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By: Anya Kartashova
With the introduction of bare-bones basic economy fares, panic has settled in among the traveling masses. Most budget fares do not offer a seat selection and make you board the aircraft last, which oftentimes leaves you with no room for luggage in the overhead bin. Your options are to place the bag underneath the seat in front of you or, if it’s too big, you’re forced to check it, which doesn’t come cheap.
Luckily, there are ways to avoid paying for a checked bag. Being an elite flyer is one of them. Flying in a premium cabin is another.
An alternative option?
Holding a co-branded credit card from an airline of your choice.
Typical perks include boarding a plane in an early group to get access to the oh-so-limited overhead space, yes, but also being able to check a bag at no extra cost. The benefit often even covers your travel companions.
So, which credit cards allow you to check a bag for free? And, more importantly, which credit cards require you to pay for the ticket with them to receive the benefit?
Bank of America Alaska Airlines Visa Credit Card
With the Bank of America Alaska card, you and up to six travel companions are able to save on baggage fees. Most domestic airlines have increased their bag fees from $25 to $30 for the first checked bag, but Alaska still charges $25. Your group can save up to $350 per round-trip reservation provided that everyone in the party checks a bag each way.
You’re not required to pay for the reservation with the Alaska co-branded credit card for the benefit to apply — this is key since cards such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Chase Sapphire Preferred provide trip delay coverage.
When you book, simply make sure you attach your Mileage Plan number at the time of booking. It takes about two to three weeks for the perk to activate once you open the card.
Alaska Airlines Visa Business Card from Bank of America
Same benefit as on the personal Alaska Airlines Visa Credit Card.
Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite MasterCard
Holding the Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite MasterCard will allow you and up to four travel companions booked on the same reservation to check the first bag for free on domestic flights operated by American Airlines and its regional subsidiaries, such as American Eagle, Compass Airlines, ExpressJet Airlines, etc.
Keep in mind that flights to the Caribbean don’t count as domestic, and you’ll be on the hook for a bag fee even if you’re a credit cardholder. Been there, done that.
American Airlines charges $30 for the first checked bag (for tickets issued after Sept. 21, 2018), so you’re looking at potentially saving $60 per person on a round-trip flight. If all four of your travel companions check a bag, you’ll save the group $300 on your entire trip.
The benefit applies to award travel as well. Not bad for a card that costs $99 annually (waived for the first year).
You don’t have to pay for the flights with your Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select credit card, but the account must be open at least seven days before travel date.
Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard
The Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard has a similar baggage perk, except now you and eight of your companions are covered on the same trip as long as all of you were booked together. In this scenario, your Brady Bunch can save up to $540 on each round-trip.
Keep in mind that this premium credit card has a high annual fee of $450, but it more than makes up for it in other benefits, such as Admirals Club access and Global Entry / TSA Precheck enrollment fee.