Do You Have to Pay With Your Airline Card to Get Free Checked Luggage?

Free Checked Luggage

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We’re often asked whether or not you need to pay for airfare with your co-branded airline credit card to get the free checked bag benefit they offer. The answer is largely no, but it will differ by airline. In this post, we will walk through what you need to know when taking advantage of the free checked luggage benefit offered by your co-branded airline credit card. 


Basics of Free Baggage

Every major U.S. airline offers a co-branded credit card. Further, each of them offers its flyers a free checked bag on every flight. It’s a worthwhile perk, and one of the many benefits that come with the travel rewards credit cards out there. Seeing as checking a bag costs at least $30 each way, you could save more than $100 on just 2 round trips.

For you Delta flyers, all of the airline’s co-branded American Express cards include the free luggage perk. That includes the personal and business versions of the Delta SkyMiles Gold card ($95 annual fee), Delta SkyMiles Platinum card ($195) and the Delta Reserve card ($450).

Click Here to learn more about the Delta SkyMiles Gold card. 


Better yet, you can technically apply the free bag waiver to up to eight other passengers under your reservation. This raises the big question: Do you have to pay with your Delta American Express card to get your baggage fees waived?


Skip the Card

Keep that Delta card in your wallet. You don’t need it to get a free checked bag. Your SkyMiles account and whichever co-branded Delta cards you hold are permanently linked. That means the free checked baggage waiver will kick in automatically when you book on Delta.com with your SkyMiles account. This also applies when you book an award ticket with SkyMiles.

This is relevant because paying for your airfare with credit cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve or the American Express Platinum card will offer a much better return on your airline spend.


Free Checked Luggage

Delta’s policies mean you don’t need to use your co-branded American Express card when booking to get the free baggage benefit.


If you book a Delta flight through another website, such as the Chase Ultimate Rewards Portal, the free checked bag should also carry through. Just be sure to include your Delta SkyMiles account number when you are booking. Keep in mind that this benefit does not carry over to flights on Delta’s SkyTeam partners. If you book an Air France or Korean Air flight through Delta, you’ll pay that airline’s baggage fees.

Thrifty Tip: Holding one of Delta’s co-branded cards is our favorite way to beat basic economy.


What About Other Airlines?

If you’re flying American Airlines, you don’t need to pay with your CitiBank AAdvantage card to get a free checked bag. Though again,  that perk only applies to American Airlines flights and not flights on their OneWorld alliance partners. That’s also the case on Alaska Airlines if you hold the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card.

Unfortunately, United requires you to pay with your United MileagePlus card in order to get the baggage fee waived when you book. The same is true of the JetBlue Plus Barclay’s MasterCard.

To learn more about these cards, visit the airline credit cards section of our Top Credit Cards page.


Bottom Line

Lots of Thrifty Travelers out there have a co-branded airline card. The perks like a free checked bag on every booking give you a compelling reason to keep it open. Just know that you don’t need to pay with that card to get your bag in the cargo hold for free. However, this doesn’t hold true for all airlines. 

Looking for an airline credit card to get the free checked bag benefit? Be sure to visit our Top Credit Cards page.


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Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews, or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.

The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

3 Responses

  1. Laura says:

    Thanks for the article. Has something changed with Delta’s free baggage policy? I am researching return flights going from PRG to ATL to FSM for travel at end of August to beginning of October. When I just looked at Delta’s site, I saw this https://www.delta.com/content/www/en_US/traveling-with-us/baggage/before-your-trip/checked/first-bag-free.html/

    Looks like the flight must be booked with the Delta branded card now.I already know it must be Delta metal to receive the benefit, but this looks like an additional requirement. Too bad, because I would like to pay for it with my Chase Sapphire Reserve. Perhaps one can pay for everything but the tax with the Amex and then the taxes with the CSR to secure the Chase benefits.

    • Kyle Potter says:

      Hi Laura, this is definitely confusing but Delta has confirmed that this isn’t the case, despite the wording on their site. You DO NOT need to pay with a Delta card to get the free baggage benefit.

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