The Best Credit Cards with Free Checked Bags

When you pay for your airplane ticket, unfortunately, that doesn’t mean the end of your expenses. Most airlines now charge a la carte for many of the things we normally do while traveling. One of these expenses is the cost of checking a bag while flying. There are several ways to avoid these fees, but my favorite is using the benefits of one of the credit cards with free checked bags.

How much do airlines charge to check a bag?

Airlines have realized that charging to check bags does two things for them – keeps prices low and adds a new source of revenue. However, consumers are often frustrated with the extra fees associated with checking a bag. When you’re traveling with a family of four, like I do, those checked bag fees can really add up.

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A brief history of checked bag fees

When checked bag fees were first introduced in 2008, airlines charged $25 per bag each way. This means that you’d pay $50 on a round trip flight if you checked your bag. And God help you if you need to check a second bag. Those fees are often even higher.

Airlines started increasing checked bag fees to $30 in the summer of 2018. This is a 20% increase in the fee to check a bag. JetBlue was the first airline to increase the fees to $30.

In January 2020, JetBlue was the first domestic airline to increase checked bag fees even further to $35 per bag. A second bag is now $45 on JetBlue.

Southwest Airlines is the only major domestic airline that doesn’t charge fees for standard checked bags. In fact, you can actually check two bags free on any ticket that you buy from Southwest.

Checked bag fees for airlines

This is the latest information on how much airlines charge passengers to check bags. Your luggage must be under 50 pounds, otherwise, they’ll charge a different fee for going over the limit. Plus, your bag must meet certain dimensions, otherwise, there’s another fee for your bag being too big. Luckily, some airlines consider snowboard, ski, and golf gear to be a normal-sized bag.

This table highlights the current checked bag fees per person for many of the popular airlines for a domestic one-way flight. For roundtrip flights, double these amounts.

Airline 1st Checked Bag 2nd Checked Bag
Over Weight Limit
American $30 $40 $100
Delta $30 $40 $100
JetBlue $35 $45 $150
Southwest Free Free $75
United $35 $45 $100

Accurate as of May 2, 2020.

For more information about checked bag fees for each airline, click below to for their current policies:

How to get free checked bags

Each airline has its own policies and guidelines for checked bags. But there are a few ways to receive free checked bags on your next flight:

  • Elite status
  • Airline credit cards
  • Premium class tickets
  • Fly an airline that doesn’t charge
  • Use credit card travel credits to pay fees

Some premium travel credit cards include travel credits that can be used to pay for a variety of travel expenses. If you don’t have a credit card that offers free checked bags, then this is another great option to avoid paying these pesky fees.

Read: 17 Hidden Benefits of the American Express Platinum Card

The best credit cards with free checked bags

I don’t pay for enough flights to earn airline elite status, so that option is not right for me. Flying in Business or First Class is pretty amazing, but you’ll go broke quickly if you pay for those flights every time you fly.

My favorite way to get free checked bags (and other benefits like priority boarding) is to hold an airline credit card that offers this benefit. Take a look at these credit cards to find the best credit cards with free checked bags.