Ways to AVOID bag fees on Delta Air Lines & Skyteam flights!

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Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Delta Air Lines has made the most money of any airline in bag fees this year. How much? $430 million! At $25 per bag that is a bunch but Spirit is talking about $100 per bag soon. YIKES! Back to Delta, If they can keep that pace up, we are talking 2.3 million PER DAY in just bag fees. Break that down even more it is almost $100,000 per hour/24-7! Impressive numbers to say the least. Now as a Delta loyalist I want the airline to make as much money as they can. But, at the same time, I want Delta Points readers NOT to be a part of the 2.3 million windfall each day. A bit of a dichotomy I know, but follow with me here.

So how do we avoid the fee then?

#1) The most obvious step, if you are going to fly Delta, is to get their Delta branded AMEX card. You at least get one checked bag up to 50 lbs free (plus 1 each for up to 8 more passengers with you on the same itinerary). Or, keep in mind, if you redeem FlexPerks points for a trip they will kick in $25 to cover bag fees too!

#2) Understand the carry-on rules. You get one carry on, that may not exceed 22″ x 14″ x 9″, and one personal item. You should see the size of purse Lisa uses when we fly. You could put about a dozen puppies in the thing. Guys, you know a small backpack will work just fine right as “1 item of a similar or smaller size to those listed“. Between the two of you, you can pack a bunch and NOT check a bag. Don’t have a backpack? Buy one as one checked bag fee will offset this.

#3) Get status. Silver is not that hard to reach. Just getting two Delta Reserve cards (personal and biz) and charging $1.00 on each card gets you 20k MQM’s. Then you only need to fly 5k more to reach Silver. Make Gold+ and you get 2 bags free not just one with Silver. [edit: as reader Stils points out, Silver Medallion plus any Delta AMEX cards does get you 2 bags free]

#4) Get creative. You can check one bag free international. But, if you sign up here, and pack your putter and clothes in your golf bag and book on KLM flights, you get 2 bags. Sure you have to buy a golf case, but hey luggage is luggage, right?

#5) Ship your stuff. Most of the time it is cheaper to pay the airline, but if prices go up more, think about USPS or FedEx (earn bonus points here for them btw) or even UPS. Crazy but true!

Other bits. You can, as my friend Michael W always says, look to and “wear” a ton of your stuff. That is not for me but what ever you do, DO NOT pack heavy. The fee for 50-70 is a whooping $90 and 70-100 is $175! – René


PS – Be sure to check out this UPDATED post about bag fee’s!

Editorial Note: This content is not provided by American Express. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by American Express.

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Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

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.

René de Lambert is a contributing writer and the founder of RenesPoints. He is an avid Delta and SkyTeam flyer who has held Delta’s top Diamond Medallion status for many years and flown millions of miles.


  1. One of my pet peeves is the abuse of the carry-on, so I appreciate this post. Once I hit Silver, I always checked my bags. Simply put, I can only recall one instance in the last 45k miles where I didn’t get to the rental car line ahead of other passengers who had carried on or ramp checked their bag.

    Sometimes the best is to just pack smart. I love Eagle Creek Envelopes and the rest of their system. I can pack for 10 days in a carryon with that system, including 2-3 pairs of shoes if needed. For overnight trips, I can use just one envelope the slides nicely in my computer bag to even carry it all in one!

    We have all been guilty of packing too much at some point, but the better you learn what you really need, the easier it is to avoid fees, be it heavy baggage, an extra bag or otherwise.

  2. Two other points that I’ve found recently: If you are a Silver Medallion and have the DL Amex you get 2 free checked bags per person on your itin. Also as a silver Medallion one of your checked bags can be 70lbs.

  3. THEsocalledfan Reply

    With status, I don’t need to worry about it, but if I didn’t, I would simply get a carry on through security that is pretty big. Then, wait to board the aircraft until the end. Then, gait check.

    Always amazed most don’t do this.

  4. Here is the tip I tell everyone that works on every airline (except spirit) Take your time boarding the plane if you want to check a bag for free. By the time you try to board most likely at the gate they will offer to take the bag at no charge. Often these days they will make gate announcements about checking bags for free due to full flights which these days are virtually every flight.

  5. I’ve seen more and more Delta GA’s ask about checking bags even BEFORE they start boarding. In fact, the other day, I saw an older lady go up and ask about checking her bag at the gate, and they did it without any hesitation. So as long as your bag can fit through the X-ray machine at TSA (lack of) security,, drag it through and then try to gate-check it.

  6. I have a question about the Delta free bags. I am booking an award ticket for my son with my skymiles for an upcoming trip. My husband is using his skymiles for the same trip. We both have Delta Platinum Amex cards. I will not be traveling on the trip. My husband gets his bag for free since he is a card holder. Will my son get his bag for free? Is there a way to to tie their res together?

