How Does the Free Checked Bag Perk Work With Citi American Airlines Cards?

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Million Mile Secrets reader, Joey, commented:

I took a last minute flight to Reno from Phoenix to ski some fresh snow.  I redeemed 4,500 British Airways Avios points for an award flight instead of paying $350 each way.

However, I was expecting to get a free checked bag on American Airlines because I have the Barclaycard Aviator MasterCard and the CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select card.

Do you know if the free checked bag benefit applies on American Airlines flights booked with British Airways Avios points?  Or am I booking it wrong?  Any help on getting the free bag on American Airlines would be appreciated.

Thanks for the question, Joey!

How Does The Free Checked Bag Perk Work With Citi American Airlines Cards

It’s Not Fun to Think You’ll Get a Free Checked Bag Only to Pay for It Once You Get to the Airport! I’ll Explain How to Make Sure You Get the Perk!

To get your 1st bag checked free, make sure you add your American Airlines frequent flyer number to your reservation at least 7 days before you depart.

I’ll give you tips on how to make the most of this benefit!

When Do You Get a Free Checked Bag?

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

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

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

Some credit cards, like the Citi Platinum Select AAdvantage cardCiti AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard, and CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select card, come with 1 free checked bag as part of the card’s benefits.

But Joey booked an American Airlines flight with British Airways Avios points and did NOT get a free checked bag when he flew.  Why?

How Does The Free Checked Bag Perk Work With Citi American Airlines Cards

You’ll Only Get a Free Checked Bag on Flights Departing More Than 7 Days Away, and With Your American Airlines Loyalty Number on the Reservation – Even When You Book on Partner Airlines

Citi says:

“For benefit to apply, the Citi / AAdvantage account must be open 7 days prior to air travel, and reservation must include the primary cardmember’s American Airlines AAdvantage number 7 days prior to air travel.”

The same rule applies for Barclaycard Aviator cards (not available for new sign-ups).

In Joey’s case, it sounds like he took off sooner than 7 days after he booked his award flight.

Remember, only reservations with your American Airlines frequent flyer number attached 7 days before departure will get you a free checked bag.

And just in case, here’s my step-by-step guide on how to add your American Airlines number to British Airways award flights.

Other Tips to Keep in Mind!

Checking your bag free is a valuable perk that can save you a lot of money, especially if you fly often or have a big family.

To make the most of the benefit, remember these tips!

1.   You Don’t Have to Pay With the Card

Some cards, like the Chase United MileagePlus Explorer, require you to pay for your ticket with the card to get a free checked bag.  But NOT the Citi American Airlines cards!

How Does The Free Checked Bag Perk Work With Citi American Airlines Cards

You Don’t Have to Pay With the Card to Get Your Free Bag!

It’s enough to simply have the card in good standing to receive the benefit.

Make sure the same American Airlines frequent flyer number is linked to your card, and your reservation.

2.   The Benefit Does NOT Apply for Authorized Users

I’ve written about the benefits of adding an authorized user, both for you and the person you add to your card.

In this case, free checked bag perk only applies to the primary cardholder.  That is, you!

Authorized users still get certain perks, though.  For example, authorized users of the Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard will receive access to Admirals Club lounges.

And, if they decide to earn a card’s sign-bonus for themselves, they can apply for it on their own!

3.   Share Your Perk With Folks on the Same Flights

When you purchase tickets for friends or family, they’ll get a free checked bag too!

How Does The Free Checked Bag Perk Work With Citi American Airlines Cards

Bring the Family! Depending on Which Card You Have, You Can Get a Free Checked Bag for up to 8 Others on Your Itinerary

Just make sure they’re on the same reservation and flights as you are.  Folks with the Citi Platinum Select AAdvantage Card and CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select Card can use their perk for up to 4 people on the same itinerary.

And if you have the Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard, you can share your benefit with up to 8 people traveling with you!

4.   Don’t Go Overboard!

The free checked bag perk only applies for the standard baggage allowance.  That means if your bag is over the weight limit, you’ll have to pay excess baggage fees.

