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How to best use airfare credit?
January 24, 2013 11:24 AM   Subscribe

I have a $1,700 airfare credit with American that I cannot use by its expiration date in July. What can I do?

Last July I had to cancel an international flight. (I could not get the time off from work, if it matters.) The ticket was non-refundable and consequently I ended up with a nearly $1,700 credit with American Airlines due to expire in one year.

I've yet to use any of the credit, and I won't be able to take a vacation within the next calendar year. (Partially for medical reasons, if that matters. Not sure if airlines are receptive to pity cases.) I have a couple of small flights (US city to US city) that I need to take within the next few months, but it won't come near to the amount of the credit, and after checking flight prices, it would also be a waste of money in the sense that American is often one of the more expensive options for these particular flights.

Is there any way to get the time for the credit extended? Any way to exchange the credit for cash? What can I do to recoup the maximum amount from this credit? This is not an insignificant sum for me, in fact I could really, really use this money for medical bills, so I'm willing to do some finagling to wring the most from it. Thank you!
posted by unannihilated to Travel & Transportation (25 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
American has vacations that include hotels, car rentals, etc. Perhaps if you can't fly, it might make more sense to use the credit for other travel expenses?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:30 AM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Can you upgrade a flight or two and enjoy first class treatment? I can't think of a way to turn it into cash without selling tickets to others, which will probably be logistically difficult and would likely lose you money in the process.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:32 AM on January 24, 2013


Oftentimes, you can sell the credit. Airlines started cracking down on this a while back, so whether that will actually work or not will depend on the details stamped on your credit. The flyertalk forums are an excellent place to get advice about this (and maybe even find a buyer).
posted by zug at 11:33 AM on January 24, 2013


Can you change the credit into frequent flier miles?
posted by Ideefixe at 11:33 AM on January 24, 2013


Is there any way to get the time for the credit extended?

You can ask, but probably not.

Any way to exchange the credit for cash?

Almost certainly not. Sorry. You are very unlikely to be able to be able to sell the unused ticket to others either.

American has vacations that include hotels, car rentals, etc.

I doubt that they will allow you to do this.

Sorry to be so negative, but since the tickets are non-refundable, most airlines don't really bend over backwards to help you if you can't reuse them for your own air travel in the next year. Blazecock Pileon probably has the only practicable use of these tickets.
posted by grouse at 11:36 AM on January 24, 2013


after checking flight prices, it would also be a waste of money in the sense that American is often one of the more expensive options for these particular flights.

This doesn't make any sense. Who cares how much it costs? If your choices are a) use the credit even if the price is inflated or b) use your own money, why wouldn't you use the credit, especially if you have to use it or lose it?

I must be missing something. Please enlighten me.
posted by lyssabee at 11:44 AM on January 24, 2013 [8 favorites]


Can you only use the credit for your own travel? Do you have to be on the flight at all? I wouldn't recommend putting up a Craiglist offer or anything, but if you can use this credit to buy tickets for other people, you could work out something with friends/family who already have somewhere to fly where you buy the tickets on your credit and they pay you back, maybe at a discount to give them a reason to jump in.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 11:45 AM on January 24, 2013


I should have added, if I were you, I would fly to another city for lunch just because I could!
posted by lyssabee at 11:45 AM on January 24, 2013 [6 favorites]


As a last resort, consider buying an expensive ticket, then cancelling it, in an attempt to create a new 1-year window. I have no idea if that would work, though; it sounds like the kind of thing that they might have checks against in their computer system.
posted by aimedwander at 11:45 AM on January 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Is there any way to get the time for the credit extended?

What I am about to describe is a very risky, YMMV scenario, but it worked for me (albeit unintentionally).

I had a voucher from American as compensation for a travel snafu. Before it expired, I used it as partial payment on another flight. Then I had to cancel that flight, so I got another credit for the cancelled amount (minus the change fee).

American let me use the credit towards another flight, even though by that time the original voucher amount had expired. I don't know if they just missed something, or what -- the details are fuzzy but I seem to remember one agent I talked to noticing the date on the original voucher but seeming confused and applying the expired voucher amount anyway. So this is a risky strategy.

TL;DR if all else fails and you're about to lose out on the credit anyway, try redeeming the credit for a flight, then cancelling, to extend the life of the credit.
posted by payoto at 11:46 AM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Can you donate them and get a tax credit?
posted by spunweb at 11:47 AM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Use it for your upcoming flights. Better to use the credit for something you need than to lose it altogether.
posted by valeries at 11:50 AM on January 24, 2013


There are a couple charities that accept frequent flier points for troops to get home, or family to visit sick relatives or similar. I bet they'd take vouchers, too, and most airlines are happy to cooperate because it makes them look great.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 11:53 AM on January 24, 2013


Yes, lyssabee, you are missing the fact that I am asking a question about how else to use the credit. Obviously using the credit for the flight no matter how much it costs makes sense if this is my only option and I cannot use the credit in a more economical way.
posted by unannihilated at 11:57 AM on January 24, 2013


I thought about doing the buy a new ticket then cancel it to extend the window scenario. Can anyone else confirm or deny success with this?
posted by unannihilated at 12:00 PM on January 24, 2013


I'm not sure from your post if this is something you know/have checked into, but I've had travel vouchers that had to be redeemed within a year but could be used to book travel more than a year after the cancelled flight. i.e. in this case perhaps you could book travel for January 2014 (or later, even), if you book it by July.
posted by needs more cowbell at 12:33 PM on January 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Here are AA's Refunds FAQs. If you want wide exposure to people who have tried this sort of thing, ask on the the FlyerTalk American Airlines forum.
posted by grouse at 12:36 PM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why not buy the ticket before the expiration, and have your flights in 2014? If you can't take vacation this year, why not start planning next year?
posted by arnicae at 12:54 PM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I suggest asking this at Flyertalk.com. They are all very knowledgable there.
posted by eas98 at 1:28 PM on January 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


arnicae has a very good point. I don't think you have to fly by the voucher's expiration, only buy. That said, I can't remember how far out American books (not a year as I recall, but I could be wrong). Are you likely to know by July what your travel possibilities are a year from now?
posted by hoyland at 5:15 PM on January 24, 2013


Buy a *refundable* ticket to the location of your choice. Cancel that ticket later. Yes the refundable fare will be expensive as hell. But that doesn't matter, because you are going to cancel it later and get your refund.

Probably worth buying it through a travel agent, to make sure.
posted by cyndigo at 6:15 PM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Cyndigo's solution is so simple that I can't believe I didn't think of it. Though I'm sure the airlines have thought of it too. Will they just give me my refund in the form of a credit again? I will take this over to the Flyertalk forum, but if anyone has any experience doing what she suggested (for success or failure), please post.
posted by unannihilated at 8:17 PM on January 24, 2013


I've booked a flight using credit (with JetBlue, if it matters) and subsequently cancelled it (work travel interfered with personal travel). The "new" credit was a year from the second travel date. YMMV, of course. Literally.
posted by charmcityblues at 9:06 PM on January 24, 2013


Oh, and it's worth considering that American Airlines itself may well fold by July anyway, though it's likely its new owners would honor credit.
posted by charmcityblues at 9:07 PM on January 24, 2013


cyndigo has it. Buy a refundable fare using the credit. If it's a paper voucher, you'll have to mail it to Florida and the change you receive will be in the form of a voucher with an expiration date a year from issuance. Since you bought the refundable ticket with a nonrefundable voucher, you'll get another voucher back when you cancel it, again valid for a year.
posted by wierdo at 2:31 PM on January 25, 2013


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