Bet you’ve probably never thought of these.

By Perri Ormont Blumberg
August 25, 2017
Getty / mediaphotos

It’s no $758.7 million Powerball jackpot, but scoring an airline voucher can feel a bit like winning the lottery when your travel plans are flexible. In unforeseen travel circumstances, flight vouchers can hardly feel like a silver lining. Either way, it’s important to take a beat—and take a deep breath—and have a chat with an airline representative. Read on for the most important questions to ask before you greet that pocket-sized travel coupon with open arms.

1. How long is this voucher good for?

After you determine the amount, it’s time to consider expiration dates. “Airlines generally set a strict validity period for when you must use your voucher by, and it tends to be within the next calendar year,” says Dara Continenza, product manager at Hopper, an app that predicts and analyzes airfare. “If you're not planning on traveling any time soon (especially on that airline), accepting the voucher may not be a good move. It'll just expire on you!”

2. Can I get cash instead?

You won’t be able to pocket green in all cases, but for some, it’s your right as a flyer. “Always ask your gate agent ‘Am I entitled to cash rather than a voucher?’ For instance, in the case of involuntary bumping or denied boarding, US Department of Transportation rules state that you are owed cash and not a voucher,” explains George Hobica, founder and president of Airfarewatchdog.com, an airfare monitor and deals site.

3. Is it transferable to another passenger?

Can you hand off the voucher to somebody else? Good question. “If you're not planning on flying with that airline but a family member or friend is, you might be interested in re-gifting it,” says Continenza. “But note that much of the time, vouchers (like your ticket itself) are non-transferrable.” That may be a deal-breaker if you were planning to let your college-aged niece put it to good use for a trip home for the holidays. Note: If you're flying Delta, they'll let you transfer a voucher to someone traveling with you on the same reservation. American Airlines, meanwhile, does not ever honor voucher transfers.

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4. Can you combine multiple vouchers?

If you’ve got some other vouchers sitting in a drawer collecting dust from the same airline, it’s smart to ask if you’re allowed to combine your travel checks. “Some airlines let you combine vouchers to purchase a single fare, while others don’t,” comments Hobica.

5. Do I keep the remaining value on the voucher if I only use part of it?

You’ve got a $1,200 voucher, but you want to book a $700 roundtrip ticket to Virginia Beach. Do you lose the $500 difference? “Some vouchers and credits are ‘one and done,’” warns Continenza. “You use it once and any remaining funds disappear.” If the change is $50 or less, this probably doesn’t matter too much. But for high-value vouchers, it’s worth speaking up and confirming what happens to the remainder before you commit.

6. Can I use the voucher on a codeshare flight?

Codeshare flights are flights where two or more airlines market and share the same flight as part of their airline’s itinerary. While some airlines will accept vouchers on such flights, others won’t. “If you buy a ticket on United.com but are flying on Air Canada in a codeshare, for instance, the answer is no. All travel must be on United,” says Hobica.

7. What happens if I lose that voucher?

Unfortunately, most airlines won’t replace it. But it can’t hurt to put on your most winning smile and politely inquire. 

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