How to use a United Airlines trip credit (and few details you need to know)

Signing up for credit cards through partner links earns us a commission. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. Here’s our full advertising policy: How we make money.

Update: One or more card offers in this post are no longer available. Check our Hot Deals for the latest offers.

It’s been about a year since your summer 2020 travel dreams were dashed against the stone of COVID-19. Do you have trip vouchers, credits, or funds that are soon to expire?

Several airlines have extended travel credits into 2022. Whether you’re in a rush to use them or not, it’s nice to have a visual guide to explain the process to you. I just repurposed my 2020 United Airlines flight credit for an upcoming trip to the West Coast next month. I’ll show you how easy it is to use a United flight credit and give you a couple of tips along the way. And how you can pair a United credit card with it to get the most value.

(Photo by Justin Sullivan / Staff at Getty Images)

Step 1. Find future flight credits at the top of the page

Once you log into your account, you’ll find any flight credits displayed at the top left of the screen. Click that to get the process started.

Step 2. Click the details of your future flight credit

You’re now taken to your dashboard displaying your mileage balance, TravelBank balance, elite status progress, etc. Under “Travel credit,” you’ll see any future flight credit you’ve accrued. Click “View details.”

Step 3. Click “Book with credit”

I’ve only got credit from one canceled trip. United prominently displays the value of that flight which can be attributed to another United trip. You’ll also find the expiration date for your flight here.

Click “Book with credit.”

Step 4. Enter your new travel info

You’re now carrying your trip credit’s value along with you as you search for new flights. Enter your new details, check all the passengers that will be traveling with you, and click “Continue.”

Note that while there aren’t any fees for changing your flight, you’ll still have to pay the difference if your new fare is more expensive than your trip credit — but if your new fare is less than your trip credit, you will forfeit the difference in your trip credit. For example, if you’ve got a $100 trip credit, but your new flight is $90, you’ll lose $10.

This is a good principle to keep in mind when reserving your flights. Perhaps try to book two one-ways instead of a round-trip, so if you have to cancel, your trip credits will be smaller and you’ll have less chance of forfeiting value.

Step 5. Choose your new flight

Your new airfare doesn’t have to be the same origin and destination — your trip credit can be used towards any flights. I changed my flights from Portland-Maui to Dayton-San Francisco. In your search results, United displays flight prices relative to your applied flight credit. As you can see, most flights are at least $33 more expensive per person.

As a side note, I’m able to choose United Basic Economy (the absolute worst seats), because I have the United℠ Explorer Card, which negates most of the restrictions that Basic Economy enforces. For example, United cardholders can bring a carry-on bag for free, and they’ll receive preferred boarding. Basic Economy travelers without a United credit card will board dead last and aren’t allowed to bring a carry-on.

Step 6. Reserve your trip

You’ll then need to review your trip details, and it’s time to check out! You can see the actual cost of the itinerary minus the applied trip credit.

Something big to note is that you can’t mix any United TravelBank cash with a trip credit. If you’re applying a previously canceled trip’s value to your flight, any remaining value will have to be paid in cash. An unfortunate truth.

Bottom line

If you’ve got another voucher in another program, let us know if you need help with that. Also check out our guide to making American Airlines flight credits more valuable. It could save you literally $1,000+ — just look at the comments!

For more travel tips and how-tos delivered to your inbox once per day, subscribe to our newsletter!

Joseph Hostetler is a full-time writer for Million Mile Secrets, covering miles and points tips and tricks, as well as helpful travel-related news and deals. He has also authored and edited for The Points Guy.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

Join the Discussion!

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments