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I have United future flight credits that will expire on December 31, 2023 and they're non-transferable, about US$ 2,000. I live in Europe, and I'm not planning to fly to the US this year. How can I use them?

Some ideas:

  • United doesn't let you book flights fully within Europe unless they're award travel, in which case their partner airlines are options. Could the flight credits cover the price of award travel (i.e. the money you have to pay in addition to the miles?)
  • Could I buy a (much) cheaper flight in the US using the flight credits and then get a new flight credit for the difference in price but with a later expiration date (or maybe even just get the difference paid back to me?)
  • Could I buy a fully refundable flight with the flight credits and then get that refunded?
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    Unfortunately for you, airlines are pretty good at finding and closing loopholes like that. If you buy a flight with credits and then cancel, you normally get back credits with the same expiration date as the original ones. Likewise, if you buy a "refundable" flight with credits and then cancel, then what they refund to you is the credits, not cash. Maybe there are sneaky exceptions but I haven't heard of any. Jul 15, 2023 at 17:13
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    Regarding #1, in my experience the cash cost of award travel is very small (a few dollars to cover taxes and fees). Even if it can be paid with credits (I'm not sure), I don't think you'd be able to spend anywhere near $2000 that way, unless you are going to fly almost constantly and expend many millions of miles. Jul 15, 2023 at 17:15
  • Many airlines allow using less miles and topping up with cash, doesn’t United offer this? Though it’s not obvious if you can use a travel credit to pay for awards at all.
    – jcaron
    Jul 16, 2023 at 6:50
  • Have you considered selling them? Then you have the cash to book a flight when you need it Dec 7, 2023 at 15:48
  • @DavidLindon: They are non-transferable. united.com/en/us/fly/travel/credit.html: A future flight credit "must be used by the same traveler it was issued to". So the new ticket must be in the same name as the original one, and therefore you effectively can't resell these credits. Dec 10, 2023 at 3:01

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+500

What I've done in this situation with AA is to buy a fare that is close in value to what the credits are worth and that does not have a change/cancellation fee. Assuming the credits are more than the new ticket, I get the difference as a new credit with a one-year expiration. I cancel the new ticket and get a new credit with a one-year expiration.

I can't say this will work with UA since I haven't done it with them.

(Don't bother buying a fully refundable fare and then trying to get a refund; the payment information in the ticket will show how much was paid with a non-refundable credit, and that amount won't be refunded.)

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