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Credit Cards That Offer Free Checked Bags

Credit Cards That Offer Free Checked Bags

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This article was last updated Nov 06, 2019. Terms and conditions may have changed. For the most accurate information, please consult the issuer website.

If you fly often — either for work or for play — you’re more than familiar with the associated costs. There’s a fee for this and a charge for that. A trip that seems doable for $500 ends up being $750 once the airline is done shaking every bit of change from your pockets.

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One of the biggest money makers for airlines is the checked bag fee. According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, in 2018, airlines made almost $5 billion on checked bag charges alone. However, as most savvy travelers know, there is a convenient and fairly easy way to escape those pesky fees: by signing up for an airline’s credit card.

11 credit cards that offer free checked bags

Many travel rewards cards offer a free checked bag as a perk. Know that Southwest is one of the few airlines that doesn’t charge a cent for your first and second checked bag. However, if Southwest isn’t your airline of choice, here are some credit cards that you might want to consider.

  • Alaska Airlines: 

    • Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® card*
      • Annual fee: $75
      • Max no. of free checked bags: 7
      • First checked bag fee: $30
  • American Airlines: 

    • Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®
      • Annual fee: $99, waived for first 12 months
      • Max no. of free checked bags: 5
      • First checked bag fee: $30
    • Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®
      • Annual fee: $450
      • Max no. of free checked bags: 9
      • First checked bag fee: $30
    • AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®*
      • Annual fee: $95
      • Max no. of free checked bags: 5
      • First checked bag fee: $30
  • Delta Airlines:

    • Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card
      • Annual fee: $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $99.
      • Max no. of free checked bags: 9
      • First checked bag fee: $30
      • To see rates & fees for Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card please click here.

    • Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card
      • Annual fee: $250
      • Max no. of free checked bags: 9
      • First checked bag fee: $30
      • To see rates & fees for Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card please click here.

    • Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card
      • Annual fee: $550
      • Max no. of free checked bags: 9
      • First checked bag fee: $30
      • To see rates & fees for Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card please click here.

  • JetBlue Airlines:

    • JetBlue Plus Card*
      • Annual fee: $99
      • Max no. of free checked bags: 4
      • First checked bag fee: $30
  • United Airlines:

    • United℠ Explorer Card
      • Annual fee: $0 Intro for First Year, then $95
      • Max no. of free checked bags: 2
      • First checked bag fee: $30
    • United Club℠ Card*
      • Annual fee: $450
      • Max no. of free checked bags: 4
      • First checked bag fee: $30

What you need to know about baggage waivers

Signing up for a credit card the offers a free checked bag perk can be a smart idea – if it’s a perk you’re certain you will use.

“The obvious pro is that these cards can save you money, and if you’re someone who checks bags often, it’s a great perk,” explained Erik Carter, senior resident financial planner at the financial education firm Financial Finesse. “Just make sure you’re researching the card and know what you’re getting into. Make sure you’re flying that airline often, because otherwise you’d be better off with a general travel rewards card.”

Read Credit Cards that Offer Airline Fee Credits

If you fly often enough with one specific airline, you could even qualify for their elite status, which often comes with a checked bag waiver as a perk. Elite status at Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta, JetBlue and United all come with checked bag waivers.

Tips for picking the right credit card

If you’re still onboard with choosing an airline card that offers a free baggage perk, here are two tips to help you through that process.

  1. Know your hub. One of the main criteria for picking the right airline rewards card is to know which airlines service your area, and which ones fly to where you travel the most. Not sure how to figure that out? Simply look over your past itineraries to see which airlines you’ve flown the most often.
  2. Pick for value. Once you have an airline narrowed down, it’s time to consider the cost and perks. Crunch the numbers and think of everything that comes into play, from the annual fee to the travel benefits to the rewards structure. From there, think outside of the box a bit. “Lots of factors can influence the choice of an airline beyond which ones fly to frequent destinations,” said Carter. “[Things like] cost, flight times and amenities.”

Our top 3 picks for free checked bag credit cards

United: United℠ Explorer Card

While the United℠ Explorer Card only gets you one free bag for you and a traveling partner, the card is notable because of its low $0 Intro for First Year, then $95 annual fee.

The United℠ Explorer Card comes with a signup bonus of 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open..

The United℠ Explorer Card also allows priority boarding, two passes per year to United airport lounges and your miles don’t expire as long as your account is open and in good standing.

This card also comes with $0 foreign transaction fee, a credit of up to $100 to cover the fees for Global Entry or TSA Precheck and 25% back on in-flight purchases. If you rent cars often, you’ll appreciate that the card comes with primary car rental insurance. That means in the unfortunate event you’re involved in an accident while driving the rental, the card’s insurance is activated before yours.

Delta: Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card

Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card

Apply Now

on American Express's secure site

Terms and Conditions apply

Rates & Fees

  • Earn 35,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.

  • Earn 2X Miles on Delta purchases, at restaurants worldwide and at U.S. supermarkets and 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases.

  • Check your 1st bag free on every Delta flight*

Highlights
  • Earn 35,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free and Main Cabin 1 Priority Boarding on Delta flights.
  • NEW! Get ready for your next trip - spend $10,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year and receive a $100 Delta Flight Credit to get you there sooner.
  • Earn 2X Miles on Delta purchases, at restaurants worldwide and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a 20% savings in the form of a statement credit after you use your Card on eligible Delta in-flight purchases of food, beverages, and audio headsets.
  • Enjoy a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $99.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees

See additional details for Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card

More Info

Much like the United℠ Explorer Card, the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card also boasts a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $99.

What makes the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card stand out is that it allows you and up to eight traveling partners on the same reservation a free first checked bag. That’s a potential value of $540 per roundtrip.

The Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card also comes with a tempting offer for newcomers. Apply for the card and you can earn Earn 35,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. That’s a low minimum spend compared to many other travel rewards cards.

As a Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card cardholder, you can also apply for Shoprunner, and get free two-day shipping and returns from more than 100 retailers.

American Airlines: Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®

  • Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after $2,500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

  • First checked bag free on domestic itineraries & preferred boarding

  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent at gas stations, restaurants, and on eligible American Airlines purchases

Highlights
  • Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after $2,500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent at gas stations and restaurants
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases
  • Earn a $125 American Airlines Flight Discount after you spend $20,000 or more in purchases during your card membership year and renew your card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees
  • 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 preferred boarding on American Airlines flights
  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 15.99% - 24.99%, based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.

See additional details for Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®

More Info

The Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®* is another fantastic card for saving on checked bags. You and up to four fellow travelers are granted a free first checked bag. The annual fee is low — just $99, waived for first 12 months.

Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after $2,500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.

The Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® rewards you for being an American Airlines fan. If you spend $20,000 or more in one year, you’ll get a $125 flight discount (which covers that annual fee).

The Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® also comes with some great travel perks. For example, cardholders are granted Trip Delay Protection. Here’s how it works: If your trip is delayed by 12 hours or more, you and your co-travelers are granted a $500 credit to cover expenses incurred as a result, such as a hotel room, food and even toiletries. Also, you don’t have to be the one traveling for this benefit to kick in. As long as the tickets were purchased with your miles or the card, the travelers are covered.

The bottom line

Choosing a credit card that offers free checked bags is a great way to save cash. While this is true even if you travel sparingly, it’s an especially beneficial perk for the frequent flier. Just be sure to do due diligence and choose the card that makes the most travel and financial sense for you.

*The information related to this offer has been independently collected by CompareCards and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication. Terms apply to American Express credit card offers. See americanexpress.com for more information.


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