Are you planning a trip? With most airlines charging baggage fees for checked luggage and even some charging a fee for carry-on bags, travelers are forced to spend more and more on their airplane tickets. Here, I'll show you a simple way to avoid paying for your checked-luggage which could save you around $50 per person for a round trip.
Baggage fees are on the rise and they make you want to think twice before booking your flight. But just how much are Americans spending on baggage fees? In the first quarter of 2013 U.S. airlines earned $800 million in checked luggage fees, according to the US Department of Transportation's Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Delta (DAL) ranked the highest, earning approximately $192 million in baggage fees during the first quarter of 2013. United (UAL) and US Airways (LCC) followed close behind earning $143 million (United) and $130 million (US Airways) in checked baggage fees.
But just how much are airlines charging per checked bag? The airline that charges the most for the first checked bag is Spirit Airlines with a $45 fee, the second checked bag costs $55, and you will be charged $100 for an additional bag. American Airlines charges $25 for the first checked bag, $35 for the second, and $150 for an additional checked bag.
JetBlue charges $20 per one-way ticket for the first checked bag, when you pay at a kiosk or via web check-in. You will pay a higher fee of $25 when you check your fist bag at the check-in counter. Checking a second bag will cost you $35.
On all airlines, overweight baggage fees are normally even higher, ranging from $50 (Alaskan-Horizon Air) to $100-200 (United Airlines).
Paying for checked luggage started in 2008 when American Airlines started charging a $15 fee for a first checked bag, and many airlines quickly followed suit. In 2010, Spirit Airlines imposed a carry-on bag fee. This year, in 2017, the only big U.S. airline that does not charge a baggage fee for checked luggage is Southwest Airlines (which allows you to check in 2 pieces of luggage for free).
How can you avoid paying for your checked baggage? I'm going to explain how you can bypass baggage fees by paying for your flight with the right kind of credit card.
One of the easiest and best ways to get free checked baggage is by purchasing your airline ticket with a frequent flyer credit card. Some frequent flyer credit cards offer the first checked bag free of charge as a special benefit to card members.
Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express, issued by American Express, a GET.com advertiser offers one free checked bag for you and up to 9 people in your reservation when booking a Delta flight. Delta normally charges $25 for the first checked bag one a one way trip, so by purchasing your ticket with this card you can save up to $50 on a round trip per person. And if you purchase round trip tickets for a family of 4, you can save up to $200! This card also offers a 20% discount on Delta in-flight purchases and gives you priority boarding. You can also earn 2 miles for every $1 you spend on Delta purchases and 1 mile for every $1 you spend on other eligible purchases - so, you can even earn miles by paying your household bills with this card. I would recommend this card to people who fly with Delta frequently because you can earn miles on your purchases and use those miles to pay for your next flight. As a special offer, new members will receive 30,000 bonus miles when spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of card membership. Get $50 as a statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card in the first 3 months. $0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95. Terms & conditions apply.
You can see the full Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express review here to see what else this card has to offer.
United MileagePlus® Explorer Card, issued by JPMorgan Chase (JPM), lets you check your first bag for free and that of another companion on the same reservation. This saves you $50 per person on a round trip. This card also offers lots of bonus miles if you spend more than a certain amount with it. For example, start with 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. You can earn 10,000 bonus miles every year when you spend $25,000 in net purchases made with this card. You can even earn an additional 5,000 bonus miles if you add another authorized cardholder to your account and make a purchase within the first 3 months of opening your account. Earn double miles on tickets purchased from United, and 1 mile per $1 on all other purchases. There is no limit to the amount of miles you can earn and accumulate, so the more you spend using your card, the more you earn.
This card has many other perks such as travel accident insurance and lost luggage reimbursement, you can find out more in our United MileagePlus® Explorer Card review here.
Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ MasterCard®, a partner card issued by Citi in conjunction with American Airlines. As a primary cardholder, when purchasing plane tickets with your card on an American Airlines flight, you will get your first eligible checked bag for free as well as the first checked bag of up to 4 people on your reservation. So, if you purchase 4 round trips with this card on an American Airlines flight, you will be saving $200! Limited time welcome offer: Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of opening your card account. You will also earn 10% of your redeemed AAdvantage® miles back - up to 10,000 AAdvantage® miles per calendar year. You can earn double AAdvantage® miles for each $1 you spend on eligible American Airlines purchases. On all your other purchases, you will earn 1 AAdvantage® mile for every $1 spent on this card. This cards $95 annual fee is waived for the first 12 months.
Read our Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ MasterCard® review to see all the pros and cons of this card.
JetBlue Plus Card lets you check your first bag free on JetBlue operated flights, when you use it to pay for your tickets. It also lets you enjoy 50% savings on eligible inflight purchases like cocktails and food. Earn 30,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases using your new card within the first 90 days. You earn 6 points for each dollar you spend on JetBlue purchases, which makes this a rewarding card for frequent flyers. Plus, you earn 2 points per $1 at grocery stores and restaurants, and 1 point per $1 on all other purchases. Another perk is that you earn 5,000 bonus points each year, after your account anniversary. You can redeem your points for travel with no blackout dates, and you get 10% of your points back every time you redeem, which you can then use towards your next redemption. Benefit from a 0% intro APR on balance transfers for the first 12 billing cycles on balance transfers made within 45 days of account opening, with a regular 12.49%, 20.49% or 25.49% variable APR after that. This card has a $99 annual fee.
So, as you can see, using a frequent flyer credit card to purchase your plane tickets can help you save a lot of money on your checked baggage. The only downside to these cards is that they are airline specific and made for people who tend to fly frequently with the same airline. Click here to see the full list of airline credit card offers on GET.com. If you are not faithful to any specific airline and prefer cards that offer flexibility as well as miles, points and travel rewards, check some of our highly rated travel credit cards.
Other Ways To Get Your Checked Bags Free
There are other credit cards which give you an annual airline credit towards incidental fees, including baggage fees, in-flight food and beverages, on-board wi-fi and similar charges. If you only fly once or twice per year, you can take advantage of this airline credit to cover you checked baggage fees.
Citi Prestige® Card comes with an annual Air Travel Credit of $250, which can be applied towards airline tickets, baggage fees, upgrades and more. That means when you use this card, you can get up to $250 of your baggage fees covered every year. You earn 40,000 bonus points after charging $4,000 in purchases to this card in your first 3 months after account opening. Those bonus points can be redeemed for a $532 flight on any other airline or $400 in gift cards. This card lets you transfer your ThankYou Points to a number of frequent travel programs at a 1:1 rate or even better. Enjoy a complimentary 4th night for any hotel stay, complimentary access to American Airlines Admirals Club® lounges and hundreds of Priority Pass™ Select VIP lounges, and solid travel insurance coverage (it even includes up to $100,000 for medical evacuation costs). This prestigious MasterCard has a $450 annual fee, but can easily pay for itself many times over if you use its many benefits.
Read our full Citi Prestige® Card review.
The Platinum Card® from American Express gives you up to $200 of airline fee credit per calendar year that you can apply towards incidental fees like checked bags, in-flight refreshments or flight changes. You need to select one qualifying airline for purchases that you would like to apply this credit towards, so make sure to choose the airline that you always fly with. Charge your checked baggage fees to this card to enjoy the $200 credit. You earn 40,000 points after using your new Card to make $3,000 of purchases in your first 3 months, plus you get 5X Membership Rewards® points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel. Membership Rewards® can be transferred to many popular frequent travel programs. This card comes with pretty comprehensive travel insurance (including medical evacuation coverage) and top shopping protection benefits. You get complimentary access to more than 1,000 airport lounges (The Centurion® lounge network, Delta Sky Club®, Airspace Lounges and American Express pays for your Priority Pass™ Select membership when you enroll). Terms and conditions apply. This card has a $450 annual fee, but gives you exclusive perks that can make that fee more than worth it.
