Travelers are sitting on more than $10 billion in airline credits — here’s what do to do before they expire

Mar 27, 2021

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 you had to cancel a vacation last year because of the pandemic, there’s a good chance you have travel credits or vouchers with an airline, just waiting to be used.

In fact, TPG estimates that more than 20 million vouchers worth more than a collective $10 billion were issued as a result of canceled trips in 2020, even as airlines also refunded billions of dollars of cash.

Now, as COVID-19 vaccination ramps up and Americans planning their first trips in more than a year, some of those credits are at risk of expiring.

“I’d guess Americans are sitting on more outstanding flight vouchers than have ever existed in aviation history,” said Scott Keyes, founder of Scott’s Cheap Flights. “It’d be a shame for them to go to waste.”

Part of the problem is that rules and policies surrounding vouchers can be complex and vary by airline — like many other airline policies.

Want more airline-specific news? Sign up for TPG’s free new biweekly Aviation newsletter!

United, for example, issues “travel certificates” and “future flight credits.” According to a representative for the airline, credits issued for tickets issued between May 1, 2019 and March 31, 2021 will be valid through March 31, 2022. Tickets purchased April 1, 2021 and later will be valid for 12 months from purchase.

At American, on the other hand, “flight credits” must be used within a year of the issue date, although any credits set to expire before March 31, 2021 have been extended to the March 31, 2022. “Vouchers,” on the other hand, must be used within a year of issue.

Because of varying policies and different types of credits, the best thing travelers can do, Keyes said, is take a look at their credit or voucher’s terms and conditions.

“You can go out and memorize all the different rules, but if you’re curious about your specific vouchers, the best way to know how to use it is pull it up and read the fine print,” he said.

You should also make sure to see whether the voucher must be used by a certain date to book a later trip, or whether you have to actually fly by that expiration date.

More: How to use outstanding airline vouchers before they expire

If you’re not quite ready to travel yet, he said, you could always try asking the airline for help, either by extending the credit or helping you figure out a way to use it before it’s too late.

“Airlines are being far more accommodating now,” he said. “Now with airlines hungry for more bookings and more excitement, they’re much more accommodating to requests than they have been before.”

There’s also a chance that further extensions are issued, given that the pandemic has gone on for longer than was originally expected. For instance, Delta reportedly extended all tickets and vouchers issued before April 17, 2020 to make them valid through 2022.

Featured image by anyaberkut / Getty Images)

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 100,000 Points


CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Our best offer ever! Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,250 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Earn 2X points on dining including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel. Plus, earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 100,000 points are worth $1,250 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Get up to $60 back on an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership through 12/31/2021, and get full access to their workout library through the Peloton app, including cardio, running, strength, yoga, and more. Take classes using a phone, tablet, or TV. No fitness equipment is required.
Regular APR
15.99%-22.99% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.