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What to keep in mind when redeeming airline credits

Posted at 3:45 PM, Dec 30, 2020

Airlines gave credits to many travelers who had to cancel plans this year. If you're hoping to redeem them in 2021, there are a few things to keep in mind.

We spoke to Laura Motta, the editorial director of The Points Guy, a travel website. She says it's most important to pay attention to time limits on when you can book another flight.

“These credits are going to be expiring at some point in 2021. Some of the airlines have gone into 2022 with this, but just make sure that you understand when your credits are expiring so that you can use them in time,” said Motta

United Airlines has offered two types of credits. One is a travel credit, which acts like a bank to book flights until you've reached the price of your original flight. The other is a flight credit, which can only be used once. If the flight is less expensive than your original trip, you lose the rest of your money. If it's more expensive, you pay the difference.

“It's not a situation where the airline is going to say, ‘oh don't worry, you can just have that way more expensive ticket,’ they're not going to do that,” said Motta.

American Airlines currently has three kinds of travel credits, but plans to soon phase out its paper vouchers. Unlike United’s more restrictive option, with American, if you rebook for a cheaper flight, you'll get the difference in trip credit.

Others like Southwest and Delta have pretty simple terms for credits. Alaska Airlines is also offering to convert the price of a flight you can't make into miles.

“We really wish that more airlines would do this, just giving people flexibility is really great, but so far they're the only airline to do it, so we'll see if other airlines follow,” said Motta.

Motta says airlines are trying to figure out timelines on when the majority of people will feel safe to travel again. So, it's possible they'll offer extensions on deadlines or more deals to bring travelers back, but there's no guarantee.