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Don’t Make This Mistake When Trying to Use the Free Checked Bag Perk From Your United Explorer Card!

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Don’t Make This Mistake When Trying to Use the Free Checked Bag Perk From Your United Explorer Card!

Meghan HunterDon’t Make This Mistake When Trying to Use the Free Checked Bag Perk From Your United Explorer Card!Million Mile Secrets Team

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If you fly United Airlines, either with paid tickets or award seats, the United℠ Explorer Card can save you money – even if you don’t fly often.  That’s because you get one free checked bag when you use your Chase United Explorer card to buy your flight.

That said, you have to use the United card to buy your ticket, otherwise,  you won’t get the free bag!  I’ll explain how this benefit works – and give you other card options that offer excellent checked baggage perks!

Even If You’re Normally a Light Packer, Being Able to Check a Bag for Free Can Make for a Less Stressful Travel Experience

Chase United Explorer Card’s Free Checked Bag Perk

Apply here for the United℠ Explorer Card

Our review of the Chase United Explorer Card

One of the most valuable perks for United Explorer cardholders (and one traveling companion on the same reservation) is that you can check your first bag for free on United or United Express operated flights.  United charges $30 for the first checked bag on flights within the US, Canada, and Puerto Rico.

You’ll Pay $30 to Check a Bag on United Domestic Flights

If two people are traveling, this is a savings of $120 per round-trip flight!  Remember, the free bag only applies to the cardholder and one companion, so if you’re a family of 4, you’ll still only get 2 free checked bags.  But the savings can really add up, especially if you fly numerous times per year!

You Have to Use the Card to Buy Your Ticket!

We get a lot of questions about whether you need to actually buy your tickets with your United Explorer card to get your first checked bag free.

The terms and conditions of the free first checked bag offer make it clear that you must to use the card to pay for your ticket to get the benefit.  On an award ticket, you must pay the taxes and fees with your card.

You Can Save up to $120 per Round-Trip Flight, but Make Sure to Pay With Your Chase United Explorer Card

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 one free checked bag.

I can attest to the fact that United agents at the airport will usually not help you, even if you show them your United card.

You Won’t Always Get the Free Bag

The free first 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.

Other Cards With Great 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 first checked bag domestically 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 $30 to check a bag, so for a family of 5, you could save $300 per round-trip – or more, depending which card you have!

And you don’t need to use the card to buy your tickets to get the free checked bag!

Plus, 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!

Bottom Line

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!  For award seats, you’ll need to pay for any taxes and fees with your United Explorer card.

You can earn 40,000 United Airlines miles when you open the card and spend $2,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.

The free bag applies to the cardholder and one traveling companion, but you have to travel together on the same reservation.  You could save up to $120 per round-trip.  That said, you have to fly on United or United Express to get the benefit, and if you’re traveling internationally or have elite status, you won’t get an extra free bag if the first one is already included.

Other credit cards, like the Citi American Airlines Platinum card, have more flexible free first bag benefits, so those might be a better deal for those that fly as a family or group or prefer other airlines.

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United℠ Explorer Card

United℠ Explorer Card

  • 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent at restaurants and on hotel stays
  • Up to $100 Global Entry or TSA Pre✓® Fee Credit
  • 25% back on United inflight purchases
  • Check your first bag for free (a savings of up to $120 per roundtrip) when you use your Card to purchase your ticket
  • Enjoy priority boarding privileges and visit the United Club℠ with 2 one-time passes each year for your anniversary
  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on purchases from United, and 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases

More Info

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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I, too, have been wondering if I should keep the card, but my current trip has made the decision to keep it. I’m sitting in a UA Club thanks to one of my two free club passes; I was able to get award tickets to Italy for myself and my husband from Austin for 60k. That schedule was only available because of having the card, otherwise it was not available from Austin.

Can I still somehow get the free bag benefit if I book with UR points through the Chase portal? Perhaps paying for a portion of the flight with the card?

I’m not convinced this is a good enough reason to keep the card. The annual fee is $95 and that would mean I would have to check a bag 3 times as a solo traveler to get value out of that fee. Combine that with the restriction of purchasing your ticket with the card and the fact that it only works on United or United Express and I see a big nothing benefit.

United continues to underwhelm, IMO.

I feel the same. I always try to avoid checking a bag so the free checked bag perk wouldn’t really benefit me.

As always, think about your own travel style to see if a particular card is worth it for you.

Thanks for commenting and pointing this out 🙂