Delta Air Lines allows credit card holders to check the first bag for free

Delta Air Lines offers free first bag for American Express elite membersAdd Delta Air Lines to the list of carriers that give special perks to members of its programs. It's not unusual for airlines to allow free checked bags to its elite-level frequent fliers, but Delta is taking it a step further and giving a free first piece of checked luggage to anyone who holds one of its Gold, Platinum, and Reserve American Express Sky Miles credit cards.

If you've flown through Atlanta's Hartsfield airport anytime recently, you know what a priority Delta puts on adding credit card customers to its rolls. Walk through the terminals, and you'll be approached again and again by staff saying, "Flying on Delta?" They're not there to assist you with your flight, though. They're there to rope you into opening a new credit account. Between Delta and Air Tran, you'd be forgiven if you mistook Hartsfield for a consumer bank rather than an airport.

The gimme, which wipes up to $25 off the bill for each flight and $50 round-trip, doesn't count for oversize or overweight bags. You can use it for up to nine people traveling on the same reservation. It kicks in on June 1.

Technically, American Express is leading the band on this one, but from a customer standpoint, it doesn't matter much, since you have to fly a Delta-flagged flight, but not code-shares, to get it. You don't even have to have purchased your flight with American Express. You just have to carry one, and of course, a standard Sky Miles credit card won't do: It has to be higher level.

Welcome to the new American travel industry, where even the perks that used to come standard are now only offered to those with plenty of cash. American Express cards are intended to be paid off in full every month, though, so if you're managing your finances correctly, this is a perk that won't cost you very much in the long run once you pay back the annual fee for the card.

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