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How to verify free baggage with your United credit card

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This article was last updated Mar 31, 2013, but some terms and conditions may have changed or are no longer available. For the most accurate and up to date information please consult the terms and conditions found on the issuer website.

Checked baggage fees are annoying and add up quickly on United, at $50 per roundtrip for each person. That’s why a lot of us sign up for the United℠ Explorer Card which offers the first checked bag free for yourself and one other person traveling in the same reservation.

But the rules and reality aren’t always clear, and some of the most frequent questions we get are:

  • I just got the United℠ Explorer Card – will my next trip qualify for the free baggage?
  • I have a United℠ Explorer Card, but I purchased my trip with another credit card. Will I get the free baggage?

While the outcome is often ‘yes’ in practice, there is actually an easy way to double check whether United’s computer system recognizes that you will get the baggage fee waived. And it doesn’t involve dealing with an agent on the telephone or at the airport.

Here’s how…

1. Look up your itinerary at United.com

United check reservation

2. Click on ‘View baggage service charges’

Screen Shot 2013-03-31 at 7.23.15 AM

3. You should see a green ‘$0’ listed if the baggage fee waiver is properly applied. If it does, you’re good to go!

United free baggage

So what if it’s not showing up with the green $0?

  1. Make sure it’s a domestic / Mexico / Caribbean itinerary. The free bag only applies to destinations that charge for the first checked bag. For destinations where the first bag is already free like Europe, you don’t get the second bag free.
  2. Check that your Mileage Plus frequent flyer number is in the reservation. That’s how United links it to your credit card.
  3. Make sure the reservation is made under the primary cardholder’s name, and that person is traveling. Secondary cardholders don’t get the free baggage benefit unless the primary cardholder is in the reservation.
  4. Make sure you used the United℠ Explorer Card to pay for the trip. Officially, you are supposed to do that. However, in practice many people get the free baggage anyway as card holders. If it doesn’t show up, you might have luck at the airport with the check in agent, but no guarantees. The rules are pretty clear you have to use the card to pay for the trip.

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