Simple Trick to Avoid $75 United Award Ticket Booking Fee!

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Via MileValue, there’s a trick you can use to avoid paying the close-in booking fee for United Airlines award tickets.

Normally, United Airlines charges an extra $75 for award tickets booked less than 21 days prior to departure (unless you have elite status, in which case the fee is lower or waived).  But there’s a way to avoid the fee, although it might not always work.

Simple Trick To Avoid 75 United Airlines Close In Award Ticket Booking Fee

With Some Extra Effort, You Could Avoid the $75 United Airlines Close-In Ticketing Fee

I’ll explain how to do it!

What’s the Deal?

Link:   MileValue – Don’t Pay the Close-In Fee on United (Trick!)

If you book an award ticket on United Airlines less than 21 days prior to departure, you’ll pay a close-in booking fee which varies depending on your elite status:

  • No Status:  $75
  • Premier Silver:  $50
  • Premier Gold:  $25
  • Global Services, Premier 1K, Premier Platinum:  NO fee

Note:   Chase United Club cardholders do NOT get charged the close-in booking fee, regardless of elite status.

Simple Trick To Avoid 75 United Airlines Close In Award Ticket Booking Fee

You’ll Pay Extra to Book a United Airlines Award Ticket Less Than 21 Days Prior to Departure, Unless You Have Top Elite Status

But there’s a loophole you can use to try to avoid the fee!  I wrote about a similar loophole on American Airlines, but that trick no longer works.

The Trick

United Airlines allows folks to change or cancel an award ticket within 24 hours of booking with no fees or penalties.  If it’s a cancellation, your miles will be re-deposited into your account, and any taxes and fees paid will be refunded to your credit card.

Suppose you need an award ticket for next week (less than 21 days prior to departure).  If you booked it normally, you’d be charged the close-in ticketing fee.

The trick is to book the same flights, but more than 21 days away.  You will NOT be charged the $75 fee for booking within 21 days.

Then, after you’ve booked, call United Airlines within 24 hours to ask to change your flights to the ones you really want (next week).

Simple Trick To Avoid 75 United Airlines Close In Award Ticket Booking Fee

After You’ve Booked, Call United Airlines Within 24 Hours to Change Your Ticket to the Flights You Actually Want

Because United Airlines’ systems do NOT add the close-in fee automatically, the agent has to remember to charge you the fee.

MileValue suggests you call the general reservations number at 800-864-8331 instead of the United MileagePlus service center, because regular agents are less likely to remember to charge you.

You could also try changing it online.

This won’t always work.  If the agent remembers to add the fee, you could always politely say you’ve changed your mind, hang up, and call again.  Or just pay the close-in charge and at least you tried!

Remember, you can change or cancel any award ticket for no charge within 24 hours of booking.

Bottom Line

United Airlines charges a $75 close-in ticketing fee for award tickets booked less than 21 days prior to departure.  The fee is less, or waived, for certain elite status members.

MileValue confirms there’s a way around it.  If you need to book a flight within 21 days of departure, you could 1st book the same flights well into the future (i.e.: more than 21 days away).  Then call United Airlines within 24 hours of booking (to avoid change fees) and change the flight to your desired close-in date.

United Airlines’ computer systems won’t add the close-in fee automatically – the agent has to remember to charge you.  And in many cases, they won’t!

Again, this won’t work every time, but it’s worth a try to avoid the $75 fee.

Have you used this United Airlines award booking trick successfully?

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76 responses to “Simple Trick to Avoid $75 United Award Ticket Booking Fee!

  1. Thank you for this! I’m always wanting to take the short trips to JH and there is always that $75 fee. Now I can try this! I will cross my fingers!

  2. Does this trick also still work with AA?

  3. Just out this morning … have you seen the new … ‘Internal Memo to All Reservations Agents: Make sure to charge all close-in booking fees’ … 😀

  4. Wow this post just reeks of sleaziness. This seems highly unethical as you are basically relying on the incompetence of an airline agent to get a discount. This is right up there with showing foreign frequent flyer cards to sneak into priority security.

  5. No No No No No !!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Thnak’s for ruining this

  6. Wow, what else are you going to kill?

  7. Actually, milevalue posted this first, not Dariaus. So, stop bitching. Also, it is highly YMMV but United can expect a lot more callers now rescheduling! haha

  8. im very surprised with this post i thought you had more brains and class

  9. Wow, you guys are unbelievable. “Please blogs, don’t post anything, I’m selfish and don’t want anyone else to know.” There are plenty of hacks out there that aren’t public. I love them and they’re great. But I also won’t complain when a blog posts it. All secrets get out eventually. Up to you to find a new one to take advantage of. Darius – keep up the good work.

