A Guide to American Airlines Bag Fees

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American carry-on bags: Guidelines

American Airlines allows travelers to board with one personal item and one carry-on bag for free.

Check the list of American's carry-on restrictions before you pack. If you packed batteries, scissors or self-heating meals, you may have to check them, throw them away or rearrange your luggage. For example, American asks that you remove certain batteries from devices and put them in your carry-on in separate plastic bags.

There are items, such as e-cigarettes, that are allowed in carry-on bags but not in checked bags. Also, remember to put your small liquid toiletries, such as lotion, shampoo and perfume, in a clear, quart-sized zip-top bag.

Here's a closer look at the two types of carry-on bags you can take on an American flight without paying a bag fee.

Personal item

You may bring one personal item, such as a purse or other small bag, that fits under the seat in front of you. The bag can't be any larger than 18" x 14" x 8".

Certain items don't count as personal items or carry-ons. For example, you can board with:

  • One diaper bag per child.
  • Soft-sided cooler bag for breast milk.
  • Medical or mobility devices such as continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines or collapsible walkers.
  • Comfort items such as seat pillows or footrests.

The medical or mobility devices and comfort items may need to be checked if space is limited.

Each ticketed passenger is also allowed one car seat and one stroller that can be checked at the gate for free.

Carry-on bag

You're allowed one carry-on item, which is typically a smaller suitcase or bag that will fit in the overhead bin. Your carry-on bag cannot be larger than 22" x 14" x 9".

Soft-sided garment bags may also be carried on if they are no larger than 51 inches when you account for length, width and height. If your carry-on is larger than allowed, you'll have to check it — and possibly pay a bag fee.

Suitcase Carry-On Requirements AmericanAirlines.com
Screenshot: AA.com on Oct. 31, 2019

American checked bags: Guidelines

Here's a rundown of the checked-bag guidelines and limits on American Airlines if you're traveling with a larger bag or if you just don't want the hassle of carrying a suitcase on the plane.

Number limit

As a general rule, you can check up to 10 bags on domestic, trans-Atlantic and trans-Pacific flights. Trans-Atlantic flights are ones that cross the Atlantic Ocean, while trans-Pacific flights cross the Pacific Ocean, such as to Asia and Australia.

However, if you are traveling to, through or from Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, South America or Brazil, you cannot check more than five bags.

Size and weight limit

Checked bags must not be larger than 62 inches when you add up the dimensions (length, height and width). They cannot weigh more than 50 pounds if you're flying in the main cabin or 70 pounds if you're flying first or business class.

Fees

The standard first-checked-bag fee for an economy flight within the U.S. is $30. But the airline's checked-bag fees vary depending on how many bags you have, the class you're flying and your destination. You'll also pay extra if your bags are oversized or overweight.

See the chart below for more details on American checked-bag fees for different destinations and classes.

How do you pay a checked-bag fee?

You can pay your checked-bag fee online when purchasing your ticket or during the online check-in process. Or, you can pay for your bag at an American Airlines kiosk or service desk at the airport. Some ticket counters accept cash, but be prepared to pay with a card if necessary.

Restricted items

Like carry-on bags, there are restrictions on what you can pack inside checked bags.

For example, if you loaded up during a trip to California wine country or a Kentucky distillery, you can carry up to five liters of alcohol with an alcohol by volume content between 24% and 70% in a checked bag.

If you're headed to cooking school in Italy, you also pack your knives in a checked bag. Some items, such as pepper spray, are not allowed in checked or carry-on luggage.

American Airlines baggage handler moving luggage.
An American Airlines baggage handler moves luggage. (Photo credit: American Airlines)

American checked bags: Fees

In most cases, the first bag is free for premium economy passengers, business and first-class passengers.

