Pay now, book later: Get a 50% bonus when you buy an Etihad travel voucher
Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here.
Airlines have taken a particularly hard hit during the coronavirus pandemic and are doing whatever they can to help pad their cash flow. Nearly all airlines have introduced flexible change and cancellation policies for new bookings, including some that seem too good to be true. But the promotion Etihad is currently offering is perhaps the best one yet.
Through June 24, 2020 Etihad is selling travel vouchers with a 50% bonus. That means if you buy a voucher worth $1,000, for example, you’ll get a $1,500 credit. The credit will be valid for two years and can be redeemed starting Aug. 1, 2020. You can use your credit toward booking flights and paying for extras, such as seat selection or bag fees.
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How to buy an Etihad travel voucher
The only way to purchase a travel voucher and take advantage of this promotion is by contacting Etihad over the phone. The minimum voucher amount you can purchase is $250 and the maximum is $65,000. Your voucher will be issued in the form of a Travel Bank credit tied to your Etihad Guest account. So if you're not a member yet, be sure to set up your free account before calling. The deal ends on June 24, 2020.
To maximize your savings, you'll want to be strategic about how you pay for your voucher. Assuming the purchase codes as airfare, you can use The Platinum Card® from American Express to earn 5 Membership Rewards points per dollar spent (a 10% return based on TPG valuations) (on airfare booked directly with the airline). Starting Jan. 1, 2021, earn 5x points on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year. Otherwise, you can use a card that earns bonus points on general travel spending like the Chase Sapphire Reserve (3x points) or the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card (2x points). The purchase may even trigger a travel credit if you have one available.
How to redeem an Etihad travel voucher
Etihad travel vouchers will be valid for two years and can be redeemed starting Aug. 1, 2020. They will be redeemable online and over the phone. Since they will be linked to your Etihad Guest account, you can seamlessly apply them without needing to keep track of any certificate numbers or physical vouchers. You can even use the voucher to book travel for others.
In addition to flights, you can use your credit toward extras like seat selection and extra bags. And since these are still paid tickets, you'll earn Etihad Guest miles as usual when booking a flight with a voucher.
Is it worth it?
This promotion can provide phenomenal savings to anyone planning to book travel with Etihad in the next two years. It is especially enticing for anyone wanting to splurge on premium cabins.
Just beware that purchasing the voucher isn't completely risk-free. While you purchase the voucher, you are essentially locking yourself into a binding loan with the airline. If you use the credit to book a flight that ends up being canceled, for instance, you can rebook but you won't be eligible for a cash refund. Also, while Etihad's CEO is optimistic about the future of the airline, your voucher will effectively lose all value if the airline ends up going under.
Many hotel companies recently introduced promotions with similar "pay now, book later" models. For instance, the travel app Porter & Sail launched a Hotel Credit store that offers discounted gift cards for major hotels around the world. There's also the Buy Now, Stay Later initiative, which lets travelers purchase bonds for independent hotels and book a stay at a $150 value for every $100 spent. Marriott and Fairmont previously sold discounted gift cards as well, but only for a limited time.
These promotions are great for those looking to save on post-pandemic travel. Just be mindful of the risks during these uncertain times.