  10. Just used this three times in one week – thanks! Used it on international travel, domestic one way, and domestic round trip. Changed all three ONLINE five minutes after booking to the desired times. Very simple. Thanks a million!

  11. Those long time United Mileage Plus Gold/Platinum and up Elite members that have year after year felt as though United continues to devalue their miles already earned through fees such as this.. might not feel that this is as sleezy as some might think.

  12. I just saved $150 on two tickets last night thanks to this advice!

  13. Just saved me $50! Thanks!!!

  14. I booked a ticket about 2 months earlier and 2 days later I found better schedule for same date departure? How can I rebook for same day but different flight without fees?

  15. Thank you!! I did the change online and it worked! saving $75

  16. It worked very well. Thank you!

  17. I just saved 150, thanks bowtie!

  18. THANK YOU! I just changed my ticket on the website and didn’t pay the fee! YIPPEE

  19. THANK YOU! saved $75! changed online 🙂
    The award availability did not have my EXACT flight #, but i chose a similar flight with same layover city, just different times, and still worked.

  20. The online change trick does not seem to work for international itineraries with S* partners. It shows me error page after I tried to changed it online. Could it just be UA website glitch?

  21. OK. It looks like a UA IT glitch. I was able to change flight online with international S* partners. I confirm the trick still works as of 4/17/2015.

  22. Does anyone know if the “trick” to save the $75 service fee works for non-US citizens and international flights?

  23. Tried it today and it still works! Saved me and wife $300 total on round trip tickets!!!!

  24. wow… simply amazing!!! just saved $75 by changing it online!

  25. Awesome! Just saved $75. Thank you

  26. Pingback: Chart of Airline Award Fees | Travel Is Free

  27. It still works today. Just booked a flight, Tokyo to Denver, and changed within minutes on-line avoiding the $75 fee. It even let me change the routing and to fly ANA instead of United.

  28. Pingback: Award Routing Rules on United Airlines - Travel Codex

  29. Amazing! I called in and the agent right away said there was a $75 fee, but then she put me on hold, I didn’t even ask, and came back saying that because it is a voluntary change I do not have to pay the fee. Thanks!

  30. we just did this for 4 tickets. saved us $400, but really saved our trip. we were going to cancel because of this.
    thank you!!

  31. It works!! I called the number you suggested right after I booked, I asked a few questions so that he would sort of get distracted: can I pick my seats? can I find a shorter layover?

    Thank you so much for saving me $75

  32. Just used this online and changed my ticket (departure more than 21 days away) to travel within 21 days, and there is no charge. I even changed the departure City (Destination is same).

  33. Do you know if this still works? I’m a little nervous to try it because I’m already getting a good deal of travel for the amount of points and would hate to be charged more ($100) for changing something that originally cost $75. I’m supposed to travel this coming Wed, but haven’t booked yet and not sure if I should book for 21+ days out and then cancel. Any advise?

    Here’s what makes me nervous https://www.united.com/web/en-US/content/mileageplus/awards/travel/ticketing.aspx

  34. I can confirm that it still works as of Sept. 15th. Saved me over $300 for me and the spouse. We are flying COS-FRA for Oktoberfest and got our tickets yesterday for a flight on the 26th coming back on the 5th and it worked both times. The first one I had to call because they did not have the same flight i wanted online anymore but a quick call and she had it changed within minutes. The coming back flight was easier i booked it online and changed it within 5 minutes of the original booking.
    Thank you for helping the average traveler with a simple travel hacking tool that saved me extra money for Oktoberfest!!

  35. cindy wuerdeman

    Thank you for posting this. While I have not used this I am grateful to you for supplying the info. It never ceases to amaze me how some people want others to feed THEM the good deals but then don’t want anyone else to know about them. So selfish and narcissistic. If you don’t post it one of the other travel bloggers will and then we would be following their blogs, twitter, emails etc. instead of yours! We follow you because we know we can count on you to share money saving tips with all of us and not keep it to yourself. Thank you Dairus!

  36. Daraius–just letting you know I booked a ticket on short notice earlier this week–and the process worked like a charm! Booked a one-way for 10K and $5.60 30 days out, then switched out to 15 days out 5 minutes later–on-line and without issue and at no additional charge.

    More broadly, I just wanted to thank you and Emily for all the great work you do and all the great ideas! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve used your suggestions to help me earn (and use!) miles. My family of four went on a two-week European vacation, largely using miles and points earned through ideas I learned about via your site. Thanks again for everything you do!

