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You *must* buy ticket with Explorer Card to get free United checked bag

by on Mon September 2, 2013 • 4 Comments
United Mileage Plus Explorer Credit Card

United Mileage Plus Explorer Credit Card

The United Explorer card offers a free first checked bag on United flights for up to two people in a reservation when you use the card to purchase a United ticket.

  • For a long time United’s systems were lax about that. As long as you held the card, and regardless of where you bought the ticket, the free bag benefit would apply.
  • Now it looks like that’s changed, and United fixed its systems to know whether you used your card to buy your ticket or not. So if you didn’t buy your ticket with the card, the free baggage benefit won’t apply.
  • The rule isn’t new, the enforcement of it is. And that may be a surprise to a lot of United Explorer Card holders who were used to getting the free bag benefit even if they used other cards to buy United tickets.
  • So don’t apply for the card under the impression a ticket you already bought will get the free bag benefit. You’ll have to wait until you get the card and buy the ticket with it.

You can verify whether your current reservation gets the free bag benefit by following the instructions here.

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4 thoughts on You *must* buy ticket with Explorer Card to get free United checked bag

  1. Jake

    I just ordered tickets to fly in June on my United card so I get the free checked bag. However, I want to cancel the card in May because that’s when the annual fee goes through for me. Will I still get the free checked bag?

  2. Robert McFarlane

    This is a fallacy, and one that United is very unclear about. If you use the card with a travel agent, the travel agent may use their own account to actually purchase the ticket from United, so you lose the free bag benefit there as well, and United doesn’t care no matter how much documentation you can show them to prove that the charge to you was actually on your United Explorer card. In short, it seems what they’re really trying to do is to get you to buy your ticket directly from United (obviously also using their card), in order to bypass the travel agents. If you’re in business, and have to use your company’s travel agent, you lose. If you have a good travel agent that gives you good overall trip planning service, you lose again. The American and Delta cards actually give what they advertise – free bag check if you have the card. United masks their requirement so well there should be a class action suit coming along sometime.


      @Taylor – If the 3rd party site is issuing a United ticket (most do – though if you buy via a codeshare or other airline it might not) – then yes.

      Basically if the ticket number starts with ‘016’ and you bought it with your card, it will get the benefit.


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