[Update: Cancellation Deadline Extended!] Should You Take A Future Flight Credit Or Electronic Travel Certificate For Cancelling A United Flight?

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Update: United has extended the deadline to cancel flights that were booked before 3/3 for travel from 7/1-12/31. You now have until 8/31 to make cancellations. You should wait until 8/31 before making any cancellations for travel from 9/1-12/31 to see if United will extend the cancellation deadline, or cancel/significantly change your flight, which would trigger a cash refund.


Originally posted on 4/24:

As I’ve said many times, there’s rarely a good reason to cancel a flight before the day of the flight.

If an airline cancels a flight or significantly changes the schedule, they must provide a cash refund if you request one. However if you cancel a flight then you can only get a voucher, and that’s true even if the airline does wind up cancelling the flight.

United is offering vouchers without fees for cancellation in the following situations:

  • If you booked travel before 3/3/20 and are scheduled to fly through 5/31, you can cancel up until the time of departure.
  • If you booked travel before 3/3/20 and are scheduled to fly between 6/1-12/31, you can cancel up until 4/30/20 5/31/20.
  • If you booked travel between 3/3/20-5/31/20 for travel on any date, you can cancel up until the time of departure.

(Note that award tickets have different rules. Those can be redeposited with no fee for travel through 5/31 and they can be redeposited with no fees for the remainder of 2020 by cancelling 30 days before departure.)

The tricky position for paid tickets is the requirement to cancel travel that’s scheduled to depart between 6/1-12/31 by 4/30 if you booked it before 3/3. If you cancel now you’ll only get a voucher, even if United does cancel or change your flight. I think it’s likely that waivers will be extended, especially for travel in June, so I wouldn’t rush to cancel those. But travel later in the year may operate without waivers, so if you know you don’t want to go you may want to cancel now.

Personally, I’d wait until the day of the flight to see if United cancels to get cash, but that’s a decision that you’ll have to weigh.

If you’re booked on United, your flight is operating as scheduled, and you don’t want to travel due to COVID-19, you will have 2 options. You can cancel your flight and leave it as a future flight credit or you can cancel your flight and receive an electronic travel certificate. If you don’t see the option to choose, just call United and let them know which option you would like.

Which you want will depend on several factors:

Expiration date:

  • Future flight credit: Tickets issued on 3/31/20 or earlier are valid for travel for 24 months from when the ticket was originally issued. Tickets issued as of 4/1/20 or later are valid for travel for 12 months from when the ticket was originally issued. The new travel must be complete by the expiration of the ticket (12 or 24 months after you originally purchased the ticket).
  • Electronic travel certificate: You will receive a voucher that will expire 24 months from the date that you cancel your flight. Additionally you can book travel for up to 11 months after the voucher expires. Plus you can book a flexible fare to allow for changes for travel after the expiration date.
    • Advantage: Electronic travel certificate

Combination of funds:

  • Future flight credit: You can’t combine multiple reservations to book a more expensive flight.
  • Electronic travel certificate: You can contact United to combine multiple certificates into a larger certificate, which will allow you to book a more expensive flight.
    • Advantage: Electronic travel certificate

Refunds for rebooking a less expensive ticket:

  • Future flight credit: Tickets issued on 3/2/20 or earlier will get an electronic travel certificate if you rebook a less expensive ticket. Tickets issued as of 3/3/20 or later will not receive anything back if you rebook a less expensive ticket.
  • Electronic travel certificate: You can keep using your electronic travel certificate for multiple reservations until you use the full value of the certificate.
    • Advantage: Electronic travel certificate

Booking travel for someone else:

  • Future flight credit: You can’t transfer the ticket to another passenger.
  • Electronic travel certificate: You can book travel for anyone, though the sale or barter of a certificate is prohibited.
    • Advantage: Electronic travel certificate

Ease of rebooking:

  • Future flight credit: You can make changes online, but the system will only return limited flight results. The best bet is to make a new flight search and then call United to make changes.
  • Electronic travel certificate: You can book new travel online and easily use the certificate number on the payment page at checkout.
    • Advantage: Electronic travel certificate

Booking travel on a partner airline:

  • Future flight credit: You can book travel on United or any partner airline.
  • Electronic travel certificate: You can only book travel on United.
    • Advantage: Future flight credit

Taking advantage of free bags, priority boarding, and other United card benefits:

  • Future flight credit: If you originally booked on a United card, you will retain these benefits.
  • Electronic travel certificate: If the value of the certificate exceeds the cost of the new flight, you will not get your card benefits. If you value of the certificate is less than the cost of the new flight and you use your United card to pay for the remaining amount, you will get your card benefits. This is why you should not preemptively combine electronic travel certificates unless you need to.
    • Advantage: Future flight credit

Travel in middle of a trip

  • Future flight credit: If you are in the middle of a trip and your return leg was cancelled, you should be able to get a replacement return leg without paying extra by just leaving the ticket as existing flight credit. You may need to ask for a manager to waive any additional difference in fare for the replacement return flight. If your ticket was bought after 3/2, you wont get back any credit if the return leg goes down in price.
  • Electronic travel certificate: You will have a buy a new ticket with the certificate.
    • Advantage: Future flight credit
  • Travel booked with Future flight credit or an Electronic travel certificate will earn regular flight miles.
  • You can’t pay for upgrades, bags, or other fees with Future flight credit or an Electronic travel certificate.

