Skip to content

The secret way to get a refund for flights paid with a Southwest gift card

April 24, 2020
4 min read
The secret way to get a refund for flights paid with a Southwest gift card
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.

By now, every TPG reader should know that you are entitled to a refund for your canceled flight — even if the airline says you aren’t.

This is based on the Department of Transportation policy stating that airlines need to refund you when involuntarily canceling a flight.

For canceled flights booked with credit cards (here are our top recommended airline cards), you'll typically get your money back as a statement credit. But, what happens if you paid for your flight with a gift card?

Sign up for our daily newsletter

Well, with Southwest, many readers were offered travel funds instead of getting their money back to a gift card. These readers were upset to learn that travel funds are a lot more restrictive than the original gift card.

For more travel tips and news, sign up for our daily newsletter!

For one, travel funds must be used by the originally-ticketed passenger. So, say you booked a flight for your friend using your gift card that ultimately gets canceled. Turns out, your friend will be the one with the future travel credit. That takes away a lot of flexibility, since gift cards can be used to purchase travel for anyone.

Southwest check-in counter in Maui, HI (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy.)

Additionally, while Southwest gift cards never expire, travel funds do. Typically, they are only valid from one year from the date of ticket purchase. However, in light of the coronavirus pandemic, Southwest has extended the validity to Sept. 7, 2022. Even so, there's a big difference between getting your money back to a gift card that never expires and getting a refund in the form of a travel fund that expires in just over two years.

Related: Southwest extends Companion Pass, elite status benefits into 2021

As frustrating as this may be, receiving travel funds as a refund actually lines up with the gift card terms and conditions, which state "Southwest gift card redeemed for travel is not refundable. If travel is not taken, the funds will be held with an expiration date."

As a Southwest spokesperson explained:

"Unlike credit card payments, Southwest gift card refunds provide a unique challenge as many Customers do not keep the original card once it’s been redeemed. Due to this security concern, it is not our policy to reissue gift card funds back to the original gift card."

So, while you may think you're stuck with travel funds when Southwest cancels a flight that was purchased with a gift card, that's actually not the case!

Related: Southwest’s groundbreaking feature will allow you to convert vouchers into Rapid Rewards points

Instead, as confirmed by a Southwest spokesperson, you can get a LUV Voucher in lieu of travel funds.

That's great news, since LUV Vouchers are transferable and can be used to book travel for anyone, which directly matches the terms of a gift card. Additionally, even though LUV Vouchers expire one year from when they're issued, in this case, Southwest will extend the validity if unused by the expiration date.

Southwest Boeing 737 interior. (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy.)

Therefore, the only real difference between a gift card and LUV Voucher is that the latter can only be applied toward the purchase of airfare, but not for taxes and fees. Otherwise, they are about as similar as you can get — and much better than receiving travel funds.

So, how do you actually get a LUV Voucher for a flight purchased with a gift card? First, you need to make sure that Southwest canceled or significantly delayed your flight. Voluntary changes aren't eligible for the LUV Voucher.

If you're indeed eligible, then you should reach out to the Customer Relations Team to work through the process. Explain that you'd like a LUV Voucher instead of travel funds, and an agent should be able to help you.

After all, you are entitled to an unrestricted refund when the airline cancels your flight — even if you paid with a gift card.

Featured image by Patrick T. Fallon

TPG featured card

Best starter travel card
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

1 - 3X points
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Intro offer

Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points60,000 points
For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

Annual Fee

$95

Recommended Credit

670-850
Excellent, Good
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 Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases
Best starter travel card
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

3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

    Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points
    60,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $95
  • 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.

    670-850
    Excellent, Good

Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases