When Did American’s Award Cancel/Redeposit Policy Get So Much Better?

When I’m using miles from my own account I don’t pay cancel and redeposit fees on an award ticket. That’s a benefit for top tier elites at American, and it’s common at other airlines as well.

It’s a super benefit. It means I can make speculative award bookings (say, when Etihad opens up tons of availability on their First Apartment A380 flights) and figure out how to use them later. Or I can make a backup booking to get home when there’s a strike on another carrier.

Most folks though have to pay a fee. That’s still wonderful compared to paid tickets, which aren’t refundable in most cases. Mileage tickets really aren’t commitments, you’re buying an option of future travel for the cost of a change fee.

United substantially reduced cancel/redeposit fees for most members back in the fall. Before that general members paid $200 per passenger. Now it’s $75 or $125 per passenger.

When I’m cancelling an award with an airline I’m not a top elite with I wait until the last minute to do it, hoping for a schedule change, which will often allow me to cancel and redeposit for free.

American Airlines has long charged $150 for the first passenger and $25 for each additional passenger on the same reservation. This was generous compared to United’s fees (which are per passenger). But it was a reason sometimes to avoid one way tickets. You’d pay twice the cancel and redeposit fees when cancelling two one way awards compared to a roundtrip.

JonNYC tweeted about a change in policy, it doesn’t seem super recent, but I admit I didn’t realize it.

Here’s what the rule is now.

The reinstatement charge is $150 per account for the first award ticket. Additional award tickets reinstated to the same account at the same time will have a $25 charge per ticket

It’s no longer $150 plus $25 for each additional passenger on the same reservation. Instead it’s $150 plus $25 for each additional ticket redeposited into the same account at the same time.

So you could cancel 10 separate reservations and pay $25 for numbers two through 10 (instead of paying $150 for each of them).

That’s a huge improvement. Not every agent knows about this either, you may need to hang up and call back or may even need to contact customer relations to have this policy honored. But there’s real savings here.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. Usually won’t affect me given my bookings but a positive change is a positive change. Thanks for pointing it out!

  2. It’s been that way on the website the last few years, but it’s been difficult to find agents who know the rule. I’ve been batching my redeposit calls the last few years, and have had to HUCA a few times to get someone who can process. Even then, it can be a lengthy call and may require proactive follow up (my last batch required a series of follow up calls to over a month to get all miles credited)

    In late 2015, I found an agent who interpreted the rule to mean $150 for the first reservation and a single $25 fee for as many other awards as are redeposited at the same time (in other words $175 for an unlimited number as long the redeposit request is made in the same call). I’ve also found agents willing to proactively look for scheduling changes when they are processing (to process the redeposit without charge).

  3. I suppose the bar for “Better” is really low.

    Were AA to adopt a legitimately reasonable policy like BA (or even better, Southwest), this I’d consider a true improvement. But as it stands, even this modified version of the reinstatement policy still seem extortionate. For some awards (domestic Brazilian one-ways, for example, which I use a lot), it would actually be cheaper to just purchase the 7500 miles anew if I really need them [paying retail!] , rather than forking over $150 for redeposit of an unused award.

    As an EXP for many years, like you, I’ve also ignored the cost of reinstatement, since it hasn’t really come up for me. But with the new EQD requirement, a downgrade next year to PLT is in the cards for me, and I shudder to think how much I’ll be asked to shell out to redeposit awards in the future. [I’m not even a speculator – but plans do change, and in an average year, I’d be looking at $600 to $900 in redeposit fees.

  4. I suppose it’s a bit of a tradeoff that United and American are the only two airlines in the world that charge cancel / redeposit fees anywhere close to this high, but they’re also the two with the best fuel surcharge passthrough policies, along with Alaska and a few others in the Americas (Avianca, LAN, Copa(?); but definitely not Aeroplan or Aeromexico).

  5. do the fees apply to aa platinum card holders too.

    I have cancelled and rebooked ( over the phone) from cx business to first with aa and never a fee?

  6. “When I’m cancelling an award with an airline I’m not a top elite with I wait until the last minute to do it, hoping for a schedule change, which will often allow me to cancel and redeposit for free.”

    Could you expound on this a bit more?
    1) Is there a time limit on how soon after a reschedule the ticket has to be canceled, or even if there was a schedule change 6 months ago the ticket would still qualify?
    2) Will agents be able to look this up, or do they take my word for it?
    3) Is this common for all airlines?
    4) Any easy way for me to determine if there was ever a reschedule?

  7. I’m always very polite with booking agents. Sometimes they or a supervisor will waive the fee if I say “pretty please”

  8. My experience was identical to CubsGirl above–I kept asking, they kept saying “no, same PNR only” until I got AA CR and AA Twitter involved. Glad the info is helping some folks!

  9. @ Gary & @ JonNYC – what happens if I have to cancel two reservations but one of them had a schedule change (making it a free redeposit). Would I have to pay $0 + $25 or $0 + $150?

  10. My husband and I usually have to travel on separate reservations because neither one of us has enough miles for both. So it doesn’t help.

  11. The reinstatement fee policy has been that way for quite a while, certainly since Sep 2016, that is the earliest date i have for a copy of the policy wording off the website. Redeposits are generally free for schedule changes of 2 hours or more. That being said I have had fees waived for changes of 35 minutes YMMV.

  12. @Gary @JohnNYC I have consistently experienced correct fee interpretations if not from the front line then by NICELY asking for the call to be escalated. It is true the front line sometimes get these wrong. As a 30 year AA flyer and AAL shareholder I always speak to the level 2 and request that they pass on to management their responsibility to properly train the staff. I have noticed improvements lately I have recently reinstated 5+ award reservations. My advice is that whilst HUCB is one way to do it simply escalating to L2 is faster.

  13. I had to cancel and rebook a trip due a family member illness, that by waiving the redeposit fee, I thought American was showing us sympathy. But we did rebook the trip. I think we paid no fees. I’m not Exec. Plat. either.

  14. @ Gary – YMMV but a very nice supervisor at the Dallas call center was able to redeposit 1st ticket for free due to a schedule change and then charge $25 for the second ticket. I think that may be more of an exception, though, as a first-level representative quoted $0 + $150.

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