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6 Savvy Tips for Using Flight Vouchers

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I love airline vouchers. Sure, the price for obtaining them is usually several aggravating hours in the airport, or a canceled flight — but then, you have an unexpected free (or discounted) flight in your hand. To me, a flight voucher feels like a permission slip to travel wherever you want.

Of course, the only thing better than a voucher is cold, hard cash. That’s why I buy travel insurance with trip cancellation benefits and travel delay coverage. Trip cancellation can reimburse all your nonrefundable, prepaid trip costs if you have to cancel the trip for a covered reason — and reimbursement beats a voucher, hands down.

Even better: When you have the OneTrip Premier plan, travel delay benefits will give you an inconvenience payment of $100 per day for a covered travel delay. That’s right — you get money just for waiting in the airport, with no receipts required (just proof of delay). Find travel insurance for your next flight.

Already got your airline voucher in hand? We’ll share a few tips for getting the most value from your vouchers.

1. When you get bumped, negotiate your flight delay compensation.

There’s an art to getting the biggest flight voucher you can. Some frequent travelers advise volunteering to get bumped before the gate agent even asks, so you can be first on the list. Others say you should wait, because airlines sometimes increase the amount they’re offering if they can’t get enough volunteers. Whatever your circumstances, make sure you ask questions before you accept an airline voucher: When does the voucher expire? Are there blackout dates or other restrictions? Here are a few more tips for what to do when you get bumped.

2. Read the fine print carefully on your airline voucher.

Now you’ve got an airline voucher in hand. Victory! Before you start planning your trip to Paris, take a close look at the voucher and the airline’s restrictions. Here are a few airlines’ voucher policies (double-check them before you fly, as these policies may change):

  • American Airlines: American Airlines’ eVouchers are valid for one year from date of issue and may be used for travel on American Airlines and American Eagle carriers, as well as oneworld partners and AA Codeshare, for flights originating in the United States, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. They’re not valid for upgrades or flight add-ons, such as baggage fees. Up to eight vouchers may be redeemed for one purchase. Here’s American Airlines’ voucher policy.
  • Delta Air Lines: Delta issues Transportation Credit Vouchers, Delta Dollars and Travel Vouchers, all of which are considered eCredits. Delta’s eCredits may be used for Delta tickets, plus government taxes and fees, and redeemed for travel on Delta’s website. Transportation Credit Vouchers may be transferred to another passenger, as long as the person whose name appears on the voucher is traveling on the same reservation. Here’s information on Delta’s flight vouchers.
  • Spirit Airlines: Spirit’s Future Travel Vouchers are only applied to the flight portion of base fare, excluding carrier fees, and must be used to book a flight within 60 days of issuance. The exception is vouchers issued to people who volunteer to get bumped, which are valid for one year. Blackout dates apply. Here’s Spirit’s voucher policy.
  • United Airlines: United issues electronic travel certificates that may be used for travel on United- and United Express-operated flights, as well as United Express-marketed flights operated by other airlines. Here’s how to redeem United travel vouchers.

3. Know that sometimes you can bend the airline’s voucher rules… and sometimes you can’t.

If you forget to use your travel vouchers and discover they’ve expired, you’re probably out of luck. Most airlines say, in no uncertain terms, that vouchers have no value after the expiration date. However, there may be a way around this.

“Let’s say you have a voucher expiring today. What you can do is book a FULLY refundable ticket with the voucher say 10 months from now. Then, when you find something you want to spend those funds on, call and say you want to cancel that refundable ticket and use the credits for this new ticket,” suggests travel blog Rene’s Points.i Will this always work? It’s not guaranteed. But if you ask nicely, airline reps may work with you. For instance, they may let you use a voucher to pay for more than one traveler on the same reservation.

4. When you have a serious problem with your airline vouchers, take it to the top.

The gate agent told one traveler that her Spirit Airlines vouchers could be used to fly anytime, anywhere, as long as she booked travel within 60 days. But when she tried to use her vouchers for three possible destinations, she was told there were no seats available for any weekend in the next five months.ii If this happens to you, advises Travel Troubleshooter Christopher Elliott, send a “brief, polite email to one of Spirit’s executive contacts,” explaining what happened. When Elliott did this on the traveler’s behalf, Spirit gave her new round-trip vouchers with fewer restrictions.

5. Include the value of your flight vouchers when you’re buying travel insurance.

People often forget to do this, but it’s so important! If you’re using vouchers from a previously canceled flight, then you should include the cash value of those vouchers in the total trip cost when you’re buying insurance. That way, if you have to cancel the trip for a covered reason, your trip cancellation benefits can reimburse you for all your unused, nonrefundable, prepaid trip costs, including those valuable vouchers. When filing a claim, make sure you can provide proof of payment for the original trip.

Now, if your voucher is for an inconvenience — because you were bumped off a flight or received sub-par customer service, for instance — then the trip cancellation benefit would not be able to cover your voucher. That’s because you never paid out of pocket for the voucher in the first place.

No matter how you’re paying for your trip, it’s always smart to buy travel insurance to protect yourself from common travel mishaps. Get a quote for your next adventure!

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