American Airlines Baggage Fees: How They Work, How to Avoid Them

You might avoid the baggage fees based on where you're flying or what elite status or credit cards you have.
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As the largest airline in the U.S., American Airlines offers an extensive route network with flights around the world. If you’re planning to travel on one of these flights, you may end up paying to check your bags — but you may not know how much. Though American Airlines publishes an outline of fees by destination, fare class and elite status, the policy can be complicated to navigate.

In this article, we demystify American Airlines bag fees, provide a handy fee calculator to use before booking your ticket and outline ways to avoid paying for bags on American, like using the right credit card.

American Airlines checked bag fees policy

American Airlines luggage fees are based on factors like fare class, destination and number of bags.

Unless you have elite status or an American Airlines credit card that offers free checked bags, those traveling only within the U.S. can expect to pay $35 for the first checked bag if they pay online or $40 at the airport.

That fee could be higher if you check more bags or are traveling further abroad. Baggage fees can really add up for families traveling together — or for anyone who's bringing a lot with them.

Here's a sampling of other checked bag fees you may encounter:

Extra bag fee

Extra bag fees vary depending on the region you’re traveling to. Your first bag can be checked for $35 - $75. A second bag can be checked for $45 - $100, whereas a third bag will cost between $150 and $200. Fourth bags are allowed on certain flights for a fee of $200 each way. See details here.

Oversize bag fee

For flights on or after April 17, 2024, bags that are 62 inches - 115 inches if you add length, width, and height cost between $30 and $200 each way depending on where you’re traveling. The fees are nonrefundable and are charged per person. Bags over 115 inches are not accepted.

Overweight bag fee

For flights on or after April 17, 2024, bags that weigh 51 pounds - 53 pounds cost $30. Bags that are more than 53 pounds but less than 71 pounds cost $100 (or $200 if you’re flying to Cuba). For bags that are 71 pounds - 100 pounds, the fees range from $200 to $450. Cuba, Europe, Israel, Qatar and Australia do not accept overweight bags.

Overweight bag fees are nonrefundable and are charged per person, each way.

Sports equipment

American Airlines also outlines fees for special items and sports equipment. For example, if you want to bring a golf bag with you, that piece will be treated as a standard checked bag. If your golf bag is overweight, the standard overweight bag fee will need to be paid.

Similarly, a pair of skis (or a single snowboard) and one equipment bag counts as one checked item. Standard bag fees apply for up to 50 pounds and 115 inches (length + width + height); otherwise, oversize fees will apply. If the total weight of all the items (skis, snowboard, equipment bag) is greater than 50 pounds, you’ll need to pay for two separate bags.

How to calculate American Airlines checked bag fees

Checked bag fees on American Airlines can be difficult to decipher, especially if you’re trying to decide whether it’s worth it to book a basic economy fare.

American Airlines baggage fee calculator

We’ve developed a handy calculator to help you figure out what the real cost of that ticket will be if you want to check bags, taking into account any elite status or co-branded credit cards you have.

The calculator will help you figure out what the checked bag fees are on your domestic flights. International baggage fees are more complex, so you’ll need to confirm costs with American directly.

6 ways to avoid American Airlines baggage fees

Premium cabin passengers, elite members and even co-branded credit card holders get free checked bags on American Airlines. Checked bag fees are also waived for passengers traveling to certain destinations. Below is a break-down of your options for avoiding American bag fees.

1. Waived fees by destination

With the exception of basic economy fares, all long-haul international main cabin tickets on American include one free checked bag. American Airlines offers one free checked bag on certain routes to and from the U.S.:

The following destinations offer one free checked bag (except on basic economy fares):

  • Latin America: Cuba, Haiti, El Salvador, Panama.

  • South America: Brazil, Chile, Columbia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay. 

  • Transatlantic flights.

  • Transpacific flights: China, Hong Kong, India, New Zealand, Australia, South Korea.

  • Middle East: Israel and Qatar.

If you’re flying on a basic economy ticket, the baggage allowance may differ. Confirm with American the price of the checked bag.

In addition, American sells a basic economy plus bag fare on flights to Asia, Oceania, India and Israel, which comes with one free checked bag.

2. Free checked bags for premium cabin travel

Though traveling in premium economy, business or first class costs more, it also includes additional free checked bags. Premium economy, business and domestic first class passengers get up to two free bags, while Flagship First and Flagship Business Plus passengers can check up to three, depending on destination.

3. Free checked bags for elite members

American Airlines has four elite tiers that offer myriad useful benefits, including free checked bags. The free checked bag benefit applies to elite members and guests traveling on the same reservation on American Airlines or American Eagle.

Oneworld elite members also qualify for free checked bags on American Airlines-operated flights:

  • Oneworld Ruby: One free checked bag.

  • Oneworld Sapphire: Two free checked bags.

  • Oneworld Emerald: Three free checked bags.

4. American Airlines credit cards with free checked bags

If you don’t anticipate earning elite status or traveling in premium cabins, you can avoid bag fees by getting a co-branded American Airlines credit card.

