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How to Avoid Baggage Fees on United Airlines

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MileagePlus elite members score free baggage allowance on United Airlines flights, but that’s not the only way to avoid these onerous checked bag fees. Let’s take a look at the ways you can save money by getting your bag checked for free on your next United flight.

How Much Does a Checked Bag Cost?

If you don’t have elite status on United Airlines and you aren’t an active member of the U.S. military or a Chase/United-branded credit-card holder, you may need to pay to check your bags. Visit United’s online baggage service charge calculator, which will tell you exactly how much your checked bags will cost on any specific flight.

United elite members can check up to three bags for free depending on status

The chart below lists checked bag fees. The fee is per bag, each way.

Region/CabinBag 1Bag 2Maximum Bag SizeMaximum Bag Weight
Domestic/Economy$30$4062 inches50 pounds
Domestic/First/Global First$0$062 inches70 pounds
Domestic/Business/Business First$0$062 inches70 pounds
International/Economy$0$10062 inches50 pounds
International/First/Global First$0$062 inches70 pounds
International/Business/Business First$0$062 inches70 pounds

How Many Bags Can You Check for Free?

Some individuals, like those with elite status with United or active U.S. military and their dependents, get some complimentary checked bags. The chart below lays out who gets what.

 # of Free Checked BagsMaximum Bag Size Maximum Weight of Bag
Premier Silver162 inches50 pounds
Premier Gold2*62 inches70 pounds
Premier Platinum362 inches70 pounds
Premier 1K362 inches70 pounds
Active military and dependents, personal travel362 inches70 pounds
Active military and dependents, official business and flying economy4115 inches70 pounds
Active military and dependents, official business or first5115 inches70 pounds

* For all united economy tickets issued after February 1, 2015, Premier Gold members are eligible for two free checked bags (70 pounds each) for travel between the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. For travel to and from select international markets, Premier Gold members are eligible for three complimentary checked bags at 70 pounds each.

Can You Avoid Baggage Fees?

So if you’re flying United and you don’t have elite status and you’re not an active member of the U.S. military, is there any way to avoid checked bag fees? Yes! Here’s how:

Branded Credit Card Holders: Certain United Airlines-branded credit cards offer some complimentary baggage allowance. If you have the Chase United℠ Explorer Card or the Chase United℠ Explorer Business Card, you (the primary cardmember) and one companion on the same reservation can each check one bag for free on United-operated flights—as long as you pay for that flight with your Explorer Card. (Other nice perks of this card include priority boarding and two complimentary United Club passes each year that you hold the card. There is no annual fee during the first year you hold the card and then it’s $95 per year.)

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The Chase MileagePlus Club card also offers free bags, namely your first and second checked bags are free. Cardmembers also get a complimentary United Club membership and Premier Access services but the card’s annual cost is high at $450.

Check Your Bag at the Gate: Like other airlines, United will sometimes offer free checked bags at the gate when a flight is sold out. You’ll just give your bag(s) to the gate agent who will check your luggage through to your final destination for free. This is a gamble though. The flight might not be full and the airline might not offer this perk.

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