Avoid Checked Bag Fees With These Cards!

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Do you dislike paying checked bag fees as much as I do?

Many airlines charge a $25 fee for your 1st checked bag when you fly coach between the US, Canada, Mexico, and certain Caribbean islands.

(Although my favorite airline for inexpensive domestic travel, Southwest, gives you 2 free checked bags!)

Free Checked Bags

Here’s a List of Cards That Will Let You Check Your Bag for Free!

That’s $25 each way, so if you’re traveling with a companion you could have to pay $100 extra for a round-trip flight (Business and First Class passengers usually don’t have to pay this fee, along with some airline elite status members).  And if you travel frequently these fees can really add up!

Luckily there are credit cards that will give you your 1st checked bag for free!

1.   American Airlines

Link:  American Airlines Bag Requirements & Fees

American Airlines charges $25 for your 1st checked bag.

AmericanAirlinesLogo

To get your 1st checked bag free on American Airlines with the following cards you must meet these requirements:

  • Credit card account must be active for at least 7 days
  • Primary card holder’s American Airlines frequent flyer number must be on the reservation at least 7 days before travel
  • Travel companions must be on the same reservation

A.   Citi Executive American Airlines Card

 Link:   Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®

With the Citi Executive American Airlines card the 1st checked bag fee is waived for you and up to 8 travel companions on your reservation.

Other Card Perks:
  • 50,000 American Airline miles when you spend $5,000 within 3 months.
  • Free access to American Airlines & US Airways airport lounges

The $450 annual fee is NOT waived.

B.   Citi American Airlines World Card

Link:   Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ MasterCard®

Link:   CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World MasterCard®

One of the perks of the Citi American Airlines World cards is that you and up to 4 travel companions will get each get your 1st checked bag free.

Other Card Perks:
  • 50,000 American Airlines miles when you spend $3,000 within 3 months
  • Priority boarding

The $95 annual fee is waived for the 1st year on both the personal and business version of this card.

2.   Delta Airlines

Link:  Delta Airlines Bag Requirements & Fees

Delta Airlines also charges up to $25 for your 1st checked bag.

You get the 1st checked bag free with the all the AMEX Delta Airlines cards, starting when you receive your card.  Traveling companions on the same reservation are also eligible for this benefit.  There is a maximum of 9 waived checked bag fees per reservation.

DeltaAirlinesLogo

A.   American Express Delta Gold

Link:   Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express

Link:   Gold Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card from American Express

Other Card Perks:
  • 30,000 Delta Airlines miles when you spend $1,000 within 3 months 
  • $50 statement credit when you make a Delta purchase within 3 months
  • Priority boarding
  • Terms & conditions apply

The $95 annual fee is waived the 1st year.

B.   American Express Delta Platinum

Link:   American Express Delta Platinum Personal 

Other Card Perks:
  • 35,000 Delta Airlines miles when you spend $1,000 within 3 months
  • $50 statement credit when you make a Delta purchase within 3 months
  • Priority boarding
  • Terms & conditions apply

The $195 annual fee is NOT waived the 1st year.

C.   American Express Delta Reserve

Link:   American Express Delta Reserve Personal 

Link:   American Express Delta Reserve Business

Other Card Perks:
  • 10,000 Delta Airlines miles after your 1st purchase
  • Delta Airlines airport lounge access
  • Terms & conditions apply

The $450 annual fee is NOT waived the 1st year.

3.   Hawaiian Airlines

Link:   Hawaiian Airlines Bag Requirements & Fees

Hawaiian Airlines charges up to $25 for your 1st checked bag on flights within North America.

HawaiianAirlinesLogo

A.   Barclaycard Hawaiian Airlines Card

Link:   Barclaycard Hawaiian Airlines Card

You don’t have to pay this fee if you’re a Barclays Hawaiian Airlines personal card holder.  This perk is NOT available with the business version of this card.

Other Card Perks:
  • 35,000 Hawaiian Airlines miles when you spend $1,000 within 3 months
  • 50% off Companion Ticket

This card has a $95 annual fee, which is NOT waived the 1st year.

The Barclays Hawaiian Airlines card isn’t as generous with their checked bag policy as other cards, so please read their restrictions!

4.   United Airlines

Link:   United Airlines Bag Requirements & Fees

You will also have to pay $25 for your 1st checked bag when you fly United Airlines to certain destinations.

UnitedAirlinesLogo

A.   Chase United Explorer Card

Link:   Chase United Explorer Card

Two weeks after opening your account, you and a companion on the same reservation get your 1st checked bag free.

Other Card Perks:
  • 30,000 United Airlines miles when you spend $1,000 within 3 months
  • 5,000 United Airlines miles for adding an authorized user
  • Priority boarding

And the $95 annual fee is waived for the 1st year.

B.   Chase United Club

Link:   Chase United Club Card

With the Chase United Club card, you get your 1st and 2nd checked bag free.  One travel companion on the same reservation can also take advantage of this perk.  You are eligible for this benefit 2 weeks after you open your account.

Other Card Perks:
  • $100 statement credit after your 1st purchase
  • Access to United Airlines airport lounges

The $395 annual fee is NOT waived.

5.   US Airways

Link:   US Airways Bag Requirements & Fees

When you fly US Airways in the US, Canada, the Caribbean, and Mexico, you will be charged $25 for your 1st checked bag.

