These 27 credit cards can get you free checked bags
Editor’s note: This post has been updated with new information.
Demand for airfare is skyrocketing for this summer, and prices are already quite high. But even that may only cover your actual ticket. Checked bag fees can cost as much as $35 one-way — adding up quickly, especially if you travel with your family.
But by carrying the right credit card, you may be able to get these charges waived completely, and possibly even for your travel companions.
In this guide, we'll go over the 27 credit cards that feature free checked baggage as a benefit.
(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)
Alaska Airlines charges a $30 fee for the first checked bag and $40 for the second on all its flights.
But for cardholders of the Alaska Airlines Visa® credit card ($95 annual fee) and the Alaska Airlines Visa® Business card ($50 annual fee), you’ll be able to check a first bag for free for you and up to six additional passengers on the same reservation when you book with your card as of March 1, 2023.
These annual fees are well worth the cost even if you travel with Alaska Airlines a handful of times per year.
American Airlines charges $30 for your first checked bag and $40 for the second bag for all domestic flights, as well as those to Canada, Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean.
However, the carrier offers multiple cobranded credit cards from two issuers: Citi and Barclays. Both issuers offer a free checked bag, depending on the card you carry in your wallet.
Citi AAdvantage Cards
There are three Citi cobranded options that offer a first free checked bag on domestic itineraries:
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®.
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®.
- CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard®.
The Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select and the CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select extend this free checked baggage benefit to you and up to four traveling companions on your reservation. Both cards come with $99 annual fees that are waived the first year.
The information for the CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Meanwhile, the Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard offers the same free checked bag benefit, but it extends to up to eight traveling companions on the same reservation. While there’s a $450 annual fee for this card, it comes with other benefits such as Admirals Club lounge membership and a TSA PreCheck or Global Entry application credit.
Barclays Aviator cards
Issued by Barclays, the AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard ($99 annual fee) and the AAdvantage Aviator Business Mastercard ($95 annual fee) both offer a first bag checked free to the primary cardholder and four companions on domestic itineraries.
The information for the Aviator Red card and Aviator Business card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Note that none of these cards will waive the fee for your first checked bag on short-haul international flights.
Delta Air Lines
Delta normally charges $30 each way for your first checked bag and $40 for your second bag on flights within the U.S.
However, through most of the carrier's consumer and business credit cards, you'll get one free checked bag for the cardholder and eight others traveling on the same itinerary. To utilize this benefit, be sure to have your Delta SkyMiles number attached to your reservation.
Here are the six Delta cards that offer this perk:
- Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card ($0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $99, see rates and fees).
- Delta SkyMiles® Gold Business American Express Card ($0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $99, see rates and fees).
- Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card ($250 annual fee, see rates and fees).
- Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card ($250 annual fee, see rates and fees).
- Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card ($550 annual fee, see rates and fees).
- Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card ($550 annual fee, see rates and fees).
Related: Best Delta credit cards of 2022
Hawaiian charges $30 for the first checked bag and $40 for the second bag on flights from North America.
However, Hawaiian Airlines World Elite Mastercard from Barclays cardholders receive two free checked bags — however, travel companions aren’t included in this benefit. The card comes with a $99 annual fee.
The information for the Hawaiian Airlines Mastercard has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
JetBlue quietly increased baggage fees in 2020 and now charges $35 for the first checked bag and $45 for the second checked bag.
Thankfully, you can avoid these charges if you carry the JetBlue Plus card or the JetBlue Business Card — both with a $99 annual fee. This free checked bag benefit extends to the primary cardholder (you) and three travel companions on your reservation.
The information for the JetBlue Plus card and the JetBlue Business Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
United charges $35 per bag and $45 for the second on all domestic flights, but there's a total of four cards you can apply for to avoid checked bag fees.
The United Explorer Card ($95 annual fee, waived the first year) and the United Business Card ($99 annual fee) both let you bring your first checked bag free for you and a companion on your reservation.
Meanwhile, the United Club Infinite Card ($525 annual fee) and the United Quest Card ($250 annual fee) both let you check two free bags for the primary cardholder and one companion on the same reservation.
