Nowadays, airlines charge between $30 and $40 for one checked bag one way. But with the right credit card, you can cut this out-of-pocket cost on your next flight.
The right airline credit card can give you and your travel companions a free checked bag — or two — on your next flight. It’s one of the travel perks that can offset the annual fee that most airline credit card issuers charge.
For instance, you may spend $70 roundtrip for a checked bag with United Airlines. But the United℠ Explorer Card offers a free checked bag for you and one travel companion. You’ll offset the card’s $95 annual fee ($0 intro annual fee for the first year) if you take advantage of this perk on one round trip flight with you and a friend. All you have to do is book the flight with your card and make sure your friends are on your reservation.
Even if your checked bags aren’t free, make sure you pay for your checked bags using your credit card if you have travel protections to cover your luggage if it’s lost or damaged.
If you’re planning a few flights this year, the cost of checked bags can add up quickly and an airline credit card is one way to save money. Here are cards that offer free checked bags, how much you and your family can save with free checked bags on your next flight, and what else to consider if you’re thinking about getting an airline credit card.
Airline Credit Cards with Free Checked Bags
Usually, the first checked bag costs $30 and the second bag costs $40 one way for domestic American Airlines flights. But with the right American Airlines credit card, you and your travel companions can check one bag for free if they’re listed on your reservation, and the flights are booked using your American Airlines credit card. Here’s which cards offer free checked bags and how many guests can check their bag for free:
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®: First checked bag is free for up to eight travel companions on your reservation.
- CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard®: First checked bag is free for up to four travel companions on your reservation.
- Aviator® Silver Mastercard®: First checked bag free for up to eight travel companions on your reservation.
- Aviator® Red Mastercard®: First checked bag free for up to four travel companions on your reservation.
- Aviator® Business Mastercard®: First checked bag free for up to four travel companions on your reservation.
The first checked bag for Delta Airlines costs $30 one way, and $40 for the second bag. All of Delta’s credit cards offer the first checked bag for free for cardholders and up to eight travel companions on the reservation. You must have a Delta SkyMiles account and pay for your flight using the credit card.
Keep in mind that the annual fee for each card varies, even though the number of travel companions is the same for each. The Delta SkyMiles Gold card can be a good choice if you don’t travel as often because of its $99 annual fee after the first year, compared to Delta SkyMiles Platinum or Reserve cards that have higher annual fees.
Here are the Delta credit cards that include free checked bags for cardholders and their travel companions:
- Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card: First checked bag free for up to eight travel companions on your reservation.
- Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card: First checked bag free for up to eight travel companions on your reservation.
- Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card: First checked bag free for up to eight travel companions on your reservation.
Even if you’re not a cardholder, Southwest offers two free checked bags for domestic flights. The bags must be within the size and weight limits. Each additional bag, including oversized and overweight bags, cost $75 one way. Southwest still offers several credit cards to earn rewards on everyday spending, then redeem your points towards Southwest flights and travel partners.
JetBlue Airlines charges $35 for the first bag and $45 for the second bag for domestic flights — depending on your travel class. The JetBlue Plus Credit Card offers the first free checked bag for you and three guests listed on your reservation.
Free checked bags don’t apply to the JetBlue Card, but you’ll still get other airline and cardholder perks — such as discounted food and beverages.
United Airlines generally charges $35 for the first checked bag and $45 for the second bag each way depending on your domestic flight (You can use the airline’s baggage calculator to determine your costs and see if you qualify for any discounts.) The airline also offers a baggage subscription that starts at $349, but you’ll get more travel perks and rewards with a United Airlines credit card — even with an annual fee.
Most United cardholders get their first and second checked bags free on United and United Express flights when booking with their qualifying credit card. Here’s which United credit cards offer free checked bags:
- United℠ Explorer Card: First checked bag free for one travel companion on your reservation.
- United Quest℠ Card: First and second checked bags are free for one travel companion on your reservation.
- United Club℠ Infinite Card: First and second checked bags are free for one travel companion on your reservation.
- Presidential Plus℠ Card: First and second checked bags are free for one travel companion on your reservation.
- Presidential Plus℠ Business Card: First and second checked bags are free for one travel companion on your reservation.
- United℠ Business Card: First checked bag free for one travel companion on your reservation
- United Club℠ Business Card: First and second checked bags are free for one travel companion on your reservation.
Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®
- Intro offer:50,000 miles
- Annual fee:$450
- Regular APR:20.24% – 29.24% (Variable)
- Recommended credit:670-850 (Good to Excellent)
- Learn more At our partner’s secure site
Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card
JetBlue Plus Card
Airline Baggage Fees
The savings you’ll get from free checked bags can add up quickly. Even if you only take one round trip per year, you can save up to $75 one way. Keep in mind that baggage fees can depend on flight class, whether you’re flying domestic or international, and how many bags you’re checking. Here’s a breakdown of the major airlines’ baggage fees.
|Cost of First Checked Bag||Cost of Second Checked Bag|
What to Look for in a Travel Credit Card
If you’re thinking of getting an airline or travel credit card to earn rewards towards future trips make sure you’re weighing the benefits, fees, and bonus categories to get the card’s full value. The card could be a good fit for your wallet if you’re already loyal to one airline, a frequent flier, or if you check a bag on most flights. Here’s what you should consider:
Your Preferred Airline
If you’re loyal to an airline, check its list of destinations to make sure that you can book the majority of your flights with the airline and maximize your rewards. For instance, if you love Southwest’s perks like free checked bags, upgrades, and discounted lounge access but you’re not traveling to or from the airline’s locations, you may not get the full value of the card. You may choose a travel credit card to redeem rewards towards flights and hotels to get the best deal instead of brand loyalty.
Make sure the card’s bonus categories align with your everyday spending to maximize your rewards without overspending. For instance, the Delta SkyMiles Platinum American Express Card offers 3X miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X miles on restaurants worldwide and U.S. supermarkets, and 1X miles on everything else.
But the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card offers 3X points on Southwest purchases, 2X points on local transit and commuting, internet, cable, phone services, and select streaming. If your spending doesn’t match the categories, you’ll miss out on maximizing your rewards.
Most airline and travel credit cards come with an annual fee, but the cards come with credits and discounts to offset the charge. As an example, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard, has a $450 annual fee after the first year. But the card includes a $100 TSA PreCheck/Global Entry credit, lounge access, 25% off in-flight purchases, and more perks for up to eight companions to offset the cost. If you know you’ll use the card’s benefits often, the annual fee may be worth it.
If not, you may choose a cash back card with travel perks that doesn’t have an annual fee to get rewards at no additional cost.
Most travel and airline credit cards come with cardholder perks that would otherwise cost extra. Before choosing a card, make sure the perks align with your Cardholder benefits like lounge access, free upgrades, discounts on food and beverages, and more. If you take advantage of the credit card’s benefits, you’ll get the full value of the card and enhance your trip. But if the benefits aren’t appealing or you won’t use them often, you may choose another card that aligns with your habits.