USAirwaysLogo

A.   Barclaycar US Airways Card

Link:   Barclaycard US Airways Card

With this card, you and up to 4 travel companions on the same reservation get the 1st checked bag free.  To receive the benefit, your account must be opened 7 days before you book your flight.

Other Card Perks:

The $89 annual fee is NOT waived with this card.

You won’t be able to get the sign-up bonus for much longer with this card.  That’s because it’s being retired due to the US Airways merger with American Airlines.

6.   Virgin America

Link:   Virgin America Bag Requirements & Fees

Virgin America also charges $25 for the 1st checked bag.

VirginAmericaLogo

But with these cards you and a travel companion on the same reservation will get a statement credit for your 1st checked bag.  The credit will be applied to your account 6 to 8 weeks after your travel is complete.

A.   Virgin America Signature Card

Link:   Virgin America Signature Card

Other Card Perks:
  • 10,000 Virgin America points when you spend $1,000 within 3 months
  • $150 off companion ticket with a paid flight each year

You do have to pay a $49 annual fee with this card.

B.   Virgin America Premium Signature Card

Link:   Virgin America Premium Signature Card

Other Card Perks:
  • 15,000 Virgin America points when you spend $1,000 within 3 months
  • $150 off companion ticket with a paid flight each year

This card comes with a $149 annual fee.

Side-by-Side Comparison

For easier comparison, here’s a side-by-side look at the credit cards that will help you avoid checked bag fees.

Card That Waive Your First Check Bag FeeNumber of Travel Companion IncludedOther Card BenefitsAnnual Fee
Citi Executive American Airlines Card8• 50,000 miles when you spend $5,000 within 3 months

• Lounge Access

• Priority check-in and boarding
$450 fee NOT waived
Citi American Airlines World Personal Card

Citi American Airlines World Business Card
4• 50,000 miles when you spend $3,000 within 3 months
• Priority boarding
$95 fee waived 1st year
American Express Delta Gold Personal

American Express Delta Gold Business
8• 30,000 miles when you spend $1,000 within 3 months

• $50 statement credit when you make Delta purchase within 3 months

• Priority boarding
$95 fee waived 1st year
American Express Delta Platinum Personal8• 35,000 miles when you spend $1,000 within 3 months

• $100 statement credit when you make a Delta purchase within 3 months
$195 fee
American Express Delta Reserve Personal

American Express Delta Reserve Business
8• 10,000 miles after 1st purchase

• Delta Airlines lounge access
$450 fee NOT waived
Barclays Hawaiian Airlines CardX• 35,000 miles when you spend $1,000 within 3 months

• 50% off Companion Ticket
$95 NOT waived
Chase United Explorer Card1• 30,000 miles when you spend $1,000 within 3 months

• 5,000 miles for adding an authorized user

• Priority boarding
$95 waived 1st year
United Club Card1• Waives 1st AND 2nd checked bag fees

•$100 statement credit after 1st purchase

$395 fee NOT waived

Visit a Chase branch to see if they have an offer which wavies the annual fee
Barclays US Airways Card4• 50,000 miles after 1st purchase

Annual Companion Certificate good for up to 2 travel companions

$89 fee NOT waived
Virgin America Signature Card1• 10,000 miles when you spend $1,000 within 3 months

• $150 companion ticket with a paid flight each year
$49 fee NOT waived
Virgin America Premium Signature Card1• 15,000 miles when you spend $1,000 within 3 months

• $150 companion ticket with a paid flight each year
$149 fee NOT waived

Bottom Line

Many airlines charge a checked bag fee on flights between the US, Canada, Mexico, and certain Caribbean islands.

At $25 each way, checked bag fees can stack up quickly.  These cards help you avoid the fees, which means more money in your pocket when you arrive at your next vacation destination!

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Editorial Disclaimer: Neither the responses below nor the editorial content on this page are provided or commissioned by the bank advertisers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertisers. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the bank advertisers. It is not the bank advertisers’ responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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7 responses to “Avoid Checked Bag Fees With These Cards!

  1. AA cards will NOT give you free bags on international flights, so if you go to a destination that doesn’t offer a free bag another way you are stuck paying for it, like we did to Jamaica earlier this year.

  2. Per Citi AAdvantage cards terms it’s only for DOMESTIC flights (1st bag free), but not other destinations. Although in my experience booking award tickets for international flights gets your 1st checked bag for free. It might be same or change in 2015 although (hope not).

    Same goes for US Airways card: ONLY for domestic US Air metal flights.

    Just recently flew to Caribbean and was charged $25 bag fee although have mark “Cardholder” on my ticket. Check the terms, and they were right – domestic only and only on their metal, not with partners.
    Seems like it works better with United CC.

  3. Do I need to pay for tickets with corresponding airline credit card to get a free checked bag? Does Delta tickets may have mark “Cardholder”?

  4. Agreed with the others in the comments. I’ve had the Citi Advantage card for a few years now and they will never pay for you to have a free checked bag to Mexico or to the Caribbean. It’s a loophole. They don’t consider it international for purposes of a free-checked bag, and they don’t consider it domestic for the free checked benefit of the cred card to apply. Very frustrating and misleading!

  5. Dairius, I just read your response to Tessa that you do not have to actually charge your flight on the specific card that offers free bags. That you just need to be a cardholder. How do you then show that you are eligible? I would rather go through the ultimate rewards portal b/c I think I would get a bonus on miles used but I usually transfer to my united presidential plus b/c I need the two free bags or explorer for one free bag. This is great info. Thanks!

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