In most cases you’ll be better off with an electronic travel certificate, but the case can also be made for future travel funds. Which option will you select and will you cancel flights between 6/1-12/31 now or will you wait to see if United cancels them?

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58 Comments On "[Update: Cancellation Deadline Extended!] Should You Take A Future Flight Credit Or Electronic Travel Certificate For Cancelling A United Flight?"

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David

I’m in this exact situation, we have United tickets in August, debating what to do. Thanks for the info.

So confused between the difference between future flight credit and electronic travel certificate. Why would anyone choose the future flight credit? Just trying to understand my options….

M. Josef

My direct flight was changed automatically to a route with 2 Stopovers.
I canceled and took the ETC, will eventually use it. Simplest, and no waiting game.

Ephraim

Hi Dan, I asked you this before. Booked 5 tickets for me and my family to go to IAH on May 7th thru the 10th. 2 in First and 3 in Y. They canceled both my outbound and returned and moved us to earlier on the outbound (5hours) and later by 2 hours on the return.
Bar Mitzvah Party was cancelled. I’m the only flyer usually in the family. Any ideas? I’d love the money back and didn’t use an agent, paid with Amex.

mom

I just spoke to united about my son who is on a return portion of the flight. They told me its better to leave it for future flight credit in order to be able rebook for his return and not to have to pay one a one-way fare. ( if I request electronic travel certificate)

Raf

I had a flight (booked though chase UR portal) which United cancelled and prompted me to sign in. When I logged in, it told me to cancel (?). So I told chase ur to cancel the reservation with the cancelled flight (?)

They said they’ll send me an airline credit

I can’t connect chase ur because they only answer calls within 7 days off flying…

Any tips?

Moshe N

I booked a ticket through student universe and 3 days before me flight they emailed me that united has changed the itinerary (substantially) and I can cancel but the only compensation i can get is a travel credit(which apparently did not include the money i paid for an aisle seat), which i did. Are they allowed to tell me that, and if not is there anything i can do?

Yossig

I’ve already traveled one leg with a ticket paid by a voucher, booked in January and United canceled the 2nd leg for this coming Monday. What are my options?

Stargirl

Let’s just make sure I understood this. When you say travel from 6/1-12/31/20 must be canceled before 4/30/2020, you mean for flights booked before 3/3 correct?
And if you booked after 3/3 you have 24 months. Did I get that correctly?

Yochai

Great post! I is truly confusing when the airlines are offering free changes or vouchers without explaining the difference between them.
What if I used half way of a RT? When I use the travel credit price, will it price as half of a RT as opposed to a certificate which will price as a one way?

Jeremiah

What about if it’s a half flown ticket? They won’t even tell me how much the certificate would be because they don’t know till it’s issued?
Possible benefit of ftc is using it for return (ow can be segnificantly more expensive)

AYZ

I have a RT 5/6-5/12 UA90-UA85
On United app they are showing me now flying out UA90 original time then again 7:30 pm (3:15 earlier) and again 8 pm.
On flight back they switched to UA91 11:25 pm and again same flight same day 11:55 pm.
First, I’m not sure what this means. Second, is this significant time that I can cancel with refund?

AYZ

I called them now (2:00 am) like Mike suggested and had no waiting time.
Because my return was changed by more than 6 hours I was able to cancel with full refund to be expected between 7-10 days.

Mike

I called at last Morzei Shabbos at 1 am and was fully refunded within 5 minutes of placing the call. No wait time.

AYZ

Was it for a flight with a significant delay?

Mel

Have you done this same topic for American Airlines? If not, can you please? Great information! I love DansDeals. I was able to score a bottle of Clorox bleach thanks to you. 🙂 I felt as if I hit lotto. Lol
Thanks for all the information you provide!

Ali

Good news for me! My May United flight had a schedule change to a flight 6 hours and 10 minutes earlier. I was able to call in and cancel the flight today with a full refund to my credit card which is expected to post in 30 business days.

IH

I’m at 21 business days and still waiting for my money back. My American Airlines flight I got my cash back in 7 days.

Ali

Fingers crossed the refund comes soon for you. I’m just thrilled to not have to deal with a voucher.

