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How Much Does it Cost to Check a Bag With United Airlines And How Can You Avoid Costly Baggage Fees?

How Much Does it Cost to Check a Bag With United Airlines And How Can You Avoid Costly Baggage Fees?

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Loathe them all you like, but unfortunately, checked baggage fees are here to stay. Thankfully, there are a number of ways you can reduce the cost or eliminate checked luggage fees altogether.

In this article, we take a look at United’s current checked luggage fees and the most popular ways you can reduce the burden, including with a subscription or with a United co-branded MileagePlus credit card.

Unfortunately, United recently hiked the cost of checked luggage by $5 per bag to match recent price rises from both Alaska and American Airlines. As a result, without any discounts or offers applied, United Airlines has some of the highest checked baggage fees for a U.S.-based airline.

The standard baggage fees for Basic Economy and Economy passengers flying on a domestic flight are:

  • First checked bag: $40
  • Second checked bag: $50
  • Third checked bag: $150

Each bag must weigh a maximum of 50 lbs (23kgs) and have a maximum dimension of 62 linear inches (157 cm). If you exceed these limits, United deliberately charges high fees to dissuade travelers:

  • Oversizedbags cost an additional $200
  • Overweight bags cost an additional $100 up to 70 lbs (24 to 32 kg) and an additional $200 for bags weighing between 71 to 100 lbs (33 to 45 kg)

If your baggage is super-sized or incredibly heavy – i.e., its dimensions are more than 115 linear inches (292 cm), or it weighs more than 100 lbs. (45 kg) then United will refuse to carry it as checked luggage.

These prices also apply to flights to Central America and the Caribbean.

You can reduce the cost of checking your first or second bag by pre-paying online at least 24 hours before departure. The discounted prices are:

  • First checked bag: $35
  • Second checked bag: $45
  • Third checked bag: $150

You’ll get the pre-pay discount on domestic flights, as well as flights to the Caribbean, Mexico and Latin America that originate in the United States.

You can also use Miles to pre-pay for your luggage, but whether you choose cash or Miles, you must pre-pay online via the ‘My Trips’ page on the United app or website. Call centers aren’t able to process pre-purchased luggage.

If you’ve bought an Economy ticket for an international flight, your first checked bag is included in your ticket price, but if you want to check a second bag, it will cost you $100.

If you’ve bought a Basic Economy ticket for an international flight, then you might end up spending even more for checked luggage.

  • First checked bag: up to $75
  • Second checked bag: $100
  • Third checked bag: $200

Overweight or oversized bags cost an additional $200 per bag.

Unlike domestic tickets, United doesn’t offer a discount if you pre-purchase your luggage on an international Basic Economy ticket. You can find out the exact cost of checking in your luggage by using United’s handy baggage calculator.

United offers three co-branded MileagePlus credit cards that come with free checked luggage as a benefit. Unfortunately, the fee-free United Gateway card doesn’t include this benefit, but the United Explorer card does offer free checked luggage and has a $0 intro annual fee for the first year and thereafter costs $95 per year.

If you want to take even more luggage, however, then consider the United Quest card or United Club Infinite card which both offer two free checked bags.

CardNumber of free checked bagsAnnual fee
United Gateway Card0$0
United Explorer Card1$0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95
United Quest Card2$250
United Club Infinite Card2$525

To get free checked luggage, you’ll need to use your United co-branded credit card to pay for your tickets, although, for some reason, this doesn’t apply to new card members who are traveling on flights within the first 90 days of signing up.

United offers several types of annual subscriptions, such as a United Club membership and a United Wi-Fi subscription. There’s also an annual baggage subscription which can be extended to include up to eight companions.

Prices start at $349 and quickly rise from there, depending on how many bags you want to check, how many companions you want to include and what region you want covered by the subscription.

RegionNumber of companionsNumber of bagsCost
Continental United States (excluding Alaska and Hawaii)Subscriber only1 bag$349
2 bags$399
One companion1 bag$449
2 bags$499
Eight companions1 bag$649
2 bags$699
North and Central America (includes Alaska, Hawaii and the CaribbeanSubscriber only1 bag$449
2 bags$499
One companion1 bag$549
2 bags$599
Eight companions1 bag$849
2 bags$899
Intra-Asia and Oceania (excludes flights from Honolulu to Guam)Subscriber only1 bagNot available
2 bags$399
One companion1 bagNot available
2 bags$499
Eight companions1 bagNot available
2 bags$699
GlobalSubscriber only1 bagNot available
2 bags$799
One companion1 bagNot available
2 bags$899
Eight companions1 bagNot available
2 bags$999

United offers all its MileagePlus Premier members a free checked luggage allowance when flying in Economy and an additional free checked luggage allowance when traveling in a premium cabin.

The MileagePlus program has four elite Premier tiers, starting at Premier Silver and progressing through Premier Gold, Premier Platinum and finally, the highest tier, Premier 1K.

To qualify for Premier status, you have to earn a combination of Premier qualifying flights (PQF) and Premier qualifying points (PQP). PQFs are based on the number of flights you take with United or eligible partners, whereas PQPs are based on the fare you pay, seating purchases and paid upgrades.

The minimum number of PQFs and PQPs needed for Premier Silver is 12 PQFs (four of which must be a United or United Express flight) and 4,000 PQPs.

Alternatively, you can bank a higher amount of PQPs on their own to achieve Premier status. For Premier Silver, you’ll need at least 5,000 PQP plus four flights segments flown with United or United Express.

Premier statusNumber of free checked bags in EconomyNumber of free bags in a premium cabin
Premier Silver13
Premier Gold23
Premier Platinum33
Premier 1K33

As a MileagePlus Premier member, the maximum weight of your checked bags also increases to 70 lbs (32 KG) per bag. This represents a value of at least $130 for the first pre-paid checked bag.

When you’re traveling in one of United’s premium cabins, you shouldn’t need to worry about checked luggage fees.

United has a range of premium cabins, including:

  • United First – available on domestic flights, as well as Canada and the Caribbean
  • United Business – available on Latin America flights
  • United Polaris – available on international long-haul flights
  • United Premium Plus – available on long-haul flights
  • United Economy Plus – extra legroom seats available on most flights

In these cabins, the first and second checked bag is free, and any additional bag costs between $150 and $200 each.

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