  7. Pingback: Delta’s baggage fees are really too low & should go up? - Delta Points

  8. Chris Pittson Reply

    Do I have to pay for the trip with my AMEX Deltacard in order to get 1st bag free? My work is sending my wife and I on a nice vacation and they paid for the trip. We do have the trip linked to our Skymiles cards if that makes a difference.

  9. If I used AMEX Points to book Delta flight can I just show them the Delta Credit Card at bag check? Also can I use delta skymiles to pay for bag check?

    • @Rob – just make sure your Delta AMEX is in your profile at “My Delta” and you should auto get a free bag at check-in

  10. For international flights, you already get one bag free. Will the Delta AMEX get you your second bag free?

    • @Alex – I think the answer is YES but you could run into issues coming back to the USA and having to pay – here is why. The AMEX T&C says free bag on Delta operated flights. Delta Delta baggage page only specifically mentions a Silver Medallion who has the Delta AMEX gets an extra bag above the std. allowance. Again will post when I get more firm info and txs for a great question!

  11. Pingback: Watch out Delta - 1st class "consistent product" is more than a CRJ900 seat! - Delta Points - Delta Points

  12. Is it still the case that you don’t have to buy the ticket with the amex card to get the free bags (yes, it is linked to my acct and I haven’t been charged on any bags for flights that I’ve booked in the last year)? I’m using miles with another credit card to buy 3 tix for my family. I’d like to make sure that I’m not going to get dinged for bags for the 3 passengers (plus infant in arms:). Thanks.

    • @Blasise – it is free when YOU are flying for you and +8 more on same reservation. Not free if you are buying for others and NOT flying.

    • @Denise – It depends or route and weight. Carry-on and personal are free no matter what. The key is to have the Delta AMEX card to get domestic checked bag free.

  13. Can I use Delta Skymiles to pay for a bag check on a Domestic flight?

  14. On International paying with a Delta Amex on a Delta operated flight with a ticket bought from Delta for a flight LHR-ATL-SAV the explanation proffered was:-
    “The website says you get first bag free. Your ticket includes 1 bag free and as this is your first bag you have to pay for the second one.”

  15. Surendra Patel Reply

    I am a silver medallion status
    Can I carry an additional bag free of charge on my transatlantic flight?

  16. I was going to book (and pay for) flight for a family member and myself using my Gold Delta Amex – I will be travelling only ONE-WAY (TO leg), while other family member will be a ROUND TRIP. I am guessing that technically requires two different bookings/reservations/itineraries (one just for me, and one just for the family member). Correct? Can I link their trip also to my Skymiles if booking/paying for it with the my Gold Delta Amex? Even more important, will the family member get free bag check (like me) at least for the portion of the trip that I will be traveling with them? Thanks!

    • @Bryan – You can only link when the exact same flights. You can try but only expect to get the free bags when on the same flights ie you may have to show the AMEX card at check-in.

  17. I have a family ski trip coming up. I booked using AS miles on DL metal. I have (of course) both AS and DL credit cards. Do you think there will be any problem in getting the free 1st bag credits for each of us? Will be important with all the skis/boards we’re bringing.

    • @jp – not a problem as long as your delta cc is in your profile at my delta.

  18. Since the original article posting in 2012, AMEX free bag privileges seem to be modified. Correct me if I’m wrong, but the ‘plain-vanilla’ Delta AMEX card *does not* include the free-first-checked-bag. Only the AMEX Delta Gold, Platinum and Reserve Delta SkyMiles Credit Cards get this benefit. The plain (blue) Delta SkyMiles Credit Card (no annual fee) only gets you the 20% In-flight Savings. 🙁

    [ This ‘plain-vanilla’ (blue) card is usually held by ex-Gold card holders who don’t want to pay the $95 annual fee ]

    • @Dave – The blue Delta card has never had a free bag as far as I know. There is simply NO reason to hold that card ever.

  19. @Rene:- The only reason it’s in my inventory is I acquired it back in 2004 when they didn’t have the fees we have now. Did they even have a Gold card then? I remember receiving a mileage bonus at the time… But $95 for a card I seldom use? Not gonna happen. Now that I’m retired, more [Delta] flights are in the picture. So: The plain-vanilla blue Delta AMEX card is being canceled and the spouse is applying for the Gold. Cancel after the free 12 months is up and swap in a Corporate Gold. And after that, re-address the issue annually as needed…

    But my main point for you: The past postings don’t even seem to address the existence of the no-benefits basic blue Delta AMEX card. You might want to update or add a posting warning of its dangerous existence.

  20. Had a friend book me a flight with his miles.. I have a Amex delta card, can I show my card at check in and get my bad checked for free?

    • @Matt – Yes. As long as your SkyMiles number is in the reservation, and your Delta Amex card is in your SkyMiles profile, you get free bag(s) and those flying with you on the same reservation.

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