How to Get Your Miles Back After Canceling an Award Flight

Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-890

 tomasdelcoro / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Sometimes life gets in the way, and our travel plans change. But what happens if you’ve booked your trip with frequent flyer miles

The good news is that airlines have policies in place to make sure you can get them back. The bad news is that each policy is different, and there ​is a range of fees attached to canceling reward tickets.

As with everything in the travel world, it’s important to read the fine print before you book. When planning for your next getaway, be sure to understand the biggest airlines' cancellation policies for reward tickets. In some situations, it could make sense to pay to get your miles back.

01 of 08

Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-890

tomasdelcoro / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Mileage Plan flyers who know well in advance they need to change their plans are in luck. If you make a change or cancel your trip at least 60 days in advance, you will not have to pay an additional fee to have Mileage Plan miles redeposited to your account. But if you make changes less than two months away from your trip (59 days or less), you will pay a cancellation fee. 

If you are using a Money & Miles award, you can still get your miles back if you make changes 60 days in advance of your trip. However, if you did not book a refundable fare, you will receive the value of the unused ticket as a credit for future purchases. Again, any changes made within 59 days of your departure date is subject to the $125 change/cancellation fee. 

Other fees, including the call center booking fee or the partner award fee, are non-refundable. On the bright side: taxes you paid on your trip will be refunded if you need to cancel your trip. 

02 of 08

American Airlines

American Airlines

Eric Salard / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

If you have to unexpectedly cancel your trip or change your itinerary and you booked with American AAdvantage miles, you can get those miles back. But unless you are a top-tier elite flyer, you will be forced to pay. 

These are the policies if you need to make changes to your trip. If you booked a MileSAAver award, and you need to make a change, you will pay a fee even if you keep the same award type. If you are traveling on a partner airline and need to change your origin, destination, or flying airline, you will have to pay the fee, even if you keep the same award. If you are flying on an AAnytime award, the origin and destination change fees are waived if you keep the same award type. 

But what if you need to cancel your trip entirely? If your ticket has not expired, you can call the customer service number to request to have all your AAdvantage miles reinstated to your account.

If American is your primary airline and you fly a lot, you won't have to worry about fees. Most fees are waived for AAdvantage Executive Platinum members. 

03 of 08

Delta Air Lines

Delta Air Lines

Eric Salard / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Much like American, Delta Air Lines flyers who use SkyMiles to book their trip must pay a change or reinstatement fee, but those are sometimes waived for frequent flyers. 

Award flyers must either change their itineraries or cancel their tickets 72 hours from their departure time. There are change and reinstatement fees, in addition to any taxes or fees you will need to pay. But if you are a SkyMiles Platinum Medallion or Diamond Medallion flyer, your fees are waived if you make changes more than 72 hours away from your departure time. 

If you need to make a last-minute change within three days from your trip, you can say goodbye to those SkyMiles. Flights changed or canceled less than 72 hours from departure are non-refundable. 

04 of 08

Frontier Airlines

Frontier Airlines

tomasdelcoro / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

While it may be almost free to redeem your Frontier EarlyReturns miles, it certainly isn't cheap to cancel your trip. Don't look for help from elite status here the cancellation policy applies to everybody. 

If you booked a Last Seat Availability award, there is no fee to cancel your flight and get your miles back. Otherwise, expect to pay a redeposit fee to return your EarlyReturns miles to your account. And if you don't show up for your flight, those miles will be gone and forfeited. 

You can also make changes to your award tickets, but those come with fees. Frontier notes on their website that change fees "vary based on the type of award ticket"

Continue to 5 of 8 below.
05 of 08

JetBlue

JetBlue Airways

John Murphy / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

When you book with JetBlue TrueBlue points, you are effectively booking a cash fare with the equivalent of a point. Unfortunately, that makes it difficult to determine how much you need to pay for changes or cancellations. 

If you need to change or cancel a Blue Fare or Blue Plus Fare booked in TrueBlue points, expect to pay based on the cash value of the flight. The more expensive the flight, the more you'll have to pay. And if you have to cancel, you will get the miles back in your TrueBlue account. 

If you booked a Mint fare with TrueBlue points, the change or cancellation fee is based on when you cancel. If you change or cancel your trip more than 60 days from your departure, the fee is reduced. If you make that same change or cancellation 60 days or less before your trip, the cost increases. Again, if you cancel your trip, you can get all of your points back. 

The worst thing to do is to not show up for your flight. If you don't show up and don't cancel your ticket, your miles are forfeited and fly away with the airplane. 

06 of 08

Spirit Airlines

Spirit Airlines

tomasdelcoro / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Spirit Airlines is notorious for charging flyers for everything but using the lavatory in flight. The same is true for their frequent flyer program, FREE SPIRIT, if you have to change an award flight, you'll have to pay. 

According to their terms and conditions, award ticket changes or cancellations are only done by calling their reservations center at 801-401-2210. Any changes or cancellations at least 24 hours in advance are subject to a modification fee (if change space is available) or a redeposit fee. 

The good news is that you get to keep your FREE SPIRIT miles so long as you cancel at least 24 hours in advance. If you don't, your miles are gone. 

07 of 08

Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines

Eric Salard / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Any Southwest Airlines frequent flyer will tell you they "LUV" the airline because of their customer-friendly policies. This also applies to their change and cancellation policies as well!

At Southwest, change fees don't fly at all. If you are forced to change or modify your flight, you can do so for free on the website. However, if your change ends up with a higher fare, you will have to pay the difference. 

And if you accidentally miss your flight, those miles don't go away, instead, they go back into your account. But it can take up to four days for those miles to show up in your Rapid Rewards account. 

08 of 08

United Airlines

United Airlines

Oliver Holzbauer / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

United MileagePlus miles are some of the best in the industry because of how many partners the Star Alliance carrier has. But if you're not a frequent flyer and need to make a change or cancel an award ticket, it can be a costly experience. 

The amount of money you pay to make a change to an award ticket or get your miles back after cancellation depends on your status. United MileagePlus Premier Platinum and 1K flyers who need to make a change or cancel an award at least 61 days in advance pay no fees. But Premier Gold flyers and Premier Silver flyers pay a lower fee, while everyone else pays a higher fee in change or cancellation and redeposit fees. 

Whatever you do, be sure to show up for your flight or cancel in advance. Everyone who is a no-show for their flight is forced to pay a redeposit fee to get their miles back.   

It’s very important to read up on your programs’ policies, to see if having status lowers (or eliminates) redeposit fees. In addition, some travel insurance policies will reimburse any cancellation or redeposit fees if your trip cancellation is for a covered reason. If you need to get a reward trip refunded, you’ll be prepared to take the appropriate action.

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