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What to do if you can't use your airline credit by its expiration date

March 24 2020
8 min read
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As the novel coronavirus continues to spread around the world, people are making major adjustments to their everyday life — namely, by social distancing and staying home except for essential errands or mandatory work assignments.

While we're a community of avid travelers, we're not encouraging any travel right now unless it's absolutely essential. There will come a time for your next trip — we promise! But the best way for things to return to normal as quickly as possible is for you to stay put.

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As airlines are slashing their schedules and reducing their capacity to unparalleled lows, we know many of you may be wondering what to do with your travel credits. Even if you'd planned to put them to good use on a flight in the next few weeks or months, it's too soon to say when we might be able to pack our bags and travel again. So, here's everything you need to know about your airline credits, including what airlines are providing increased flexibility — and how to get an extension if they're not.

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Alaska Airlines

"Credit certificates may be issued when you exchange or cancel a nonrefundable Alaska Airlines ticket," says Alaska's official policy. "Your credit certificate will remain valid for 12 months from the issuance date of your original ticket, or 30 days from the date of exchange or cancellation, whichever is greater."

We reached out to Alaska Airlines to see if they have any specific policies in place to help travelers during the coronavirus outbreak, but did not hear back by the time of publication.

American Airlines

As for American Airlines, the airline's eVouchers are valid from one year of the date they were issued. They can be used on American Airlines or any Oneworld partner or American Airlines codeshare flight. You can redeem them online or by calling American Airlines reservations.

A spokesperson for American Airlines told TPG that travelers with questions about their eVouchers should contact a customer relations specialist.

TPG reader Dominique B. had a voucher from American Airlines that was set to expire on March 25. Dominique replied to the email the voucher was sent in, and the airline agreed to extend it for one year. The process, Dominique said, was "very simple and easy," and only took about two days from start to finish.

Delta Air Lines

Delta's eCredits, such as Delta Travel Vouchers, Delta Dollars (typically compensation from an oversold flight) and Transportation Credit Voucher (such as compensation from a service issue), can be applied toward a Delta ticket.

Currently, any Delta ticket expiring in March or April will be extended to enable rebooking and travel until Dec. 31, 2020. If you don't take your flight, your ticket number automatically becomes an unused eCredit within 24 hours. A Delta spokesperson confirmed to TPG that "eCredits, like tickets, expiring in March and April will be automatically extended to Dec. 31, 2020."

Hawaiian Airlines

Credits on Hawaiian Airlines are also valid one year from the date they're issued. Reservations must be booked within one year of the date the credit was issued, as well. A spokesperson said, at this time, the airline will suspend mileage expirations through Dec. 31. TPG asked for clarification about travel credits, but did not hear back in time for publication.

JetBlue

On JetBlue, your credits are valid one year from the date they were issued until 11:59 p.m. on the date of expiration. You can refer to your Travel Bank statement to view your current balance, as well as transactions and each credit's expiration date.

We reached out to JetBlue to see if they have any temporary policies regarding Travel Bank Credits in place to help travelers during the coronavirus outbreak, but did not hear back by the time of publication.

TPG reader Jeremy C., however, told the TPG Lounge he was able to get a JetBlue credit extended by two weeks by using the airline's online chat service.

Southwest

If you cancel your Southwest reservation at least 10 minutes prior to departure, the fare paid for by the unused ticket will be applied as travel funds toward your future flights. All travel booked with unused funds or a Southwest LUV Voucher must be completed by the expiration date listed on your ticket.

Travel Funds expire 12 months from the date the original flight was booked — not from when the flight was canceled and the Travel Funds issued. This expiration date is also a “must-fly-by date,” not a “book-by date.”

In light of recent events, Southwest has modified this policy. Funds that have expired or will expire between March 1 and May 31, 2020, will now expire on June 30, 2021. In addition, any newly created travel fund generated because of a flight cancellation between March 1 and May 31, 2020, will have an expiration date of June 30, 2021, a spokesperson told TPG.

United Airlines

You can use your United electronic certificate only on United and United Express-operated flights, as well as United Express-marketed flights operated by other airlines. Your credits aren't valid on other Star Alliance airlines, unfortunately.

Your credit will expire expire one year from original date of issue, unless otherwise noted.

In the TPG Lounge, Jon W. said he called the [United] 1K desk and asked about his credit. "They extended it 60 days," he said. So, if you have elite status, be sure to leverage it during this unprecedented time.

If your credit isn't automatically extended

Message the airline

Your best bet for finding the most current information about your personal airline credit — and asking for an extension if you need one — is going to be to get in touch with the airline. But, as you can imagine, call lines are swamped (yes, even on the elite status lines). Many airlines are asking travelers to only call if it's an urgent travel matter and, if not, to call back at a later time and date.

That said, we have some strategies up our sleeve for getting in touch with them. Messaging them on Twitter or Facebook can't hurt, and they may be able to extend the expiration date of your credits for you. As many TPG readers pointed out, they were able to get travel credit extensions by messaging the airline on social media and sending emails.

Related: How to quickly reach an airline customer service agent

Rebook your flight

In some situations, it might make sense to cancel your flight and rebook at another time.

For example, if you're a United flyer with a voucher, you can book a ticket with the voucher by March 31 (or earlier if it expires before then). If you want to change or cancel, the flexible booking policy will apply, a spokesperson for the airline confirmed.

Plus, if you're already scheduled to travel before April 30, there is currently no fee to change your flight. This is in addition to the airline's previous waiver, which scrapped all change fees for domestic and international tickets purchased between March 3 and March 31. This policy is in place for any of United's published nonrefundable fares, and if you end up canceling your flights, you can retain the value of your ticket to be applied to a new ticket without a fee for up to 12 months after the original issue date. This applies to Electronic Travel Credits, the spokesperson confirmed.

Related: Can I cancel or change my award ticket due to coronavirus travel waivers?

Book a ticket

This may seem counterintuitive, but hear us out.

It's something of a gamble, but you can book a ticket using your airline credit and then cancel it to reset the expiration date. Keep in mind travelers have had mixed results with this method, but it's worth a shot if none of the aforementioned avenues work.

Bottom line

It's a weird time, to be sure, but it will pass. Again, you should only be traveling right now if it is absolutely essential and urgent.

We know you had some amazing plans lined up, and while they might need to be put on hold for the time being, your trip will happen sooner or later. In the meantime, keep these strategies in mind so that your credits don't expire — and that you can keep them around when the time does come to plan that trip.

Featured photo by (Photo by Paul Hanaoka/Unsplash)

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The Marriott Bonvoy Business Amex is a stacked card with a rewards rate that will help you earn bonus points on everyday and business-related purchases. You'll earn 15 elite night credits each calendar year, and receive automatic Gold elite status. Finally, the free night award certificate with a redemption level of 35,000 points or less can get you hundreds of dollars in potential value each year.

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