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How To Avoid Paying Checked Baggage Service Fees On United Airlines

Planning your holiday or business trip is easy. But, when it comes to packing checked baggage for your flight, this can become a little more difficult. Airlines generally issue certain regulations to its passengers, among which, one such is with regard to checked baggage and carry-on items that are and are not allowed on flights. Thus, like many airlines, United too, has its own permissible rules and the fees involved for such items. Read more to know how to avoid paying checked baggage service fees on United Airlines

To help you with the packing process, we have gathered all the important details about checking bags in one place and ease your expenditure.

Service Fees Charged for Checking Baggage

There are a lot of factors that go in to how many bags you can check at the airport, prior to boarding your flight. These include things like where you are flying to or your MileagePlus Premier status, etc. Like most other airlines, United Airlines, being one of the oldest and major commercial airliners in the U.S., issued its revised checked and carry-on baggage service fees back in August 2018. However, it has also made a change recently, i.e. in early 2020.

Their new policy states that you must pay your checked baggage fees in advance online to lock in the price of $30 for your first bag and $40 for your second bag on domestic flights and flights between the U.S. and the Caribbean or most of Central America. If you are an elite member of United’s MileagePlus program or an active U.S. military personnel and close dependent, you are exempt from paying fees for checked baggage or carry-on items on the flight.

Now, instead of publishing a complex series of price lists with the various regions and corresponding baggage fees, the airline carrier has provided two simple ways to their passengers that allow them to check how much service fees they will be required to pay for their baggage. You may also visit United’s Checked Baggage page on their website and either log in to your “MileagePlus” account or click the “Any Flights” tab to search for the applicable fees based on your cities of origin and destination. This even includes a drop-down menu where you can indicate whether you fall into any of the groups that would be entitled to free checked bags.

How to Avoid Paying Checked Baggage Service Fees On United Airlines

Let us now take a look at the ways through which you can, perhaps, save money by having your travel baggage checked for free at the airport on your current and future flights with United Airlines.

(a) Opt for MileagePlus Premier Program

As you may know that United’s MileagePlus program basically consists of four elite tiers, all of which offer checked baggage benefits to passengers. Their lowest tier is called Premier Silver, which waives service fees for the first checked baggage up to 50 pounds (kg) for the main traveller and up to nine travel companions.

Their Premier Gold tier members can have maximum two bags of up to 70 pounds (32 kg) per item checked when travelling in economy class within or between the U.S., Canada, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. While, on all other international flights, you can have maximum three bags of up to 70 pounds per item checked. Also, their Premier Platinum and Premier 1K tier members can avail the same checked baggage privileges as that of the previous two tiers.

(b) Use Credit Card

There are four different United credit cards that include checked baggage benefits for passengers. The United Explorer Card and United Business Card gives passengers the benefit of having their first checked baggage free of cost. This is for the primary cardholder and one companion travelling on the same reservation. The other two credit cards, the United Club Infinite Card and United Club Business Card gives passengers the benefit of having both their first and second checked baggages free of cost. This is also both for the primary cardholder and one companion travelling on the same reservation.

However, there are a few critical downsides to these benefits. One downside is that unlike many other commercial airlines, you are required to purchase your flight ticket with the applicable United card and it must still be valid at check-in for the benefit to be applicable. Another downside is that if you use a different card (other than United card) that gives you a better return on airfare purchases, or if you cancel the card sometime between booking and check-in, then you will be compelled to pay the applicable service fee for the baggage.

(c) Buy a Premium Ticket

If you are seated in a short-haul first class or long-haul premium economy or business class, you are pretty much allowed to carry two bags weighing not more than 70 pounds (32 kg) per item with no fees charged. You can use the United website’s baggage fee calculator or you can simply log in to your MileagePlus account to see exactly what you will need to pay on the applicable itinerary.

(d) Special Circumstances/Destinations

United provides a couple of exceptions to passengers with regard to the checked baggage policies. These are stated as under:

  • You can check one wheelchair or other assistive device at no additional charge.
  • If travelling with an infant or child, you can check one stroller and one car seat free of charge.
  • Active U.S. military personnel with official travel orders can check five bags weighing up to 100 pounds (45 kg) per bag for free, and this extends to their dependents as well, even if they are not travelling together. Additionally, active military personnels travelling for leisure can check maximum of three bags weighing up to 70 pounds without fees; their dependents can, as well, but for personal travel they must be on the same reservation.

