The 3 Worst Travel Fees & How to Avoid Them!

Disclosure: We get a commission for links on the blog. You don’t have to use our links, but we’re very grateful when you do. American Express, Barclaycard, Chase, and US Bank are Million Mile Secrets advertising partners. Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or endorsed by our partners. Here’s our Advertiser Disclosure.

It’s never fun to book a free (or even paid) flight or hotel room only to find there are hidden travel fees.  I want to help you avoid added expenses for flight changes, checked bags, and resort surcharges!

The 3 Worst Travel Fees How To Avoid Them

Are Extra Fees Emptying Your Wallet? I’ll Show You How to Avoid the Most Common Charges!

I’ll explain how to save money when you travel!

How to Stop Paying Junk Fees

My motto is “Big Travel with Small Money.”  So I hate paying hundreds of dollars in added charges! 

Let’s look at the worst travel fees.  And how to avoid them in the 1st place!

1.   Airline Flight Change Fees

FareCompare has a list of the fees you can expect from major US airlines.  But double-check with the airline sites to be sure the fee lists are current.

Nearly every airline will charge you ~$50 to ~$200 if you need to change your ticket.  Change fees apply to both paid AND award tickets.  And the charges can be different for each.  So, it can get complicated!

A.   Have Elite Status

One of the easiest ways to avoid change fees is to have elite status.  Often, airlines will waive change fees once you reach a certain elite threshold.

The 3 Worst Travel Fees How To Avoid Them

Airlines Roll Out the Red Carpet When You Have Elite Status – Including Waivers for Flight Changes!

You’ll also usually get access to preferred seats with more legroom, priority boarding, and faster service when you call for help.

You usually have to fly a LOT (on paid tickets) to to earn elite status.  And it’s difficult to earn elite status with credit card spending alone.  Although it’s possible with some airlines, like Delta.

B.   Cancel or Change Within 24 Hours

Airlines will usually let you change or cancel your ticket up to 24 hours after you book.  Check the airline website for their most current policies before you buy, especially with international airlines.

And if you book a ticket with an online travel agency like Orbitz or Expedia, you may be eligible for a refund within a short time of booking your ticket.  Here’s my post on cancellation policies for airlines and online travel agencies.

The 3 Worst Travel Fees How To Avoid Them

You Can Usually Change or Cancel Your Flight Within 24 Hours of Booking. Be Sure to Call, Because After the Specified Timeframe, You’ll Have to Pay to Change Your Flights

You won’t pay extra fees, but you may have to pay if there’s a fare difference.

So if you ever book a ticket, but aren’t sure about the dates, make sure to change or cancel your ticket within the airline’s specified timeframe to get a refund!

And if you’re booking an award ticket on United Airlines here’s a simple trick to avoid the $75 booking fee!

C.   Fly Southwest

I love flying Southwest because you get:

  • No change fees
  • No cancellation fees
  • 2 free checked bags on every flight
The 3 Worst Travel Fees How To Avoid Them

I LUV Southwest! They Don’t Charge Fees to Change or Cancel Your Flights, or to Check a Bag!

And if you have the Southwest Companion Pass, a friend or partner can fly with you on any ticket for only the cost of fees!

2.   Checked Baggage Fees

Folks also hate to pay checked baggage fees.

The 3 Worst Travel Fees How To Avoid Them

Checking Bags? Avoid Paying for It With Elite Status, or the Right Credit Card!

Again, most airlines will allow you to check at least 1 free checked bag if you have elite status.

A shortcut is to apply for an airline’s credit card.  That’s because many of them included a free checked bag for you and folks traveling with you on the same itinerary, including:

CardWaived FeesStatement CreditsDiscountsAirport LoungesAnnual Fee
Citi American Airlines Platinum Select AAdvantage World MasterCardFirst checked bag free for yourself and up to 4 companions on the same reservationN/A25% off in-flight food and drinkN/A$95 (waived for the 1st year)
Citi American Airlines Executive AAdvantage World Elite MasterCardFirst checked bag free for yourself and up to 8 companions on the same reservationN/A25% off in-flight food and drinkFree American Airlines Admirals Club lounge membership$450
American Express Gold Delta SkyMiles First checked bag free for yourself and up to 8 companions on the same reservation$50 for any Delta purchase within 1st 3 months of having the card20% off in-flight food, drink, and entertainmentDiscounted Delta SkyClub lounge day passes$95 (waived for the 1st year)
American Express Platinum Delta SkyMilesFirst checked bag free for yourself and up to 8 companions on the same reservation$100 for any Delta purchase within 1st 3 months of having the card20% off in-flight food, drink, and entertainmentDiscounted Delta SkyClub lounge day passes$195
American Express Delta ReserveFirst checked bag free for yourself and up to 8 companions on the same reservationN/A20% off in-flight food, drink, and entertainmentFree Delta SkyClub lounge access when traveling on Delta$450
Barclaycard Hawaiian Airlines World Elite MasterCardFirst checked bag free for primary cardholder onlyN/AN/AN/A$89
Chase UnitedPlus ExplorerFirst checked bag free for yourself and 1 companion traveling on the same reservation$50 statement credit after your 1st purchaseN/A2 free United Club passes per year$95 (waived for the 1st year)
Chase United MileagePlus Club2 free checked bags for yourself and 1 companion traveling on the same reservation