The great thing about the free checked bag benefit from these co-branded credit cards is that it’s tied to your AAdvantage account number, so you don’t have to pay for your flights with these cards to get the free checked bag. All you have to do is add your AAdvantage number to your reservation.

American Airlines cards with free checked bags
AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®
AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®
NerdWallet Rating
Rates & Fees
Citibank AAdvantage Platinum Select MasterCard Credit Card
Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®
NerdWallet Rating
Apply now

on Citibank's application

Rates & Fees
AAdvantage® Aviator® Silver Mastercard®
AAdvantage® Aviator® World Elite Silver Mastercard®
NerdWallet Rating
Citibank Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard® Credit Card
Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®
NerdWallet Rating
Apply now

on Citibank's application

Rates & Fees
Annual fee

$99.

$0 intro for the first year, then $99.

$199.

$595.

Checked bag benefits

One free checked bag for the primary cardholder and up to four companions traveling on the same domestic itinerary.

One free checked bag for the primary cardholder and up to four companions traveling on the same domestic itinerary.

One free checked bag for the primary cardholders and up to eight companions on the same domestic itinerary.

One free checked bag for the primary cardholders and up to eight companions on the same domestic itinerary.

Welcome offer

Earn 60,000 AAdvantage® bonus miles after making your first purchase and paying the $99 annual fee in full, both within the first 90 days.

Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $2,500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.

N/A.

Earn 70,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $7,000 within the first 3 months of account opening.

Horizontal scroll

Other AAdvantage cards with checked bag benefits include:

5. Free checked bags for military members

Active duty U.S. military members and their dependents receive up to five free checked bags when traveling on orders. For personal travel, up to three bags can be checked free of charge.

6. Cards that cover airline incidentals

Many premium cards offer annual credits toward airline incidental fees, including checked bags. The Platinum Card® from American Express and The Business Platinum Card® from American Express both offer an annual $200 airline fee credit for a pre-selected airline. Enrollment required. Terms apply.

After selecting American as your airline of choice, you’ll receive a statement credit every time you use your card to make a qualifying purchase, including paying checked bag fees. Terms apply.

There are other cards that don’t restrict you to choosing a single airline if you frequently fly with different carriers.

For example, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® offers a $300 annual travel credit that applies to all travel purchases, including checked bag fees.

Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit Card

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

NerdWallet Rating
5.0
Annual fee

$550

The Citi Prestige® Card, meanwhile, offers a $250 annual travel credit.

Though these premium cards carry higher annual fees than the American Airlines cards, they also offer more flexibility in terms of redeeming your points and using travel credits.

Does American Airlines charge for carry-on bags?

The short answer is no. American Airlines carry-on rules permit passengers to bring one carry-on bag and one personal item free of charge to every destination. The rule also applies to customers flying on basic economy tickets.

American Airlines carry-on size restrictions

When flying American, your carry-on bag cannot exceed 22 x 14 x 9 inches and must fit in the sizer in the airport.

The personal item (i.e. purse) must be able to fit under the seat in front of you, with dimensions not exceeding 18 x 14 x 8 inches.

Which airlines have the lowest bag fees?

In NerdWallet's most recent analysis of airline fees, we evaluated checked baggage and overhead carry-on baggage fees charged by the major U.S. airlines on domestic one-way fares.

Southwest does not charge any bag fees, while Delta and Hawaiian Airlines are tied for second place since they only charge $30 for the first checked bag and nothing for a carry-on bag. American, United and JetBlue charge $35 for a checked bag. Spirit and Frontier came in last since both airlines charge for a checked and a carry-on bag.

Final thoughts on American Airlines baggage rules

American Airlines allows passengers to bring a carry-on bag free of charge. A complimentary checked bag is offered when flying to/from certain destinations or if you fall into one of the exceptions (i.e. elite status holder, premium cabin traveler, etc.).

If you fly a lot with American Airlines and frequently check a bag, it can make sense to look into one of the methods that allow you to avoid paying a checked bag fee, like purchasing your flight with the right credit card.

The information related to the Citi Prestige® Card, CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard®, AAdvantage® Aviator® World Elite Business Mastercard® and Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® has been collected by NerdWallet and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of this product or service.

To view rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, see this page.

How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are some of the best travel credit cards of 2024:

Cards for American Airlines from our Partners
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

on Capital One's website

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
4.7
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

2x-5x

Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day. Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options.

Miles

Intro offer

75,000

Enjoy $250 to use on Capital One Travel in your first cardholder year, plus earn 75,000 bonus miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening - that’s equal to $1,000 in travel.

Miles
Citibank Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard® Credit Card

on Citibank's application

Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®
4.6
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

1x

Earn 1 Loyalty Point for every 1 eligible AAdvantage® mile earned from purchases.

Miles

Intro offer

70,000

Earn 70,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $7,000 within the first 3 months of account opening.

Miles
Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card

on Chase's website

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
5.0
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

1x-5x

5x on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠, 3x on dining, select streaming services and online groceries, 2x on all other travel purchases, 1x on all other purchases.

Points

Intro offer

60,000

Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.

Points
See more cards
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