Key takeaways

  • Many co-branded airline credit cards offer free checked baggage as a benefit, though cards with this benefit usually have annual fees.
  • This type of benefit usually offers the first checked bag free on domestic flights for the cardholder and a select number of travel companions on the same reservation.
  • Be sure to pick an airline card that makes sense with your lifestyle and travel habits (and not just for a free-checked-bag benefit).

Airlines used to include checked bags in the price of your ticket, but those times are mostly gone. These days, your choices are packing light with only a carry-on or paying a fee to have all you need while traveling.

Fortunately, there are credit cards that offer free checked baggage as a benefit. These cards almost always carry annual fees, but the amount you save on checked bag fees can offset the recurring cost of card membership. We’ve picked several co-branded airline cards with comparable annual fees that you should consider if you travel often and want to avoid pesky airline fees.

Comparing the best cards that offer free checked baggage

Card name Annual fee Reward highlights Bankrate review score
Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® $99, waived for first 12 months
  • 2 AAdvantage® miles at gas stations and restaurants
  • 2 AAdvantage® miles on eligible American Airlines purchases
  • 1 AAdvantage® mile on all other purchases
  • 1 Loyalty Point for every 1 eligible AAdvantage® mile earned from purchases
4.6 / 5
Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $150.
  • 2X miles on restaurant (plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.)
  • 2X miles on U.S. supermarkets
  • 2X miles on Delta purchases
  • 1X miles on all other purchases
4.0 / 5
United℠ Explorer Card $0 Intro for First Year, then $95.
  • 2X miles on dining, hotel stays and United® purchases
  • 1X miles per dollar spent on all other purchases
3.9 / 5
JetBlue Plus Card $99
  • 6X points on JetBlue purchases
  • 2X points for restaurants and grocery stores
  • 1X points for all other purchases
4.6 / 5

Top cards for free checked baggage

Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® image
Best for American Airlines loyalists

Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®

Rating: 4.6 stars out of 5
Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card image
Best Delta card for value travelers

Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card

Rating: 4 stars out of 5
United℠ Explorer Card image
Best for cost-conscious United loyalists

United℠ Explorer Card

Rating: 3.9 stars out of 5
JetBlue Plus Card image
Best for frequent JetBlue flyers

JetBlue Plus Card

Rating: 4.6 stars out of 5

How to choose a card that offers free checked bags

When deciding on the best travel card for your needs, you’ll want to consider a few things. Here are three main steps we recommend for choosing the best card for free checked bags:

  1. Find out what airlines fly from your home airport. Go to the website for the airport you use the most to find a list of its airlines. If you live in a large metropolitan area served by several major airlines, you’ll have more options to choose from.
  2. Pick your preferred airline. If you primarily fly United, there’s no reason to apply for a non-United card, no matter how enticing a card’s benefits are. If you value certain things, like a comfortable seat, you might want to explore the experiences offered by other airlines. For instance, JetBlue typically has the best legroom in coach.
  3. Establish what card or airline benefits you want most. After you identify the airlines that fly from your home airport to destinations you frequent, choosing an airline card with a free-checked-bag benefit becomes as simple as a matter of personal preference. Think about the card or airline benefits you’re looking for, and compare co-branded airline cards to find the best fit for you.

The bottom line

Quite a few airlines offer co-branded credit cards, and many of them offer a first-checked-bag-free benefit. These cards can save you a great deal of money if you have a preferred airline and fly at least a few times a year. However, not everyone checks bags (or checks a bag every time), so consider your travel habits first.

*The information about the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®, United℠ Explorer Card and JetBlue Plus Card has been collected independently by The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.