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

Aug. 30, 2019
Loyalty Programs, Travel, Travel Credit Cards
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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 checked bag fees

American Airlines checked bag fees vary based on factors like fare class, destination and number of 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.

How to avoid checked bag fees 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 bag fees.

Waived fees by destination

American Airlines offers one or two free checked bags on certain routes to and from the U.S.:

  • Transatlantic flights (except for basic economy fares).
  • Colombia (date restrictions apply).
  • Ecuador.
  • El Salvador (date restrictions apply).
  • Haiti.
  • Panama.
  • Venezuela.
  • Argentina.
  • Australia.
  • Bolivia.
  • Brazil.
  • Chile.
  • China.
  • Hong Kong.
  • Japan.
  • New Zealand.
  • Paraguay.
  • Peru.
  • South Korea.
  • Uruguay.
  •  

    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: Two 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.

    Credit cards that include free checked bags on American Airlines

    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.

    » 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.

    Credit cards that cover airline incidentals

    Many premium credit cards offer annual credits toward airline incidental fees, including checked bags. The The Platinum Card® from American Express and The Business Platinum® Card from American Express both offer an annual $200 airline fee credit. Meanwhile, the American Express® Gold Card offers a $100 fee credit toward airline incidentals.

    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. And the Citi Prestige® Card offers a $250 annual travel credit.

    Though these premium credit 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.

    How to determine checked bag fees on American Airlines

    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. 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.

    Note that this calculator only applies to domestic flights; international baggage fees are more complex.

    All information about the Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express and the Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express has been collected independently by NerdWallet. The Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express and the Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express are no longer available through NerdWallet.

    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 2019, including those best for:
    Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice:
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