Don’t Let Your Pandemic Travel Credits Go to Waste

Traveling via any means is bonkers right now, so you may not be thinking about booking a trip anytime soon. Or maybe you are revenge traveling and booking all of the trips—either way, if you have e-credits or vouchers from trips that were canceled during the pandemic, you should probably use them soon or find out how to save, extend, or get credit for them before they expire.

As the Washington Post points out, travel companies were quick to hand out vouchers—rather than issue refunds, even when required to do so—for cancellations on the assumption that customers wouldn’t actually use them before they expired. And that’s exactly what’s happening.

If you can’t use your vouchers or credits in the near future, here are a few ways to avoid losing them.

Check the status and policies for your vouchers

First, gather all the information. Log into your travel accounts and note what vouchers or credits you have, how much they’re worth, when they expire, and any policies or limitations for redemption.

Ask for a refund instead

Customers and company representatives who spoke to the Post reported that vouchers can often be redeemed for a full refund, which airlines, cruise lines, and other travel operators may be required to offer based on their terms and conditions if they canceled your trip with no alternative. Of course, this may not apply if you canceled. But it doesn’t hurt to ask—firmly.

Use only part of your expiring credit

If you have an e-credit for a certain dollar amount that’s set to expire, you may be able to keep it active by spending part of the money on a super cheap itinerary (like a one-way flight) and saving the rest for the future.

Another hack: book travel using points or e-credits and cancel it within the 24-hour no-penalty window, which re-deposits the credit to your account and resets the expiration date. Note that there may be fees or restrictions for this.

Prevent general travel points from expiring

Another thing to check is whether the frequent flyer miles or travel points (and other benefits) you’ve accumulated over time are set to expire soon. Many rewards programs suspended mileage expiration and extended existing premium membership benefits, but those limitations are starting to kick in once again.

For example, American Airlines AAdvantage miles expire after 24 months of inactivity, meaning no earning or spending on your account. American paused mileage expiration during the pandemic but reinstated the rule on April 1. To keep your account alive, you only need to make one transaction, which could include a credit card charge, redemption for a cheap flight or other travel, or a cash/mileage donation to charity.

Plan that trip anyway

Depending on the type of voucher you have, you may get pretty good bang for your buck when booking right now. For example, a cruise line may charge less than the total of your original credit, so you can cover more of your cost. If you want to get away, feel safe doing so, and have some flexibility, this may be better than letting your money go to waste.

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