It’s official: Checking a bag aboard any of the three major U.S. airlines will cost $30 for the first and $40 for the second each way. American Airlines officially raised its checked baggage costs for all new itineraries purchased on or after Sept. 21, 2018.
Even though the increased fares follow a trend from competitors Delta Air Lines and United Airlines, there are several ways American Airlines passengers can still get at least one checked bag for free. Holding one of the following cards entitles primary cardholders to one free checked bag when flying American:
- the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®
- the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®
- the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard®
- the American AAdvantage® Aviator® Red Mastercard®.
New American pricing for checked luggage
Under the new pricing chart, checking one bag aboard a domestic flight will cost $30 each way for basic economy and main cabin travelers — an increase of $5. Checking a second bag will cost $40 each way, also an increase of $5. “Domestic travel” includes flights to and from the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
» Learn more: Free checked luggage may be airline credit cards’ best unsung perk.
But pricing for other flights will not change. Main cabin passengers can still check at least one luggage item when traveling from Cuba to the United States and to or from Asia, Brazil, Europe, Haiti and some seasonal routes to Central and South America.
Unfortunately, those in basic economy may still face the highest fares for checked luggage unless they pay for them prior to their travels. When traveling between Europe and the Americas, a single checked bag can cost up to $60.
How to get a free checked bag aboard American
For frequent flyers or those who routinely check at least one piece of luggage aboard their flights, there are several ways to still get at least one free bag. The most common way is through American’s co-branded credit cards. Cardholders must include their American Airlines AAdvantage number on their itineraries when booking to be eligible, and the card must be open for at least seven days prior to air travel. The following cards grant at least one free checked bag:
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®: One checked bag free of charge for the primary cardholder and up to four companions on the same reservation when traveling on domestic itineraries.
- American AAdvantage® Aviator® Red Mastercard®: The first eligible checked bag is free of charge for the primary cardholder and up to four traveling companions on the same reservation when traveling on domestic itineraries.
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®: One checked bag free of charge for the primary cardholder and up to eight companions traveling with the primary cardholder on the same reservation when traveling on domestic itineraries.
- CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard®: One checked bag free of charge for the primary cardholder and up to four companions on the same reservation when traveling on domestic itineraries.
Other ways cardholders can receive one free checked bag include:
- Hold elite status in the American AAdvantage program (including AAdvantage Gold).
- Book a flight in the first or business-class cabin.
- Book a flight in Premium Economy (not Main Cabin Extra).
- Traveling on military fares (including spouses and immediate families).
How to maximize your rewardsYou want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2018, including those best for:
- Airline miles and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card (Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®).
- Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card (Earn unlimited 2 miles per dollar on every purchase).
- Premium travel rewards: Chase Sapphire Reserve® (Get 3 points per dollar on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases).
- No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card (Earn unlimited 1.5 points per dollar spent on all purchases, with no annual fee).
- Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express (Get 5 points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines or through American Express Travel, plus get access to the Global Lounge Collection). Terms Apply.
Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice:
Delays, Lost Bags, Complaints: How Does Your Favorite Airline Rank?
American Airlines Checked Baggage Fee Settlement: How to File a Claim
Airline Cards’ Fine Print May Leave You Holding the Bag Fee
Photo courtesy of American Airlines.