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, Capital One, 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!
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.
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.
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
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.
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:
|Card||Waived Fees||Statement Credits||Discounts||Airport Lounges||Annual Fee|
Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®
|First checked bag free for yourself and up to 4 companions on the same reservation||N/A||25% off in-flight food and drink||N/A||$95 (waived for the 1st year)|
|Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®||First checked bag free for yourself and up to 8 companions on the same reservation||N/A||25% off in-flight food and drink||Free 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 card||20% off in-flight food, drink, and entertainment||Discounted Delta SkyClub lounge day passes||$95 (waived for the 1st year)|
|American Express Platinum Delta SkyMiles||First 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 card||20% off in-flight food, drink, and entertainment||Discounted Delta SkyClub lounge day passes||$195|
|American Express Delta Reserve||First checked bag free for yourself and up to 8 companions on the same reservation||N/A||20% off in-flight food, drink, and entertainment||Free Delta SkyClub lounge access when traveling on Delta||$450|
|Barclaycard Hawaiian Airlines World Elite MasterCard||First checked bag free for primary cardholder only||N/A||N/A||N/A||$89|
|Chase UnitedPlus Explorer||First checked bag free for yourself and 1 companion traveling on the same reservation||$50 statement credit after your 1st purchase||N/A||2 free United Club passes per year||$95 (waived for the 1st year)|
|Chase United MileagePlus Club||2 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 fees||N/A||Free United Club lounge membership||$450|
|Bank of America Virgin America Premium Signature & Signature Cards||First checked bag free for yourself and 1 companion traveling on the same reservation|
Waived change & cancel fees (Premium card only)
|N/A||20% off in-flight food, drink, and entertainment||N/A||$49 (Signature)
$149 (Premium Signature)
|The Platinum Card® from American Express||N/A||$200 per year airline incidental fee credit on a qualifying airline of your choice||N/A||Free Centurion, DeltaSkyClub, and Airspace lounge access, plus Priority Pass Select membership||$550|
|Citi Prestige® Card||N/A||$250 per calendar year airline incidental fee credit||N/A||Free American Airlines Admirals Club access when traveling on American Airlines||$450|
|Chase Ritz-Carlton Rewards||N/A||$300 per calendar year airline incidental fee credit||N/A||Free Lounge Club Membership||$450|
|Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®||N/A||Get 2.1% cash back for travel expenses, including airline incidental fees||N/A||N/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!
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.
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
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.
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!
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!
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.
Let me know how you avoid extra fees when you travel!