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?

 Alaska Airlines - book ticket using credit card to get free baggage fee

When you book, simply make sure you attach your Mileage Plan number at the time of booking.

Alaska Airlines

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.

Alaska Airlines Business Credit Card

Learn more by visiting our
credit cards page.

American Airlines

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.

credit card to get free checked bag

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 the 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.

AAdvantage MileUp MasterCard

The free checked bag benefit is not available.

CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select World MasterCard

Same policy as on the personal Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite MasterCard.

Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard

50,000 miles after $2,500 spend in 3 months

Learn more

credit card to get free checked bag

Delta Air Lines

Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express

The Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express offers a free checked bag to the primary cardholder and up to eight companions booked under the same reservation.

Delta also charges $30 for the first bag per way which means you could save yourself and eight other people $60 on each round-trip booking — $540 altogether. At $95 per year (waived for the first year), the annual fee can pay for itself multiple times even after just one trip.

To get the perk, the primary cardholder must attach a SkyMiles number to the reservation and pay for the trip with any credit card. We suggest choosing one that has great travel protections, such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve or the Citi Prestige.

Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express

Same policy as on the Delta Gold Card.

Delta Reserve Card from American Express

Same policy as on the Delta Gold Card.

Blue Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express

The free checked bag benefit is not available.

Gold Delta SkyMiles Business Credit Card from American Express

Same policy as on the personal Delta Gold Card.

Platinum Delta SkyMiles Business Credit Card from American Express

Same policy as on the personal Delta Gold Card.

Gold Delta SkyMiles Business Credit Card

30,000 SkyMiles after $1,000 spend in the first 3 months plus $50 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase in the first 3 months

Learn more

Platinum Delta SkyMiles Business Credit Card

Earn 5,000 MQMs & 35,000 SkyMiles after $1,000 spend in the first 3 months & Receive a $100 statement credit after making a Delta purchase with first 3 months of being a Card member

Learn more

credit card to get free checked bag

JetBlue

JetBlue Plus Card

Like the Big Three domestic airlines, JetBlue has increased its baggage fee to $30 for the first checked bag. You can offset it by paying for your reservation with the JetBlue Plus Card, even if it’s just to cover taxes on an award flight.

The benefit covers you and up to three companions booked together, which means you can save up to $240 on each round-trip itinerary on a Blue fare. The credit card account must be open at least seven days prior to traveling, and the primary cardholder’s JetBlue TrueBlue number must be entered at checkout.

The card carries an annual fee of $99, which isn’t waived for the introductory year.

JetBlue Card

The free checked bag benefit is not available.

JetBlue Business Card

Same policy as on the personal JetBlue Plus Card.

credit card to get free checked bagUnited Airlines

United MileagePlus Explorer Card

The United Explorer Card members can get a free bag for themselves and one travel companion as long as their MileagePlus number is provided at the time of making a booking on United’s website AND they use the co-branded credit card to pay for the reservation.

Simply being a cardholder isn’t going to cut it.

The good news is that covering taxes on an award ticket will do the trick.

Flights purchased elsewhere, such as online travel agency or another partner airline’s website, do not qualify for the free-bag benefit. Clearly, United has the strictest requirements for checking a free bag as a co-branded cardmember.

This is important to remember as the first checked bag on domestic United flights costs $30 which means you can save up to $120 on each round-trip domestic ticket. The benefit applies to passengers flying on United Airlines and United Express-operated flights.

Keep in mind that if you’re an elite member and you qualify for a free checked bag with your status, you won’t qualify for an additional free checked bag by being a co-branded cardholder. Only the first bag is covered in both cases.

The United Explorer Card has a $95 annual fee (sometimes waived for the first year, sometimes not).

United Explorer Card

40,000 bonus miles after $2,000 spend in 3 months

Learn more

United MileagePlus Club Card

The United MileagePlus Club Card members and one companion get their first and second checked bags covered on each domestic trip paid for with the credit card—a savings of up to $280 per return trip.

Same as with the Explorer Card, you must include your MileagePlus number when completing your reservation and make it on United.com.

This premium United card charges a high annual fee of $550, but it offers United Club membership, free first and second checked bags as well as the earning rate of 1.5X miles per dollar spent on everything.

United MileagePlus Explorer Business Credit Card

Same benefit as on the personal United MileagePlus Explorer Card.

Final Thoughts

Holding credit cards that offer auxiliary benefits, such as free checked bags, can save you a lot of money if you use them correctly.

If you have one of the United cards, forgetting to pay for a flight with the co-branded card can cost you, but it’s also difficult to keep track of the rules on different cards and airlines. This is why you have 10xTravel and our team to remind you of the rules.

Now you can travel with all your makeup, hair products, and wine bottles without worrying about paying an arm and a leg for checked bags.

It goes without saying that a primary cardholder must travel to take advantage of the free baggage and canceling an airline credit card before your trip takes place will erase the benefit from your account.

Chase Sapphire Preferred

60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards Points after you spend $4,000 spend in 3 months

Learn more

Disclosure: 10xTravel has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. 10xTravel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.

Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. You can read our advertiser disclosure here.


Anya Kartashova

About the Author

Anya Kartashova is a travel junkie who wants to visit everywhere in the world. As she crosses destinations off her list, that list grows even larger with new places being added. There’s no way to determine whether her wanderlust will ever subside. Probably never.

Learn More About Anya

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