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9 Tips to Save on Baggage Fees

June 13, 2015
5 min read
Luggage featured
9 Tips to Save on Baggage Fees
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Baggage fees can add up quickly — if you're not careful, you can wind up with a big bill at check-in. Today, TPG Contributor Matthew Zuzolo looks at some tricks to take a load off your mind and save on extra baggage fees.

1. Get a credit card with related benefits. There are a few credit cards available that offer annual airline fee credits to help cover the fees associated with checking your bag. The Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express, for example, offers a $100 credit for your selected airline per year, while the Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express lets you check the first bag for free. Other airline cards, such as the Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite MasterCard and the United MileagePlus Explorer Card get you a free checked bag as well. The information for the Citi AAdvantage Platinum card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

2. Aim for elite status in frequent flyer programs. The possibility of having fees waived (and sometimes even the opportunity to bring more than one bag) is just one reason to maintain elite status with an airline loyalty program such as American’s AAdvantage, which includes one, two or three free checked bags with every flight for Gold, Platinum and Executive Platinum members, respectively.

Keeping baggage with you is always a money-saver.

3. Carry on your luggage. Many airlines allow passengers to have a carry-on and a personal item (which can often just be another bag) completely free of charge. Note that some airlines, including Frontier and Spirit, often charge travelers for carry-on items.

Southwest lets each passenger check two bags for free.

4. Choose the right airline. Baggage prices can vary pretty drastically between carriers. Most major carriers charge about $50 for additional bags, but there are still some opportunities to save. Southwest even lets each passenger check two bags for free. Airline policies seem to change often, so educate yourself before booking to ensure you're aware of all relevant fees. For example, JetBlue used to offer a free bag, but started charging late last year.

5. Ship items in advance. While the vast majority of travelers prefer to manage their luggage the traditional way, there are a number of services that will ship your luggage to your destination. One example is BagsVIP, a service which will send a company representative to meet you at the airport to pick up your luggage and have it shipped to your hotel and waiting for you within four hours of your arrival.

6. Plan ahead. Travelers have many tools at their disposal to maximize their savings on baggage fees:

  • Evenly distribute weight throughout luggage
  • Weigh bags at home to ensure it meets weight limits
  • Wear or carry bulky and heavy items on the plane
  • Pre-check your bag at home and avoid fees at the airport

7. Buy an upgraded seat. Most airlines offer benefits for passengers buying an upgraded seat. These often range from a free drink to a free bag, or more depending on the package. On some flights where the upgrade isn’t much more expensive, it might be a valuable offer, especially if a free bag is included.

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Too much junk in the trunk? Time to invest in some lightweight luggage. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

8. Buy lightweight luggage. A few pounds make all the difference when it comes to airline weight limits. Even expensive bags can weigh about 10 pounds or more. For heavy-packing travelers, it might be worthwhile to invest in ultra-light bags to avoid overweight fees.

9. Check your bag at the gate. Airlines will often provide the option to gate-check bags that would otherwise need to be formally checked. While this isn’t always ideal (bags checked at the gate will usually be retrieved at your final destination’s baggage claim), it’s a good way to avoid the surcharge.

See other useful posts for more tips on how to save:

Comparing Airline Checked Bag Fees To Baggage Shipping Services
How to Avoid Checked Baggage Fees on Major Domestic Carriers
JetBlue Adds Checked Bag Fees and More Seats, Loses Legroom
The New Frontier of Airline Fees: Overhead Bin Space and Seat Assignments
Top Airline Credit Cards that Waive Checked Bags Fees
United and Hawaiian Launch New Self Service Baggage Options

Have your own tips to save on extra baggage fees? Please share them with us in the comments below!