Close-in booking fee waiver for award flights booked less than 21 days prior to departure
$100 after 1st (any) purchase, including airline feesN/AFree United Club lounge membership$395
Bank of America Virgin America Premium Signature & Signature CardsFirst checked bag free for yourself and 1 companion traveling on the same reservation

Waived change & cancel fees (Premium card only)
N/A20% off in-flight food, drink, and entertainmentN/A$49 (Signature)
$149 (Premium Signature)
American Express PlatinumN/A$200 per year airline incidental fee credit on a qualifying airline of your choiceN/AFree Centurion, DeltaSkyClub, and Airspace lounge access, plus Priority Pass Select membership$450
Citi PrestigeN/A$250 per calendar year airline incidental fee creditN/AFree American Airlines Admirals Club access when traveling on American Airlines$450
Chase Ritz-Carlton RewardsN/A$300 per calendar year airline incidental fee creditN/AFree Lounge Club Membership$395
Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCardN/AGet 2.1% cash back for travel expenses, including airline incidental feesN/AN/A$89 (waived for the 1st year)

Depending on how often you fly, you can save hundreds of dollars each year just for having the right card.

And of course folks who fly Southwest always get 2 free checked bags on every Southwest flight!

International Flights

If you’re flying internationally, you’ll likely get a free checked bag even without airline status..  In that case, having 1 of the cards above does NOT allow you to get your 2nd bag checked free.

That said, flights to “nearby” international destinations (like Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, and Cancun, Mexico) have different rules about checked luggage, and they can vary by airline, city, and route.  So be sure to check what’s included (and what’s not!).

3.   Hotel Resort Fees

Unfortunately, hotel resort fees are the hardest to avoid.  I’ve shared my tips on what you can do about them.

Lots of hotels will waive resort fees when you book an award stay with hotel points.  But the policies vary by location, hotel brand, and even each individual hotel.

The 3 Worst Travel Fees How To Avoid Them

Do You Really Have to Pay? Hotel Resort Fees Are Hard to Avoid, but You Can Still Leverage Your Elite Status. Or Ask If You Can Decline Hotel Amenities

These fees tend to be limited to popular tourist destinations like Florida, Hawaii, Mexico, and the Caribbean.  But it’s always a good idea to check.

The best way to anticipate them is to read the terms when you book your room. 

Then, when you arrive at the hotel, you can ask for the fee to be waived if you have hotel elite status.  Because many elite status benefits duplicate the costs the resort fees supposedly cover.  Even if you don’t get the fees waived, they could possibly be reduced.

You can also decline use of the hotel’s amenities, like the pool.  If you are staying on business, for instance, you many not have use for scuba gear or diving lessons.  It never hurts to ask!

Ultimately the best way to handle hotel resort fees is to anticipate and budget for them.  That way you’ll have a better idea of what to expect before you get the bill when you check-out.

Cover Lots of Travel Charges With These Cards!

Link:   Barclaycard Arrival Plus

Link:   Citi Prestige

Link:   Chase Ritz-Carlton Card

Link:   Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express

Link:   The Platinum Card® from American Express

There are lots of credit cards that can help cover the cost of fees when you travel.

You can redeem Barclaycard Arrival points earned from the Barclaycard Arrival Plus card for statement credits for travel purchases of $100 or more.  This includes any charge related to travel, including all the fees above!  The only drawback is that your charge must total at least $100.

The 3 Worst Travel Fees How To Avoid Them

I Love The Beach and Sun, but I Hate the Added Fees Involved With Traveling! Use These Cards to Cover Most or All of Your Trip’s Incidental Charges

And the Chase Ritz-Carlton card comes with a $300 annual travel credit for baggage fees, seat upgrades, airport lounges, and more.  If you stay at Ritz-Carlton hotels a lot, it could be worth picking up this card.