The details mentioned above only applies to specific airline carriers. So, keep in mind that a United credit card is not going to help you when it comes to flying on another airline, for example, Delta airlines, Frontier etc.

However, many people may have a few questions, like what if you do not choose a preferred carrier and simply book whatever airline is the most convenient or least expensive? Or, is there any other way to avoid checked baggage fees across more than one airline or without opening that airline’s credit card? The answers to such questions may vary due to the fact that different airline carriers generally contain similar or distinct carry-on baggage policies. Thus, we advise you to go through your airline’s baggage policy before booking your reservation.

Other Things Worth Considering

Here are a couple of general suggestions which you can use to easily minimise the certainty of having to pay checked baggage fees:

Use the Right Credit Card

In relation to the co-branded airline cards that are mentioned above, there are also a few of the best travel credit cards available, which offer credits to travellers that can significantly cover checked baggage fees when you incur such costs.

Given below are a few simple examples to help you cope with avoiding or minimising checked baggage fees:

(i) Chase Sapphire Reserve: Generally, Sapphire Reserve cardholders receive a travel credit of $300 each calendar year that is applied to virtually any travel-related purchase. This also includes checked baggage fees. Thus, any eligible purchase will be automatically credited back to you within a day or two of posting to your account.

(ii) American Express (Amex) Platinum Card: The American Express Platinum Card offers cardholders up to $200 credit for annual airline fee that also covers incidentals, like seat assignments, lounge pass, checked baggage fees and more. However, the only drawback here is that you are required to designate a single airline. This means that you cannot use this credit card across multiple airline carriers to avail the necessary benefits.

(iii) Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express: The American Express Hilton Aspire Card offers credit that travellers can use for an airline fee credit. This credit card from Amex works just like the Platinum Credit Card, which is also offered by Amex. However, the only difference is with using this credit card is that it has a limit for up to $250, instead of $200 each calendar year. So, if you pair this with the Platinum Credit Card from Amex, you can actually designate two separate airlines, one for each card.

(iv) Premium Rewards Credit Card from Bank of America: If you are unable to bear the hefty annual fee, then you also have an option to apply for a Premium Rewards credit card from Bank of America. The card offers credit of up to $100 annual airline fee that can be used for checked baggage fees, along with a much more reasonable annual fee of $95.

In addition, you could also look to use a card like the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card to pay for checked bag fees. The miles you earn on this card can be redeemed to cover any travel purchase, so you have the opportunity to “erase” these purchases from your statement with your miles.

Keep your Carry-on Baggage  Burden Minimum

A very useful tip to avoid paying fees for checked baggage is to make sure to fit whatever travel items you need in your single carry-on suitcase. Now, as long as it will easily make through the airport security, you should then be able to get your baggage checked at the gate at no additional charge (as long as you are not flying in basic economy seat). With many flights at or near capacity, most gate agents will gladly take bags off your hands if it means fewer travellers trying to stuff roll-aboard into the overhead bins during the boarding process.

For instance, there have been a few situations in the past, where passengers were actually stopped from bringing their rolling suitcases on the plane and were forced to check them at the gate and retrieve them at baggage claim. Such incidents occur usually due to the lack of enough space on the flight. This may not be a terrible thing if you carefully plan to check your baggage anyway.

All that matters is to just be aware that certain airline carriers may impose service fees to passengers for carrying larger baggage that are carried onto the plane. For example, Spirit airlines permits each passenger to bring along a personal carry-on item for free, however, they also charge a $37 to $65 service fee for a standard, rolling carry-on suitcase.

While there are ways to pack your personal items that you can easily carry onboard your flight to evade such restrictions, you should also be aware that their checked baggage service fees are out there.


Thus, checked baggage fees and other incidental charges will likely be in the regulations of airlines, whether we like it or not. On the major U.S. airlines, you will typically be paying certain fees for the privilege of checking a single bag on your one-way or, perhaps, round-trip flight. However, there are many ways which you can adopt to avoid such unwanted service fees. As many such ways are already mentioned above, others may also include using elite status programs offered by your airline, co-branded credit cards or through a special circumstance. There are even some general credit cards that can help minimize the impact of such charges.

If you are only starting out in the world of points and miles, you will want to pay close attention to the checked baggage fees that are issued by the respective airline, as they can be quite costly, especially if your trip includes connecting flights to your destination.

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