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Many airline credit cards offer free checked bags to cardholders.  However, the details vary a lot by airline.  Are international flights included?  How about the bags of companions on the same reservation?  Do you have to pay for the flight with the airline credit card?  Answers are below…

General Info, Common Across Credit Cards

In all cases, baggage fee waivers are only for normal bag fees and do not include oversized bags or pets.  Credit cards allow maximum of 1 free checked bag per person.  Additionally, when you get free bags through other means (such as elite status), the baggage allowance is not cumulative.  In other words, if your elite status allows 2 checked bags, you do not get 3 free checked bags.  Additionally, free checked bags are available only to primary cardholders.  Those with authorized user cards do not get this benefit.

Comparison Chart

 AADeltaUnitedAlaska JetBlue
Must pay for flight with credit card to get free checked bag?NoNoYesNoYes
Max number of companions that get free first bag4 or 8*81 or 2*63
Free bags on international flights?No***YesYesYesYes
# of days before flight that card must be open7 0**14 0?7
# of days before flight that loyalty number must be attached to reservation7 0 0 07

* With some airlines, the number of companions with free first checked bags depends on the credit card:

  • American Airlines: Most AA cards offer 4 companions with free first checked bag, but the following cards offer 8: Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard, and Barclaycard AAdvantage Aviator Silver World Elite Mastercard.
  • United Airlines: Most United cards offer 1 companion with free first checked bag, but the following cards offer 2: United MileagePlus Club Card, United Presidential Plus Card.

** Delta claims that you must have received your card before you can get the bag fee waiver, but some have reported getting the benefit on the same day they opened their account.

*** This restriction is not really bad.  AA explicitly allows 1 free checked bag to all passengers on Transatlantic routes, and 2 free checked bags on Transpacific routes.  Additionally, there are exceptions to the “domestic-only” rule.  See the AA section below.

Is this bag free to check?

Alaska Airlines

  • Eligible credit cards: Alaska Airlines Visa Signature, Alaska Airlines Visa Busines
  • Prerequisites: The cardholder must be traveling and the cardholder’s Mileage Plan™ number must be in the reservation before checking in at alaskaair.com, virginamerica.com, the Alaska Airlines or Virgin America mobile apps, or at any of our Alaska Airlines or Virgin America airport kiosks.
  • Eligible flights: Alaska Airlines or Virgin America operated and ticketed flights, including flights operated for Alaska by Horizon, SkyWest, or PenAir (AS 001-999, 1000-1999, 2000-2999, 3300-3499)
  • Other restrictions: For reservations made with group booking codes or through the group desk, only primary cardholders will receive the free checked bag.
  •  

American Airlines

  • Eligible credit cards: Citi AAdvantage Executive Card (8 companions), Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select Card (4 companions), CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select Card (4 companions), AAdvantage Aviator Silver World Elite Mastercard (8 companions), AAdvantage Aviator Red MasterCard (4 companions), AAdvantage Aviator Business Mastercard (4 companions)
  • Prerequisites: Account must be open 7 days prior to air travel AND reservation must include the primary cardmember’s AAdvantage number 7 days prior to air travel.
  • Eligible flights: Domestic itineraries marketed and operated by American Airlines, or on itineraries marketed by American Airlines and operated as American Eagle® flights by Compass Airlines, LLC, Envoy Air Inc., ExpressJet Airlines, Inc., Mesa Airlines, Inc., Republic Airline Inc., PSA Airlines, Inc., Piedmont Airlines, Inc., Air Wisconsin Airline Corp., SkyWest Airlines, Inc., Trans States Airlines, LLC. All flights on the itinerary must be domestic flights marketed by American Airlines and operated by American Airlines or American Eagle® carriers. This benefit will not be available for travel on codeshare flights booked with an American Airlines flight number but operated by another airline.  In addition to domestic itineraries, the following international destinations allow a free first checked bag: Colombia*, Ecuador, El Salvador*, Haiti, Panama, Venezuela (*1st bag fee applies for travel to San Salvador, El Salvador and Cali, Colombia June 20 – August 9, 2017 and December 8 – 24, 2017)
  • Other restrictions: N/A

Note that even though the free checked bag benefit mostly only applies to domestic flights, AA allows 1 free checked bag to all passengers on Transatlantic routes, and 2 free checked bags on Transpacific routes.

More details can be found here.

Delta

  • Eligible credit cards: Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card, Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card, Delta Reserve Credit Card, Gold Delta SkyMiles Business Credit Card, Platinum Delta SkyMiles Business Credit Card, and Delta Reserve for Business Credit Card.
  • Prerequisites: New Card Members and Card Members upgrading from another Delta SkyMiles Credit Card product will be eligible for the checked baggage fee waiver benefit after receiving their Card from American Express.
  • Eligible flights: Delta or Delta Connection when you check-in with Delta for both a Delta marketed and Delta operated flight. Codeshare flights are not eligible.
  • Other restrictions: N/A

More details can be found here.

JetBlue

  • Eligible credit cards: JetBlue Plus Card and JetBlue Business Card
  • Prerequisites: All ticket purchases (original and exchanges) must be made with the JetBlue Plus MasterCard Account and the cardmember’s TrueBlue member number must be entered at the time of booking.  Additionally, the account must be open 7 days prior to air travel AND, reservation must include the primary cardmember’s TrueBlue member number 7 days prior to air travel.
  • Eligible flights: All JetBlue operated flights. Not available for travel on codeshare flights booked with a JetBlue flight number but operated by another airline.
  • Other restrictions: Perk only applies to “Blue” fares (since other fares include free checked bags)

More details can be found here.

United Airlines

Additional details:

  • Eligible credit cards: United MileagePlus Explorer (1 companion), United MileagePlus Club (2 companions), United Presidential Plus (2 companions)
  • Prerequisites:
    • The primary cardmember must Include their MileagePlus number in the reservation and purchase the tickets with their United MileagePlus Chase Card.
    • The Primary Cardmember may use miles to book award travel on United-operated flights, as long as they pay for their award ticket taxes and service charges with their qualifying Card and include their MileagePlus account number in their reservation.
    • A new United MileagePlus Chase primary credit Cardmember will be eligible for their applicable free standard checked bag(s) 2 weeks after account opening.
  • Eligible flights: United- and United Express®-operated flights
  • Other restrictions: Unpublished fares, such as those purchased on priceline.com and Hotwire, are not eligible.

More details can be found here.

Note: This article was inspired by Frequent Miler – any content used with permission.

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