How to Redeem an American Airlines Travel Voucher

One of the easiest ways I’ve ever gotten “free travel” was by offering to get bumped off my flight to Chicago last year in exchange for a travel voucher. I was flying American Airlines out of San Francisco and the flight was oversold, so the gate agent made several announcements before I decided I was ok with departing several hours later in exchange for a $500 travel voucher. The agent also threw in a $15 meal voucher to be redeemed at the airport and offered me “a very nice seat” on the next flight (i.e. an aisle seat with the middle blocked off). I was a happy camper. 

Airplane seat

Redeeming an American Airlines travel voucher is a lot more difficult than it seems

Five months later, I was heading to Cabo and saw it as the perfect opportunity to put the voucher to use for my parents’ tickets. Turns out redeeming an American Airlines travel voucher was easier said than done. I’ve put up with my share of hassles in this hobby, but nothing tops redeeming an American Airlines travel voucher. 

For those of you who are unfamiliar with how to redeem an American Airlines voucher, get into a time machine and go back to 1985. That’s how backwards the process is. The voucher I received wasn’t redeemable online and when I called AAdvantage to inquire about redemptions, I was told I had to do it at an airport AAdvantage desk since I was booking the flight two days before departure. There are three airports within a 60 mile radius of where I live, but I decided on Sacramento International since it’s the least crowded and I could hit up a few Walmarts on the way over there.

Driving out there was quick and there’s a parking garage conveniently located across from the terminal. I parked on the first floor, crossed the street, and headed to the AAdvantage desk. There was a bit of a line, but I got through after about 10 minutes and that’s where the fun began.

The rep was confused about how the AAdvantage vouchers worked and got at least two other people involved before someone was able to figure it out. This is where putting your itinerary on hold really saves time. I gave the rep the hold number and she pulled it up and then proceeded to redeem the voucher. It took an excruciatingly long time – I had already provided all of my parents’ travel information and brought their passports along just in case there was a problem. Even with all of this, it took over 40 minutes before the booking was complete and I received two old-fashioned paper tickets.

If any of you are in possession of one of these vouchers and need help redeeming them, here are some common questions you might have. Hopefully the answers will save you a bit of time and frustration:

What is an American Airlines travel voucher?

American Airlines travel vouchers are as good as cash towards a variety of purchases made with the airline. While travel vouchers are best when redeemed towards flights, they can be applied to the following purchases:

  • Airfare on American Airlines/Eagle/Connection, codeshares, and Oneworld itineraries where AA is the international/”governing” carrier.
  • 500-mile domestic upgrade stickers (at the airport only).
  • Co-payments for upgrades or reduced mileage awards.
  • Excess baggage fees.
  • Special handling fees (e.g., checked pets), with a traveling passenger (i.e., not cargo).
  • Change fees, provided an additional collection of the fare is also being made.

How soon after it’s issued does an American Airlines travel voucher expire?

An American Airlines travel voucher expires one year from the date of issue.

How do you redeem an American Airlines travel voucher?

American Airlines travel vouchers can be redeemed either via mail or an airport ticketing desk. The safest method is to do it at an airport ticketing desk, especially if you need to book a ticket within 2 weeks. However, if you have to mail it in, be sure to get a tracking number and take a photo of the voucher in case it gets lost in the mail. Vouchers will usually get processed within 1-3 days by mail.

Can you book flights for someone else using the American Airlines travel voucher?

You can book tickets for other people using a travel voucher, as long as you are the one presenting the voucher. 

That pretty much sums it up. If you have a travel voucher from American Airlines, be sure to use it before one year passes from the issue date, redeem your voucher at the airport if you can, and dedicate at least 1-2 hours of your day to this activity. In my case, it took about 45 minutes for the ticketing agent to apply the voucher to my reservation…which I had placed on hold, with all the personal information entered in advance! Also, if you’re booking a flight for someone else, bring their passport just in case. You never know when it might be needed.

Have you ever redeemed an American Airlines travel voucher? What was your experience like?

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Ariana Arghandewal


  1. Mailed in vouchers are processed according to your travel dates. Since mine were 6 months out, it took almost 3 weeks before my reservations went from “pending” to ticketed status. They will deduct the cost of your ticket from the voucher and reissue a new voucher. That voucher will have a new one year expiration date.

    I don’t know why, but some of the fees or taxes ( not sure which) are not charged which brings down the cost of the ticket.

  2. My husband and I were each given a $300 travel voucher for voluntarily leaving an hour later from Chicago to Miami. Basically, we got bumped from a 5am flight to a 6am flight. It was fine with me, and I wanted that $600 in free travel!