Citi Prestige comes with a $250 annual airline credit.  You can use it for change fees, baggage fees, or even airfare.  This is a fantastic way to cover airline fees because the credit is applied automatically.  And it comes with lots of other terrific perks!

The AMEX Premier Rewards Gold card comes with a $100 annual airline fee credit to use on your choice of airlines.  And the AMEX Platinum Card comes with $200 in annual airline fee credit.

These cards can help offset nasty junk fees – and each 1 comes with its own set of perks that can come in handy when you travel!

Bottom Line

Airline fees for flight changes and checked bags, and hotel resort fees, drive me crazy!  So I’m always looking for ways to avoid them.

If you’re travel-savvy, you can save a lot of money.  You can get around these fees by attaining elite status with your preferred airline or hotel chain.  And you can avoid most checked baggage fees if you have an airline’s credit card.

If fees are hard to avoid, like hotel resort fees, you can dodge them with the right credit card.  With the Barclaycard Arrival Plus, you can reimburse yourself for travel fees by redeeming $100+ worth of Barclaycard Arrival points.

And cards like Citi Prestige or Chase Ritz-Carlton come with annual credits for travel incidentals, including airline change fees and checked baggage.

Let me know how you avoid extra fees when you travel!

* If you liked this post, why don’t you join the 20,000+ readers who have signed-up to receive free blog posts via email (only 1 email per day!) or in an RSS reader …because then you’ll never miss another update!

Editorial Disclaimer: Neither the responses below nor the editorial content on this page are provided or commissioned by the bank advertisers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertisers. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the bank advertisers. It is not the bank advertisers’ responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

7 responses to “The 3 Worst Travel Fees & How to Avoid Them!

  1. The best way to avoid hotel scam “resort” fees? Refuse to book the scoundrels. This is just a way they lie about their actual price to make them look better than they are on searches, and to the detriment of any competitor who would like to be honest. If they’ll lie to you about price, they’ll lie to you about anything else. This should be illegal.

    Baggage fees are perfectly valid, on the other hand, because they represent a major expense to the airline and it’s for a service some find useful and some find unnecessary. The best way to avoid them is to travel light. And it is those who need or want the service who should be paying for it, not those who don’t.

  2. Having the United Explorer card only gets you a free checked bag when you buy the ticket with the card. I found that out the hard way, expecting a free checked bag, but because I used a different card to purchase the tickets (was trying to hit a minimum spend threshold for sign-up bonus), I had to pay for my checked bag.

    This policy is different than AA’s. I have the Citi AA Platinum Select card, and it gets me a free checked bag on all AA flights, regardless of what card I used to buy the tickets.

  3. As my understanding, there are some airline credit cards do not require you to use in order to get free checked bag. Would you please give a list which credit cards do not require to use to book? I know 2 airline credit cards – American Airline and Alaska Air (required to have frequent flyer number on ticket of the credit card holder)

  4. It is unusual that you include the Amex Platinum but not the Amex Gold, which also has a $100 incidental. I am hoping the Amex Gold still includes airline gift cards, but I will find out shortly as I just purchased 2 $50 Southwest gift cards.

  5. Fabulous information! Thank you! I was curious if there are credit cards that let you put frequent flyer miles in someone else’s account for free. I’d like to thank a friend.

  6. good info, and yes, fly southwest…. to avoid the fees. (but deal with the cattle car approach to flying — and don’t mention’s Southwest’s policies to double & triple flight costs for close-in flights at most of their airports — same effect as change fees.)

    Disappointed that you didn’t mention the increasingly horrendous taxes levied on international travelers, not just to the resort islands like the Bahamas, but to London, et.al. (Scandalous that places like the Bahamas, Jamaica and Aruba use the fees as major chunk of their domestic budgets — even while maintaining exceptionally poor airport services for passengers… )

    Governments like US & UK can get away with such “taxes & fees” (including on award travel) in part by calling them “security” or 9/11 fees, and then everyone follows in line. (and the bloggers rarely if ever mention, much less contemplate ways to reduce their bite…. )

  7. AA will not give you a refund on a ticket if you call within 24 hours (delta, however, will do that for you)
    AA will only allow you to change the ticket free of charge for the identical departure/arrival cities free of charge (within 24 hrs) as long as those award charts/ticket costs have themselves not increased.

    In other words, AA is very restrictive within 24 hours

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *