Millions of airline miles, credits set to expire: How to save them

Tips to save your frequent flyer miles from expiring

The vaccine rollout is creating a post-pandemic travel boom and many people are finding the more than yearlong lockdown has left them with flight miles and credits on the verge of expiring.

Many travelers received flight credits, either in the mail or electronically, after canceling or postponing a trip from 2020, according to Kurt Knutsson, The Cyber Guy. An estimated 20 million vouchers are available, and “those are adding up to an estimated $10 billion in future airline credits now set to expire,” he warned.

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Customers are now scrambling to use their credits before they become useless, but due to the recent increase in travel and capacity restrictions, it’s been challenging to work with the airlines.

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
ALK ALASKA AIR GROUP 65.61 -3.14 -4.57%

Many call centers have long wait times, including Alaska Airlines, which posted warnings on its website telling customers its lines are backed up.

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Credits usually expire after a year, but “many airlines extended the typical twelve months to use it or lose it,” Knutsson added.

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
DAL DELTA AIR LINES INC. 43.99 -2.11 -4.58%

Delta Air Lines announced it would be extending all tickets expiring in 2021, as well as new tickets purchased this year set to expire on December 31, 2022, according to its website.

"The company refunded more than $3 billion to customers in 2020 and extended the use of certain travel credits through December 2022 to provide additional flexibility to customers," according to an SEC filing.

Along with Delta, American Airlines and United Airlines will also be extending vouchers, which will be good through March 31, 2022.

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
AAL AMERICAN AIRLINES GROUP, INC. 20.07 -1.48 -6.87%
DAL DELTA AIR LINES INC. 43.98 -2.12 -4.60%

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Southwest Airlines, on the other hand, will extend credits to September 7, 2022, but only for flights planned from March 1 through Sept. 7 of last year. The downside is, "once you rebook it, it's going to reset the clock, and that's going to expire a lot sooner," Knutsson said.

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
LUV SOUTHWEST AIRLINES CO. 59.69 -2.35 -3.79%

To prevent losing your airline credits and track the money owed to you from the airlines, Knutsson offers some advice.

How to save your airline credits

1. Check the fine print of credits and vouchers

The expiration date is usually the day it was ticketed, not the day you were set to fly.

2. Screenshot the credit from the airline site for your records

Save a picture of the credit, so it's easily accessible for future use.

3. Add the expiration date to a calendar reminder

Save the date and set a reminder for 30 days before the credit is set to expire. You can add your screenshot to the calendar reminder as well.

Knutsson also shares a few resources for customers who are ready to start traveling again and want to save money as demand picks up.

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ExpertFlyer, an airline information website, shows the flight availability for all airlines. Instead of selling you only see the flights they want you to choose, the site allows you to see the raw data for each flight.

The Miles Guy is another great tool if you are looking for first- and business-class award travel options, which are usually difficult to find. You only pay a fee once The Miles Guy finds the flight you want to purchase.

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The last site, HiChee, is great for comparing vacation rental prices. It’s a simple process, where you input the URL for the rental you want, and it finds the lowest price for that rental.