For travel …Additional infoFee for 1st checked bag
Within and between U.S., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands$30 for basic economy and main cabin; $0 for other passengers
Between Canada and U.S., Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands$30 for basic economy and main cabin; $0 for other passengers (no premium economy available)
Between Mexico, Caribbean (excluding Cuba and Haiti), Central America and U.S., Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands and Canada or between Mexico, Caribbean (excluding Cuba and Haiti) and Central America1st bag fee is seasonal for San Salvador, El Salvador; no charges for Panama City, Panama, flights$30 for basic economy and main cabin; $0 for other passengers (no premium economy available)
From U.S., Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean (excluding Haiti) to CubaRound-trips originating in the U.S., Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean (including Haiti) get free 1st bag on return flight$30 for main cabin (no basic economy available); $0 for other passengers (no premium economy available)
From Cuba to U.S., Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean (including Haiti)$0 (no basic or premium economy available)
To or from Haiti$0 (no basic or premium economy available)
Between U.S., Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Canada, Mexico, Caribbean (including Haiti), Central America and Guyana$30 for basic economy and main cabin; $0 for other passengers (no premium economy available)
To or from South America (excluding Guyana)Fee of $45 for first bag applies seasonally for Cali, Colombia, flights$0 (no basic economy available)
Between Europe and U.S., Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Canada, Mexico, Caribbean (including Haiti), Central America and South America or connecting via Europe to another destination$75 for basic economy; $0 for other passengers
To or from China, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand$0 (no basic economy available)

The price typically rises for each additional checked bag. To get an idea of the checked-bag fees for additional bags, check this out:

Checked Bag Fees by Location from AmericanAirlines.com
Screenshot: AA.com on Oct. 31, 2019

If you want to know exactly how much you'll pay for a specific itinerary or situation, contact the American Airlines reservations line.

Additional baggage fees and restrictions

Depending on the size and weight, you may still be allowed to bring your bags with you at a cost. These baggage fees can sometimes be heftier than your luggage and may even cost you more than your flight.

Check these charts to learn how much you may pay in overweight and oversized bag fees on American. Keep in mind that fees may vary by route and season.

Overweight bag fees

Region51 to 70 pounds over71 to 100 pounds over
Between U.S., Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands and Canada$100$200
Mexico, Caribbean, Central and South America$100$200 (not accepted to and from Cuba)
Europe (trans-Atlantic)$100Not accepted
China, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Australia (trans-Pacific)$100$450 (not accepted to and from Australia)

Oversize bag fees

Region62 inches to 126 inches
Between U.S., Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands and Canada$200
Brazil$150
Mexico, Caribbean, Central and South America (excluding Brazil)$200
Europe (trans-Atlantic)$150
China, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Australia (trans-Pacific)$200

How to get free checked bags on American

You can avoid paying checked-bag fees and save hundreds — or even thousands — of dollars each year. Some travelers can check as many as three bags on a flight without paying bag fees.

Here are the main ways to get free checked bags on American Airlines.

Qualify for AAdvantage elite status

You get free checked bags on American if you join the airline's AAdvantage frequent flyer program and earn elite status. The program rewards members with miles when flying American, oneworld or other partner airlines.

The program has four elite tiers: Gold, Platinum, Platinum Pro and Executive Platinum. The higher elite tier you reach, the more bags you can check for free. For example:

  • Gold elites get one checked bag free
  • Platinum and Platinum Pro elites get two checked bags free
  • Executive Platinum elites get three checked bags free

The checked-bag fee will be waived for all elite members and guests traveling on the same reservation for travel in the main cabin on flights marketed or operated by American or American Eagle.

Achieve oneworld elite status

American Airlines is part of the oneworld alliance, so you can get free checked bags by attaining oneworld status. For example, oneworld Ruby members get one checked bag free, oneworld Sapphire members get two checked bags free and oneworld Emerald members get three checked bags free.

Get an AAdvantage credit card

Another way to get a free checked bag on American is to get an AAdvantage credit card. Many AAdvantage cardmembers get a free checked bag on domestic American Airlines-operated flights (more on this later).

Book a higher class ticket

Premium economy, business and first-class customers can get checked bag fees waived in certain instances. In many cases, premium economy customers get one checked bag free, business-class customers get two checked bags free and first-class customers traveling on a three-cabin aircraft get three checked bags free. The number of free checked bags varies by destination.

Be active-duty military

Active-duty U.S. military and their dependents can get up to five free checked bags when they are traveling on orders and they show a military ID. Active-duty U.S. military members with ID on personal travel can get up to three free checked bags.

Do AAdvantage members get free checked bags?

Non-elite AAdvantage members do not get free checked bags, but they do earn miles and other perks. AAdvantage members who fly enough to earn elite status do get free checked bags. Depending on your elite membership tier, you can check from one to three bags for free.

Image of Baggage Claim for Checked Bags from AmericanAirlines.com
Screenshot: AA.com on Oct. 31, 2019

Earn free checked bags with these credit cards

Here are some top credit cards that either offer a free checked bag on American Airlines or a travel credit that can reimburse you for checked bag fees you pay on any airline.

Many of these cards also offer priority boarding, in-flight purchase credits and other perks that come in handy for travel.

Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®

Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®

  • On Citi's Secure Website

$0 Intro Annual Fee for the first year then $99

15.99% - 24.99% Variable

Excellent

  • Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after $2,500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent at gas stations and restaurants
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases
  • Earn a $125 American Airlines Flight Discount after you spend $20,000 or more in purchases during your cardmembership year and renew your card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees
  • First checked bag is free on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and up to four companions traveling with you on the same reservation
  • Enjoy preferred boarding on American Airlines flights
  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 15.99% - 24.99%, based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.
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The Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® from our partner, Citi gives you your first checked bag free on domestic American flights, plus preferred boarding for yourself and up to four travel companions. If you spend $20,000 during your membership year, you earn a $125 American Airlines flight discount. Plus, you save 25% on eligible in-flight purchases.

Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®

Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®

  • On Citi's Secure Website

$450

15.99% - 24.99% (Variable)

Excellent

  • Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $5,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Admirals Club® membership for you and access for up to two guests or immediate family members traveling with you
  • Earn 10,000 AAdvantage® Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) after you spend $40,000 in purchases within the year
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases and 1 AAdvantage® mile for every $1 spent on other purchases
  • First checked bag is free on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and up to 8 companions traveling with you on the same reservation
  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 15.99% - 24.99%, based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.
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The Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® from our partner, Citi comes with one free checked bag on American for you and up to eight travel companions, priority boarding, and a statement credit for either TSA Precheck or Global Entry every five years. This card also gives you an Admirals Club membership that allows you to relax in an airport lounge while waiting for your flight. This is a great option for frequent travelers who don't mind paying a high annual fee ($450) in exchange for a host of travel benefits.

CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard®

The CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard® from our partner, Citi offers a free checked bag on American, plus preferred boarding, for you and up to four travel companions. Earn the following when you spend: Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles per $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases. Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles per $1 spent on purchases at telecommunications merchants, cable and satellite providers, car rental merchants and at gas stations.

AAdvantage® Aviator® Red Mastercard®

The AAdvantage® Aviator® Red Mastercard® from Barclays offers a free checked bag on American for you and up to four companions. You get up to $25 in statement credits for in-flight Wi-Fi purchases, as well as a 25% reimbursement for in-flight food and drink purchases. The card also offers preferred boarding.

The information related to the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red Mastercard® has been collected by ValuePenguin and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

American Express® Gold Card

American Express® Gold Card

$250

See Rates & Fees

Good/Excellent

  • Earn 35,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 3 months.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points when you dine at restaurants worldwide. Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per year in purchases, then 1X). Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • Earn up to a total of $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the Gold Card at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Boxed, and participating Shake Shack locations. This can be an annual savings of up to $120. Enrollment required.
  • $100 Airline Fee Credit: up to $100 in statement credits per calendar year for incidental fees at one selected qualifying airline.
  • Choose to carry a balance with interest on eligible charges of $100 or more.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
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As an American Express® Gold Card holder, you will receive an airline fee credit up to $100 a year as reimbursement for checked bag fees or other airline incidental fees at one qualifying airline. The card also comes with a baggage insurance plan that will cover you if your bags get lost, damaged or stolen.

The Platinum Card® from American Express

The Platinum Card® from American Express

$550

N/A

Good/Excellent

  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
  • Enjoy Uber VIP status and free rides in the U.S. up to $15 each month, plus a bonus $20 in December. That can be up to $200 in annual Uber savings.
  • 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
  • 5X Membership Rewards points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.
  • Enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
  • Receive complimentary benefits with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts. Learn More.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline.
  • Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue on your Platinum Card®. Enrollment required.
  • $550 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
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The Platinum Card® from American Express offers an airline fee credit up to $200 each year for incidental fees such as checked bags and in-flight cocktails through a qualifying airline. Other travel perks include reimbursement for Global Entry and TSA Precheck application fees and access to the American Express Global Lounge Collection at select airports. This is a good card for big spenders who travel frequently and who also want perks for hotel stays and Uber rides.

American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card

American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card

  • On Citi's Secure Website

No Annual Fee

15.99% - 24.99% Variable

Excellent

  • Earn 10,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles and receive a $50 statement credit after making $500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • No Annual Fee
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for each $1 spent at grocery stores, including grocery delivery services
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases
  • Earn 1 AAdvantage® mile for every $1 spent on other purchases
  • Save 25% on inflight food and beverage purchases when you use your card on American Airlines flights
  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 15.99% - 24.99%, based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.
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Finally, a quick note about the American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card from our partner, Citi. While the card has a No Annual Fee annual fee, it doesn't give cardholders a free checked bag on American Airlines. Therefore, we recommend American frequent flyers looking to avoid bag fees consider one of the other travel cards outlined above. The free checked bags and other perks should more than make up for the annual fee if you travel more than a few times a year.

American baggage: Miscellaneous

Delayed or damaged bags

If you're flying American Airlines and you can't find your luggage at baggage claim, or you discover your suitcase is damaged, you can report the problem to an American agent at the airport or call American Airlines.

The agent will give you a 13-character reference number to use to check the status of your claim. The American Airlines online baggage tracker can help you track your delayed luggage.

If your bag is delayed by five days or more, you will need to complete a questionnaire. You will fill in your flight itinerary, including the flight number, travel dates and destinations. You'll also need to describe your bags and the items that are in them. If your luggage is not found, you will have to file an additional claim to get reimbursement from American Airlines.

Damaged luggage must be reported within 24 hours for domestic flights and seven days for international flights. You will fill out the same questionnaire as you would for lost luggage. If your bag was checked by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the damage could have been caused by the inspection, you will need to call the TSA at 866-289-9673.

With the cost of your ticket, American Airlines provides $3,500 worth of coverage for damaged or lost bags on domestic flights. If your belongings are worth more than that, you may want to consider additional insurance. Additional coverage will cost you $5 for every $100 worth of value, and you can get up to $1,500 in extra coverage. You will have to buy coverage for each carrier listed on your itinerary.

Keep in mind that some credit cards provide baggage benefits when traveling, so you may get extra coverage for free if you buy your plane ticket with one of these cards.

Music and sports equipment

In 2019, American Airlines eliminated oversized bag fees for some common music and sports equipment.

The policy on musical instruments is pretty straightforward. In some cases, you may be able to carry your instrument onto the plane with you on a first-come, first-served basis if it fits in an overhead bin or under the seat in front of you. If it does not fit, you can buy an extra seat for your instrument if it does not weigh more than 165 pounds.