Read our The Platinum Card® from American Express review here.
Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express covers up to $100 a year in baggage fees and more with an Airline Fee Credit. You must choose one airline, and this credit will be applied towards charges from that airline which you pay for with this card. This is a good card to use if you want to get rewarded for your everyday purchases with travel. To start off, you get 25,000 Membership Rewards® Points after spending $2,000 on purchases using your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Also you get a $75 hotel credit with The Hotel Collection at americanexpress.com/hc. and a room upgrade when you arrive, if available, Terms apply. Plus you get 3X points per dollar for flights you book directly with airlines, and 2X points per dollar for purchases you make at US restaurants, US gas stations, and US supermarkets. Other purchases earn 1X points per dollar. Terms and limitations apply. You pay no foreign transaction fees and get good travel insurance coverage (including a baggage insurance plan premium roadside assistance). This card has $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $195.
Read our review of Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express here.
Ivan Daniel is a writer at GET.com. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.Editorial Disclosure: Any personal views and opinions expressed by the author in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of GET.com. The editorial content on this page is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of the companies mentioned, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.
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Or pack less if possible and go with a carryon bag and, for the ladies, a large tote bag.
May 31 2015 at 21:44
Valer Lucu Minea
Use soutwest ailonrs
May 28 2015 at 16:33
Just take your bag through security and when you get to hate give them to attendant and they will happily check it for you at NO cost! Plus you Know it got on plane!!!
April 22 2015 at 03:03
Worth noting that the United Card only covers 1 bag on international flights so if you're planning on travelling with more than 1 bag, expect to get hit up for between $75 and $100 for the 2nd bag checked in. Even as a silver elite passenger you have to pay for that 2nd bag so if you're a frequent flyer internationally with more than 1 bag, its cheaper to buy the baggage plan they offer than paying for 2 bags multiple times a year! Basically you can't beat the system entirely if you're a standard traveller who always has to have a lot of luggage for work or personal reasons!
February 02 2015 at 12:18
We live in northern Michigan and have found that going to Canada is much more reasonably priced. Toronto airport is great. We went to Scotland and New Brunswick and saved a lot of money on both trips.
January 23 2015 at 17:04
Using credit cards this way isn't new. I've done it for years. But multiple credit cards isn't for everyone. Pack only what you need, yes - but what if it's a cold destination in winter, or you need to bring gifts? If you can, send ahead whatever's lightweight and/or bulky. Divide the rest between 1 checked bag (for up to 2-3 people) and 1-2 carry-ons, distributing weight to avoid fees. Avoid placing any jewelry or electronics in checked baggage! Some of this advice is only applicable to domestic flights. International flights don't charge for 1 or 2 checked bags per person, and mailing costs for international are very high - plus possible duty fees can come up unexpectedly. For international, use checked baggage only, not mail or a package service, to keep costs down. I know a few other tricks: if you buy something bulky or expensive abroad, which will be sent to you, you can sometimes negotiate to add in some items that you want to send home, such as clothes that you realize you shouldn't have brought, or other inexpensive souvenirs you bought. But you can't always do this, and almost never with food items. Also: avoid overnight layovers within the USA on an international flight. I had an itinerary from Delta a few years ago that was California to Atlanta, and the next morning Atlanta to Costa Rica. Although it was one international itinerary, that overnight in the US meant that we had to pay $25 per bag, for 3 of us, on the first leg of our trip. Delta didn't see it as one international itinerary, even though they booked it that way!
January 17 2015 at 04:49
Gayle Lynn Mutchler
Just fly Southwest Airlines! We are the best :)
December 27 2014 at 21:03
Obviously the any credit card is only worthwhile if you pay it off in full every month. It also only pays if you travel with the airline enough to make your money back.
