Summer holidays are in full bloom and many Americans are soon to be flying out to their holiday destination. 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 (NYSE:DAL) ranked the highest, earning approximately $192 million in baggage fees during the first quarter of 2013. United (UAL) and US Airways (NYSE: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 2014, the only two big U.S. airline companies that do not charge a baggage fee for checked luggage is JetBlue Airways (first checked in bag free) and Southwest Airlines (which allows you to check in two pieces of luggage for free). But what if you are not traveling on these two airlines, 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.
For example, Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card, issued by American Express (NYSE:AXP), 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 $50 on a round trip. And if you purchase round trip tickets for 9 people, you can save $450 in total! 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 purchases – so, you can even earn miles by paying your household bills with this card! I would recommend this card to people who fly 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 in the first 3 months of card membership!
You can see the full Delta Credit Card review here to see what else this card has to offer.
The United MileagePlus® Explorer Card, issued by JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM), is another card that 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 on purchases made with this card. You can even earn an additional 5,000 bonus miles if you add another 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 2 miles for 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 on 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 credit card review here.
Another great frequent flyer card is Citi® Platinum Select® / AAdvantage® World MasterCard®, issued by Citi (NYSE:C) in conjunction with American Airlines. When purchasing plane tickets with your card on an American Airlines flight, you will get your first 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! You will also receive 30,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles after spending $1,000 within the first 3 months of having this card. If you spend $30,000 on this card per year and you renew your card membership, you will receive a $100 American Airlines flight discount. You will also get 10% bonus miles on the miles you redeem each month – up to 10,000 bonus miles per year. You can earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for each $1 you spend on American Airlines eligible purchases and on your purchases at certain car rental merchants, telecommunications and office supply stores. On all your other purchases, you will earn 1 mile for every $1 spent on this card.
Read our American Airlines credit card review to see all the pros and cons of this card.
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. If you are not faithful to any specific airline and prefer cards that offer flexibility as well as miles, points and travel rewards, check our selection of the best travel credit cards.