15 Tricks to Easily Avoid Baggage Fees, According to a Travel Expert

NEWS & TRENDING - TRAVEL NEWS
Uncover 15 expert-tested hacks for luggage fee-free travel.
Updated May 8, 2024
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You don’t have to pay baggage fees when you travel. In fact, you can travel for nearly free by utilizing valuable travel planning secrets.

I’ve been using credit card rewards for over a decade to travel the world. Let’s explore how you can avoid baggage fees on your next flight.

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Apply for a travel credit card

Prostock-studio/Adobe african woman planning vacation using laptop

This one is easy and straightforward.

Apply for a travel credit card with travel credit benefit, then use that travel credit to pay for your baggage fees.

The best travel credit cards could also help you earn travel rewards to reduce the cost of flights and hotel stays.

Use an airline credit card

Krakenimages.com/Adobe man booking tickets using smartphone

Here’s another simple approach.

Apply for an airline credit card that gives you a free checked bag as a benefit. Then, you can pack everything you need while keeping money in your pocket.

Choose the best airline credit cards depending on which airlines you fly the most.

Earn elite status

moodboard/Adobe business people travelling together at airport

Holding elite status with airline loyalty programs can provide valuable benefits, including free checked bags.

For example, Delta SkyMiles members receive their first checked bag free when traveling on a Delta or select airline partner flight, starting at the Silver Medallion tier.

Earn a $250 travel bonus with this incredible card

There's a credit card that's making waves with its amazing bonus and benefits. The Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card has no annual fee and you can earn 25,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening.

You can earn additional points just by using this card for your everyday purchases — unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases. The 25,000 bonus points can be redeemed for a $250 statement credit toward travel or dining purchases.

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Find the right travel partner

Studio Romantic/Adobe excited couple happy to travel

If you don’t have airline elite status or a credit card with a free checked bag benefit, maybe you know someone who does.

In many cases, free checked bag benefits from elite status or credit cards extend to a certain number of travel companions on the same itinerary.

Research bag fees

Elnur/Adobe senior man planning trip on phone

Every airline has different policies when it comes to baggage allowance and fees.

To ensure you know whether you’ll be charged for what you plan to pack, do your research ahead of time. You can typically find bag fees and other information by searching online for the airline and “baggage allowance” or “baggage policy.”

For example, search for “United baggage policy” to find information about fees and baggage restrictions when flying United Airlines.

It’s best to stick to the actual airline’s website when doing this type of research.

Invest in a scale

deagreez/Adobe man holding suitcase while traveling

Once you’ve researched an airline’s baggage policy, it’s time to see if your bag meets the dimension and weight limits.

You can easily measure bag dimensions with a tape measure, but not everyone has a luggage scale handy to weigh their bags.

One smart Amazon hack is to buy a portable digital luggage scale for just $10 (or less) and get it quickly shipped if you have a Prime membership.

Choose the right airline

Studio Romantic/Adobe senior couple ready to travel

Most major airlines don’t provide free checked bags unless you’re on a premium fare or flying to a specific destination.

However, you can still count on Southwest to provide two free checked bags to just about every destination it flies.

As long as you’re within the limits of the Southwest baggage policy, you get your first two checked bags for free. It’s as easy as that.

Avoid basic economy

Kalim/Adobe suitcases at airport lounge window

Rather than get rid of free checked bags altogether, many airlines have opted to provide them as a benefit if you pay for a more expensive ticket.

That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to purchase a business or first-class ticket, but you typically can’t go with basic economy and expect a free checked bag.

Book a premium fare

Seventyfour/Adobe man receiving coffee from flight attendant

Book a business or first-class ticket to help guarantee a free checked bag or two — or even three!

This typically isn’t a money-saving strategy since these types of tickets often cost much more than economy. But you can consider free checked bags a bonus on top of a better flight experience.

Remember that booking premium fares regularly is well within the realm of possibility if you use points and miles.

Earn cash back on everyday purchases with this rare account

Want to earn cash back on your everyday purchases without using a credit card? With the Discover®️ Cashback Debit Checking account (member FDIC), you can earn 1% cash back on up to $3,000 in debit card purchases each month!1

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Pack light

DimaBerlin/Adobe tourist calling taxi at airport terminal

A simple way to avoid baggage fees is not to have as much baggage. In other words, skip bringing a checked bag altogether. 