How Does The Free Checked Bag Perk Work With Citi American Airlines Cards

If Your Flight Comes With Complimentary Checked Luggage, You Can’t Check More for Free. And Make Sure Your Bag Meets the Standard Baggage Allowance

And if your itinerary already includes a checked bag, you can NOT use the perk to check a 2nd (or 3rd or 4th) bag free.  It only applies to the 1st checked bag.

Bottom Line

Joey, I hope that helps you understand more about when and how the free checked bag perk works on your CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select card!  Folks with the Citi Platinum Select AAdvantage card and Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard also get their 1st item checked free!

Remember to add your American Airlines frequent flyer number when you book flights (even through a partner airline like British Airways) at least 7 days before you fly, or you’ll have to pay for your bags when you check-in at the airport.

Thank you Joey for reading and commenting – enjoy your ski trip!

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40 responses to “How Does the Free Checked Bag Perk Work With Citi American Airlines Cards?

  1. If you are going on a group trip and want to add your friends to your itinerary so they can get a free bag do they have to book same time as you or can you add them later?

  2. Here’s your mission if you choose to accept it

    Please tell us how you can get free checked bags on Air Canada.

    Extra Credit: How can others on your reservation get free checked bag on Air Canada

    If you can answer this for me, I will click on your site from 50 unique computers.


  3. @asdfasfd
    CIBC Bank Aerogold cards, a couple of them have this benefit. There should be other bank cards as well.
    Another way is to get Star alliance Gold status- you will get free checked bags along with lounge access.

  4. One more point to nite is that free bag is not applicable on international flights

  5. I am using AVIOS to book American Airline, my quesitons:
    Do I have to pay my ticket [taxes] using AA credit cards in order to get free checked bag? For a family of 5, will you get one free checked bag for each person? Do I need to change everybody membership # into AA membership number?

  6. I just had a similar experience. Purchased an AA domestic flight with BA Avios, and registered the AA card with the reservation (way in advance). They still charged $25 at the airport. After a long phone conversation with the AA membership and forwards to the credit card back and forth they claimed that the bags are free on a “flight marketed and sold by AA” and not by partners such as BA. So I am out of a $50 round trip fee.

  7. They do such a good job marketing the free checked bag perk that one doesn’t read the fine print. So we paid $175 in checked baggage fees to the Caribbean. DOMESTIC flights only.

  8. This benefit is for DOMESTIC flights only. Most of the international flights do have 1st bag free regardless if you have the card or not, however some international flight are considered domestic ex. JFK-CUN – AA will still charge for the 1st bag on this flight even if you have the card.

  9. @Andre – They’ll have to book at the same time, and be on the same reservation, as you.

    @asdfasfd – It looks like other readers have helped you out! You book also pay for checked baggage fees with Citi Prestige. Or the Barclaycard Arrival Plus (if the fees are $100+).

    Thanks for reading (and clicking) on Million Mile Secrets! 🙂

    @Kumar – Thanks for helping!

    a$]~[u – Correct. You’ll (usually) get the 1st bag free on international flights anyway.

    @RNP – You do NOT have to use your Citi or Barclaycard American Airlines cards. Simply having them is enough.

    But everyone must be booked under the same reservation, and you must fly, too.

    Make sure the same American Airlines number on your credit card is linked to your flight.

    Hope that helps!

    @Michael R – Were your flights within the continental US? Seems like you should’ve gotten a free checked bag!

    @JIm @Alex – That’s right, the perk is only good for domestic flights. Flights to the Caribbean are an exception here.

  10. I plan to book a flight in the next couple months before my first anniversary with the AAdvantage Aviator comes up and the annual fee comes due. I am thinking I may cancel the card; If I were to book the flight with my AAdvantage card and then later close it out, would I still get the free checked bag? Thanks,

  11. @HKR – To get the checked baggage benefit, your card account must be open and in good standing. So if you cancel the card, you wouldn’t get your 1st bag checked free.

  12. Awards on AA metal booked with BA Avios used to get Priority Access and so one free bag. Has that stopped?

  13. Bank of America’s Alaska card now has a free checked bags benefit. Anything to keep in mind if booking with Avios?

  14. Thanks for the answer. I guess I was maximizing the rewards so paying 9k avios and $50 for bags for a last minute flight that American wanted $700 for round trip wasn’t a bad deal though… I just don’t like having to pay anything when I travel lol. Whoever says British airways are no good after this devaluation hasn’t realized the full value of British airways miles. The last minute flights are where the British airways miles really are worth their weight in gold. Yes it sucks that the 4500 points deal is going away but for last minute flights that can cost $700 redeeming 7500 points for a $350 ticket is still a good deal and better than just about any other options to use points last minute.

  15. Are you sure that you don’t need to purchase your American Airlines tickets with your Citi Platinum AAdvantage card in order to get the free bag benefit? I would like to purchase American Airline tickets with my Citi Thank You Premier card instead (because it earns 3x points on travel) or else possibly purchase my tickets through the Citi website using my Thank You points to pay. But if I do either of those things I’m not sure I’ll be able to get the free bag benefit. Your post here seems to say I would… but one Citi customer service representative I just spoke with said I’d actually have to use the AAdvantage card in order to qualify for the free bag. Thoughts? And do you know where I can get a definitive answer to this?

  16. i’m confused on the international travel free bags. we are considering taking AA from San Diego, CA to Cancun Mexico. would the Citi AA card get us free checked bags or not? their website is really not clear on this at all.

  17. I used my Citibank card to purchase my flight – it’s linked to my AA number and I still get charged a $25 fee at the Kiosk.
    Do i have to speak to an actual attendant to get this perk?
    Does it matter if Expedia or another vendor is used?

  18. Booked many times with ba avios and not on my advantage card and always got my free bag

  19. I used my Citibank/AA redeemable miles (55,000 miles) for dometic round trip with american airlines, also linked to my AA advantage number. my first checked bag was free in one way but for the returning flight, I still get charged for a $25 fee at the Kiosk.
    Do i have to check in with an actual attendant to get this benefit?

  20. I have a Barclay Aviator Red card and a Citi Prestige. It looks like the Citi Prestige doesn’t give you a free bag (which I am amazed at, since they let you in the Admiral Club for free). However, I will get this benefit because of my Aviator card. I’ve been getting points from the Aviator card to my American Advantage mileage account. So I assume I’m signed up???

    Also if I’m using an AA free mileage ticket, I’ll still get a free bag each way?

    Hate to get hit with baggage fees…

  21. @Linda Just make sure your reservation has your Advantage number associated with it at least seven days before you travel. Sounds like the card is linked to your Advantage account, but that’s not enough. If you book online while logged in your reservation should have your Advantage number automatically, but it’s good to double-check.

    Yes, the free bag applies even with award bookings.

  22. If you have the Citi AAdvantage Platinum card which offers free cheked in bag and you’re flying American but crediting your miles to Alaska, do you still get free checked in bag

  23. The original poster asked how to get a free checked back on an AA flight booked with British Airways Avios miles. Million Miles Secrets responded by saying that he should add his AA frequent flier number (which is tied to his credit card which gives him a free checked back) to his reservation. I do not see anyone explain HOW to get his AA number added to his reservation. I just booked the same time of flight, and whether I got to the BA site or the AA site, the location to enter a frequent flyer number is not editable. Advice?

  24. @MikeE I would call AA to add my account number. Consider making a seat assignment at the same time, if you don’t already have one.

    @P That’s tricky since I’m not sure how you might associate two account numbers at the same time. Maybe try calling, too. Let us know if you’re successful.

  25. Christen Bloom

    I’m leaving for Mexico next month from Los Angeles and still debating whether I should apply for the CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum card. Do they offer free check bag to Mexico or just domestic flights? thank you

  26. Has anyone had any luck getting the charge reversed for bags?
    I booked using my Amex Miles, have a AA Citibank Platinum card. The card is linked to my AA advantage account, yet I was charged for each bag.
    I was told I need to call my credit card company that AA has nothing to do with that perk, as per the counter agent in PHL.

