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Top Airline Credit Cards that Waive Checked Bags Fees

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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – United MileagePlus Explorer Card

One of the top money-saving perks offered by many airline co-branded credit cards is the ability to check a bag (or several) for free. This one benefit can end up saving hundreds of dollars per trip depending on the credit card and how many bags you can check.

Checked bag fees can really add up, so find a credit card that waives them.
Checked bag fees can really add up, so find a credit card that waives them.

Though it seems like a fairly obvious benefit, many basic airline credit cards forego it. Even some of the top airline credit cards on the market (such as the British Airways Visa, the Alaska Airlines Visa and the Virgin Atlantic MasterCard) offer plenty of valuable benefits, but don’t include checked bags. Finally, airlines like JetBlue and Southwest already offer a free checked bag or two, making such a benefit redundant.

However, many major airline credit cards offer free checked bags both for primary cardholders and their travel companions. To help you keep track, I assembled this list of the major airline credit cards on the market at the moment that offer free checked bags. Read on to see which ones suit your needs. (Note that the fees quoted are for non-elites on domestic flights.)

Airline Credit Cards With Free Checked Bag Benefits

Free checked bag benefits vary widely from card to card and airline to airline. Some offer just a single checked bag fee waiver for the primary cardholder, while others include up to eight companions on a single reservation. Be sure to read the fine print of your credit card benefits to make sure you’re maximizing them.

Several Citi AAdvantage cards offer a baggage benefit.
Several Citi AAdvantage cards offer a baggage benefit.

AMERICAN AIRLINES

American normally charges $25 for the first checked bag and $35 for the second.

Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Mastercard
Current sign-up bonus: 50,000 miles when you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months of cardmembership and two Admirals Club day passes.
Annual fee: $95, waived the first year.
Baggage benefit: First checked bag free for cardholder and up to four travel companions on the same reservation.

CitiBusiness AAdvantage World Mastercard
Current sign-up bonus: 50,000 miles when you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months of cardmembership and two Admirals Club day passes.
Annual fee: $95, waived the first year.
Baggage benefit: First checked bag free for cardholder and up to four travel companions on the same reservation.

Citi Executive AAdvantage World Elite Mastercard
Current sign-up bonus: 50,000 miles when you spend $5,000 in 3 months.
Annual fee: $450
Baggage benefit: First checked bag free for primary cardholder and a companion on the same reservation.

Delta's Amex cards offer one of the most generous checked bag benefits out there.
Delta’s Amex cards offer some of the most generous checked bag benefits out there.

DELTA

Delta normally charges $25 for the first checked bag and $35 for the second.

Gold Delta SkyMiles Card from American Express
Current sign-up bonus: 30,000 miles when you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months.
Annual fee: $95, waived the first year.
Baggage benefit: First checked bag free for cardholder and up to 8 companions on the same reservation. The business version also offers this benefit.

Platinum Delta SkyMiles Card from American Express
Current sign-up bonus: 35,000 bonus miles and 5,000 MQMs after $1,000 in qualifying purchases in the first 3 months. $100 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new card within your first 3 months.
Annual fee: $195
Baggage benefit: First checked bag free for cardholder and up to 8 companions on the same reservation. The business version also offers this benefit.

Delta Reserve Card from American Express
Current sign-up bonus: 10,000 bonus miles and 10,000 MQMs after your first purchase.
Annual fee: $450
Baggage benefit: First checked bag free for cardholder and up to 8 companions on the same reservation. The business version also offers this benefit.

Barclaycard's Hawaiian Airlines Mastercard offers a free checked bag.
The Barclaycard Hawaiian Airlines MasterCard offers a free checked bag.

HAWAIIAN AIRLINES

Hawaiian Airlines normally charges $25 for the first checked bag and $35 for the second.

Hawaiian Airlines World Elite MasterCard
Current sign-up bonus: 35,000 bonus miles after your first purchase.
Annual fee: $89
Baggage benefit: First checked bag free for primary cardholder. Note, this benefit is not offered on the business version.

