If you have the Chase United MileagePlus Explorer credit card and were planning to use its free checked bag benefit, you should read this first as Chase has some unique rules for qualifying for a free checked bag.
While I am not the biggest fan of United Airlines in general, I do find that their MileagePlus miles are fairly valuable for Star Alliance partner redemptions. That is why I hold the Chase United MileagePlus Explorer credit card. One of the advertised benefits of the card is that the cardholder and one companion traveling on the same reservation will each receive their first standard bag checked for free.
Since United charges $25 per first standard checked bag, on a round trip ticket for two, this offers a potential savings of $100, which is nothing to laugh at.
Although this does not really impact me personally as I have not checked a bag in nearly 20 years, the Chase United card still contains some unique language in their terms and conditions to qualify for the free checked bag benefit. While most other airline credit cards that offer a free checked bag simply require that you hold their co-branded credit card and/or use it to pay the checked bag fee, the Chase United card has several more hoops that you must jump through to utilize this benefit.
First and foremost, you must use your Chase United card to actually purchase the United flight you want to utilize your free checked bag benefit on.
That means that if you have already booked a United flight using another credit card, you will not be eligible to receive your first checked bag free. Thankfully at least the Chase United card offers you 2x the miles for every dollar spent on tickets purchased from United, so you are maximizing your earned points per purchase to some extent.
What’s more, the free checked bag benefit is only applicable for flights operated by United or United Express. Codeshare flights are specifically excluded from this benefit.
Really, this exclusion makes sense as it is a benefit solely for the purpose of enticing you to fly United. Keep in mind as well that United will often times codeshare a flight that they operate with their own metal (i.e., United aircraft). In that situation you would still be entitled to your free checked bag as the flight is operated by United (or United Express as the case may be).
So what happens if you are flying an itinerary with multiple carriers? So long as your first flight was on a United or United Express operated flight, you should be able to get your first bag checked free. I say should simply because in the miles/points/credit card game that we all play, things happen. If, however, the first leg of your itinerary is operated by a partner carrier, you would not get the free checked bag benefit.
Take for example a flight from Newark to Saskatoon, Canada with a stop in Toronto. The first segment from Newark to Toronto is operated by United or United Express, while the second segment from Toronto to Saskatoon is operated by Air Canada. Upon checking in at Newark, you would be eligible to have your first bag checked for free. On the return flight though where your first segment is operated by Air Canada, you would not be eligible for the first checked bag free benefit.
Interestingly, the terms and conditions of the Chase United card also provide that your free checked bag benefit does not start to kick in until 2 weeks after account opening.
It is unclear whether this means that any United flight you purchase with the card within the first 2 weeks of opening the account will not qualify for the free checked bag or whether this just means that you are not eligible for the benefit if you purchase a flight and check a bag on that flight within the first 2 weeks of opening the account. I simply could not find any data points to address this issue, though it seems that in practice the free checked bag benefit applies immediately, despite this 2 week language.
The first checked bag free with the Chase United MileagePlus credit card is the perfect example of why the details matter and why you must read the terms and conditions of the benefits that your credit cards offer you. Although there are a few hoops to jump through to be eligible for the first checked bag free benefit, so long as you follow the conditions I have outlined here – mainly purchasing your United flight with your United card – you should be in for smooth sailing. Hopefully this helps shine some light on an issue that does not get addressed very often!
Have any of you ever been burned by this issue?
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