Skip to content

How long does it take for airlines to refund miles and taxes?

Aug. 03, 2021
6 min read
Aerial view of LAX airport with assorted planes
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.

If the coronavirus pandemic has taught us anything about award travel, it's that travel plans are never set in stone. And while actually canceling your ticket is relatively easy, it can sometimes take a while to get airline miles reinstated and award taxes and fees back in your bank account.

Here at TPG, our staff has canceled countless numbers of tickets over the past year-and-a-half. Some airlines refunded points immediately, while others took a few days (or in some cases, months) to give us our points back. This can be a stressful experience — especially if you have a lot of miles locked up in a ticket.

In this article, we'll show you how long it takes to get get your miles back with some of the major airline loyalty programs. You'll find data points for all the major U.S. carriers and some of the major transfer partners. We've also listed special notes you should be aware of when requesting a refund from more difficult programs.

Get the latest points, miles and travel news by signing up for TPG’s free daily newsletter.

How long does it take for an airline to refund miles and taxes?

Here's how long it takes airlines to reinstate miles and refund taxes and fees on award tickets. (Photo by Nuamfolio / Shutterstock.com)

Here, you'll see how long it takes for each major airline loyalty program to refund miles and taxes. Do note that the time it takes to get taxes refunded to your credit card varies based on your bank. These times were sourced by TPG's editorial staff and TPG readers in the TPG Lounge Facebook group.

ProgramMileage refund timeTax and fees refund time
Air Canada AeroplanInstant2-3 days
Air France/KLM Flying BlueInstant2-3 days
Alaska Airlines Mileage PlanInstant2-3 days
American Airlines AAdvantageInstant2-3 days
ANA Mileage Club7 days7 days
Avianca LifeMiles2-7 days90+ days in some cases
British Airways Executive ClubInstant2-3 days
Delta SkyMilesInstant2-3 days
Etihad GuestUp to 45 daysUp to 45 days
Frontier AirlinesInstantInstant as flight credit
Iberia PlusVaries (see next section)Varies (see next section)
JetBlue TrueBlueInstant2-3 days
Singapore Airlines KrisflyerInstant10 days
Southwest Rapid RewardsInstant2-3 days
United Airlines MileagePlusInstant2-3 days

Related: Airline coronavirus change and cancellation policies: A complete list of major carriers

Special considerations

(Photo by Markus Mainka / Shutterstock.com)

As you can see, most major airlines are great about refunding miles and fees. But, some programs have special quirks you should be aware of when requesting a refund — let's take a closer look.

Avianca LifeMiles

Avianca LifeMiles is a mixed bag when it comes to refunds. Sometimes miles are reinstated instantly; sometimes, it takes a few weeks. One consistency, however, is how long it takes to have taxes and fees refunded. Some TPG Lounge members said it took 4+ months to have their taxes and fees refunded. If this happens to you, you may want to consider filing a chargeback with your credit card.

British Airways Executive Club

TPG Points and Miles intern Ryan Patterson recently booked a British Airways award ticket for a friend. Strangely, he had to call British Airways to get his Avios refunded after he canceled the ticket online. This is because, at first, the airline refunded the Avios to the passenger, even though Ryan booked the flights with his points.

Sign up for our daily newsletter

Iberia Plus

Iberia Plus is notoriously difficult to get a refund from. Sometimes you get your points back in a week; other times, you get them back months later. The important thing to do is call the airline and (respectfully) push for a faster refund. Otherwise, it may not come at all. You may have to call the airline multiple times to move the needle.

Related: Why you should wait to change or cancel your flight if you want your money back

Bottom line

Travel plans may be less predictable these days, but airlines made their change and cancellation policies more flexible in response. That said, some airlines take longer than others to refund award ticket taxes and fees. Use this article as a reference guide the next time you have to cancel an award ticket.

Feature photo by Thiago B Trevisan/Shutterstock.com

Featured image by (Photo by Thiago B Trevisan / Shutterstock.com)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Top offers from our partners

How we chose these cards

Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
See all best card offers

TPG featured card

Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

2 - 10X points
10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day

Intro offer

75,000 bonus miles
Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

Annual Fee

$395

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023
Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

    75,000 bonus miles
  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023