Major airlines all offer co-branded credit cards teasing a valuable benefit: Free checked baggage on every flight.
With airlines charging $30 per bag each way on even domestic flight, this perk can add up fast, easily outweighing the annual fee on your airline credit card. But every airline handles this benefit a bit differently, bringing up an important question: Do you need to actually pay for your flight with that credit card to get a checked bag for free?
The answer? It depends. We’ll walk you through the basics of how this benefit works, starting with Delta – which has the most generous baggage policy among the airlines – and moving onto its fellow U.S. carriers.
Basics of Free Baggage
From American to Delta to United and even Alaska, every major U.S. airline offers a co-branded credit card. And each of them gives these cardholders 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 two round trips.
For you Delta flyers, all of the airline’s co-branded American Express cards include that free luggage perk. That includes the personal and business versions of the Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card, Delta SkyMiles Platinum American Express Card, and the Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card. Delta and American Express made some major changes to this suite of cards in January, including some modest annual fee increases. But the free baggage benefit stays intact.
Click Here to learn more about the Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card.
Better yet, you can technically apply the free bag waiver to up to eight other passengers under your reservation. But 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.
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.
<34>What About Other Airlines?
Not every airline treats this free baggage benefit the same.
Flying American or Alaska Airlines? You’re in luck.
If you’re flying American Airlines, you don’t need to pay with your CitiBank AAdvantage or Barclay’s Aviator 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. And it only works for domestic flights.
That’s also the case on Alaska Airlines – no need to pay with your Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card. So long as your frequent flyer number is attached to your card and your flight, you’re in luck.
Flying United or JetBlue? It’s a different story.
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.
Lots of travelers out there love their co-branded airline cards, in large part due to the free checked bag benefit. It gives you a compelling reason to keep that card open for your preferred airline.
Yet these benefits remain misunderstood. You don’t always have to pay with that credit card in order to get a free bag. It just depends on which airline you’re flying with.