United Airlines Bag Fees: How They Work, How to Avoid Them

Ariana ArghandewalAug 29, 2019

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As airlines have begun offering cheaper basic economy fares, bag fees and other incidental charges are helping make up the difference to their bottom line. If these fees are getting you down, don’t worry: We’ve done our research on United’s checked bag fees to help you figure out what to expect and how to avoid them altogether.

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United’s checked bag fees vary by destination and travel class. Barring elite status exemptions or co-branded credit cards, economy class passengers can expect to pay $30 for the first checked bag on domestic flights and $40 for the second. Business and first class passengers receive up to two checked bags free of charge.

On international routes, economy passengers generally receive one or two free checked bags depending on the destination. If you’re traveling in basic economy, the first checked bag will cost you $60 and the second will be $100.

United Airlines has its own helpful , where you can enter a destination, travel date, cabin class, credit card and elite affiliations to determine checked bag fees.

You can compare checked bag fees across multiple airlines using the calculator below. It’s especially helpful if you’re considering booking basic economy tickets and want to understand how other fees could add up.

Note that this calculator only applies to domestic itineraries; international baggage fees are more complicated.

You can avoid United checked bag fees by paying more to travel in premium economy, business or first class. Passengers in these cabins receive two free checked bags on domestic flights.

If you plan on checking two bags, it’s definitely worth it to compare economy and premium economy fares to determine whether the price difference is worth the free baggage allowance.

United MileagePlus elite members receive up to three free checked bags, depending on the destination and cabin class. Below is a breakdown of the free checked bag benefit for those with MileagePlus status:

Active-duty U.S. military personnel and their accompanying dependents qualify for free checked bags when traveling on United Airlines. Up to five bags can be checked while traveling on official business and three bags for personal travel.

This benefit also applies to dependents when traveling without the military member for relocation or on official orders.

Through a partnership with Chase, United offers four co-branded credit cards that have free checked bag benefits. The benefit on all four cards applies to the primary cardholder and one travel companion booked on the same reservation. It’s also only valid on United-operated flights, and cardholders must add their MileagePlus number to the reservation and pay for it using one of the qualifying credit cards:

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If you don’t find value in holding a co-branded United credit card, you may already have a card in your wallet that can cover checked bag fees. If you have or , you receive an annual $200 airline fee credit. Terms apply.

To redeem airline incidental credits through American Express, you will need to designate United as your airline of choice every year. You’ll then receive a statement credit when you pay for checked bags (or other airline incidentals) with one of these credit cards.

If that sounds too restricting, you might want to opt for the , which comes with a $300 annual travel credit applicable to all travel purchases. The offers a lower $250 annual credit, which can be also applied to any travel purchase. These two cards offer more flexibility for those times when you need to check a bag with an airline other than United.

The information related to the and United Club℠ Business Card has been collected by NerdWallet and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of this product or service.

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the , including those best for:

Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice:

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