  37. I used the method mentioned in this post and called in to change the date. They didn’t charge me the $75, however, they did charge me $25 for calling their contact center!

  38. Thank You Million Mile Secrets for the awesome tip. I booked the flight I wanted about a month out to avoid the close in fee and then came back to my account 20 hours later and booked the flight date and time I really needed that was 6 days out. The only thing it wouldn’t let me do was select my seat so I called in to the number that was recommended to use (in a previous posting) to select my own seat rather than accept the random one their system assigned to me. Thanks agin for the awesome tip. I’m so glad I found your Website.

  39. Pingback: Trip planning |

  40. Worked like a charm! Thank you! Keep the great work!

  41. Worked like a charm! Didn’t even have to call. Did it all online!

  42. I found this post after I already purchased a ticket with a close-in fee. I cancelled the ticket online but it didn’t mention refunding the close-in fee. Will this also be refunded? Please help!

  43. Thanks…..worked like a charm online!

  44. If you haven’t noticed, Airline companies are a pain in the butt. If you want to get good deals when travelling, you need to be able to convince/ get things from customer service departments.

  45. Worked great (changed ticket online) on Jan. 10, 2016. Thanks!

  46. Still works in January of 2016. No need to call in though. I booked my award travel for 4 weeks in advance. Waited for a few minutes for it to be ticketed then clicked the manage reservation link and changed it to a few days from now. Saved me $50. Makes me even happier to stick it to United considering I’m forced to use miles due to a death in the family and United was going to charge me $500 to move my return flight 2 days earlier.

  47. It still works. Confirmed Jan 23, 2016.

  48. This worked for me. Thank you so much!! You saved me over $300.

  49. Worked for me as of Feb 2016. Booked a trip 4 weeks out under same mileage availability. Updated next day (within 24 hour cancelation window in case i could not get). Handled all on-line. Thanks for have this posted!

  50. Great post.
    Not sure why some folks are complaining about this post.
    Thanks again.

  51. Savvy Shopper

    Worked like a charm (Mar 2016) Thank you OP!!!! :::thumbs up:::

  52. Man, I love y’all! Saved me $75. I almost paid it until I decided to see what “close-in fee” was. Took care of it all online.

  53. 1st time agent said it would be $75 to change it AND $25 for her to help me book it.
    As you suggested, I hung up and called again as written… It worked!!! Thank you SO much.

  54. It just worked for me. Website gave me an error. So I called the above number. Agent changed for free. She commented on 24 hr window and checked the taxes. Score! Thanks!

  55. Worked for me without issues

  56. 06/02/2016
    Just worked for me without a hitch
    Thanks

  57. This is excellent, thanks so much. Totally worked (June 2016).

    Saved $250 taking little kids to visit their grandparents. Every little bit helps!

  58. Still worked for me tonite! Thanks!

  59. Thanks for this tip. I saved $75 by booking the same flights out in future first and then changing the dates to within 21 day window. Wouldn’t let me change it online so I had to call. The agent probably forgot and didn’t charge the extra fees.

    PS: Tried to do that for my wife on a separate booking and that time, the agent caught it and charged the fee. Oh well, 1 out of 2 isn’t bad!

  60. Worked for me just now. I booked award travel flight for the last week of July and called to have it changed to the last week of June. No fees charged; saved me $150. Thank you!!

  61. Worked for me online tonight . . . what a great loophole!

  62. This worked for me. Called in this afternoon and saved $75. Thanks

  63. Worked for me .. thank you .. had to travel this sunday , so booked in september and called them to change it to august same dates and same flights
    Only prob is my spending is huge and flying is less for a elite status

  64. THANK YOU! Worked on August 8, 2016 for me.

  65. Worked online on August 18th, 2016.

  66. Does this also bypass the $75 change fee for over 21 days (for general members)?

  67. Worked online on 22SEP2016. Was able to change right after ticketed and confirmed.

  68. Just saved 50 bucks!
    This was helpful.. Thanks!!

  69. I just did this for a United flight and it worked. Brilliant.
    Clicking all your pass through links now.

  70. OMG OMG OMG I just happened across this by googling “United Airlines Closed-Inn Booking” because I didn’t understand what the $75 fee. I did exactly what you suggested. I booked my flight online 21 days out. And then immediately, went to “change flight” for my actual date next week. And it worked!!!!!

  71. Still works! just used this trick – I was curious what the fee was, so I googled it and found this article.

    Thanks for the tip!