November 03 2014 at 13:00
Ship your luggage via UPS, or similar carrier to yourself at your destination. Most hotels will accept your luggage if you have a reservation. Ship home when you leave.
November 02 2014 at 00:12
Karla Switzer Stringham
How do you save? All this is purchased on a credit card most with an annual fee and then that amount is charged interest unless you pay it off immediately.
November 01 2014 at 11:55
The only reason this was started...fuel costs per pound moved. What we forget? All these airlines stated it was temporary while fuel cost were so absurd. They've dropped over 30% and it has been YEARS.
October 31 2014 at 16:05
I have the AmEx Gold and love it. I always check in one bag and take my carry on with me. More times than not, the flight is full and the gate agent will ask for carry ons to be checked in at the gate for free! Now what is not mentioned is it cost $95 a year for the card but worth it even if you fly 3 or 4 times a year.
October 22 2014 at 16:48
Why did we forget the best, cheapest and doesn't require another credit card? Take your bags through security to the gate, then gate check them. Theairlinewill behappyto perform this service for free, rather than impact their already challenging on time records, waiting for passengers to load on the plane and store their bags in overhead compartments that are already full.
September 28 2014 at 15:15
Clara St. Clair
Yes, SW is a wonderful airline, BUT they don't fly everywhere.
September 27 2014 at 22:18
I work up north for a couple months of the year, I ship my bags UPS, 50 bucks for 3 large bags, I only fly with a small carry on (laptop,change of cloths and ID) ship your bags a couple days before you leave and they are in your hotel room when you walk in
September 27 2014 at 03:59
Dennis D Moss
I am kind of glad they started charging fees for baggage. Before I figured out how to have the fees waived, I learned to pack only what I need and fit it all in a carry-on. No more waiting at the luggage carousel for my bags. Last year, we went to Mexico for four days. I packed everything in my carry-on. When we returned, we were off the plane, through customs and passport, and in our car within about 12 minutes. I know there were people still waiting for their bags to come out so they could go through customs as we were driving home. No lost time and no lost bags.
September 24 2014 at 21:49
How many credit cards can one have?? I usually book by price and times- so do you need a credit care for each airline?????
September 24 2014 at 15:37
The Delta American Express card is now $195.00 a year, not an insignificant amount of money.
September 20 2014 at 12:39
I worked in airline operations management. The absurd thing about charging to check bags is that it forces more bags into the cabin, causing greater boarding and deplaneing delays--things that cost airlines far more money than having their baggage handlers load more bags. Not to mention the loss of customer satisfaction at not only the cost of checking bags, but also the inconvenience of waiting for other passengers who choose to bring their entire house aboard the cabin in order to save $25.
September 20 2014 at 07:33
The whole idea of charging for the checked in luggage and sometimes even for cabin baggage is prepos
September 19 2014 at 22:03
I have to fly out of a small regional airport when I need to fly. These airports are serviced by small commuter planes that have no overhead bins, thus no checked baggage fees. When I get to my layover destination, I simply wait for the announcement that the flight is full and. therefore, anyone who wishes to check their carry on can do so at no additional fee. Because of my age and limited mobility, this is the perfect solution for me. And believe me they always make that announcement.
September 18 2014 at 03:24
Virgin Airways does not charge on overseas flights for two checked bags up to 50lb each and a carry on 20lb. I have created a padded laptop cover, that will fit easily into a carry bag. Thus saving me the almost 5 lb weight of regular computer case. I am also allowed a purse. I think this is a fair deal.
September 17 2014 at 02:41
Uh, hello,, checked bags are ALWAYS free on Southwest. You don't need their credit card. Southwest never charges baggage fees in the first place -- not for checked bags, carryons, never.
September 15 2014 at 03:24
Just remember that Airline Credit Cards usually charge about $95 per year to have the card. Most airlines will waive the fee for the first year.
September 15 2014 at 02:59
What? And,Oh well? Thanks for the tips!
September 14 2014 at 16:39