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“Reader Questions” are answered twice a week — Mondays and Fridays — by TPG Senior Writer Julian Mark Kheel.

In the past, readers have asked us about earning miles when paying for tickets with airline gift cards or getting credit for purchasing elite status outright. But TPG reader Jude wants to know what the rules are when you’re paying for your flight with an airline voucher…

Does the use of travel vouchers count toward elite qualifying dollars (e.g. Delta MQDs, American EQDs, United PQDs)?

TPG Reader Jude

As opposed to airline gift cards — which are normally purchased at a third-party retailer or directly from the airline — travel vouchers are generally issued to compensate customers for a problem during travel. Most commonly, vouchers are used by airlines as an inducement to get passengers to agree to be bumped to a later itinerary when the carrier has oversold one of their flights.

So when you use a voucher to purchase tickets, how does it affect the elite dollars you earn toward elite status for that trip? Well, all three legacy airlines — American, Delta and United — will generally treat tickets purchased in whole or in part with vouchers the same way they treat any other ticket, meaning they’ll earn elite dollars on the base airfare and carrier surcharges, but not taxes or fees.

However, there’s one exception that you should be aware of in case you happen to come up against it. But with two of the Big 3 airlines, the policy is pretty straightforward. For instance, Delta’s Frequently Asked Questions page makes it crystal clear with this query and answer:

American is also very direct about its policy in its own FAQs covering Award Miles and EQDs (Elite Qualifying Dollars):

But when it comes to United, the answer is slightly more complicated. The airline’s Premier Qualifying Dollar FAQs puts it this way:

That seems clear enough, except that vouchers on United don’t always come in the form of credits that you use as a form of payment. If you have a voucher that has promotion code “TCYA” on it which you apply to your ticket during the payment section toward the end of the booking process, that’s a voucher that will count for PQDs. However, if you have a voucher with a number that you enter at the bottom of the search form at united.com before you search for flights, that certificate is discounting the fare before you pay for it. In that case, you’ll only get PQDs based on the final reduced fare, not on the original higher fare.

If the number on your travel voucher needs to be entered before searching for flights, you’ll only get PQDs on the final discounted fare.

This means if you’re redeeming a travel voucher with United, in some cases you might end up with fewer PQDs than you would get if you paid in full with a credit card, though you’ll still at least get elite dollars on any remaining portion of the fare that you have to pay for yourself if the discount or voucher doesn’t cover the entire cost of the ticket.

So as usual, things get a little complicated when you’re dealing with airline rules, but now you’ll know what to look for when you’re redeeming a voucher on any of the Big 3 carriers. Thanks for the question, Jude, and if you’re a TPG reader who’d like us to answer a question of your own, tweet us at @thepointsguy, message us on Facebook or email us at info@thepointsguy.com.

Featured image by United Airlines.

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