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How to finally redeem those unused flight credits and prepare your wallet for post-pandemic travel

If you've got unused airline credits floating around after postponing travel during the Covid-19 pandemic, here's how to track them down.

Anton Petrus | Moment | Getty Images
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While the pandemic is not yet over, vaccinated Americans have started to consider travel plans for the spring, summer and fall of this year.

According to TripAdvisor, May through August are proving to be the most popular months for domestic vacations, and many travelers also hope to fly internationally later on in the year, pending vaccine rollouts across the globe.

As many travelers learned last spring, canceling plans for pandemic-related reasons didn't qualify you for trip reimbursement under most credit card travel insurance plans, especially if you made the decision to travel after news of the Covid-19 pandemic was widespread.

However, plenty of airlines accommodated customer requests for flight vouchers last year when much of the world went on lockdown and nonessential travel was discouraged. I had roundtrip flights booked to and from San Antonio (each one-way, on two different airlines) for early March 2020, right when the pandemic hit, but Southwest and Delta both provided flight vouchers when I decided to cancel.

For the past year, my flight credits have been totally out-of-sight, out-of-mind. But recently, I looked into redeeming them for upcoming weddings and other trips I'd put on the back burner. I did so with a small jolt of panic, wondering if they'd expired in the past year since it's been so long since I thought about them.

Here's how to check the status for flight credits from a previously refunded flight:

  1. Find the email receipt for the original flight. Note your confirmation number and/or ticket numbers (you will probably need this info).
  2. Visit the airline's website and search for "redeem flight credit" or "check travel funds." For an example, view Southwest's "Check Travel Funds" page. (You can also do a Google search for "AIRLINE NAME + TRAVEL CREDIT.")
  3. Type in the requested information and click "submit" or "check funds."
  4. View your travel credits and their expiration dates.
  5. When ready to purchase, go through the process again and look for the option to "redeem" or "apply unused credits" to an upcoming flight.

Alternatively, you can also call the airline customer service line directly and ask for personal assistance.

Luckily, most airlines pushed back voucher expiation dates until late 2021 or even 2022. My Delta credit, for instance, was due to expire in December 2021, but the airline extended all flight credit expirations through December 2022.

Similarly, many hotel loyalty programs are offering extensions for points. If you have an airline credit card, the rewards usually don't expire as long as long as the account is open and in good standing.

If you're nervous about booking travel, you might want to consider making reservations using a travel credit card. They often offer cardholders protections when it comes to cancellations and interruptions due to reasons like natural disasters, unexpected medical emergencies and extreme weather. Travel cards usually come with additional benefits like luggage protection (if your suitcase is lost or stolen in transit), travel accident insurance and no foreign transaction fees.

Here are Select's picks for the top travel rewards cards:

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.