Avoiding Last Minute Booking Fees on Award Tickets
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
I’ve talked about this before, but one of the greatest uses of airline miles is to fly yourself or a loved one last minute when airfare prices can be astronomical, but the mileage price of the ticket can seem comparably reasonable. Given the current level of uncertainty at our house thanks to medical appointments and similar, we have had relatives, specifically the grandparents in Kansas, on a stand-by of sorts in case the troops on the ground here need reinforcements.
That means thinking through the ways that we can book last minute award tickets without incurring additional fees in case the need arises. Even if you do get hit with a last minute booking fee of $75 or similar for booking within 21 days of departure as is charged by United and American Airlines, it can still be worth it to use miles for last minute tickets depending on the cash price, but no fees are better than fees, so here are seven ways to avoid last minute booking fees on award tickets.
Avoiding Last Minute Booking Fees on Award Tickets:
- High level airline elites typically are not charged close-in booking fees, so if you or someone else who can book the ticket for you has high level elite status with an airline then this may be the time to book the award from that account.
- British Airways charges no close-in booking fees, and you can fly on partners such as American Airlines or Alaska, if there is saver award availability on those flights. Transfers to British Airways from Membership Rewards and Ultimate Rewards are pretty much instant, so this is a big fan favorite for last minute bookings.
- Alaska Airlines charges no close-in booking fees and you can fly not only Alaska, but American Airlines and Delta operated flights.
- Aeroplan, Singapore, and ANA all charge no close-in booking fees and you can fly Star Alliance partners like United Airlines if there is saver award availability. However, be aware that if you are transferring points into some of those programs from a credit card points program like Membership Rewards, Ultimate Rewards, or Citi ThankYou that the transfers aren’t all instant and that can hinder you booking your last minute award travel by several days, which may not be helpful in all situations. ANA also does not allow for award bookings for flights departing within the next 96 hours. That said, you can make instant transfers from Amex Membership Rewards to Aeroplan, so that may be a solid route for quick last minute bookings.
- JetBlue and Southwest do not have close-in booking fees, but since the price in points is tied to the selling price of the ticket, it may require more points than you are used to spending for that close-in award ticket.
- Delta does not charge a close-in booking fee, but they charge more miles for tickets booked within 21 days or departure, so that may not be your best route.
- There are no close-in booking fees on United if you have the United Club Card. Some have also utilized a date change feature to avoid paying a close-in booking fee on United, but that isn’t a route I can stand behind since it isn’t within the rules and involves some risk of not working.
Have you ever had to book a close-in award ticket? What did you do to avoid or minimize last minute booking fees?
Welcome to The Points Guy!
Earn 90,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Offer ends 11/10/2021.
With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.
- Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer expires 11/10/2021.
- Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
- Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
- Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
- Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
- Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
- Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
- Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
- Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees.
- $250 Annual Fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees