United Airlines Baggage Fees: How to Save Money

united airlines baggage fees how to save money featured image

If you are traveling in North America, United Airlines might be on your list as a potential airline to book your travels with. However, as with any mainline carrier in North America, baggage fees can be an expensive sore spot when flying on United Airlines if you don’t know the tricks to avoid these fees on your next vacation.

Let’s take a look at United Airlines, their baggage fees, and how you can save money on baggage for your next United Airlines flight.

United Airlines Overview

United Airlines is one of the biggest airlines in the United States, and in North America. They fly to over 210 destinations in the US and over 120 destinations internationally. They are also a member of Star Alliance, which is comprised of 26 member airlines that serve over 1,200 airports worldwide.

United Airlines Cabin Baggage Fees

United Airlines passengers can bring one carry-on bag and one personal item free of charge on most domestic and international flights.

The only exception to this rule is passengers who book a basic economy fare can only bring one personal item, as they are not permitted to bring a carry-on bag for free. However, if flying to South America, across the Atlantic, or across the Pacific, passengers with a basic economy ticket will be permitted to bring a carry-on bag. If you are required to check your carry-on bag at the gate, passengers will be charged the standard baggage fee + an additional fee of $25 USD.

Carry-on bags must be at most 9 inches x 14 inches x 22 inches (or 23 cm x 35 cm x 56 cm) and the sizing must include any wheels and handles that are attached to the luggage. On the other hand, personal items must be sized to fit under the seat in front of you and must be at most 9 inches x 10 inches x 17 inches (or 22 cm x 25 cm x 43 cm). Personal items can include things such as purses, backpacks, laptop bags, or briefcases.

united airlines carry-on baggage and personal item sizing restrictions

Ensure you check the sizing of your carry-on luggage and personal item before flying, as staff may make you size them at check-in or before boarding, and they may require you to check the item if it is considered oversized for a cabin bag.

If you are looking for a new carry-on bag that will fit these sizing requirements, check out our frugal luggage buying guide. We recommend Travelpro luggage as their suitcases are well built and easily meet the sizing requirements of many airlines.

United Airlines Checked Baggage Fees

Similar to other airlines in North America, United Airlines passengers will need to pay for any checked luggage unless they are exempt through any of the methods we will touch on in the next section.

Checked baggage must be at most 30 inches x 20 inches x 12 inches (or 76 cm x 52 cm x 30 cm) or 62 inches in total. This measurement must include any handles or wheels that are attached to the bag.

united airlines checked baggage sizing restrictions

Checked baggage is different from carry-on luggage as weight restrictions also apply. On United Airlines, the maximum weight limit is determined by the cabin of service the passenger is flying in, in addition to their United MileagePlus status. Refer to the table below for a better understanding of the weight limits:

united airlines checked baggage weight limits

If your bag is considered oversized or overweight baggage, additional fees will be charged. United Airlines cannot accept checked bags that are greater than 115 inches (length + width + height) or bags that are heavier than 100 lbs. Excess baggage fees will also apply if you are flying with more baggage than the typical passenger.

How to Save Money on United Airlines Baggage Fees

When it comes to saving money on United Airlines baggage fees, there are quite a few options available to travelers to receive free checked bags. These options include holding an eligible United Airlines credit card, booking a higher fare class, or holding MileagePlus elite status.

Hold an Eligible United Airlines Credit Card

If you are a US resident or a Canadian who can get approved for US credit cards, Chase Bank in the United States offers several United Airlines co-branded credit cards that come with various United Airlines benefits, including free checked baggage.

In order to receive this benefit, the cardholder will need to purchase the flights from United.com and pay with the eligible credit card. Flights that are purchased through a third party, such as an online travel agent, are not eligible.

The free baggage allowance is for the cardholder and up to one guest who is traveling on the same reservation. This benefit is only available on United and United Express operated flights; codeshare partner-operated flights are not eligible for this benefit.

The Chase credit cards that offer this benefit are the following:

Credit CardFree Baggage Allowance
Chase United Explorer CardFirst checked bag is free
Chase United Quest CardFirst and second checked bags are free
Chase United Club Infinite CardFirst and second checked bags are free
Chase United Business CardFirst checked bag is free
Chase United Club Business CardFirst and second checked bags are free

These cards offer a wide range of annual fees and benefits, so ensure you compare them all before applying to guarantee you are adding the best card for your needs to your wallet.

