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How to verify free baggage with your United credit card

by on Sun March 31, 2013 • 29 Comments

Checked baggage fees are annoying and add up quickly on United, at $50 per roundtrip for each person.  That’s why a lot of us sign up for the United Mileage Plus Explorer credit card which offers the first checked bag free for yourself and one other person traveling in the same reservation.

But the rules and reality aren’t always clear, and some of the most frequent questions we get are:

  • I just got the United Explorer credit card – will my next trip qualify for the free baggage?
  • I have a United Explorer card, but I purchased my trip with another credit card. Will I get the free baggage?

While the outcome is often ‘yes’ in practice, there is actually an easy way to double check whether United’s computer system recognizes that you will get the baggage fee waived. And it doesn’t involve dealing with an agent on the telephone or at the airport.

Here’s how…

1. Look up your itinerary at

United check reservation






2. Click on ‘View baggage service charges’

Screen Shot 2013-03-31 at 7.23.15 AM








3. You should see a green ‘$0’ listed if the baggage fee waiver is properly applied. If it does, you’re good to go!

United free baggage





So what if it’s not showing up with the green $0?

  1. Make sure it’s a domestic / Mexico / Caribbean itinerary. The free bag only applies to destinations that charge for the first checked bag. For destinations where the first bag is already free like Europe, you don’t get the second bag free.
  2. Check that your Mileage Plus frequent flyer number is in the reservation. That’s how United links it to your credit card.
  3. Make sure the reservation is made under the primary cardholder’s name, and that person is traveling. Secondary cardholders don’t get the free baggage benefit unless the primary cardholder is in the reservation.
  4. Make sure you used the United Explorer card to pay for the trip. Officially, you are supposed to do that. However, in practice many people get the free baggage anyway as card holders. If it doesn’t show up, you might have luck at the airport with the check in agent, but no guarantees. The rules are pretty clear you have to use the card to pay for the trip.

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29 thoughts on How to verify free baggage with your United credit card

  1. Judy

    If I use United MileagePlus Explorer Card to purchase a “basic economy” ticket, will I get free 1st checked bag?

  2. Brent Yang

    I booked an international economy ticket (from US to China) with mileage, and paid the tax by the united explorer credit card, do I have two free baggage check-in? I know international has one free baggage check-in; do I get 2nd baggage free from benefit of United Explorer Credit card? Thanks.

      1. Brent Yang

        Thank you for the answer. My next question is that can I have two free baggage for the international flight from China back to US, I was told from China to US allows one more baggage?


          @Brent – Yes that’s the policy with or without the credit card. And United just announced the flights to China will allow two free bags as well.

  3. Annette

    I have a MileagePlus Awards card and want to use it to book international award travel using miles. Will I get a free checked bag, given it’s international travel? I know it doesn’t allow me a free checked bag domestically. Thanks.

  4. Dan

    I have a United explorer card and I want to book my ticket with miles and only pay the taxes and fees. Do I get the free bags?

    Real question is I I buy the United flight with Aeroplan miles do I get the free bag if I use the United explorer card to pay the taxes and fees with them?


      @Dan – Tough one. Would suspect Aeroplan miles booking would be on Air Canada ticket stock, even though it’s United flights, so that might not apply. That said, the United page doesn’t make that distinction:

      “Primary Cardmember is eligible to receive applicable standard checked bag(s) free when they use their miles to book award travel on United-operated flights, as long as they pay for their award ticket taxes and service charges with their qualifying Card and include their MileagePlus account number in their reservation.”

  5. Andrea Korinchak

    I have a United Chase MileagePLUS Card. I also have a United Mileage Plus card. Do I get free baggage benefits? seats? What benefits am I entitled to? I used this card to book flights for my husband and I through travelocity.


      @Andrea – If it’s an Explorer card you get a free bag for you and your husband if you’re both in the same reservation. You also get Group 2 priority boarding.

