How to use outstanding airline vouchers before they expire

Mar 25, 2021

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Thousands of travelers are sitting on airline vouchers for trips that were canceled last year.

Now, if you’re like the more than 1 million daily travelers taking to skies, it’s time to use them. After all, many are beginning to expire.

Here’s a look at how to redeem credits or vouchers you might be sitting on with the nation’s four biggest airlines.

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Using vouchers on American Airlines

American Airlines has three different types of vouchers, so the first thing to do is identify what type of credit you have.

Odds are that if you canceled or postponed a trip, you’re left with “Flight Credit.” These credits are given for flights that were voluntarily canceled.

When it’s time to rebook using a flight credit, you’ll need to locate the original reservation information, either the ticket number or the six-digit PNR (passenger name record).

You can then search for new flights online after pulling up your canceled reservation. Be sure to click the “add flight credit” button when you get to the purchase screen.

Note that flight credits can only be used by the originally ticketed traveler. All flight credits from travel voluntarily canceled due to the pandemic can be used for travel through March 31, 2022 for flights only — bags and other extras cannot be covered.

American also offers “Travel Vouchers” and “Trip Credit.”

Like flight credits, travel vouchers can only be used for flights, but they can be applied to anyone’s reservation. They generally expire one year from the issuance, but vouchers expiring between Jan. 1, 2021 and May 31, 2021 are automatically extended to March 31, 2022.

Trip credits are usually given as compensation or when you’re changing to a less expensive flight and there’s a residual value. Like travel vouchers, trip credits can be used for anyone, though you cannot book using a trip credit online.

Related: How airline no-change-fee policies stack up against Southwest

Using vouchers on Delta Air Lines

Delta offers a simpler solution than American.

The Atlanta-based carrier gives “eCredit” anytime you voluntarily cancel or change to a less expensive reservation.

If you’re a SkyMiles member, you can login to delta.com/redeem and pull up all your existing vouchers. If you aren’t a member, you’ll need to locate the 13-digit ticket number to access your voucher.

Once on Delta’s dedicated redemption site, you’ll validate that your voucher is still valid and then proceed to apply it to a new reservation.:

Using vouchers on Southwest Airlines

Every Southwest ticket can be voluntarily changed or canceled without a change fee.

When you cancel a Southwest flight, or switch to a cheaper itinerary, the value of your ticket is stored in a Travel Fund, which you can access using the six-digit PNR.

Travel Funds typically expire one year from the date the reservation was originally purchased, though a few select vouchers were extended to Sept. 7, 2022 during the height of the pandemic.

These vouchers can only be used for the originally ticketed passenger and can be combined with up to two other forms of payment, including additional travel funds.

Rebooking a Southwest flight is easy. Just purchase a new ticket as normal and then click “add travel funds” as a method of payment.

Using vouchers on United Airlines

United issues two types of credits — future flight credit and travel certificates.

The former is what you’ll receive when voluntarily canceling a reservation. These vouchers can be accessed using the 13-digit ticket number or the six-character PNR.

You’ll want to click “my trips” on United’s website to pull up your future flight credit. Once you found it, you can then click “Book with credit” to apply your existing reservation to a new ticket.

Note that United will not credit you the difference if you ultimately switch to a less expensive flight. You can only use these credits for the originally ticketed traveler, but they apply to partner-operated flights purchased through United.

Future flight credit issued between May 1, 2019 and March 31, 2021 is only valid for travel commencing on or before March 31, 2022.

United’s electronic travel certificates are similar to gift cards. They can be applied to any flight as a method of payment. There are no restrictions based on the fare rules, and they can be applied to any reservation.

Electronic travel certificates expire 24 months from the date of issuance.

Related: United just made it more difficult to claim a travel voucher

Bottom line

With many vouchers beginning to expire, it’s time to consider using them for upcoming travel. Armed with the tips outlined above, you’ll be able to quickly rebook your trip.

If you get stuck with an expiring voucher with no immediate use, some flyers, including TPG reader Rachel Willoughby, have had success purchasing cheap airfare with expiring credits and then receiving the fare difference on a new voucher with extended expirations.

Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy

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