    I was also told that since I used miles I didn’t qualify for priority 1 boarding.

    Before I call Citibank I thought I would ask here.

  27. It could be a timing thing. If you receive your card after your ticket was already booked, the system may not be comprehensive enough to back-date the credit card info. In my case, I had to have the AADVANTAGE folks remove my rewards info and put it back in to receive my free checked bag and group 1 boarding benefit. The thing that flagged the issue for me was that I did not have the proper boarding group listed on my boarding pass.

    It seems that this process has to be done for all outstanding reservations. The next flight I had (where my reservation predated my credit card ownership) I was charged at the kiosk. I now have to request a refund. So, if you’re like me and book a bunch of trips in advance when you know they are coming up, know that you’ll have to have an AA representative remove and reenter your AADVANTAGE number on all reservations that predated your credit card. I hope this helps!

  28. I booked my AA flight using points and they charge me $25 for my bag even though I had the AA CitiBusiness Plat Select card. Called later and AA said **the free bag does not apply to flights purchased with miles/points**. I was very surprised to hear this. Has this happened to anyone else?

  29. I just booked 4 one way reward tickets. I have the Barclays Avaiator. The flight from Orlando to Salt Lake has a connection on Alaska. Do I have to pay for bags on Alaska connection?

  30. I have the Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard, and already linked the reservation with my AA account #. And also I double checked the AA account # linked to my Citi card, they are the same. So my question is what should I do at the airport to get my first checked bag free? They will waive it when I check in my bag? Or i need to pay for it firstly, then Citi will waive it from my credit card statement? Thanks!

  31. Booked $3,000 in tickets for my kids to visit grandma with my AA Citibank MasterCard. Wanted to check my bag with all of the liquids and had to pay $25!!!!!!!! Turns out the primary card holder, my wife, had to travel with us to get the benefits!!?! What a rip-off. Read the fine print. Better yet, fly Delta!

  32. why didn’t this post address bookings done through third party sites such as priceline?

  33. does it work on alaska or other partners airlines for free checked bag?

  34. Is it true that the free checked baggage is only waived for the outgoing flight but not the return flight (i.e. if you have a round trip ticket?

  35. Question:

    I have the Aviator and the Citi Business AAdvantage cards just like you do. I know they both allow you up to 4 people in your itinerary for 1 free baggage. If my itinerary has 6 people, would both cards benefits take effect? For example, Aviator gives free baggage to 4 and the Citi card give baggage for the other two.

    Would it work that way or not?

  36. Is Nassau considered an international location?

  37. I booked 2 tickets for a AA domestic flight using Avios in BA website and paid the taxes using my Citi AA Platinum Select card. I had also included my AA number in the Itinerary.

    At the airport, the AA check-in agent claimed that I can get only 1 check-in bag for myself and charged 25$ for my companion. He also refused free check-in bags for 2 other people traveling with me on the same itinerary (i booked for them directly in AA website).

    Have been trying to contact AA but in-vain. Citi also responded that they cannot do anything as the policies are determined by AA.

  38. My situation is slightly different. I used American Airlines miles to book flights on Alaskan Airlines for both my girlfriend and myself. We will be flying in Sept 2017. I have an American Advantage World Elite Citi card that permits free checked bags on AA flights. I do not have an Alaska Airlines credit card and am not currently a member of Alaska’s mileage plan. Will the fact I used AA miles mean that there will be no checked bag fees on our Alaska flights? If not is there a workaround short of getting an Alaska Air credit card?

  39. As others have noted, on flights from the USA to the Caribbean AA charges baggage fees for these international flights. Since they are int’l, they are not eligible for the 1st bag free nor for priority boarding with the standard Citi or Barclay AA cards. Are there ANY cards that offer this benefit? Looks like even the World Elite Business card doesn’t, but I thought I ask of the MMS collective wisdom…