However, there's a big caveat here. Per the terms of this benefit, you must have your MileagePlus number on your reservation and purchase your ticket with the applicable card for the perk to apply. If you opt to use another card that offers a better earning rate on airfare, you may miss out on the free checked bags.
Other cards worth considering
While opening any of the airline credit cards above is a great way to save on checked bag fees, what happens if you fly with multiple carriers throughout the year?
If you tend to prioritize price or convenience over sticking with a particular airline, it may not be worth it to apply for a cobranded credit card that offers perks solely on that one carrier.
An alternative is to apply for a credit card that comes with more general travel benefits and can reimburse you for checked bag charges:
- Chase Sapphire Reserve ($550 annual fee): Receive up to $300 in statement credits for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
- The Platinum Card® from American Express ($695 annual fee; see rates and fees) and The Business Platinum Card® from American Express ($695 annual fee; see rates and fees): Receive up to $200 in statement credits for incidental charges from one qualifying airline.
- Hilton Honors Aspire American Express Card ($450 annual fee; see rates and fees): Receive up to $250 in statement credits for incidental charges from one qualifying airline.
- Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card ($395 annual fee), the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card ($95 annual fee) and the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card (no annual fee): Cover travel purchases on your statement credit by using your miles at a rate of 1 cent each.
The information for the Hilton Honors Aspire has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
What you should know about checked bags
Here are some tips to keep in mind when taking advantage of your free checked bag benefit on your airline cards:
Free baggage benefits don’t stack
There’s a popular misconception that your credit card will offer an additional free checked bag rather than the first free checked bag. Unfortunately, these credit cards’ fee waivers wouldn’t apply if you already receive a free checked bag due to your elite status, class of service or travel to an overseas destination. Therefore, you will not receive an additional free checked bag beyond your existing allowance just for holding a credit card that offers this benefit.
One exception is for Silver Medallion flyers on Delta. This lowest tier of Delta elite status typically offers one free checked bag (up to 70 pounds) for destinations within the U.S. and Canada. However, by carrying one of the six Delta cards mentioned above, you can bring a second bag of up to 70 points.
Another exception is Hawaiian, which offers an additional free checked bag for cardholders who already receive a free checked bag due to their elite status in the HawaiianMiles program.
Make sure to book your ticket correctly to use this benefit
With most of these offers, you only have to attach your frequent flyer number to your reservation in order to be given the free checked bag benefit. The exception is United, which requires you to purchase the ticket (or pay taxes and fees on an award ticket) using your airline credit card. In all cases, simply presenting your credit card at check-in is not sufficient.
Be careful booking large groups on a single reservation
It’s nice that several of these credit cards offer free baggage for multiple companions, but there’s a potential catch. When you’re searching for flights, airlines will display a single airfare that applies to all tickets rather than offer lower fares for some passengers. So if only three seats are offered for $300 each, and the next best fare is $400, booking four people together in one reservation will cost $400 each.
Clearly, paying the extra $300 will not be worth it in order to receive a free bag worth $50 each roundtrip. So before booking reservations for multiple people, be sure to check the price for a single passenger and take into account your credit card’s bag fee waivers before deciding whether to book your party with multiple reservations.
Book flights on Southwest
The only domestic carrier to not charge checked bag fees for any traveler is Southwest Airlines, which offers two free checked bags 50 pounds or less on every single flight.
Airfare can be costly by itself, but additional bag fees can quickly add up — especially when traveling with a large family. Thankfully, there are a number of ways to avoid these costs. In fact, many of the airline cards on this list that offer a free checked bag carry annual fees under $100.
Therefore, it's worth crunching the numbers. Even if you fly with that airline several times in one year, it's easy to justify paying the ongoing annual fee — and that's not even factoring in any welcome bonuses or other perks the cards offer.
Additional reporting by Jason Steele.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Gold, click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Gold Business, click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Platinum, click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Platinum Business, click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Reserve, click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Reserve Business, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Business Platinum, click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Honors Aspire, click here.
Updated on 1/18/23.