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 MileagePlus 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?

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! :)

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6 months ago

Does this work if trying to cancel and redeposit the miles? To avoid the hefty $125 per person fee?

11 months ago

THANK YOU for this suggestion – – it worked for me!! The agent was confused by the fee, it took a while for her to try to figure out what it was while I was on hold, but saved me the $$ so I will take it!

Andrew Wan
Reply to  Erica
11 months ago

Woohoo! Awesome, glad to hear it worked and thanks for sharing 🙂

1 year ago

Worked for me July 26, 2019 after two brief calls!

First lady told me about the fee and I said I’d call back. When I called the second time (only a 4 min hold) the second agent did not even mention it and voila! all I paid was the $5.60 for the “9/11 fee” which was paid for in the first ticket. Not bad for a 10 hour international long haul.

1 year ago

This worked! But it took over 30 min of being on hold on and off fyi. The representative was very helpful and changed everything, but then tried to charge a $125 change fee. I told her I had booked less than 24 hrs before so there should be no fee. It took her 30 min to get it sorted, but she changed it all and never once mentioned the $75 fee. 🙂

Andrew W
Reply to  Nicole
1 year ago

Yikes! Hopefully you think it was worth the wait.

30 mins for saving $75. That’s like making $150 an hour, not bad if you ask me! 🙂

1 year ago

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

I have that card and the United website is showing a $75 fee for each tickets.

Reply to  jimmy
1 year ago

I have had the united club card for 6 years now. I have never paid for the $75 close in booking fee until last 2-3 weeks. I booked 3 separate trips and all 3 had the $75 fee. I had to call United to refund me the $75 fees. United does not know why it’s happening. They give me the refund but it’s a 30 min phone call every time. Is anyone else having this issue?

1 year ago

Worked for me! The customer service agent initially said she had to charge me the fee, but then I explained I had a meeting changed right before I called and I asked her to check with her supervisor if they could waive the fee just this once. (I was inspired by another comment on this thread!) She came back and said they could give me a one-time exemption.

Magda Balanesi
1 year ago

Very interestimg, I have Chase mileage Plus United and they charged me $75

Reply to  Magda Balanesi
1 year ago

Unfortunately, Chase mileage Plus United and Chase mileage Plus United Club cards are different. One cost $99 per year and the other is $500 per year with some added features.

1 year ago

Managed to get a waiver after two calls, but only because my flight was technically leaving at around 12:05am on the 21st day. Both agents said there was a note from the computer to charge the fee.

1 year ago

Just got off the phone with the airline now and it worked! Thanks so much!

2 years ago

This total worked. Much appreciate this life hack. Saved me $50.

2 years ago

It worked for me too. They wanted to charge me but then the agent checked with her supervisor and they gave me a one-time exemption. But she did ask me why I was making the change, I said it was because of a sudden change of schedule for a business meeting!

2 years ago

OMGosh – success 1st try as well! THANK YOU, you saved me last minute from missing a very expensive hotel res AND an extra $150.

2 years ago

I didn’t believe this would work but it did! It took two calls but well worth the time to save $150 for two flights. Thanks for the tip!

2 years ago

Didn’t have high hopes for this working. Called in once and they wanted to charge me $75. Called a second time and changed the ticket without a fee, no problem.

Thank you!!