United Airlines baggage fees: how they work, how to avoid them

As airlines have started offering cheaper base economy fares, baggage and other incidental charges are helping to make up the difference in their bottom line. If those fees put you down, don’t worry – we’ve researched United’s checked baggage fees to help you understand what to expect and how to avoid them altogether.

United Airlines checked baggage fees

United’s checked baggage fees vary by destination and class of travel. Unless elite status or co-branded credit card exemptions, economy class passengers can expect to pay $ 30 for the first checked baggage on domestic flights and $ 40 for the second. Business and First Class passengers receive up to two checked bags free of charge.

On international routes, economy class passengers usually receive one or two free checked bags depending on the destination. If you are traveling in basic economy, the first checked bag will cost you $ 60 and the second $ 100.

How to Determine Checked Baggage Charges on United Airlines

United Airlines has its own baggage cost calculator, where you can enter a destination, travel date, cabin class, credit card, and Elite memberships to determine checked baggage charges.

You can compare checked baggage fees between multiple airlines using the calculator below. This is especially useful if you plan to book basic economy tickets and want to understand how the other fees could add up.

Note that this calculator only applies to national routes; international baggage fees are more complicated.

How to Avoid Checked Baggage Charges on United Airlines

Free checked baggage for premium cabin travelers

You can avoid United checked baggage fees by paying more to travel in premium economy, business, or first class. Passengers in these cabins receive two pieces of checked baggage free of charge on domestic flights.

If you plan to check in two pieces of baggage, it is definitely worth comparing Economy Fares and Premium Economy Fares to determine if the difference in price is worth the free baggage allowance.

Free checked baggage for Elite members

United MileagePlus Elite members receive up to three free checked bags, depending on destination and cabin class. Below is a breakdown of the free checked baggage benefit for those with MileagePlus status:

United Premier Silver

  • Free checked baggage when traveling within the continental United States or to Alaska, Hawaii, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central America.

  • Two free checked bags when traveling between the United States and South America, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

  • One free checked baggage (in addition to the standard allowance) for all other economy class travel, including Asia and Micronesia.

  • Three pieces of checked baggage when traveling in Business Class, First Class or United Polaris.

United Premier Gold

  • Two free checked bags when traveling to the continental United States or to Alaska, Hawaii, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central America.

  • Three free checked bags when traveling between the United States and South America, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

  • One free checked baggage (in addition to the standard allowance) for all other economy class travel, including Asia and Micronesia.

  • Three pieces of checked baggage when traveling in Business Class, First Class or United Polaris.

United Premier Platinum and Premier 1K

  • Three free checked bags when traveling within the continental United States or to Alaska, Hawaii, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central America.

  • Three free checked bags when traveling between the United States and South America, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

  • One free checked baggage (in addition to the standard allowance) for all other economy class travel, including within Asia and Micronesia.

  • Three pieces of checked baggage when traveling in Business Class, First Class or United Polaris.

Free checked baggage for military personnel

Active-duty U.S. military personnel and their accompanying dependents are entitled to free checked baggage when traveling on United Airlines. Up to five pieces of luggage can be checked in for official business travel and three pieces of luggage for personal travel.

This benefit also applies to dependents when traveling without the member for relocation or on official order.

Credit cards including free checked baggage on United Airlines

Through a partnership with Chase, United offers four co-branded credit cards that offer free checked baggage benefits. The four-card benefit applies to the primary cardholder and a travel companion booked on the same booking. It is also only valid on flights operated by United, and cardholders must add their MileagePlus number to the booking and pay for it using one of the eligible credit cards:

  • United Explorer Card℠ (annual rate: $ 0 introductory the first year, then $ 95): One free piece of checked baggage for the primary cardholder and one companion traveling on the same reservation.

  • United Club Infinite Card℠ (annual rate: $ 525): Two free checked bags for the primary cardholder and one accompanying person traveling on the same reservation.

  • United business card℠ (annual rate: $ 0 introductory the first year, then $ 99): One free piece of checked baggage for the cardholder and one travel companion on the same reservation.

  • United Club business card℠ (annual rate: $ 450): Two free checked bags for the primary cardholder and one accompanying person traveling on the same reservation.

Credit cards covering airline incidental charges

To redeem airfare credits through American Express, you will need to designate United as your airline of choice each year. You will then receive a credit on your statement when you pay for checked baggage (or other incidental airline charges) with one of these credit cards.

If that seems too restrictive to you, you can opt for the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, which comes with an annual travel credit of $ 300 applicable to all travel purchases. the Citi Prestige® Card offers a lower annual credit of $ 250, which can also be applied to any travel purchase. Both of these cards provide more flexibility for when you need to check baggage with an airline other than United.

Information relating to the Citi Prestige® Card and United Club℠ Business Card was collected by NerdWallet and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of this product or service.

How to Maximize Your Rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our choices for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those that are best suited:


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