Does My Airline Credit Card Get Me Free Checked Bags on Award Tickets?

Mar 8, 2018

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“Reader Questions” are now answered twice a week — Tuesdays and Thursdays — by TPG Associate Editor Brendan Dorsey.

One of the biggest perks of holding an airline’s co-branded credit card is getting a free checked bag on flights. But how is this perk applied, and are all tickets eligible? TPG reader Scott inquired about getting free checked bags on award tickets:

I am booking 3 roundtrip awards to Hawaii using Flying Blue miles and flying on Delta. One passenger (and only one) has the Amex Delta Gold credit card. Will I be able specify my Delta SkyMiles account number on the reservation even though the award is booked on the Flying Blue website using Flying Blue miles so all three of us get free checked bags?

TPG Reader Scott

First off, tip of the hat to Scott for booking a Delta flight to Hawaii using Air France/KLM Flying Blue miles. It’s one of the easiest options, since Flying Blue partners with Chase Ultimate Rewards, Amex Membership Rewards and Citi ThankYou Rewards. Plus, award tickets start at just 30,000 miles round-trip in economy.

But to answer Scott’s question, yes, he should be able to get three free checked bags on this itinerary with a Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express. You can add your Delta SkyMiles number to the Air France award booking and you’ll get the free checked bags when you check into your flight at the airport. Note that the Delta Amex cardholder will have to be the primary person on the reservation to take advantage of this perk.


Delta Amex cards allow one free checked bag per passenger, for up to nine total passengers under the same reservation. Just remember that you’re only going to get this perk when you’re actually flying on Delta aircraft.

Another example is if you booked an American Airlines flight with British Airways Avios and have a Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard. You could take the same approach by adding your American Advantage number to your booking, making you and up to four others on the same reservation eligible for a free checked bag — it’ll just have to be added at least seven days before your flight.

Once you apply for an airline’s co-branded card, your frequent flyer account will be updated noting that you’re eligible for a free checked bag on the airline’s flights. Note that most airline cards don’t actually require you to purchase your ticket with the card to get a complimentary bag; you just have to be a cardholder. Only two airlines, United and JetBlue, require you to pay for their flights using their own cards, such as the United MileagePlus Explorer Card, United MileagePlus Club Card and JetBlue Plus Card. And if you want a free checked bag on a United award flight, you’ll have to pay the taxes and fees with your United credit card.

So, make sure to follow these steps to ensure you get that free checked bag on award tickets:

  • Hold an eligible credit card that gets free checked bags.
  • Enter your frequent flyer number (of the program where you get a free checked bag) when booking an award ticket.
  • Check that you’re flying on the airline’s actual aircraft  (i.e., you’ll be out of luck if you’re booking an Air France flight with Delta SkyMiles)

Let’s run through some of the airline credit cards that will get you free checked bags just by being a cardholder:

  • Alaska Airlines Visa Signature credit card
  • Barclaycard AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard
  • Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard
  • Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard
  • CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Mastercard
  • Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express
  • Gold Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card from American Express
  • Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express
  • Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card from American Express
  • Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express
  • Hawaiian Airlines World Elite Mastercard from Barclaycard

So if you have an airline credit card, just make you’re entering the correct frequent flyer number when booking an award ticket and that you’re flying on that airline’s aircraft! Thanks for the question, Scott, and if you’re a TPG reader who’d like us to answer a question of your own, tweet us at @thepointsguy, message us on Facebook or email us at

Featured photo by Getty Images.

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