For consumers, one positive thing about the pandemic was that many airlines introduced more flexible policies when it comes to changing or canceling tickets. For example, with the “big three” US carriers, you can now generally cancel a ticket, and apply the credit toward a future itinerary (there are exceptions, like basic economy tickets).
In the past, I’ve written guides to American’s trip credits and flight credits and to Delta’s eCredits. In this post I wanted to take a look at United’s flight credits, which are the currency by which United issues vouchers for canceled tickets. There’s even a trick to extending the expiration date of these, which I’ll cover.
In this post:
United’s flight credit travel vouchers explained
United’s future flight credits are what’s issued by the Chicago-based carrier when you cancel or change a ticket, and have a residual value that you can apply toward a future ticket. United flight credits have a specific monetary value. Think of them as a form of payment toward the cost of a United ticket or select other United purchases.
Let’s discuss some of the important details regarding these. Note that these are separate from United’s travel certificates, which are issued as compensation for service issues, or if a flight is oversold. To keep things simple, in this post I’m focusing specifically on flight credits from canceled or changed tickets.
For how long are United flight credits valid?
United flight credits are generally valid for one year from the date that a ticket was initially issued. Note that you need to commence travel by the expiration date, so if you book a roundtrip ticket, the outbound travel at least needs to start before the expiration date. This is an important detail, as the expiration date isn’t just the date by which you have to book.
To give an example, let’s say you issue a ticket on January 1, 2024, for travel on June 1, 2024, and then later need to cancel the ticket. You would then need to redeem the flight credit by January 1, 2025, and your travel would actually need to start by then.
During the pandemic, United extended some flight credits with more flexible policies, though this is the standard policy going forward.
Can you use United flight credits for others?
United flight credits are non-transferrable, so must be used by the person who they were initially assigned to. In situations where a reservation had multiple passengers on it, each passenger would be issued their individual flight credit, and would still need to use it individually.
Do United flight credits maintain residual value?
If you have a $500 United flight credit and apply it toward a $250 ticket, do you lose the residual $250 value, or maintain it? The good news is that United flight credits maintain their residual value, so you can apply the credit toward smaller purchase amounts without issue, without losing value.
Note that the residual flight credits maintain the same expiration date as the initial ticket (though as I’ll explain below, there’s a trick to extending the expiration date).
What can United flight credits be used for?
United flight credits are quite flexible. They can be used toward a ticket on United, United Express, and partner-operated flights issued through the United website or mobile app. They can also be applied toward non-flight purchases, like Economy Plus seating, seat assignments, and preferred seating.
The catch is that you must apply flight credits at the time you initially ticket your reservation, so that’s the only time you can use them toward ancillaries. You couldn’t use flight credits for an Economy Plus seating upgrade on a ticket that has already been booked, for example.
How do you find United flight credits?
If you’re a United MileagePlus member, you should be able to find any flight credits attached to your account by logging into your MileagePlus account. Then on the “My United” page, go to “Wallet,” and then “Travel credits.”
In the event that you’re not a MileagePlus member, or if it’s not showing up correctly for whatever reason, you can find your United travel credits at this link. There you can look up your flight credits based on the confirmation number of your initial ticket, plus your last name.
How do you redeem United flight credits?
Redeeming United flight credits is easy. Just go through the process of booking a ticket, and when you get to the payment page, select “Travel credits” as the payment method.
You can combine multiple flight credits toward the cost of a ticket, though you can’t combine flight credits and travel certificates toward a single purchase.
Can you extend United flight credits?
There’s a trick to extending the expiration of a United flight credit, which can come in handy. Just use your flight credit toward a future ticket that’s a little more expensive than the value of your travel credit, and when you cancel your ticket, you’ll be issued a new flight credit valid for an additional year.
For example, say you have a $250 flight credit expiring on December 31, 2023:
- Book a ticket that costs slightly more than $250, so that you’re using the entire travel credit, plus you’re paying a little bit more in cash
- Then if you cancel the ticket (after the 24 hour free cancelation period) you’ll be issued a flight credit for the entire new amount (value of all the flight credit plus the cash amount paid)
- That new flight credit will be valid from the date that the new ticket was issued, giving you an entire year to use the voucher
Nowadays most United Airlines tickets have quite a bit of flexibility. There’s sometimes confusion about how long vouchers are valid for, who they can be redeemed for, and if they can be extended, so hopefully the above is a useful rundown of how United’s flight credit system works.
I think the most important thing to understand is that it’s easy to extend the expiration of United flight credits simply by booking a new flight that’s slightly more expensive than the value of the credit, and then canceling it. You’ll be issued a new voucher that’s then valid for a year.
What has your experience been with United flight credits?