    Our travel vouchers were redeemable online, though. This was fairly recently, so maybe that changed. I redeemed one of them online already to book my brother a ticket to St. Thomas.

    • That’s awesome, when the departure time is barely any different. I wish I’d gotten an e-voucher – would have saved me about three hours of my time. St. Thomas sounds like an awesome redemption!

  3. When redeeming a voucher you should make sure they waive the taxes. This saved me $80 on a $500 flight. Agent said they aren’t supposed to collect taxes with that voucher.

  4. Thank you for explaining this paper ticket process. It’s very archaic and conveniently NOT explained by American on any of their sites, literature. I am taking care of this for my mom and can’t believe they make people go through this process, when an eVoucher would have been so much easier. Hello 1975!

    • There’s an FAQ page but it’s pretty buried and doesn’t answer all the relevant questions. That Flyertalk thread I linked to was pretty helpful and I also got some useful info on the phone. But yes, this process is totally antiquated.

  5. A followup to my comment. I just spoke with an AA rep and she was able to book the ticket for me on the phone and we are sending in the voucher. Since no tax is charged we actually received a rebate, which can be used for baggage charges. It’s lucky her flight isn’t for 2 months so we have time to mail it in. If at all possible, an eVoucher is preferred and easier to book, so ask what kind of voucher they are offering first.

    • Be sure to take a photo of the voucher and get a tracking number just in case they don’t get it. OMAT had a story about someone who mailed in the voucher and it got lost in the mail.

  6. I have had them before & had to call to finalize my reservations. I used a $400 voucher a few months back to pay towards mine & hubby’s reservations fro SeaTac to The British Virgin Islands. I couldn’t combine it with an e-voucher I had for $100 they gave me when I called from the airport & complained that my delay was making me miss my connection & causing me to get home super late. I gave that voucher number to my mom by phone. She called & used it to make reservations to visit my brother. No problems. I have a $500 voucher I need to book in the next few months that hubby got for giving up his seat on a hop from Phoenix to YUMA. They also paid for a night at the Hyatt till his flight the next morning.

  7. The part that I enjoyed about this story was that he was going to hit up a “few” Walmarts on the way to Sacramento International. This individual is a true Walmart afficianado! In all seriousness though, thank you for the information.

  8. I followed the advice above and put my reservation on hold then went straight to the American ticket counter at my nearby airport. Other than a glitch with their new software, they processed it through their old system and I got my ticket in <30 min. Definitely the way to do it! Thanks for the advice!

  9. When redeeming a voucher at the ticket counter, are you given a receipt that shows that a voucher was used as a form of payment for the flight, or is the flight price simply discounted with no form of payment having been applied?

    I have an AA voucher from personal travel earlier this year, and have an upcoming business trip to buy a ticket for. I would like to apply the voucher toward the ticket and be reimbursed by my employer for the voucher’s value, if possible, but I would need to have a receipt showing that I paid that portion with my voucher.

      • Just to follow up, I put my chosen flight on hold and went to the AA desk at the airport to complete the purchase. After about 20 minutes on the phone with their support team, the customer service woman was able to get it processed. For some reason it kept trying to alter my flight to a different day, but they finally worked it out.

        Concerning my receipt question, the receipt shows the ticket price and the balance I had to pay by credit card ($301.20 flight, $300 voucher, $1.20 on credit card), but it doesn’t appear to show the dollar amount of the voucher. It should suffice for my reimbursement for work travel, so I am set there.

  10. Can you use a travel voucher toward a checked bag fee? I got a $15.60 paper voucher that I want to use for the $25 checked bag fee on an upcoming flight. I haven’t purchased the bag yet and was just going to show up with the paper voucher. Thanks!

  11. Ariana, thank you for posting this. Super helpful and I redeemed my vouchers this evening at SFO with no problems!

  12. question, If I misplaced my voucher would the airlines have It electronically filed in their records for me to call and request to use? I really want to use them and It hasn’t been a year so someone please tell me this is possible!!

  13. Can these vouchers be used for anything else, such as food or drink in flight? Or maybe checked bags? I have 2 for $79/ea. I was gonna try to not check any bags.

  14. Can you pay for a flight that will be taken after the voucher has officially expired? Eg. Voucher expires in May you book flight in April to be taken in July.

  15. So helpful this thread! I will add that we were able to use $500 vouchers to completely cover cost of another trip. And then, with the $155 each remaining after that ticket purchase, we were given a full year from that date to use the balance. I just applied it to expensive Alaska tickets. Not bad for taking a bump in Dallas and getting home 3 hours late!!!

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