Are you planning a trip? With most airlines charging baggage fees for checked luggage and even some charging a fee for carry-on bags, travelers are forced to spend more and more on their airplane tickets. Here, I'll show you a simple way to avoid paying for your checked-luggage which could save you around $50 per person for a round trip.
Baggage fees are on the rise and they make you want to think twice before booking your flight. But just how much are Americans spending on baggage fees? In the first quarter of 2013 U.S. airlines earned $800 million in checked luggage fees, according to the US Department of Transportation's Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Delta (DAL) ranked the highest, earning approximately $192 million in baggage fees during the first quarter of 2013. United (UAL) and US Airways (LCC) followed close behind earning $143 million (United) and $130 million (US Airways) in checked baggage fees.
But just how much are airlines charging per checked bag? The airline that charges the most for the first checked bag is Spirit Airlines with a $45 fee, the second checked bag costs $55, and you will be charged $100 for an additional bag. American Airlines charges $25 for the first checked bag, $35 for the second, and $150 for an additional checked bag. Overweight baggage fees are even higher, ranging from $50 (Alaskan-Horizon Air) to $100-200 (United Airlines).
Paying for checked luggage started in 2008 when American Airlines started charging a $15 fee for a first checked bag, and many airlines quickly followed suit. In 2010, Spirit Airlines imposed a carry-on bag fee. This year, in 2016, the only two big U.S. airline companies that do not charge a baggage fee for checked luggage are JetBlue Airways (first checked in bag free) and Southwest Airlines (which allows you to check in two pieces of luggage for free). JetBlue is currently changing their first checked bag policy, and may remove the free first checked bag benefit for low cost tickets in 2015. How can you avoid paying for your checked baggage? I'm going to explain how you can bypass baggage fees by paying for your flight with the right kind of credit card.
One of the easiest and best ways to get free checked baggage is by purchasing your airline ticket with a frequent flyer credit card. Some frequent flyer credit cards offer the first checked bag free of charge as a special benefit to card members.
Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express, issued by American Express, a GET.com advertiser offers one free checked bag for you and up to 9 people in your reservation when booking a Delta flight. Delta normally charges $25 for the first checked bag one a one way trip, so by purchasing your ticket with this card you can save up to $50 on a round trip per person. And if you purchase round trip tickets for a family of 4, you can save up to $200! This card also offers a 20% discount on Delta in-flight purchases and gives you priority boarding. You can also earn 2 miles for every $1 you spend on Delta purchases and 1 mile for every $1 you spend on other eligible purchases - so, you can even earn miles by paying your household bills with this card. I would recommend this card to people who fly with Delta frequently because you can earn miles on your purchases and use those miles to pay for your next flight. As a bonus incentive, new members will receive 30,000 bonus miles when spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of card membership. Earn $50 as a statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card in the first 3 months. $0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95. Terms & restrictions apply.
You can see the full Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express review here to see what else this card has to offer.
United MileagePlus® Explorer Card, issued by JPMorgan Chase (JPM), lets you check your first bag for free and that of another companion on the same reservation. This saves you $50 per person on a round trip. This card also offers lots of bonus miles if you spend more than a certain amount with it. For example, you will receive 30,000 bonus miles if you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months of card membership. You can earn 10,000 bonus miles every year when you spend $25,000 in net purchases made with this card. You can even earn an additional 5,000 bonus miles if you add another authorized cardholder to your account and make a purchase within the first 3 months of opening your account. When purchasing United air tickets through the airlines website, you will earn double (2) miles on every $1 you spend and 1 mile for every $1 spent on other eligible purchases. There is no limit to the amount of miles you can earn and accumulate, so the more you spend using your United MileagePlus Explorer Card, the more you earn.
This card has many other perks such as travel accident insurance and lost luggage reimbursement, you can find out more in our United MileagePlus® Explorer Card review here.
Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard®, a partner card issued by Citi in conjunction with American Airlines. As a primary cardholder, when purchasing plane tickets with your card on an American Airlines flight, you will get your first eligible checked bag for free as well as the first checked bag of up to 4 people on your reservation. So, if you purchase 4 round trips with this card on an American Airlines flight, you will be saving $200! As a limited time offer you will also earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of opening your card account. You will also earn 10% of your redeemed AAdvantage® miles back - up to 10,000 AAdvantage® miles per calendar year. You can earn double AAdvantage® miles for each $1 you spend on eligible American Airlines purchases. On all your other purchases, you will earn 1 AAdvantage® mile for every $1 spent on this card. This cards $95 annual fee is waived for the first 12 months.
Read our Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® review to see all the pros and cons of this card.
Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card. With Southwest your first and second checked-bag are free with Bags Fly Free® (there are weight and size restrictions so make sure to read the full terms and conditions), but this card still has some great benefits so we included it! New sign-ups can earn 25,000 bonus points after making $1,000 of purchases with this card within the first 3 months of account opening. Earn 2 points per $1 spent on net purchases made directly with Southwest Airlines and on purchases you make from participating hotel and car rental partners. You will earn 1 point per $1 on other net purchases. Receive 6,000 points after each annual cardmembership anniversary. Chip technology makes it easy to use your card outside of the US. This card comes with a $99 annual fee.
Find out more in our Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card review.
So, as you can see, using a frequent flyer credit card to purchase your plane tickets can help you save a lot of money on your checked baggage. The only downside to these cards is that they are airline specific and made for people who tend to fly frequently with the same airline. Click here to see the full list of airline credit card offers on GET.com. If you are not faithful to any specific airline and prefer cards that offer flexibility as well as miles, points and travel rewards, check some of our highly rated travel credit cards.
Ivan Daniel is a writer at GET.com, a personal finance website. Email: firstname.lastname@example.orgEditorial Disclosure: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of the companies mentioned, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.