If you pack light enough, you might be surprised you can get by with a personal item and carry-on bag. You also won't have to worry about grabbing your bag at baggage claim unless your carry-on was checked at the gate.

Wear extra clothing

colnihko/Adobe female tourist at airport lounge

Having issues packing light enough to skip bringing a checked bag? Consider wearing some of your bulkier clothing rather than packing it.

This doesn’t mean you have to be that person wearing multiple shirts, pants, and sweatshirts to avoid baggage fees. Instead, you could wear a bit bulkier clothes, like a jacket and jeans, to save room and weight in your luggage.

Steer clear of budget airlines

1st footage/Adobe woman booking trip using smartphone

Budget airlines like Spirit and Frontier charge all sorts of fees for anything they deem to be “extra.” That typically includes bag fees, seat selection, and snacks, to name a few.

If you never want to worry about bag fees, your best bet is to avoid these budget airlines unless you have elite status or another way to avoid luggage fees.

Select a specific destination

Goffkein/Adobe man using laptop to book tickets

You shouldn’t let baggage fees deter you from booking a trip to a dream destination. But if you’re open to going multiple places, consider destinations where you could get a free checked bag.

For example, American Airlines provides a first checked bag for free, excluding Basic Economy, if you’re flying to Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Japan, New Zealand, and more.

Fly international

Joshua/Adobe man holding luggage with boarding pass

While this isn’t always the case, you can typically find more free checked baggage allowance if you fly to an international destination.

As mentioned previously, certain airlines have specific lists of destinations where they might allow a free checked bag with different limitations.

The best credit cards for international travel could help you visit more countries without breaking the bank.

Try a baggage subscription

Fabio Principe/Adobe family on vacation with luggage

You can purchase a customizable United baggage subscription for yourself and up to eight companions. This is typically an annual subscription that costs at least a few hundred dollars per year.

I don’t think this type of subscription is worth it for most people because you could get a free checked bag benefit and other travel perks with a new credit card. But it might be worth it if you have a large family with lots of bag fees to cover.

Bottom line

olenachukhil/Adobe family walling airport terminal with luggage

Baggage fees are the worst, but you can avoid them with proper planning, research, and different tips and tricks.

So, stop throwing money away and save your cash for fun travel excursions so you can start traveling more for less.

Easy-to-Earn Unlimited Rewards

Benefits

Card Details

  • Earn 25,000 online bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases
  • Earn 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases
  • Longer intro APR on qualifying purchases and balance transfers
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Apply Now
  • Earn unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases, with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees and your points don't expire as long as your account remains open.
  • 25,000 online bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases.
  • Use your card to book your trip how and where you want - you're not limited to specific websites with blackout dates or restrictions.
  • Redeem points for a statement credit to pay for travel or dining purchases, such as flights, hotel stays, car and vacation rentals, baggage fees, and also at restaurants including takeout.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases, and for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days. After the Intro APR offer ends, a Variable APR that’s currently 19.24% - 29.24% will apply. A 3% Intro balance transfer fee will apply for the first 60 days your account is open. After the Intro balance transfer fee offer ends, the fee for future balance transfers is 4%.
  • If you're a Bank of America Preferred Rewards® member, you can earn 25%-75% more points on every purchase. That means instead of earning an unlimited 1.5 points for every $1, you could earn 1.87-2.62 points for every $1 you spend on purchases.
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  • This online only offer may not be available if you leave this page or if you visit a Bank of America financial center. You can take advantage of this offer when you apply now.
Bank of <span class='whitespace-nowrap'>America<sup>®</sup></span> Travel Rewards credit card
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Intro Offer

Earn 25,000 online bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases

Annual Fee

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Why we like it

Author Details

Ben Walker, CEPF, CFEI® Ben Walker, CEPF, CFEI®, is credit cards specialist. For over a decade, he's leveraged credit card points and miles to travel the world. His expertise extends to other areas of personal finance — including loans, insurance, investing, and real estate — and you can find his insights on The Washington Post, Debt.com, Yahoo! Finance, and Fox Business.

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