Instruments can be checked as baggage if they meet size and weight restrictions, but you'll have to pay oversize or overweight bag fees if the instrument is larger than 126 inches (adding the length, width and depth measurements) or heavier than 50 pounds. Instruments larger than 150 inches or heavier than 165 pounds may be shipped as cargo.

Sports equipment policies on American vary based on the type of item. Here are some common items you can check for standard bag fees, though oversize or overweight fees may apply if the item is unusually large or heavy:

  • Archery equipment, including bow, arrows and quiver
  • Baseball bats
  • Bicycles
  • Bowling balls
  • Fencing equipment
  • Golf clubs
  • Parachutes
  • Skateboards
  • Skis
  • Tennis rackets and balls

Here are some examples of equipment you may check at an extra cost:

  • A hang glider in a suitable case for $150
  • A javelin or pole in a suitable bag or case for $150 if over 50 pounds
  • Scuba gear for $150
  • Windsurfing board, mast and sail for $150 for every two pieces

If you're unsure about your special item, check with American Airlines well before you fly to make arrangements.

American baggage FAQ

Here are some answers to questions travelers frequently ask about American Airlines bag fees.

Can I take my guitar on American?

Yes, you can take your guitar on American Airlines. If you can fit it in an overhead bin, you may be able to take it as a carry-on item. If not, you can check it for standard baggage fees, but you should make sure it is in a hard, protective case. If you check it in a case that lacks adequate protection, you may not be reimbursed for any damage caused in transport.

How strict is American with carry-on size?

The carry-on size limit for American is 22" x 14" x 9". If your bag is too big to fit in the bin, you may be pulled aside and asked to check your bag before boarding.

Can I take a backpack and carry-on on American?

Yes, you are allowed one personal item and one carry-on. The backpack would be considered a personal item as long as it fits under the seat in front of you.

Can you prepay baggage fees on American Airlines?

Yes, you can choose to pay for up to three bags when you check in online. Online check-in begins 24 hours before departure and ends four hours before departure. If checking more than three bags, you will need to pay for additional bags at the airport.

Is there a weight limit for carry-on bags with American Airlines?

American Airlines does not specify a carry-on weight limit; only a carry-on size limit. But before you stuff your bag with too much heavy gear, keep in mind that you will have to lift your carry-on above your head and place it in the overhead bin.

Do you get a free checked bag with American Airlines?

You can get one or more free checked bags if you:

  • Have a ticket in premium economy, business or first class
  • Are are an elite AAdvantage or oneworld member
  • Are active-duty U.S. military

You may also be able to get a checked bag for free if you have an AAdvantage credit card.

Are carry-on bags free on American?

American Airlines allows each passenger one carry-on and one personal item for free. The carry-on bag will have to fit in the overhead bin in the cabin.

How do I get a baggage fee refund from American Airlines?

American Airlines does not offer refunds if you pay your bag fee online. If there's any chance you may be eligible for a free checked bag or may upgrade your flight, wait to pay your baggage fee. If you upgrade after paying your baggage fee, American Airlines may not refund your money. However, you can request an American bag fee refund online.

Allie Johnson is a freelance content writer who covers personal finance, small business and travel. She writes about maximizing credit card rewards, jetting around the globe on points and miles and an array of other topics. She earned a degree in magazine journalism from Ohio University's E.W. Scripps School of Journalism.

These responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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How We Calculate Rewards: ValuePenguin calculates the value of rewards by estimating the dollar value of any points, miles or bonuses earned using the card less any associated annual fees. These estimates here are ValuePenguin's alone, not those of the card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer.

Example of how we calculate the rewards rates: When redeemed for travel through Ultimate Rewards, Chase Sapphire Preferred points are worth $0.0125 each. The card awards 2 points on travel and dining and 1 point on everything else. Therefore, we say the card has a 2.5% rewards rate on dining and travel (2 x $0.0125) and a 1.25% rewards rate on everything else (1 x $0.0125).