers with CardMatch™.
50,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months
3x points on dining and travel after earning your $300 travel credit and 1x points on all other purchases
$450
Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
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

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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