The United Explorer and Club cards all offer a baggage benefit.
The United MileagePlus Explorer and Club cards offer a baggage benefit.

UNITED

United normally charges $25 for the first checked bag and $35 for the second.

United MileagePlus Explorer Card
Current sign-up bonus: 30,000 miles after spending $1,000 in 3 months.
Annual fee: $95, waived the first year.
Baggage benefit: First checked bag free for cardholder and one companion on the same reservation.

United MileagePlus Explorer Business Card
Current sign-up bonus: 30,000 miles after spending $1,000 in 3 months.
Annual fee: $95, waived the first year.
Baggage benefit: First checked bag free for cardholder and one companion on the same reservation.

United Club Card
Current sign-up bonus: $100 statement credit after first purchase.
Annual fee: $395, but when you sign up for the card in a Chase branch, the first year is waived.
Baggage benefit: First and second checked bags free for primary cardholder and one companion on the same reservation.

United Club Business Card
Current sign-up bonus: $100 statement credit after first purchase.
Annual fee: $395
Baggage benefit: First and second checked bags free for primary cardholder and one companion on the same reservation.

Barclaycard upped the bonus on its US Airways card to 50,000 miles.
The Barclaycard US Airways MasterCard has a baggage benefit as well.

US AIRWAYS

US Airways normally charges $25 for the first checked bag and $35 for the second.

US Airways Premier World MasterCard
Current sign-up bonus: 50,000 miles with first purchase and payment of the annual fee.
Annual fee: $89
Baggage benefit: One free checked bag for cardholder and up to four companions on domestic US Airways-operated flights.

Both Virgin America cards offer a free checked bag benefit.
Both Virgin America cards offer a free checked bag benefit.

VIRGIN AMERICA

Virgin America normally charges $25 for the first checked bag and $25 for the second.

Virgin America Premium Visa Signature
Current sign-up bonus: 15,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 in 90 days
Annual fee: $149
Baggage benefit: First checked bag free for cardholder and one companion on the same reservation.

Virgin America Visa Signature
Current sign-up bonus: 10,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 in 90 days
Annual fee: $49
Baggage benefit: First checked bag free for cardholder and one companion on the same reservation.

Do You Have To Use The Card To Receive the Benefit? 

United Explorer: Primary Cardmembers and one companion traveling on the same reservation will receive their first standard checked bag free each time they fly on United- or United Express-operated flights when they purchase their tickets with their MileagePlus Explorer Card (a savings of up to $100 per round trip — calculated as $25 for the first standard checked bag each way, per person).

Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select doesn’t mention having to purchase ticket with the card and it has to be on an American flight, not US Airways (for now)

Delta you don’t have to purchase the ticket with your card, but it must be on a Delta flight, not codeshare on a partner.

US Airways: Has to be US Airways originating flights only.

Hawaiian Airlines: All ticket purchases (original and exchanges) must be made with the Hawaiian Airlines World Elite MasterCard premium product and purchased directly from Hawaiian Airlines. HA Vacation Package purchases do not qualify as direct purchases from Hawaiian Airlines. 

Virgin America: Check one free bag for you and your plus-one on Virgin America flights when your card is used to purchase the flight and each bag is within the standard weight and size restrictions.

Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard®

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  • Earn 30,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after making $1,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening*
  • First checked bag is free on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and up to four companions traveling with you on the same reservation*
  • Enjoy Group 1 Boarding on American Airlines flights*
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases.1
  • Receive 25% savings on in-flight food and beverage purchases when you use your card on American Airlines flights*
  • Double AAdvantage® miles on eligible American Airlines purchases*
  • Earn 10% of your redeemed AAdvantage® miles back — up to 10,000 AAdvantage® miles each calendar year*
Intro APR Regular APR Annual Fee Foreign Transaction Fee Credit Rating
N/A 14.24% - 22.24%* (Variable) $95, waived for first 12 months* 3.00% Excellent/Good