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So, I got bumped from a United flight a while back (last April to be exact, so I'm nearing the one year mark). As part of the voluntary bump, I got a $400 voucher to be used towards purchasing another United flight.

I'm used to booking through Expedia or Orbitz, and just plugging in my credit card details.

The question is, how do I use these vouchers? Do I have to use United's site directly? (And will I be able to get the same rates?) Or, is it possible to book through a third party and still pay with that voucher?

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4 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

It sounds like what you've got is a "Type B" voucher. You should have 5 or 6 pieces of paper - one covering terms and conditions, (possibly) one with a summary, and then 4 vouchers, each of which is for $100 giving a total of $400. On each of the vouchers it should state "Treat as Type B Voucher".

"Type B" vouchers are basically able to be used as payment for any United/United Express/Continental flight. This is different to many other United vouchers (aka "E-Certificates") which give a "discount" on the fare, rather than being treated as payment for the normal fare.

You can use one or more of the $100 vouchers on a single booking, although you will not receive any credit for using only part of a voucher. eg, if your flight cost is $280, you can give them 2x $100 vouchers and pay $80, or you can give them 3x $100 vouchers but you will lose the additional $20.

Unfortunately you can't book flights with "Type B" vouchers online - you need to go via the United call center. If you're a Mileage Plus member you can reach them at the number on your card (which may take you to a dedicated reservations center, depending on your status). If you're not a MP member, you can call 1-800-UNITED-1 (aka 1-800-864-8331).

Note that there is NO charge for a phone booking when using a voucher! Normally you would be charged to book over the phone, but they will waive this when booking with a voucher. Depending on the agent you get it's possibly they will try and charge you a fee - if they do, just remind them that you are using a "paper voucher" and they will remove the fee.

Once you've booked your ticket the booking will be placed on hold until you pay for it by getting the voucher(s) to United. You can do this by either mailing the vouchers to United (I'd suggest registered mail, just in case!) or you can take the vouchers to a United ticket counter at any airport.

Personally I'd suggest going to the airport - it may cost you a little more, but it gives you the piece of mind of knowing that the vouchers aren't going to get lost. If your flights are less than 2 weeks away this is the only option they will offer you.

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Exactly as you said. Thanks! –  Affable Geek Feb 3 '12 at 1:04
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Be careful when calling United's number and asking about this-- I got bad information from the customer service line. A friend was trying to give me his bump vouchers, and the United rep on the phone said I would actually have to pay for the ticket, mail in the vouchers, and then they would refund the amount to my credit card. Not only that, but since we were transferring the credit to me, we would need to send a copy of each of our driver's licenses to a PO box in Texas. I asked if we could just buy the tickets at the airport with the vouchers, and he said no we could not.

I reserved a flight with Fare Lock (figuring it was worth the 3 bucks) and we went to the airport anyway, because neither of us was going to risk any of that craziness--or possible identity theft! The agent at the counter of course sold us the ticket with the vouchers, and when I told him what the 800 guy said to me, he said: That sounds like a scam. I said: It was your 800 guy!

My advice with any bump though-- don't get vouchers at all! As of April 2011, the airlines are required to give you cash rather than travel vouchers by law--if you ask!-- so don't even mess with the vouchers-- get the money instead. Read this story: http://500placeswithkids.com/2011/08/what-airlines-dont-tell-you-get-cash-instead-of-a-voucher/

If you are stuck with vouchers, just go to the airport. I've got a confirmed flight, no credit card charge, and no lost vouchers. And I get to go see my son just for a weekend at his base before he's deployed this fall, for free. (So I'm glad my friend didn't get the cash!)

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Travel websites do not accept travel vouchers as these are discount codes tied to an airline's own booking site. Whether you can redeem the vouchers online on the airline's site depends too - because some require to make the reservation online or in person. According to this article on airline voucher policies...

United also makes you call to redeem a paper voucher, and that also applies when redeeming an unused ticket from a canceled trip.

United's own policies confirm this:

To redeem your paper voucher, first call United Reservations at 1-800-UNITED-1 (1-800-864-8331) and ask for an agent to make a reservation using your free ticket voucher. Then you will need to turn in your free ticket voucher in order to have the ticket issued. You may turn in your voucher in either of the following ways:

Mail the free ticket voucher to United. Please allow at least 14 business days for processing. Please note that the free ticket voucher must still be valid in order for United to issue the tickets.

OR

Bring the free ticket voucher to an airport ticket counter. Be sure to check your airport ticket counter's hours of operation before you go.

Since online travel agents sometimes negotiate lower fares for specific ticket classes, you may not get the same prices either. Call up United to check the terms & conditions for your specific voucher, and even whether your vouchers can only be used against specific fare classes.

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That's for a "paper voucher". Most of the vouchers I've seen just have a code that you can enter on the airline's web site. In United's case this seems to be the function of the "Promotion code or electronic certificate" box. –  Nate Eldredge Jan 31 '12 at 4:45
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New as of 12/3 I just contacted United to try and convert paper vouchers (4 of them for $100 a piece) to apply them towards a new flight. The rep informed me that the United personnel in the airport as well as the phone cannot book the paper vouchers. Instead, you have to convert them to an electronic certificate on their homepage. Once this is completed, you can then use them as a form of payment on united.com. It can only be used as payment towards the fare...so you can't purchase an Economy Plus seat (essentially anything with a premium) otherwise the option to pay an electronic certificate won't be available.

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