Update: One or more card offers in this post are no longer available. Check our Hot Deals for the latest offers.
You get 1 free checked bag when you use your Chase United Explorer card to buy your flight. But you HAVE to use the United card to buy your ticket, otherwise you won’t get the free bag!
The free 1st checked bag benefit can save you a LOT of money. When Emily and I travel, we try to pack lightly, but sometimes we have to check bags.
United credit cardholders (and 1 traveling companion on the same reservation) can check their 1st bag for free on United or United Express operated flights. United charges $25 for the 1st checked bag on flights within the US and Canada (except Puerto Rico).
Although the standard offer for this card is 30,000 miles after spending $1,000 in 3 months, you can read my post about a better ~55,000 mile offer that is available. I don’t receive a commission for the 55,000 mile offer, but it could be the better offer for you!
If 2 people are traveling, this is a savings of $100 per round-trip flight! Remember, the free bag only applies to the cardholder and 1 companion, so if you’re a family of 4, you’ll still only get 2 free checked bags.
Other Cards Have Better Bag Benefits
If you fly American Airlines, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® and Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® cards also offer a free 1st checked bag to cardholders and up to 4 traveling companions on the same reservation (on the Citi Platinum) and up to 8 traveling companions on the same reservation (for the Citi Executive). American Airlines charges $25 to check a bag, so for a family of 5 you could save $250 per round trip!
And you do NOT need to use the card to buy your tickets to get the free checked bag.
The Delta Gold, Delta Platinum and Delta Reserve American Express cards have an even more generous free 1st checked bag benefit. Up to 9 people on the same reservation can get the free 1st bag, so you could save up to $450 per round trip if you’re traveling in a large group.
You DON’T need to use the card to buy your tickets to get the free checked bag!
So if you travel regularly as a family or as a group, these might be a better deal for you!
You Have to Use the Card to Buy Your Ticket!
A lot of folks ask if you must buy your tickets with a United MileagePlus Explorer card to get your 1st checked bag free.
The terms and conditions of the free 1st checked bag offer make it clear that you HAVE to use the card to pay for your ticket to get the benefit.
To receive the applicable standard checked bag(s) free, the primary Cardmember must include their MileagePlus account number in their reservation and use their qualifying United MileagePlus Credit Card from Chase to purchase their ticket(s).
Make sure you check the United Plus Credit Card box when you book your ticket to get your free bag. You will NOT, repeat NOT, get the checked bag for free if you don’t use your United credit card to pay for your United flight.
This is different from other airlines, where you sometimes get the free bag as long as you have the airline credit card (even if you didn’t use it to pay for the ticket). You also likely will not get the free checked bag if your confirmation (on the United website) doesn’t indicate that you will get 1 free checked bag.
And United agents at the airport will usually not help you. Even if you show them your United card.
But you get the 1st checked bag free on United AWARD tickets as well if you pay the taxes and fees with the card.
Primary Cardmembers are eligible to receive applicable standard checked bag(s) free when they use their miles to book award travel on United-operated flights, as long as they pay for their award ticket taxes and service charges with their qualifying Card and include their MileagePlus account number in their reservation.
You Won’t Always Get the Free Bag
The free 1st bag benefit only applies on United or United Express operated flights, so if you’re flying another airline first then connect onto United, you’re out of luck.
Also, if you already get a free bag because of elite status, or on international flights, you won’t get a 2nd free bag by using the United card.
Don’t forget to use your Chase United Explorer card to pay for your tickets if you want your first bag checked for free.
This applies to BOTH paid and award tickets! But you have to fly on United or United Express, and if you’re traveling internationally or have elite status, you won’t get an extra free bag.
The free bag applies to the cardholder and 1 traveling companion, but you have to travel together on the same reservation. You could save up to $100 per round trip.
Other credit cards have more flexible free 1st bag benefits, so those might be a better deal for some folks!