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Do you earn miles when paying for a flight with a travel credit?

May 28, 2020
4 min read
Do you earn miles when paying for a flight with a travel credit?
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Reader Questions are answered twice a week by TPG Senior Points & Miles Contributor Ethan Steinberg.

For years, travelers have been used to paying for their airfare with one of two methods: points or cash. The ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing flight cancellations it's caused have left people trying to understand a third option, the travel credits that many airlines have been issuing in place of refunds. TPG reader Jon wants to know if he'll still earn miles paying for a flight with a travel credit ...

[pullquote source="TPG READER JON"]If I get a Delta voucher instead of a full refund for a canceled flight, will I still earn miles when I go to use it for a future flight?[/pullquote]

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Jon's question is especially important, as airlines (unlike hotels) don't offer any sort of elite-qualifying credit or redeemable miles when you book an award flight. Most hotel chains, by comparison, allow you to earn elite-qualifying nights but not redeemable points when you use your points to book an award stay. This is why someone like me who flies over 100,000 miles a year struggles to qualify for elite status with any airline because nearly all of my flights are booked with miles.

In terms of Jon's question, the answer is quite simple and should come as a relief to people confused about how to use their airline vouchers. When you pay for a flight with any cash-like instrument, whether it's a credit card, debit card, gift card or travel voucher, you earn miles on the flight like normal. With a travel voucher, even though you aren't spending any money when you redeem it, you presumably spent some money upfront on your original ticket before the airline canceled your flight and issued you a voucher instead. You don't get penalized for "pre-paying" in this way, and a flight booked with a travel voucher earns miles at the same rate as one booked using any other cash payment method.

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This answer holds true even if you received your voucher "for free," like if you get bumped off a flight. I had a lucky streak going where for three years in a row, I was bumped off the exact same American Airlines flight from Fort Lauderdale (FLL) to Chicago O'Hare (ORD) on Jan.2 coming back to school after winter break. Not only did I use the $1,500 worth of vouchers ($500 a year) to take some incredible trips to India and Australia, but that free money went a long way towards helping me meet the revenue requirement to qualify for AAdvantage elite status year after year. With my Gold status I earned 7x miles per dollar, so AA effectively paid me $500 + 3,500 miles to bump each year.

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

Bottom line

While many people would prefer a full refund to being issued travel vouchers, when it comes to paying for flights and earning miles, these vouchers are as good as cash. If you book a flight and pay with a travel voucher, you'll earn redeemable and elite miles at normal rates, and you can use these vouchers to help you requalify for elite status once it's safe to travel again.

Thanks for the question, Jon, and if you’re a TPG reader who’d like us to answer a question of your own, tweet us @thepointsguy, message us on Facebook or email us at info@thepointsguy.com.

Featured photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images.

Featured image by Getty Images

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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