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American Airlines baggage fees and how to avoid paying them

May 28, 2022
8 min read
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American Airlines has a fairly comprehensive policy regarding checked baggage fees and carry-on guidelines. As a large domestic airline, the American Airlines baggage policy more closely resembles that of United and Delta than Spirit and Frontier.

In many cases, American Airlines customers will enjoy a free first checked bag or even two. However, that depends on many factors, including where you're flying and whether you have elite status or carry one of the American Airlines credit cards. This guide will cover all the information you need to know about the American Airlines baggage policy.

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American Airlines carry-on guidelines

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

American Airlines is more generous with its carry-on policy than United. Virtually everyone is entitled to bring a full-sized carry-on bag and a personal item onto every flight, even customers who booked an American Airlines basic economy fare.

According to American, a personal item should be no larger than 18 inches by 14 inches by 8 inches and fit underneath the seat in front of a passenger. Examples of personal items are backpacks, purses, briefcases, laptop bags and approved pet carriers.

The maximum size of a carry-on bag allowed on an American Airlines flight is 22 inches by 14 inches by 9 inches.

Related: How to change or cancel an American Airlines flight

American Airlines baggage fees

(Photo by JT Genter/The Points Guy)

The American Airlines checked bag policy is more complex than the airline's carry-on fees. Checked bag fees vary based on what region you're flying to, the weight of your bags, whether you hold a co-branded credit card such as the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® and whether you have AAdvantage elite status.

American Airlines baggage fees for flights within the U.S., Central America and the Caribbean

American Airlines checked bag fees for flights within the U.S., Central America and the Caribbean are pretty straightforward, as you can see in the following table:

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First bagSecond bag
General member$30.$40.
AAdvantage Gold elite memberFree.$40.
AAdvantage Platinum elite memberFree.Free.
AAdvantage Platinum Pro elite memberFree.Free (and third bag free).
AAdvantage Executive Platinum elite memberFree.Free (and third bag free).

The American Airlines baggage weight limit before incurring overweight fees is 50 pounds per bag for economy class passengers and 70 pounds per bag for premium cabin passengers.

The airline has detailed rules for checked bags to Cuba and Haiti on its website.

American Airlines baggage fees for other flights

If your flight takes you outside North America, the American Airlines baggage fees get more expensive. Generally speaking, you can expect:

  • Fees for checked bags on travel to/from South America start at $45 for a first bag and $65 for a second bag.
  • All passengers (except those on basic economy fares) get one free bag for transatlantic and transpacific trips.
  • Fees for a second bag are generally $100, while fees for a third bag or more are $200 per bag.

Overweight and oversized American Airlines baggage fees

American Airlines charges both an overweight and oversize fee, and the fees can add up quickly. The American Airlines baggage weight and oversize fees are as follows:

  • Overweight fee: Starts at $100 per bag for 51 to 70 pounds and starts at $200 per bag for 70 to 100 pounds.
  • Oversized fee: Starts at $200 per bag for 63 to 126 inches, including wheels and handles.

Sports equipment

American Airlines maintains an extensive list of items that you can check. Skis, snowboards, hang gliding equipment, parachutes and many more items can count as a checked bag as long as they meet the overall size and weight requirements.

In most cases, there are no additional fees beyond any applicable checked bag fees. Scuba tanks and windsurfing boards are two notable exceptions where there is a fee regardless of whether you're entitled to any free checked bags.

You can check out the requirements and fees for checking sports equipment on American Airlines' website.

Related: The ultimate guide to flying with sports equipment

How to avoid American Airlines baggage fees

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Luckily, there are several ways you can avoid paying American Airlines baggage fees if you want to check a bag.

Elite status allowances

All four elite status tiers in American Airlines' AAdvantage program offer checked bag benefits.

  • AAdvantage Gold members receive a free first checked bag on all flights for themselves and up to eight traveling companions on the same reservation, up to 50 pounds per bag.
  • AAdvantage Platinum members can check up to two bags for free on all flights for themselves and up to eight traveling companions on the same reservation, up to 50 pounds per bag.
  • AAdvantage Platinum Pro and Executive Platinum members can check three bags of up to 50 pounds apiece on all itineraries for themselves and up to eight companions on the same reservation.

Additionally, Oneworld elite members receive at least their first checked bag free on all American-operated flights.

Related: What is American Airlines elite status worth?

Credit cards

American Airlines has two primary card issues, Barclays and Citi. With various cards across multiple issuers, the checked baggage benefit varies widely based on what credit card you hold.

AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard and Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® holders get a first free checked bag for themselves and up to four traveling companions on domestic flights operated by American.

The information for the AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Meanwhile, the premium Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® comes with a free first checked bag for yourself and up to eight traveling companions on domestic flights operated by American Airlines.

But some American Airlines cards, including the American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card, don't offer any checked baggage benefits.

Related: These 27 credit cards can get you free checked bags

Book a premium cabin

Whether you're flying in domestic first class, international premium economy, international business class or Flagship First, you'll receive an increased baggage allowance. Passengers traveling in a premium cabin will get at least two checked bags for free, while Flagship First customers can check up to their first three bags for free.

Related: Chasing American Airlines elite status? Here are 14 ways to earn Loyalty Points

Use card travel credits to cover fees

Several travel rewards cards come with annual statement credits toward travel purchases. Some cards offer a credit that you can use for various travel purchases, such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve and its $300 annual travel credit.

On the other hand, many American Express cards, like The Platinum Card® from American Express, offer annual airline fee credits, which are specifically for airline incidental fees. So long as you enroll in this benefit and select American as your airline of choice, you can get American Airlines baggage fees reimbursed by the credit.

Bottom line

The American Airlines baggage policy is somewhat less complicated than its competitor United. Where United uses a dynamic tool to help you understand your baggage allowance on certain flights, American Airlines has simpler charts (and rules) for customers.

American provides several ways to avoid checked baggage fees for passengers, and it allows a full-size carry-on bag and a personal item on all tickets.

However, note that free bags are for the first and second checked bag fee and can't be "stacked" on top of each other. For example, an American Airlines AAdvantage Platinum member who also holds the AAdvantage Aviator Red card can't get a total of three free checked bags when traveling domestically, even though they're entitled to two as a Platinum member and one free checked bag with the credit card.

Featured image by Zach Griff/The Points Guy
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
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Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

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  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees