Christa Geraghty | 

How to Skip American Airlines Baggage Fees & Save More

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Let’s be real: American Airlines baggage fees aren’t the greatest. Depending on the number of bags you have the fees can run you up to $420+. Here’s a breakdown of American Airlines’ baggage fees (as of June 7, 2023) for domestic flights plus those within and between Canada, Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands:

Basic economy and main cabin

  • 1st bag: $30
  • 2nd bag: $40 ($70 total)

All cabin classes

  • 3rd bag: $150 ($220 total)
  • 4+ bags: $200 each ($420+ total)

If your bag is overweight or oversized, you’ll pay an extra $100 – $200 on top of the normal fee for that bag. Yikes.

But do you get a free checked bag with American Airlines? It depends — on several factors like your seating, rewards level, where you’re flying and military status.

On top of their bag fees, American Airlines isn’t known for being the cheapest airline overall. Even their change fees and cancellation policies aren’t all that great. No worries though, because we still have tips and tricks to share to make sure you don’t overpay. We’ll tell you how to get free checked bags, find low fares, earn AAdvantage miles, and dodge unnecessary fees.

Then, if you want to find more great ways to save on your next vacation, check out KCL’s travel tips.

Download the Krazy Coupon Lady app for more money-saving tips, deals, and coupons, or text HACKS to 57299.

 

23 Ways to Save on American Airlines Baggage Fees and More

Carry-on bags in the storage compartment above the seats on an American Airlines plane

1. Save up to $220 in baggage fees based on your status level.

You can receive complimentary bags on American Airlines based on your AAdvantage or Oneworld status level at time of ticketing or check-in.

1st checked bag is free for:

  • Eligible AAdvantage Aviator and Citi/AAdvantage cardholders (on domestic AA flights)
  • AAdvantage Gold members
  • Oneworld Ruby members

In addition to traveling within North America, it also applies to certain destinations, including Argentina, Australia, Japan, New Zealand, and Panama. This free bag offer is not available for Basic Economy tickets.

1st and 2nd checked bags are free for:

  • AAdvantage Platinum
  • Oneworld Sapphire members
  • TrueBlue Mosaic members
  • Domestic First customers
  • Business customers
  • Premium Economy customers

1st, 2nd and 3rd checked bags are free for:

  • Flagship First (International and Transcontinental) and Flagship Business Plus customers
  • AAdvantage Executive Platinum
  • AAdvantage Platinum Pro
  • Oneworld Emerald

AAdvantage Executive Platinum, Platinum Pro, and Oneworld Emerald members that travel in Flagship First can get a 4th bag free as well ($420 in savings).

 

2. Active U.S. military and dependents get up to 5 free checked bags per ticket on domestic and international flights.

American Airlines baggage handlers

Yep, you get a free checked bag with American Airlines if you’re a military member or a dependent. According to the American Airlines baggage policy, active U.S. military with an ID can check up to three bags for free if they’re traveling for personal reasons.

Active military and/or their families with ID traveling on orders receive five free checked bags per ticket. Normally, it would cost $620 to check those five bags.

 

3. American Airlines baggage fees are $30 for a checked bag — instead, keep calm and carry-on.

With American Airlines charging $30 for your first checked bag and more for additional bags, fit what you need in a standard-sized carry-on (22 x 14 x 9 inches) and avoid the baggage fees altogether.

You also get a free “personal item” like a purse or laptop bag to store under the seat in front of you. Between those two bags, I’m usually able to bring about a week’s worth of necessities without paying any extra or waiting at baggage claim.

 

4. Earn rewards points on your ticket purchases with the American Airlines AAdvantage program.

american airplanes

When you sign up for the free AAdvantage loyalty program, you earn “miles” that’ll help you buy a future flight (on American or one of the 12 Oneworld Alliance partners and 10 other airlines).

Although they’re called miles, they really should just be called points, since they actually have nothing to do with the distance you travel. You earn them based on how much you spend on flights. Basic AAdvantage miles members earn 5 miles per $1 spent on base fares. And like we’ll talk about in a second, you can redeem your miles to pay for future flights, and each mile is worth about $0.015.

 

5. AAdvantage members get 7.5% cash back to use on future flights.

When you’re ready to redeem your AAdvantage miles on a new flight, keep in mind that each mile is worth about $0.015, on average. If you want to buy a ticket that would normally cost you $120, you’d have to use roughly 8,000 miles.

Let’s do a little math:

  • AAdvantage miles are worth about $0.015 each.
  • Every $1 you spend with American gets you 5 AAdvantage miles. (Basic Economy earns 2 miles per dollar.)
  • $0.015 x 5 = $0.075
  • Therefore, every $1 you spend gets you the equivalent of $0.075 in future credit — 7.5% cash back.

The point cost per flight varies with the date of travel, destination, ticket class, and time of day you travel. As long as you don’t go 24 months without earning or spending miles, they never expire.

 

6. The American Airlines daily deals page rivals Southwest Airlines’ prices.

A laptop display the American Airlines daily deals page

The American Airlines daily deals page shows you the cheapest flash sale tickets they have available, which is perfect if you’re not too picky about when and where you’re flying.

The listings on the deals page rotate daily, and they have predetermined destinations and dates of travel. Most destinations are major cities like New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, or Miami.

Recently, I saw a four-day round-trip ticket from Philadelphia to Orlando for as low as $138. I’ve also seen round-trip tickets from Dallas to Chicago for $178. The average price of a round-trip ticket is around $230 on American Airlines, and they rarely go over $300. So these are legit deals that rival even Southwest. And like you may expect, they sell out quickly.

 

7. Sunday is the most expensive day of the week to fly on American Airlines.

It’s generally a good rule of thumb to avoid flying on Fridays, Sundays, and Mondays — because demand is highest at the end of a week (or the beginning of a new one).

Although there are a LOT of variables when it comes to pricing flights on American Airlines, one thing stays the same: Sunday is the most expensive day of the week to fly. Below I’ve got two examples of one-way flight costs.

Boise to Denver in late March:

  • Tuesday: $167
  • Friday: $270
  • Saturday: $239
  • Sunday: $270

Orlando to Dallas-Fort Worth in late March:

  • Tuesday: $170
  • Thursday: $168
  • Friday: $168
  • Sunday: $178
  • Monday: $168

 

8. Save up to 5% when you book your flight on a Sunday (not fly on a Sunday — that’s different).

Woman sitting on a couch with her laptop on her lap while online shopping.

While in the past, checking for cheap flights on Tuesdays was a given, things have changed. According to Expedia’s 2023 Air Travel Hacks Report, Sunday is now the best day of the week to go online and book cheaper flights. We’re talking about savings of 5% for domestic and 15% for international.

Related: Check out the best times to book flights by airline.

 

9. Basic economy is the cheapest ticket type — but you’ll have to pay extra to pick your seat.

Basic economy is the cheapest American Airlines fare for a reason. You can’t change, cancel, or get a refund on these ticket types.

Carry-ons are free, and these flights will earn you AAdvantage miles, but you won’t be able to pick your seat unless you pay anywhere from $9 up to $40+ extra per person, per flight (or have an AAdvantage Elite Status). Per government rules, American Airlines will seat children under 15 with an accompanying adult at no extra charge, as long as all passengers are booked under the same reservation and there are seats available.

 

10. Earning AAdvantage Elite Status is much easier now — and you’ll get lots of complimentary upgrades.

man standing next to american airline sign

Earning AAdvantage Elite Status used to be really complicated. . . but starting in 2022, American Airlines made things easier.

The name of the game is loyalty points, and you get a loyalty point for every AAdvantage mile you earn. And you have between March 1 of the current year and Feb. 28 of the next year to qualify.

Here’s a look at each AAdvantage tier:

AAdvantage Gold Status

  • 40,000 loyalty points to qualify
  • 40% extra bonus miles/loyalty points once you qualify
  • Perks include: 1 free checked bag, free main cabin upgrade ($20 value), free preferred seating, Group 4 boarding & more

AAdvantage Platinum Status

  • 75,000 loyalty points to qualify
  • 60% extra bonus miles/loyalty points once you qualify
  • Perks include: 2 free checked bags, free automatic upgrade to main cabin extra, free preferred seating, Group 3 boarding & more

AAdvantage Platinum Pro Status

  • 125,000 loyalty points to qualify
  • 80% extra bonus miles/loyalty points once you qualify
  • Perks include: 3 free checked bags, complimentary upgrades, priority lanes at check-in/security, Group 2 boarding & more

AAdvantage Executive Platinum Status

  • 200,000 loyalty points to qualify
  • 120% extra bonus miles/loyalty points once you qualify
  • Perks include: 3 free checked bags, Group 1 boarding, Admiral’s Club membership, free food/drink in main cabin & more

 

11. Earn miles faster and get a free checked bag with the American Airlines credit card.

Someone holding an American Airlines Aadvantage credit card

If you want to earn AAdvantage miles faster (and keep them, like, forever), you’ll want to sign up for the AAdvantage Citi credit card. That’s because it gets you some good perks.

  • 50,000 bonus miles when you spend $2,500 in the first three months of having the card
  • No fee for your first checked bag; the same goes for up to four of your travel companions
  • AAdvantage miles that never expire as long as you have the card
  • Boarding before the Main Cabin on American Airlines flights
  • 25% off in-flight food and beverages when you use your card
  • An extra two miles per $1 spent (that means a minimum of seven miles per $1 spent)
  • Two miles per $1 spent at restaurants and gas stations; one mile per $1 spent everywhere else

Back in 2018, I got the AAdvantage credit card and used it to buy a $2,800 round-trip ticket to and from India. I earned 19,600 miles for that, then received the 50,000 bonus miles for spending $2,500+ in the first three months.

Those 69,600 miles were enough to buy me a free one-way flight to see family for Christmas that year (but I did have to pay for my return flight).

 

12. Earn and use miles from partner airlines on your American Airlines flights (and vice versa).

A little girl with Minnie Mouse ears looks out the window at the airport at Alaskan airlines.

American Airlines is part of the Oneworld Alliance, a collection of airlines across the globe that allow points to be earned and redeemed between the partners. The 13 Oneworld partners include:

  • Alaska Airlines
  • American Airlines
  • British Airways
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Finnair
  • Iberia
  • Japan Airlines
  • Malaysia Airlines
  • Qantas
  • Qatar Airways
  • Royal Air Maroc
  • Royal Jordanian
  • Sri Lankan Airlines

You can also earn miles toward your American Airlines flights by flying with any of their 10 non-alliance partners (like JetBlue, Cape Air, and Hawaiian Airlines).

Use AA.com if you want to book an American Airlines “award flight” with your miles, and visit their partner page if you want to book an “award flight” with one of those airlines.

 

13. Don’t ever buy miles unless you need a few more to get a free flight.

If you’re close to having enough miles for a free flight, you can buy AAdvantage miles to bridge the gap. But don’t buy miles to pay for an entire flight; it’s way too expensive.

For example, if you’re 5,000 miles away from a free flight, it’ll cost you around $188 to buy those miles outright. The lowest one-way cost of a flight is 20,000 miles. If you were to buy 20,000 miles, you’d pay almost $750 — way more than the actual price of the flight.

You can also gift and transfer miles between AAdvantage members — but miles that have been purchased or transferred to you don’t count toward your AAdvantage Elite Status qualification. You can purchase (or receive as a gift) up to 150,000 miles in a calendar year.

 

14. You can redeem your AAdvantage miles on hotels and rental cars — but don’t.

budget line

The site useaamiles.com has a bunch of different things you can spend your miles on. While it’s nice to have options, your points are best spent on airfare.

A mile is worth about $0.015 – $0.017 on average when you purchase airfare with them, but the exchange rate is significantly worse (sometimes less than a penny!) on other purchases. Here’s what I found:

  • A two-night stay at The Venetian Resort in Las Vegas: $0.01 (67,700 miles, reg. $677.12)
  • A two-night stay at The Manhattan at Times Square hotel: $0.009 (49,800 miles, reg. $452.68)
  • Two days of an Economy-rated rental car from Dollar: $0.008 (13,600 miles + $48.96 fee, reg. $162.30)

 

15. Cancel your American Airlines flight within 24 hours of booking and get a refund.

Empty gate desk at gate B9 at the airport

You can cancel your flight within 24 hours of booking and get a refund, NO matter what type of ticket you have, Basic Economy, or non-refundable.

Under the American Airlines refund policy, you should get your money back if you actually cancel the trip and you did not book your flight through a group block. If you booked your flight through a travel agency, you’ll have to deal with them, not American Airlines.

For non-refundable tickets, you can apply any unused value toward a future flight providing it’s no later than one year from your original ticket’s issue date.

What about bag fees or other services or products you paid for?

You can get a refund for the following fees, provided you didn’t use them on another flight:

  • Bag fees if you paid for them at the airport
  • Pet fees
  • Priority boarding
  • Same-day flight change or standby

If American Airlines cancels your flight or you miss a flight due to a delay of your connecting flight, they will rebook you on the next flight with available seats free of charge.

Related: See what each airline owes you as compensation for delayed or canceled flights.

 

 

16. You can change your flight for free before the day of travel unless you bought Basic Economy.

You’ll still have to pay any difference in fare, or if the new ticket is cheaper, you’ll receive travel funds in your account that can be used for future flights.

If you do need to change the day of, you’ll pay anywhere from $75 to $150 in change fees, plus the difference in fares.

 

17. Children under 2 fly for free if they sit in a lap.

Baby on lap on airplane

Babies fly free with American Airlines if they’re under 2 years old, and if they don’t require their own seat — it’s laps only.

Instead of a boarding pass, you’ll receive a boarding verification document for babies under 2. Once you’ve purchased your ticket, you’ll need to add the infant to your reservation using AA.com.

If you’re traveling with kids under 2, you can request early boarding at the gate.

TIP: When traveling internationally with a child under two, you may have to pay a reduced fare instead of getting their ticket for free.

 

18. The cheapest way to fly with your pet is in a carry-on kennel.

pet taxi kennel

If you have a fully trained service dog, American will let the animal fly in the cabin at no charge if they meet the requirements. (The service dog has to sit at the floor space in front of the passenger’s seat.)

Otherwise, flying with a pet on American Airlines is gonna cost you. If you bring Fido on the plane in a carry-on, you’ll be charged $125 per kennel. If you put your pet in the cargo hold, prices start at $290 each way for dogs 25 pounds or lighter (and the fees only go up from there).

Active-duty military and State Department personnel pay $200 per checked kennel, instead of the usual $290 — a 31% discount.

 

19. Bring your own snacks; American Airlines’ options are slim.

A girl sits in an airplane with a Mini mouse doll and snacks on her tray table.

American Airlines gives you complimentary non-alcoholic beverages on all flights (you’ll have to request it on flights shorter than 250 miles), as well as complimentary snacks. But your only options are Biscoff cookies or pretzels.

So, make sure to pack a snack or buy something at the terminal to save yourself from hunger pangs — especially when traveling with kids.

Related: Wanna make your next trip easier? Our air travel tips will give you insider hacks to save time, money, and sanity when you travel with your family.

 

20. Download the American Airlines app BEFORE you board for free in-flight entertainment.

Someone about to download the American Airlines app

On most flights, American Airlines offers free streaming from their library of movies, shows, music, and more through the American Airlines app. But once you’re on the plane, it’s too late to download it — so make sure you download the app nice and early.

The app also lets you preorder food, change and check your flight, track your bags, and get trip notifications. (There aren’t any special deals exclusive to the app, however.)

 

 

21. Raise.com sells discounted American Airlines gift cards.

A person holding a cell phone with the Raise app in front of a wall display of physical gift cards.

Raise.com sells discounted American Airlines gift cards, which means you pay less than they’re worth. Instant discount.

We only saw discounts of up to 4% cashback — not huge — but if you’re a brand new Raise customer, they offer an extra discount of 15% or $20 (whichever is less) on your first order.

 

22. Veterans Advantage members (and their families) get up to 10% off American Airlines flights all year.

American Airlines flights with military personnel

We’re constantly watching for the best military discounts. An easy way to get loads of them is to enroll in the Veterans Advantage VetRewards program ($9.99/month, $59.95/year, $149.95 for three years, or $199.95 for five years).

If you’re a military member that flies often Veterans Advantage can save you 10% off domestic and international flights every day, all year, which could add up to thousand of dollars in savings over time.

 

23. Earn thousands of bonus miles when you book a vacation package through American Airlines.

family taking luggage out the door

The American Airlines vacation deals page sells flights, hotels, car rentals, entertainment, and even cruises. Every month or so, they roll out a new special, like savings on family getaways. For example, we recently found up to 40% off Universal Orland Resort Hotels through the site.

In addition to the discount, you can get other benefits like Universal Express Unlimited ride access, so you can line jump at various rides. You must book that offer by Dec. 31, 2023.

Now, these deals aren’t always the best way to save money. You’ll want to compare the cost of buying components separately versus what the vacation “deals” are offering. But you could earn thousands of extra AAdvantage miles.

There are always at least a couple of packages on their landing page that offer 10,000 – 25,000 bonus miles, and many times those packages come with extras such as free breakfast, spa credits, free nights, and resort credits.

 

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