Signing-up for credit cards through partner links earns us a commission. Here’s our full Advertising Policy.
United Airlines normally charges an extra $75 for all award tickets booked less than 21 days prior to departure (unless you have elite status, in which case the fee is lower or waived). This fee is also charged for award tickets on partner airlines.
But you can use this trick to avoid the fee altogether, even if you don’t have elite status!
I’ll explain the trick to avoid the fee!
United Airlines Award Booking Fees
- 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
But why pay any fees if you don’t have to?
Secret Way to Save $75
Let’s say you needed to book an award flight on United Airlines departing anytime less than 21 days from now. If you booked it normally, you’d be charged the close-in ticketing fee.
For example, I searched one-way award flights from Houston to San Francisco departing on August 29, 2016.
Clicking on any of the flights to book shows the $75 close-in booking fees.
The trick is to book a similar flight for the same cost in miles, but more than 21 days away. Because United Airlines allows folks to change or cancel an award ticket within 24 hours of booking with no fees or penalties.
Note: It’s best to book a flight 21 days away that’s the same route as your desired flight. This way the taxes are the same and it will be easier to change your flight in the next step.
For example, I found several flights departing from Houston to San Francisco on September 26, 2016. The coach award flights cost 12,500 United Airlines miles plus ~$6 in taxes and fees.
Pick a similar flight and go through the online booking process.
Then, after you’ve booked, call United Airlines within 24 hours to ask to change your flight to the one you really want (next week).
Because United Airlines’ systems do NOT add the close-in fee automatically when you change the flight from a date more than 21 days away to a flight less than 21 days away.
You can also try to change your flight online within 24 hours. But many times you’ll get an error message and need to call United Airlines anyway.
My friend has used this trick dozens of times to book last-minute flights without paying the $75 fee, including recent flights. And it’s worked every time!
There’s no guarantee it will work. But the worst case scenario is you’ll just have to pay the $75 fee. Or you can cancel the award ticket within 24 hours of booking to get the miles redeposited into your account.
Changes to United Airlines Fees
United Airlines recently announced new award fees and cancellation fees. There was no mention of changes to the $75 close-in ticketing fee.
But I’d expect this fee to stay the same. If I hear differently, I’ll be sure to let you know!
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.
But you can get around this fee if you book an award flight more than 21 days away. Then, call United Airlines within 24 hours of booking to change the flight to your desired dates less than 21 days away.
The trick works for both one-way and round-trip domestic or international flights.
Have you used this United Airlines award booking tip to save $75?