Book a Higher Fare Class

When searching for a United Airlines flight, customers will be presented with a variety of fare classes to choose from including basic economy, economy, fully refundable economy, premium economy, and business class.

Before booking, ensure that you review the features of each fare class. Fare classes can include benefits such as greater flexibility when it comes to changes and cancellations, seat selection, and complimentary carry-on and checked baggage.

united airlines fare classes with benefits

While it would most likely not be worth booking a higher fare class for the free checked baggage alone since it would be more expensive than just paying for the baggage outright, if there are other features that you are interested in, this can be a good way to avoid baggage fees.

On the other hand, if you are booking an award flight ticket on United Airlines through United Airways MileagePlus, Air Canada Aeroplan, or any other Star Alliance frequent flyer program, ensure you double-check the features of your award fare class to determine if you receive complimentary carry-on and checked luggage.

Hold United Airlines MileagePlus Elite Status

MileagePlus is the loyalty program of United Airlines, and members who are frequent flyers with United may have earned Premier Elite status which offers various United Airlines benefits including free checked baggage.

The table below reflects the various levels of MileagePlus status and the free baggage allowance you will receive when traveling within North America with that status level:

United Airlines MileagePlus Status LevelFree Baggage Allowance
Premier SilverFirst checked bag is free
Premier GoldFirst and second checked bags are free
Premier PlatinumFirst, second, and third checked bags are free
Premier 1KFirst, second, and third checked bags are free

Members with MileagePlus status will receive their free checked baggage allowance only on United and United Express flights. The amount of free baggage they will receive is determined by their status level at the time of check-in, not when the flight is booked. The amount of free checked baggage may increase based on your route, so ensure you check your fare class rules before flying.

Purchase a United Airlines Baggage Subscription

The most unique way to save on United Airlines baggage fees is to purchase a baggage subscription through United Airlines at a cost of $349 USD per year. 

If purchased, the subscriber and up to eight companions can each bring two free checked bags when traveling on the same reservation. This subscription applies to standard-sized bags only. If bags exceed the standard size and weight allowances, overweight and oversized charges may apply.

This subscription is only valid on United and United Express flights and subscribers will need to select a geographic region where they want to use their subscription. You can learn more about this option here.


Baggage fees when flying on any airline in North America can add up and become an expensive cost very quickly, and this is no different for United Airlines. Understanding these fees and how you can best avoid them is an easy way to put cash back in your pocket on your next flight booking.

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, you can prepay baggage fees on United Airlines, and on certain routes, passengers may receive a discounted checked baggage fee. To pay for checked baggage fees in advance, view your itinerary under the “My Trips” section on the United Airlines website or mobile app and click “Prepay Bags” to initiate the process.

Baggage fees vary in cost when traveling on United Airlines as they are dependent on the route that you are flying and the fare class in which travel was booked. To determine the cost, use United’s baggage fee calculator.

United Airlines passengers can avoid paying baggage fees by holding an eligible United Airlines credit card that gives free checked baggage as a benefit, purchasing a fare class that includes free checked baggage, or holding United MileagePlus elite status which comes with free checked baggage.

Yes, active US military personnel and any accompanying dependents will receive free checked bags on United Airlines. If the military personnel is traveling on business they will receive up to five free checked bags per person, whereas if they are traveling for personal needs they will receive three free checked bags per person.

Josh Bandura

Josh Bandura

Co-Founder at Frugal Flyer
Josh has been involved in the miles and points game since 2015 but has scaled up his knowledge and points earning potential in recent years. With a consistent attitude of "min-maxing" in many aspects of his life, Josh has transferred this mindset over to the miles and points game. Always looking for the next big opportunity, he aims to share content on a variety of topics including his travels, miles and points, and most importantly, how to get the most out of your credit cards


Best Credit Cards with No Annual Fees in Canada

Maximize Your Miles and Points by ‘Double Dipping’ on Purchases


Leave a Comment

All comments are moderated according to our comment policy. Your email address will NOT be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.