After already shelling out money for a flight...

added fees for checked bags can be a pain. While they are an inconvenience for travelers, they are a huge source of revenue for airlines.

In fact, all additional fees raked in $4.5 billion for carriers in 2017 and most of that total can be attributed to people paying for checked bags. In recent years, major airlines like JetBlue, United, Delta and American have all raised their bag fees.

While bag fees are here to stay, there are some simple ways around them. Let’s break down what the major carriers charge and how to not have to incur these charges.

Generally speaking, there are four ways that passengers can avoid checked bag fees.

  1. Have elite status of fly with someone who does
  2. Have the right credit card or travel with someone who does
  3. Buy a premium ticket
  4. Take your trip for a special circumstance or to a specific destination

While each airline has policy differences, we can show you how these general rules apply to each. There is always a human element at play as well that might allow you to convince the check-in agent to waive an overweight bag fee.

Also, always make sure to check with the airline to get the latest information on their policies.

American Airlines

Those traveling within the U.S. or to/from Canada, the Caribbean or Central America are subject to a $30 first checked bag fee and $40 for the second bag. International rules are much more complex, but you can expect to pay even more.

Elite Status: American’s elite status set-up includes four tiers and each has specific waivers for checked bags. AAdvantage Gold passengers get one bag for free, while Platinum/Platinum Pro members get two free checked bags and Executive Platinum fliers are able to check three free bags. It is important to note that their benefits lock you in at your highest status level, whether that comes during ticketing or check-in.

Credit Card: American has several different card plans they are associated with. The AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard, Citi/AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard, Citi/AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard and the CitiBusiness/AAdvantage Platinum Select World Mastercard offer a free checked bag on domestic flights and free bags for anywhere from 4-8 passengers.

Special Circumstances: Active military who have both a travel order and ID can check up to five bags free, while those with just an ID can check three bags free. Those flying from the U.S. to Cuba have to pay for their bags on the way to the island, but on the way back they are entitled to two free bags. Just like Alaska, passengers with mobility and medical assistance devices can check those for free. Lastly, each traveler can check one stroller and one car seat for free.

Delta Air Lines

Delta has a similar policy as American with $30 for the first checked bag and $40 for the second checked bag on domestic flights, flights from the U.S. and the Caribbean and most Central American countries. The weight limit for post passengers is 50 pounds, but that threshold is upped to 70 pounds for Medallion members and premium class passengers.

Elite Status: Each of Delta’s four elite tiers have some type of checked bag benefit. Silver Medallion holders get one free checked bag up to 70 bounds on flights in the U.S. and Canada, with the added benefit of a second free bag if they have a Delta American Express card. Gold members get two free checked bags automatically and Platinum and Diamond members get three free checked bags. All elite levels have expanded international privileges as well.

Credit Card: The following Delta cards offer cardholders one free checked bag: Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express, Gold Delta SkyMiles Business Credit Card from American Express, Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express, Platinum Delta SkyMiles Business Credit Card from American Express, Delta Reserve Credit Card from American Express, Delta Reserve for Business Credit Card. You are also able to extend your privileges to as many as eight travel companions.

Premium Ticket: First Class, Premium Select and Delta One travelers are allowed two free, 70-pound checked bags. Medallion status holders who are booked for one of these classes can get up to three free bags.

Special Circumstances: Most flights from the U.S. or Canada to El Salvador or Panama offer one free checked bag. Those traveling on military orders are allowed five bags that are up to 100 pounds, while those flying for personal reasons get between 2-3 free checked bags. Strollers and car seats also are not counted towards the checked bag amount for any passenger.

Alaska Airlines

Fees on Alaska Airlines are $30 for the first bag and $40 for the second bag. There is also a $100 fee for bags that weigh over $50 pounds.

These are the ways you can bypass these charges.

Elite Status: Alaska’s elite status program has three levels and all of them offer two free bags per passenger. Travel companions booked on the same ticket are also included in this offer.

Credit Card: The Alaska Airlines Visa Signature credit card has plenty of benefits, including a yearly companion free and a free first checked bag for the cardholder and up to six passengers on the reservation.

Premium Ticket: Any Alaska passengers who either purchase or are upgraded to a first-class ticket can check up to two bags for free.

Special Circumstances: Alaska rattles off several exceptions that amend their checked bag policy. Strollers, car seats, mobility aids and medical assistance devices are allowed on board for free. If you are flying back to the U.S. mainland from Hawaii, you can check a box of pineapples for free. Mileage plan holders traveling some cities in California, Idaho, Oregon or Washington can travel with a well-packed case of wine for free. Anyone flying between destinations in Alaska is allowed up to three free checked bags. Also, Club 49 members with a ticket that includes a stop in Alaska get two bags on free. Finally, active-duty military are offered the best perk as they are able to check five free bags weighing up to 70 pounds each as long as they have a military ID and travel orders.

JetBlue Airways

JetBlue customers with the lowest fares must pay $30 for one checked bag, while Blue and Blue Plus tickets holders are charged $40 for a second bag and $150 for a third bag. Each bag carries the standard 50-pound weight maximum.

Elite Status: Mosaic is the only elite level status for TrueBlue customers and they receive up to two free bags for themselves and their travel companions under this program.

Credit Card: Barclays has the JetBlue Plus Card and the JetBlue Business Card that allow one free bag per cardholder and up to three travel companions.

Premium Ticket: Blue Plus fare purchasers are entitled to one free checked bag, while Blue Flex or Mint ticket holders can check two bags for free.

Special Circumstances: JetBlue is very accommodating when it comes to children and military members. Strollers and car seats fly free. Military with a travel order and ID can check five bags free. This offer extends to their dependents and active military traveling just for leisure can still check two free bags.

Southwest Airlines

Southwest has by far the most simple policies when it comes to checked bags. They are the only major U.S. carrier that does not add fees. Two checked bags under 50 pounds fly free on all flights. Many sporting goods items fall under this policy, however, some things like bicycles and surfboards carry an additional $75 fee.

United Airlines

Between the U.S., the Caribbean and most of Central America, United charges $30 for one checked bag and $40 for the second bag.

Elite Status: The four-tier Mileage Plus elite program offers varying benefits. Premier Silver members and up to nine of their companions can have one free checked bag. Premier Gold, Premier Platinum and Premier 1K passengers get up to two free bags weighing 70 pounds on flights between the U.S., Canada and the U.S. Virgin Islands. On other international flights, they can have three bags.

Credit Card: The United Explorer Card and United Explorer Business Card offer cardholders and one companion one free checked bag. The United Club Card and the United Club Business Card offer two free bags for their members and one travel partner.

The big key with all of these offers is that the card must still be active at the time of the flight and the trip must be purchased with the card.

Premium Ticket: Two free checked bags are allowed in short-haul first-class and long-haul business class. Long-haul first-class permits three free bags.

Special Circumstances: You are free to fly with one wheelchair or another assistive device. The same applies to anyone flying with a stroller or car seat. Military with travel orders can carry up to five bags weighing 100 pounds each for free and those on a leisure trip are entitled to three free bags weighing 70 pounds each. These military offers apply to any travel companions as well.
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