Elite Status Gear The Basics

4 Tips to Avoid Paying Baggage Fees

first class cheaper
Written by Charlie

With increased baggage fees on airlines in the US, here are 4 tips to help you avoid paying baggage fees in the future. Some of these tips may just require you to think differently about how you travel and what things you need to make it easier to avoid paying these fees – you could save up to $70 for each one way!

With baggage fees in the US airline space climbing, many people are looking for ways to avoid paying that minimum $30 each time they check-in at the airport. While some of these tips would take some work, here are 4 tips to avoid paying baggage fees. These are just 4 simple tips that every traveler should be aware of so that you can start avoiding baggage fees in the future.

4 Tips to Avoid Paying Baggage Fees

1. Hold an Airline Credit Card

All the US airlines offer co-branded credit cards that offer miles for as a sign-up bonus and then some benefits to keep you as a cardmember each year after. One of the benefits that these cards all have in common is that they waive your first checked bag on domestic flights. You will still have annual fee (around $95) but if you fly enough or with others, this fee could be offset in just a couple of trips.

Credit CardHow Many Free BagsHow Many CompanionsAnnual Fee
Alaska Airlines Visa Card16$75
American Airlines AAdvantage Card14$99
American Airlines Aviator Red14$95
Gold Delta Skymiles Card18$95
Platinum Delta Skymiles Card18$195
JetBlue Plus Card13$99
United Explorer Card11$95

Note on Business Cards and Other Credit Cards

The table above just shows the personal cards (and not the premium ones) for each of those airlines. If you are interested in a business card, the business cards with annual fees from those airlines also have a baggage fee waiver.

Also, if you have a credit card that offers travel incidental reimbursements (like the American Express Platinum, American Express Premier Rewards Gold, American Express Hilton Aspire, Ritz-Carlton Card) or cards that reimburse you for outright travel expenses (like the Chase Sapphire Reserve), you would also use those to pay for the bag and then get reimbursed. Just remember to check with your card first to see if you need to identify the airline ahead of time (like with the American Express Platinum).

2. Have Elite Status
US Airways Share

If you have elite status, you can get free bags

Here is the one that could take a little bit of work if you do not already have it. The good part is that if you have elite status with any airline in an alliance, it will be honored by other airlines in that alliance! Unfortunately, not all elite status levels will give you that free baggage within the alliance.

For Alaska Airlines, if you hold any elite status with them, you are good to go! You will get 2 free bags.

With American Airlines, any elite status with them will grant you as little as 1 free bag and up to 3 free bags. If you have status with another Oneworld Alliance airline, it needs to be at the oneworld equivalent of Emerald or Sapphire.

With Delta Air Lines, any elite status will grant you anywhere from 1 free bag to 3 free bags (as a Platinum or Diamond member). If you have status with another Skyteam Alliance member, it needs to be Elite or Elite Plus level.

With JetBlue, there only elite status is Mosaic and it comes with 2 free bags.

With United, any United elite status will grant you anywhere from 1 free bag to 3 free bags (as a Premium Platinum, Premier 1K, or Global Services). If you have status with another Star Alliance member, it will take Star Gold to get you that free bag with United (check out this post about Aegean since they have an awesome path for requalifying once you attain Star Gold with them!).

3. Fly Business/First Class
first class cheaper

A typical search for Buffalo to NYC – a $40 difference between economy and first can be the difference if checking bags!

This one might sound like an “oh, yeah, right!” type of thing but it can actually make a lot of sense, depending on your route. Domestic first class fares on some routes in the US are actually quite reasonable and can actually be cheaper than economy once you factor in your baggage fees.

For example, I have flown in first class from Rochester, NY to JFK several times when I needed to check bags. Economy tickets were selling for $99 and first class was selling for $129. For an extra $30, I got 2 bags at 70lbs each (instead of paying, at the time, $25 to get one 50lb bag), priority boarding, priority check-in, priority security, and a nicer seat for the short flight (complete with a couple of complimentary snacks! 🙂 ).

Before you click “Purchase” on your next domestic airline ticket, make sure you check and see what the cost is for business/first class – if you are checking a bag or two. You may be surprised!

4. Carry It On

Airlines are working very hard to try and limit what people are carrying on the airplane to store in the cabin, going so far as to make the basic economy passengers only carry something that can go under the seat in front of them.

However, with the right carryon, you can still take quite a bit on the plane with you! My suggestion to people is this – consider what it would cost you to check a bag over the next year and instead invest that money from those airline checked baggage fees into a nice carryon bag. The trick is to find a carryon that properly utilizes all the space possible.

Don’t rule out a good duffle or backpack as there are some good ones and the bag itself is pretty light. Plus, you could always squeeze it under the seat if you had to.

Except for luggage I am checking for my family (gifts, clothes, etc), I always travel with just carryon. This includes things like a week long trip around the world (several times) and I can pack in things like dress clothes, workout clothes, everyday clothes, etc. If you search for vests (like with SCOTTeVEST), you can utilize some of these travel vests to pack smaller, heavier things in those also.

checked bag fees

Clothes like the SCOTTeVEST can help you carry the heavier items with you

Bonus Tip – Fly Southwest!

This one was such an easy one that I thought I would leave it as a bonus. 🙂 With Southwest, you do not have to pay for up to 2 checked bags per person. That can save a lot of money so definitely give them a look if you need to check a couple of bags!

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About the author


Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.