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Nobody likes to shell out extra cash on top of the cost of their plane ticket for luggage. But checked bag fees are a fact of life on many domestic airlines. What’s a traveler to do? There’s the option to pack light using just a carry-on or personal item, of course, which is free on most airlines. If that’s not an option, there are still ways to avoid paying hefty fees for checked luggage.
For instance, you can sign up for one of these credit cards with free checked bags.
Most of the credit cards that offer this perk are airline-specific, so your best bet is to sign up for the ones that correspond to the airlines you fly most often. Then pack your bags and enjoy the journey, sans baggage fees.
» Learn more: The best airline credit cards right now
Baggage fees for Alaska are as straightforward as they come: $30 for your first checked bag and $40 for your second. Any additional bags will run you $100 per bag. Heavy bags, defined as weighing 51-99 pounds, or any oversized luggage, will similarly cost $100 per bag.
There are exceptions, of course. Customers traveling in first class, MVP and MVP Gold level status members, passengers traveling just within Alaska and active military members can all enjoy free checked bags.
Certain items can be checked for free, too, including a case of wine if traveling from certain regions (Mileage Plan members only) and a box of pineapples if flying back to the continental U.S. from Hawaii.
But for everyone (and everything) else, these Alaska Airlines cards offer free checked luggage:
Alaska credit cards with free baggage
Enjoy a free checked bag for you and up to six other people on your reservation, as long as you book the reservation with your card.
New cardmembers have access to this sign-up bonus: Buy one ticket, get one for just the taxes and fees ($0 fare plus taxes and fees from $23) and get 40,000 bonus miles with this offer. To qualify, make $3,000 or more in purchases within the first 90 days of opening your account.
All for an annual fee of $95.
Get a free checked bag for you and up to six additional travelers on your reservation.
Sign-up bonus: Get 50,000 bonus miles, $100 statement credit and Alaska's Famous Companion Fare™ ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $23) after you make $3,000 or more in purchases within the first 90 days of opening your account.
For an annual fee of $70 for the company and $25 per card.
» Learn more: Should I get an airline credit card?
Delta Air Lines
Unless you have Medallion elite status or are active military, expect to pay for checked luggage on Delta. Fees start at $30 for your first checked bag and go up to $40 for your second each way. If your bag weighs more than 50 pounds, however, the price goes up to $100. If it’s more than 70 pounds or larger than 63 linear inches (width + height + length), the cost is $200.
But Delta offers the most credit cards with free checked bags out of the airlines we analyzed.
Delta credit cards with free baggage
Get one free checked bag on Delta flights for every person on your reservation.
Earn 75,000 Bonus Miles after you spend $6,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Plus, earn an additional 5,000 Bonus Miles after you make an eligible Delta purchase with your new card within your first 6 months. Offer Ends 10/25/23.
The card is $0 intro for the first year, then $99 annual fee after that. Terms apply.
Get one free checked bag for every person on your reservation.
New cardholders can earn a welcome bonus. Earn 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months. Terms Apply.
It comes with a $250 annual fee. Terms apply.
Get one free checked bag for every person on your reservation.
Welcome bonus: Earn 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months. Terms Apply.
The annual fee is $550. Terms apply.
Some JetBlue fare options include checked bags for no additional fee (like Blue Plus, Mint and Mosaic fares), but the rest do not. If you booked a budget fare, expect to pay $35 per way for your first bag and $45 for your second.
Checking heavy or extra large luggage? Bags 51-99 pounds will cost you extra: $150. But you can avoid some of these fees with a JetBlue credit card.
JetBlue credit cards with free baggage
Enjoy your first checked bag free for you and up to three companions on the same reservation when you pay for the booking with your card.
You can also earn the sign-up bonus, too: Earn 10,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 90 days.
An annual fee of $99.
United uses a baggage calculator to estimate fees based on your departure and arrival destinations. For domestic travel, fees are $35 for each way for your first bag ($30 if you prepay) and $45 for your second bag ($40 if prepaid).
Weight restrictions depend on your class of service. United Economy, for example, can have up to a 50-pound bag without paying additional fees (overweight fees can be up to $200 after that). Business and first-class ticket holders and Premier Silver members and above can check a bag up to 70 pounds (but expect to pay up to $400 for bags of 70-100 pounds). Active military members and their dependents, plus MileagePlus Premier members, pay no baggage fees; they don't need to rely on getting a free checked bag with a credit card from United.
United credit cards with free baggage
Your first checked bag is free.
You can earn the following welcome bonus: Earn 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
The annual fee is $0 intro for the first year, then $99.
Score two free bags for you and a companion on every United flight using this card.
Plus, new cardholders can qualify for a welcome bonus: Earn 80,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
There are plenty of other benefits to warrant the $525 annual fee.
» Learn more: Our writers draft their favorite airlines
The bottom line
The free checked bags that come with these credit cards can save you serious cash when it comes to paying for your air travel. So if you travel with luggage often — especially if you tend to stay loyal to one or two airlines — it may be worth it to sign up for a travel credit card or two.
The welcome bonus miles will be the cherry on top of the savings you’re bound to enjoy when you’re no longer paying hefty luggage fees on every flight.
How to maximize your rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2023, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card