Tuesday Travel Tip: You can get an airline voucher with a bonus just by asking

May 5, 2020

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To help you plan your future travels while we’re all stuck on the ground, we’re launching “Tuesday Travel Tips.” Check back for a new travel tip every week!

As they say, it never hurts to ask.

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, we’ve seen airlines across the world quickly slash schedulesreduce frequencies and park large portions of their fleet. This has led to massive cancellations and significant schedule changes, which is good news if you’re looking for a refund for your nonrefundable ticket.

That’s because you are entitled to a refund when an airline cancels your flight — even if the airline says otherwise. But, with very few new bookings, cash flow is drying up — and carriers are doing all that they can to avoid giving your money back.

That includes waiting until the last minute to cancel flights, thereby expecting more customers to make voluntary changes instead of asking for a refund.

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But one trend we’ve seen across airlines worldwide is the rise in those giving out vouchers or future travel credits in lieu of a refund. That way, an airline can keep your money in an interest-free loan, helping pad their cash flow numbers.

Unless your flight was canceled or significantly rescheduled, you won’t have a choice of getting a refund for a nonrefundable ticket. That means you’re going to be stuck with a voucher if you decide to voluntarily cancel your ticket.

But if the airline makes an involuntary change to your reservation, then you can get your money back. And that’s exactly when airlines will try their hardest to get you to choose a voucher instead.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Now that the ball’s in your court, it’s time to start negotiating. In order to incentivize you to take the voucher, the airline needs to add some promotional value or loosen some of the terms. Otherwise, there’s no reason to accept one over cold, hard cash.

Related: Why you should wait until the last minute to get a refund for your flight

While I’ve previously argued that it makes sense to take a refund instead of a credit (even with a bonus), we’ve seen some incredibly generous offers recently that have me second-guessing myself.

Sure, in the majority of cases, I’d still take a refund, but with two U.S. airlines, it might make sense to ask for a voucher.

You see, when American Airlines cancels a flight, you can submit a refund request. But, throughout that process, you’re going to be offered (at least) twice to accept a voucher. In my experience, I’ve been offered credits with up to a 20% bonus.

These eVouchers can be used by anyone and expire one year from the date of issue. Combined with a 20% bonus, I’m in. (It doesn’t hurt that I’m an American Airlines Executive Platinum member who’s looking to requalify in 2021).

I’ve heard reports of readers getting similar offers from American via the phone too. And even if an agent doesn’t initially offer, you should always ask.

The same is true with JetBlue. Although the airline has been stingy about refunds, its customer service agents are empowered to be very generous with providing travel bank credit. If you decide to cancel or postpone a trip, you should ask about the possibility of getting a bonus credit.

This strategy has paid off for some TPG staffers, who’ve received a 20% bonus. Like AA’s eVouchers, travel bank credit can be used by anyone. Plus, the airline just extended the validity of the credit from one year to two, giving you more time to use it.

As such, if you live near a JetBlue focus city, there’s little reason not to accept the voucher.

Related: A look at JetBlue by the numbers

Anecdotally, we’ve heard that Frontier and Spirit are also offering bonuses to those who ask. They’ve both been giving $50 additional credit for those with canceled flights. However, these vouchers have long lists of terms and conditions including that they can only be used by the originally ticketed passenger with strict expiration policies.

Aside from all the confusing terms, some airlines may not make it out alive after the coronavirus outbreak. If you’ve got a voucher for a defunct carrier, it’s worth nada. That’s why I’d only consider taking one with an airline I’m sure will survive, like American and JetBlue.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

 

Just because we’ve heard reports of some U.S. airlines offering bonus vouchers to those who ask, doesn’t mean that you’ll be able to get one. Typically, these promotions are only offered when your flight was changed or canceled by the airline, since the alternative is getting your cash back.

It’s also possible that American uses your Helix Score or other internal metric when deciding how much value to add to your voucher. But one thing’s for certain, you won’t know until you ask.

So the next time you call to make a change or cancel your flight, ask if you can get a bonus on a future travel credit. After all, you won’t know until you try.

Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy 

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