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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. The gate agent made several announcements before I decided to accept a $500 travel voucher for a later flight. The agent also threw in a $15 meal voucher and offered me “a very nice seat” on the next flight. It turned out to be 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 American Airlines 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 travel 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 put the tickets on hold and brought the passports just in case there was a problem. Even with all of this, it took over 40 minutes to complete the booking 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 most commonly redeemed towards flights, they can also be applied towards 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.

When do American Airlines travel vouchers 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 at 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. If you have to mail it in, get a tracking number and take a photo of the voucher in case it gets lost in the mail. Vouchers sent by mail will usually get processed within 1-3 days.

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

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

That pretty much sums it up. If you have an American Airlines travel voucher, be sure to use it within one year of the issue date. Also, redeem your voucher at the airport 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! If you’re booking a flight for someone else, bring their passport just in case. You never know when you might need it.

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

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Ariana Arghandewal

48 Comments

  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!!!

  16. I actually got a paper voucher only a few days ago. Will be using them today and get the remainder as an evoucher. Will keep you posted.

  17. this thing is the worst thing ever. I would never give up my seat for a flight voucher or certificate. they have tons of limitations and u can only redeem them in unexplainable manners.
    I tried online, could not. booked an AA ticket with my agency. called them to redeem it on the booked ticket that I had, they wouldn’t accept. reread the whole voucher and the whole letter than came with it for instructions on how to redeem it… couldn’t find anything… they give away “gifts” that are a true pain in reality.. plus their tickets are way more expensive than other airlines… you can always find cheaper flights on other airlines…
    million dollar advise, unless you have a clear destination plan long way down the road and are a loyal AA advantage member… never accept a voucher… either cash or I stay on the plane

    • I wasn’t able to redeem online either and I agree, the redemption limitations and requirements can be insane. However, at the end of the day I got two free tickets to Cabo out of it so it worked out well for me. I do hope they make redeeming them easier – there is zero reason why anyone in this day and age should have to go to an airport to book a flight.

    • What a scam! SCAM, SCAM, SCAM, SCAM, SCAM, SCAM, SCAM

      I called late Sunday night (early Monday morning) to reservations to book an international flight. ON HOLD for 53 MIN.
      12 days out? Check!
      Voucher in your name? Check!
      International flight? System is down. Call back in an hour.

      Agent said, “Our systems are down. I can’t even get into the system to make a reservation for you.
      Me: So, if someone wants to make an international flight reservation, it is impossible to do so?”
      Agent: “Yes.”
      Agent: I suggest you, make a reservation, then “place booking on hold”, call back later.
      Me: I don’t have that option. Pay within 10 minutes, or be disconnected from the system, and lose my reservation.
      Agent: Sorry, I can’t help you. “System maintenance, and I can’t make international bookings.”
      Me: Can you reissue the voucher? I will use it next year.
      Agent: Sorry, I can’t help you. System maintenance, and I can’t access the voucher system.
      Me: Please provide me with AA phone number in Japan.
      Agent: 03-4333-7675
      Me: Thank you for your explanations, and the phone number, my I have your name……

      I then call, and go to Frequent Flyer Desk, and the call center is in India. I explain my desire to use a paper voucher.
      Agent: Yes, I can help you.
      12 days out? Check!
      Voucher in your name? Check
      Voucher number? Check
      Agent: Oops, the voucher expires BEFORE you complete your trip. You can NOT USE THE VOUCHER!
      ME: Voucher indicates it is good “one year from today and you can use it to purchase travel…”
      Nowhere does it indicate the travel must be complete by within one year.
      Agent: Let me check with my supervisor.
      Me: OK
      wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait…….. 12 minutes later, agent disconnects the phone……

  18. I received a $1500 PAPER travel transportation voucher from AA because I was bumped from a flight returning from military training on 30 July 2016 (so it expires soon). As stated in blog and some of the comments above…with a paper voucher it takes 2 weeks to process. The paper travel voucher doesn’t explain the process to redeem. It would have been nice to know this prior to just scheduling my vacation for next week. The rep at AA I just spoke with seemed confused as well. She even said I could only book a flight for myself (although it was explained to me from that rep that issued the paper voucher that I would able to book as many tickets just as long as I was one of the passengers). As she was researching, I was doing the same and came across this link. So it looks like I need to take an hour ride to the Atlanta Airport to attempt to redeem my tickets. I will bring identification of all passengers with me. I will let you know how that goes. =)

    • Good luck! And if you have some time to put the desired itineraries on hold, you should. Trust me when I say the computer system was built in the stone age and it will take 10x longer for them to search for your flights if you don’t already have them on hold.

  19. Thanks for this post, Ariana. I plan to take my daughter with me on a business trip and use my $500 voucher. I’m only 30 min away from an airport so I’ll try to go right to the desk. I’ll let you know how it goes. We should keep this thread alive.

    • Absolutely. It seems to be of interest to a lot of readers and I, for one, appreciate everyone providing their own experiences. Good luck with your booking!

      • All right, I did it and it worked. I went to the airport, fortunately there were no flights coming in or out and the team at the desk was in very good spirits. They were jovial with each other but attentive to me, so that was nice. The attendant who helped me was new but another experienced attendant helped her. They did have to call their “Helpdesk” and all seemed to move well. I got a ticket for my daughter to match my business trip. I was a little surprised that the ticket cost almost $200 more than the ticket I booked the day before through SATO/Carlson Wagonlit Travel. Still, nothing out of pocket so I can’t complain. It didn’t take quite an hour but I was glad that I was prepared for a long visit.

  20. Yes, redeeming the paper vouchers usually takes longer than the flight.

  21. So I have 2 paper vouchers that expire Jan12/18.
    Do I have to travel before that date or just book the flight before that date?
    Also, can they be used for someone else ?
    I have seen differing comments on these questions.

    • My understanding is;

      You only need to book travel, not fly. But understand that it is a process out of the 1980s, not a 21st century one. You are required to mail in documents then they lose them, etc, etc. I’d book your flights in the next 2 or 3 weeks if it was me.

      You should be able to use the vouchers for anyone traveling, but you can’t sell them to a stranger. If the person traveling does not have your family name, you might be asked tho explain your relationship to that person.

      • Thanks for the advice!
        Since I am in Canada and a smaller centre, I don’t have the option of going to the airport to redeem.
        I will mail them in,
        take photocopies and make good notes!

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