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TravelCredit cards that offer you a free checked bag

Credit cards that offer you a free checked bag


Checked bag fees can cost as much as $40 one-way — adding up quickly, especially if you travel with your family.

Unfortunately, over the years, checked bag fees have gone up, and as of recently, another round of increases across four major airlines in 2024 — United, Alaska, JetBlue and American Airlines — will continue to help the bottom line of these airlines.

But by carrying the right credit card, you may be able to get these charges waived completely, and possibly even for your travel companions.

In this guide, we’ll go over the credit cards that feature free checked baggage as a benefit.

Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines charges a $35 fee for the first checked bag and $45 for the second on all its flights.

CHAD SLATTERY/ ALASKA AIRLINES

But for cardholders of the Alaska Airlines Visa® credit card ($95 annual fee) and the Alaska Airlines Visa® Business card ($70 for the company and $25 per card annual fee), you’ll be able to check a first bag for free for you and up to six additional passengers on the same reservation when you purchase your flight with your card.

These annual fees are well worth the cost, even if you travel with Alaska Airlines a handful of times yearly.

American Airlines

American Airlines charges $40 ($35 if you pay online) for your first checked bag for all domestic flights, including Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. For travel to and from Canada, Caribbean, Mexico, Central America, and Guyana, American Airlines charges $35 for the first checked bag and $45 for the second checked bag.

AMERICAN AIRLINES

However, the carrier offers multiple cobranded credit cards from two issuers: Citi and Barclays. Both issuers offer a free checked bag, depending on the card you carry in your wallet.

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Citi AAdvantage Cards

There are three Citi cobranded options that offer a first free checked bag on domestic itineraries:

The Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select and the CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select extend this free checked baggage benefit to you and up to four traveling companions on your reservation. Both cards have $99 annual fees that are waived for the first year.

The information for the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard and CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select World Mastercard have been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Meanwhile, the Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard offers the same free checked bag benefit, but it extends to up to eight traveling companions on the same reservation. It has other benefits, such as Admirals Club lounge membership and a TSA PreCheck or Global Entry application credit.

Barclays Aviator cards

Issued by Barclays, the AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard ($99 annual fee) and the AAdvantage Aviator Business Mastercard ($95 annual fee) both offer a first bag checked free to the primary cardholder and four companions on domestic itineraries.

The information for the Aviator Red card and Aviator Business card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

None of these cards will waive the fee for your first checked bag on short-haul international flights.

Related: Best American Airlines credit cards

Delta Air Lines

Delta normally charges $35 each way for your first checked bag and $45 for your second bag on flights within the U.S.

DELTA

However, through most of the carrier’s consumer and business credit cards, you’ll get one free checked bag for the cardholder and eight others traveling on the same itinerary. To utilize this benefit, attach your Delta SkyMiles number to your reservation.

Here are the six Delta cards that offer this perk:

Related: Best Delta credit cards

Hawaiian Airlines

Hawaiian charges $30 for the first checked bag and $40 for the second bag on flights from North America.

HAWAIIAN AIRLINES

Hawaiian Airlines World Elite Mastercard from Barclays cardholders receive two free checked bags — however, travel companions aren’t included in this benefit. The card comes with a $99 annual fee.

The information for the Hawaiian Airlines Mastercard has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

JetBlue Airways

JetBlue charges different pricing for checked bags more than 24 hours before departure and less than 24 hours before departure. For flights within the U.S., Latin America, Caribbean and Canada, $35 ($45 if less than 24 hours) for the first checked bag and $50 ($60 if less than 24 hours) for the second.

JetBlue charges $65 for transatlantic flights for the first checked bag and $105 for the second.

JETBLUE

Thankfully, you can avoid these charges if you carry the JetBlue Plus card or the JetBlue Business Card — both with a $99 annual fee. This free checked bag benefit extends to the primary cardholder (you) and three travel companions on your reservation.

The information for the JetBlue Plus card and the JetBlue Business Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Related: Credit card showdown: JetBlue Plus Card vs. JetBlue Business Card

United Airlines

United charges $35 for the first checked bag if prepaid ($40 at check-in) and $45 for the second checked bag ($50 at check-in) on all domestic flights and other markets, but there’s a total of four cards you can apply for to avoid checked bag fees.

UNITED AIRLINES

The United℠ Explorer Card ($95 annual fee, waived the first year) and the United℠ Business Card ($99 annual fee) let you bring your first checked bag free for you and a companion on your reservation.

Meanwhile, the United Club℠ Infinite Card ($525 annual fee) and the United Quest℠ Card ($250 annual fee) let you check two free bags for the primary cardholder and one companion on the same reservation.

However, there’s a big caveat here. Per the terms of this benefit, you must have your MileagePlus number on your reservation and purchase your ticket with the applicable card for the perk to apply. If you use a different card offering a better earning rate on airfare, you may miss out on the free checked bags.

Related: Best credit cards for United flyers

Other cards worth considering

While opening any of the airline credit cards above is a great way to save on checked bag fees, what happens if you fly with multiple carriers throughout the year? If you tend to prioritize price or convenience over sticking with a particular airline, it may not be worth it to apply for a cobranded credit card that offers perks solely on that one carrier.

THOMAS BARWICK/GETTY IMAGES

An alternative is to apply for a credit card that comes with more general travel benefits and can reimburse you for checked bag charges:

Related: What still triggers Amex airline fee reimbursements?

What you should know about checked bags

Here are some tips to keep in mind when taking advantage of your free checked bag benefit on your airline cards:

Free baggage benefits don’t stack

There’s a popular misconception that your credit card will offer an additional free checked bag rather than the first free checked bag. Unfortunately, these credit cards’ fee waivers wouldn’t apply if you already receive a free checked bag due to your elite status, class of service or travel to an overseas destination. Therefore, you will not receive an additional free checked bag beyond your existing allowance just for holding a credit card that offers this benefit. Some airlines make exceptions, but check your airline’s policy before assuming a second bag will be covered.

Make sure to book your ticket correctly to use this benefit

With most of these offers, you only have to attach your frequent flyer number to your reservation to be given the free checked bag benefit. The exceptions are Alaska and United, which require you to purchase the ticket (or pay taxes and fees on an award ticket) using your airline credit card.

IAM ANUPONG/GETTY IMAGES

Be careful booking large groups on a single reservation

.It’s nice that several of these credit cards offer free baggage for multiple companions, but there’s a potential catch. When searching for flights, airlines will display a single airfare that applies to all tickets rather than offer lower fares for some passengers. So if only three seats are offered for $300 each, and the next best fare is $400, booking four people together in one reservation will cost $400 each.

Clearly, paying the extra $300 will not be worth it to receive a free bag worth $50 each round trip. So, before booking reservations for multiple people, be sure to check the price for a single passenger and consider your credit card’s bag fee waivers before deciding whether to book your party with multiple reservations.

Book flights on Southwest

Southwest Airlines is the only domestic carrier not to charge checked bag fees for any traveler, offering two free checked bags weighing 50 pounds or less each on every single flight.

Bottom line

Airfare can be costly by itself, but additional bag fees can quickly add up — especially when traveling with a large family. Thankfully, there are several ways to avoid these costs. In fact, many of the airline cards on this list that offer a free checked bag carry annual fees under $100.

Therefore, it’s worth crunching the numbers. Even if you fly with that airline several times in one year, it’s easy to justify paying the ongoing annual fee — and that’s not even factoring in any welcome bonuses or other perks the cards offer.

For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Gold, click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Gold Business, click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Platinum, click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Platinum Business, click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Reserve, click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Reserve Business, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Business Platinum, click here.

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