    2. Karen

      Usually you have to book through the United Site to get free baggage. Use your Travelocity number to log into United and see if you are charged for bags on your itenerary. If so, you might want to consider paying for the bags with your MileagePlus card and asking when you get to the airport why you were charged for bags. That way, your card is on file. Also, if you upgrade or do anything to your itinerary via the United site that involves money, pay with your card—that will more than likely get you free baggage. I am cautious about booking through sites like travelocity. While many have great experiences….I have had some not so great. I usually search for the lowest prices on these sites then go directly to the airline to book as the prices are usually the same. Good Luck

  6. Stan

    My husband and I are travelling to Florida with my two grandchildren so there are 4 of us on the reservation booked with Mileage Plus explorer card…how many free bags can we check? Thank you.

  7. M.B

    Hi, I have a question. I want to cancel my united mileage plus card to avoid 95$ annual fee, when I call Chase the agent told that he can downgrade my card to avoid paying annual fee but also I will loose some benefits like first bag check free. I booked few tickets visa united website using award miles on Lufthansa flight to Europe. My questions is will I pay any additional fees for my luggage when I check at airport.


      @M.B. – Your Club Card bag benefit only applies to United flights, there is no extra benefit on Lufthansa flights, and Lufthansa’s rules apply.

  8. Bonnie

    I purchased 4 tickets to boston on my united explorer card, but did not put myself as the first traveler. From the confirmation, it does not indicate that I have free bags, $25 for the first bag; will I still be entitled to a first free bag and the first bag for one companion with priority boarding privileges? If not, who do I call to get this fixed?

  9. shabbir

    I have booked four tickets on same united flight(SFO to CHI) under same PNR booking. I the primary card holder, authorised user and two family members are travelling together. How can I find out if the two bags free are already on the PNR for the two people. The current reservation shows baggage fees.

  10. Ethan Chuang

    What if I want to add miles into different Star Alliance frequent flyer number instead of United frequent flyer number?
    Still get free bag fees?

  11. David

    I just purchased a ticket with my Explorer card, but my reservation page doesn’t show “green $0” in the first luggage column (instead, it shows $25). What should I do? Call Chase? or Call United customer service?

    1. MileCards

      @David – First, check that the MileagePlus number is in your reservation and that the MileagePlus number associated with your credit card is the same. Then, try calling United.

  12. Josephine Tom

    I am a member of United Explorer. To travel to Hong Kong . My husband is on the same card as mine. How many baggages can we check in, since the 1st baggage for each of us is free. How about the second? Thanks. Josephine Tom

    1. MileCards

      @Josephine – Unfortunately the Explorer card will only cover the fee if it’s on the very 1st bag you check, so for flights to Hong Kong it doesn’t get you anything extra. So you each get one bag free.

      If you want the 2nd bag free for each of you, you’ll need the more expensive United Club Card. It costs $395 per year, but includes full membership to the United Club lounges.

      Since the 2nd bag costs $100 each way, if you each check a 2nd bag that will cost $400 roundtrip. So in that case the United Club Card is worth applying for and buying the ticket with.

  13. ryan

    If I booked flight with mileage plus explorer card and my wife is secondary card holder does that mean we each get first bag free and the benefit of second bag for companion? We are traveling with two children and I am hoping I can check four bags for free based on these assumptions? Is this correct? Thanks.

    1. MileCards

      @Ryan- Unfortunately no, it is only 2 travelers max who get a free checked bag. So you get two bags free in this case. The authorized user doesn’t have any baggage benefit because there’s no additional fee for the authorized user’s card.

  14. Somesh Roy

    I have a United MIleagePlus Club card, which I paid $295 for an annual membership.

    I am booked on an international flight with frequent flier miles and I paid the taxes and fees using my united mileage credit card.

    Based on my benefits, I should be allowed two free bags since one free bag is allowed on international flight.

    Please confirm as to how many checked bags I can carry for free. My ticket mentions only one free checked bag.

    Also I need to take a walker for my mother. Can I carry with my hand baggage or is it free or do I have to pay for it?

    Thank you

    Somesh Roy

    1. MileCards

      @Somesh – Yes, you should be able to check 2 bags for free on the international flight as a Club card holder. Your mother, if she is in the same reservation as you, can also check 2 bags feee.

      As for the walker, it should not be a problem on board though you may want to call to note she may need special assistance in the reservation. On the big international planes they can fit the walker in an overhead bin or onboard closet if it’s collapsable. If you have a connecting flight on a smaller plane you may have to have the walker sent to the baggage hold below when you’re at the gate. Then you’ll have to wait at the gate to pick it up before moving on to the next flight.


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