The airline cards that come with a free checked bag
American's explainer page about Basic Economy spells it out: If you have elite status or hold one of the airline's co-branded credit cards, you're exempt from Basic Economy's baggage restrictions. That means you can bring a carry-on AND check a bag at no extra cost -- nominally, a $50 value. And through the card, you'll get priority boarding, to boot. Those cards include:
- Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard
- Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard
- CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard
- Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select American Express Card
- Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select Visa Signature
- AAdvantage Aviator Silver Mastercard
- AAdvantage Aviator Red Mastercard
- AAdvantage Aviator Business Mastercard
Yes, it sucks to let an airline back you into a corner. But it’s great to be able to pack like you’re back in the 1990s again.
As an example: I recently bought two one-way tickets from LaGuardia Airport to Miami International Airport for $36 each on an American card. Cheap, right? Well, that’s why they get to treat us like human cargo. We're flying back on Delta Basic Economy -- which doesn't charge for carry-on bags -- for $80 apiece. So for about the price of two Knicks tickets and beers, my girlfriend and I will be flying to Miami in the dead of winter. If there are two things New Yorkers can rely on in February, it's the weather being better in Miami and the Knicks being irrelevant.
United manages to bury the information even better than American does, but a terms and conditions page explains "MileagePlus Premier members, primary cardmembers of a qualifying MileagePlus credit card and Star Alliance Gold members are still allowed a full-sized carry-on bag." In short: if you don't have elite status, sign up for a United credit card and you can bring a carry-on bag for no extra charge on Basic Economy flights. As with American, you can check your first bag for free, too, and you get priority boarding.