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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. While American Airlines publishes an outline of fees by destination, fare class and elite status, it can be complicated to navigate through.
In this article, we break down everything you need to know about how American Airlines bag fees work — including a handy fee calculator to use before booking your ticket.
» Learn more: American Airlines AAdvantage program: The complete guide
American Airlines bag fees
American Airlines checked bag fees vary 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 $30 per checked bag each way.
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. Your first extra bag can be checked for $30-$75. A second bag can be checked for $40-$100, whereas a third bag will cost you $150-$200. Fourth bags are allowed on certain flights for a fee of $200 each way. See details here.
Oversize bag fee: Bags sized 62 in/158 cm – 126 in/320 cm cost $200 extra for each way for flights between the U.S., Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands and Canada, as well as on flights to Mexico, Caribbean, Central America, Guyana, Suriname, China, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, India, Australia and New Zealand. An oversize bag on flights to South America (excluding Guyana and Suriname) and Europe will cost $150 each way. Bags over 126 in / 320 cm are not accepted.
Overweight bag fees: Bags that weigh 51 lbs/23 kgs - 70 lbs/32 kgs cost $100 between U.S., Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands and Canada, as well as on flights to Europe, China, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, India, New Zealand, and Australia. Even heavier bags can be flown for $200-$450 depending on your flight.
Golf bag fee: Standard checked bag fee for your destination apply up to 50 lbs/23 kgs and 126 in/320 cm (length + width + height). Overweight fee of $150 for bags weighing 50-71 lbs / 23-32 kgs purchased before Nov. 8, 2021; standard overweight fee of $100 for tickets purchased after Nov. 9, 2021.
Ski bag fee: A pair of skis or a single snowboard and one equipment bag counts as one checked item. Standard bag fees apply for up to 50lbs/23kgs and 126in/320cm (length + width + height); if its larger, standard oversize fees are applied.
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 domestic baggage fees 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 check with American directly.
How to get free baggage on American Airlines
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.
Waived fees by destination
With the exception of basic economy fares, all long-haul international main cabin tickets on American come with one free checked bag. American Airlines offers one free checked bag on certain routes to and from the U.S.:
Destinations offering one free checked bag include:
Cuba (except basic economy fares).
Haiti (except basic economy fares).
South America (except Guyana and Suriname and all basic economy fares).
Transatlantic flights (except basic economy fares).
Transpacific flights (except basic economy fares).
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.
» Learn more: A quick guide to airlines with free baggage
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 and business class passengers get up to two free bags, while first class passengers can check up to three, depending on destination.
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.
AAdvantage Gold: One free checked bag.
AAdvantage Platinum: Two free checked bags.
AAdvantage Platinum Pro: Three free checked bags.
AAdvantage Executive Platinum: Three free checked bags.
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.
» Learn more: Oneworld alliance: What you need to know
American Airlines credit cards with free checked bags
If you don’t anticipate earning elite status or traveling in premium cabins, another method for avoiding bag fees is 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.
AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®: One free checked bag for the primary cardholder and up to four companions traveling on the same domestic itinerary.
AAdvantage® Aviator® Silver Mastercard®: One free checked bag for the primary cardholders and up to eight companions on the same domestic itinerary.
Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®: One free checked bag for the primary cardholder and up to four companions traveling on the same domestic itinerary.
Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®: One free checked bag for the primary cardholders and up to eight companions on the same domestic itinerary.
CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard®: One free checked bag for the primary cardholder and up to four companions traveling on the same domestic itinerary
AAdvantage® Aviator® World Elite Business Mastercard®: One free checked bag for the primary cardholder and up to four companions traveling on the same domestic itinerary.
» Learn more: Which American Airlines credit card should you choose?
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.
» Learn more: Best credit cards for active-duty military
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. 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.
» Learn more: AmEx's airline fee credit: What qualifies?
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. And the Citi Prestige® Card 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. Passengers flying on American Airlines are allowed 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. The 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.
Do you get free checked baggage with American Airlines?
Checking a bag on American Airlines will set you back $30 per bag when flying to most destinations within North America. To avoid paying a checked bag fee, you need to have an eligible American Airlines credit card, at least AAdvantage Gold elite status, Oneworld Ruby status, fly in a premium cabin or as a military member in uniform. Many international destinations include a free checked bag unless you're flying basic economy, so check your route for exact information.
In NerdWallet's most recent analysis of airline fees, we compared seat selection, checked baggage and overhead carry-on baggage fees charged by the major U.S. airlines on typical one-way fares. Here's how they stacked up:
The information related to the Citi Prestige® Card and CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard® has been collected by NerdWallet and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of this product or service.
How to maximize your rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2023, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card