Leah Preiserowicz

1) are tickets booked via chase ur considered an award ticket or a paid ticket?
2) does it make sense to book a ticket to Israel now, considering that i can cancel if the situation is not good?

Joesph

If I booked a flight before 3/3 for 6/1-12/30 using united miles is there a fee for cancelling since it is travel after 5/31? are miles the only type of refund for an award ticket? Dan – what would you do?

MM

Thank you for explaining this so clearly! The return half of my son’s ticket (from Israel to NY) on United is for July – am I better off with a waiver or waiting until the last minute? He is back in the US already. (I guess this question requires the crystal ball….)

Eric

Hi Dan,

Thank you for all the information ! If I have something booked for July and the price went down 35% if I rebook can I cancel my flight and rebook same one for the cheaper price and keep the extra credit for future?

David

My daughter flew to Israel in September on a United round trip ticket. She is still in Israel and her return ticket is for June 9th. How would they value half a trip since normally the cost of a one way ticket is nearly as much as a round trip ticket?
Thanks
David

Ben

I have 4 award tickets booked for Israel on June 17th do I need to cancel before April 30th to not be charged the award redeposit fee?

YaakovD

I received 3 travel credits for one booking a few weeks ago (before DOT stepped up their game). I called to have them consolidate them and was told that can only be done at the time of booking. That is annoying; I wouldn’t be able to use them all in one booking without calling first. Is this standard procedure or was the rep being lazy? She put me on hold for a bit to ask a superior about that.

Chrystal G

Combination of funds and Refunds for rebooking a less expensive ticket. Where did you find this info on United’s website?

Jim

I threatened to file DOT complaint and then the rep gave me full refund and no deposit fee

Srully Epstein

Dan,

I had to buy my son a ticket to get him home from Israel before Pesach (unscheduled). He did not return to Israel as the yeshiva remains closed. I still have a June 15 ticket TLV to JFK via Delta, which will not be used.

My question is: Should I move the ticket to an earlier date (e.g., May 10) under the assumption they will cancel it, or stay put. My concern is that they will resume flying by June 15 and I will have to be the one to cancel. I don’t travel that much so a voucher is not worth nearly as much as a refund.

Thanks!

Mo

I had a flight to Italy booked for May 13th (booked it months ago) and did not cancel it per the advice above – I just got an email telling me my flight was canceled so will now call for cash refund. Thank you Dan!!!

Mo

Took exactly 4 minutes from when I dialed United till I got a full refund, the guy didn’t even try to get me to take a credit – that was easy!

Moshe

Dan: We purchased tickets today with miles on United from IAD to TLV for 3/24/21 (Pesach). Unfortunately return is not yet on sale. I thought any mileage ticket purchased between 4/1 and 4/30 (now 5/31) would have the redposit fee waived if cancelled. Looks like from your post that this only applies to flights on or before 12/31. Please confirm/advise. Thanks

Ninjaleh

I booked tickets to Israel using points on the chase rewards portal for united flights. Do these tickets have the same rules as award tickets (in that I can cancel 30 days before the flight, without penalty in 2020)?

GoYo

Just curious if anyone has experienced a Chase Ultimate Rewards points transfer delay with United. Chase says the transfer is instantaneous, though the points have been deducted and have not posted for several hours. Have had no problems transferring to United in the past. Thanks.

Marc

Just to clarify – If I have a one-way United award ticket from TLV to WAS on June 7. I cancel it online and the points are redeposited?

meir

I had a UA roundtrip from tlv-ewr cancelled the flight called them and they gave me full cash refund . Took 10min.

AR

Is there a source for the rule that you can cancel up until the departure time? I have a flight that departs in about 26 hours that I booked back in November. When I asked United what the time limit was on canceling (a few weeks ago), they said I’d have to do it at least 24 hours before departure. However, they seemed very confused and had to ask someone in order to give me that answer, which was weird.

Chaim

In the UA section:
“If you booked travel between 3/3/20-5/31/20 for travel on any date, you can cancel up until the time of departure.”
Should this be updated to: – 7/31/20?

KSMH

Why does it state for travel -12/31, UA website states if its booked by 7/31

MoG

Is this information still current? When I go to book a round-trip ticket depending on the return date I got different prices. If I book the lower-priced return date and then cancel for a travel voucher will I then be able to use that travel voucher for the more expensive return flight date?

Robert

Hi!

Just a bit confused… if I book a flight and cancel it, can I book a more expensive flight but same Basic economy seating with the voucher I’d receive or the price I paid now will just be credited towards a more expensive basic economy flight?

B

Thanks, Dan! Booked my daughter RT from Houston on United for $1069, plus paid an extra $286 and 80 Plus Points to get her confirmed in Polaris lie flat both ways. Great deal, especially considering the fact its essentially an “open ticket” with the new policy waiving change fees. Thanks!

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