How NOT To Redeem An American Airlines Paper Travel Voucher

Recently my friend/blog reader/contest winner/fellow accidental fetish bar goer/RTW companion Andrew B was sharing a rough experience with redeeming a travel voucher. He’s a smart guy, and pretty savvy when it comes to travel, so it’s a bit surprising he’s having this much trouble. He offered to share his experience to help others avoid similar mishaps.


My friends tell me about bad decisions they make while drunk. For me, poor judgment does not require alcohol. To wit, here’s my latest series of questionable life choices that cost me 500 bucks in travel credit.

Sometime in January, I received a $500 voucher from American Airlines for volunteering to take a later flight. I felt like a lottery winner (or a blog contest winner).

When I was ready to redeem the voucher, I called reservations. I told a very nice agent which flights I wanted. They priced at a couple hundred dollars. The agent told me I would need to mail the voucher to the airline. She gave me the mailing address to send the voucher to (as well as some magic words I needed to put on the envelope). I followed her instructions closely and dropped it in the mail the next morning.

This whole thing seemed a little odd to me. In an era where I can cash a check by snapping a photo of it and find casual sex partners with the swipe of a finger, why do I need to mail a paper voucher to some P.O. Box in Florida?

You can probably guess what happened next.

Weeks passed and I didn’t hear a peep from American about my reservation, and it didn’t appear on my AAdvantage account online. I called and was told that they had no record of any booking, or of my voucher being sent to them. I unfortunately did not retain a copy of the voucher or ask the reservations agent for the Record Locator number of my reservation.

Letters and phone calls to the airline have gone nowhere (which is, coincidentally, the only destination I can reach using my voucher now).

American-MD80
One of the planes I won’t be taking with my now non-existent voucher

Don’t be like me. Here’s how to make sure you don’t inadvertently forfeit an American Airlines paper voucher.

  • Treat the voucher like cash — or like your firstborn child. Don’t misplace it, don’t let it out of your sight, and for God’s sake, don’t leave it alone in a hot car while you run errands, even if you leave the windows open a crack.
  • When you’re ready to redeem the voucher, go to an American Airlines ticketing desk at your nearest airport. This way, there is no chance that it’ll get lost in the mail.
  • If you must redeem a voucher by mail, follow the agent’s instructions to the letter. Ask the reservations agent for the Record Locator number associated with your reservation, and write it down. Send the voucher using a trackable method and retain your proof of delivery. Make a photocopy of the voucher or take a picture of it with your phone.
  • If you happen to see me in public, run the other way. Seriously. I’m bad luck.

Feel free to use the comments to tell me how dumb I am. Go ahead. I deserve it.

Has anyone redeemed a paper voucher from American? How did it go?

About lucky

Ben Schlappig (aka Lucky) is a travel consultant, blogger, and avid points collector. He travels about 400,000 miles a year, primarily using miles and points to fund his first class experiences. He chronicles his adventures, along with industry news, here at One Mile At A Time.

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Comments

  1. We live and we learn. I’ve done some silly stuff during my travels. I can’t help to laugh when I think of the rookie mistakes I made in the past! But those are all vital trips people should keep in mind 😉

  2. I’ve done that dozens of times in the past and never had any trouble. I’d bet $20 that both the voucher was lost in the mail or misplaced by AA *and* the agent who created the pnr forgot to suspend the ticketing deadline indefinitely. So your booking auto-cancelled.

    Items lost in the mail are very rare. Guess his number just came up.

  3. It sucks to deliver it in person due to the additional booking fees at the airport. Unless you’re EXP.

  4. I redeemed one at DCA with no trouble, except that they did not honor the fare prices shown online. They claimed that the online prices are “internet specials,” and I ended up paying about $100 extra for my ticket. So maybe you really only lost $400.

  5. I agree that the paper voucher process is inexcusably outdated. But I’ve used it five or six times with no problem. I’ve noted the record locator in a cover letter, of which I’ve kept a copy. But I’ve just used regular mail to send them in, and they’ve all been processed without a hitch.

  6. Writing your name, PNR and departure date on the envelope is key. They sort them unopened by departure date and work on them in order.

  7. That sucks. In 2008 I was flying every other week from DCA to TUS and picked up quite a few vouchers. All mailed using normal USPS no delivery confirmation methods and never had a problem. Must be super bad luck for you.

  8. Sorry to hear about your experience Andrew B. Hope the voucher turns up soon!

    I am surprised AA has such a dinosaur system for voucher. Years ago I got a UA voucher for the same reason as Andrew B. It was easily redeemable online at UA website. And if the ticket was less than the voucher value, you could use the remaining value at future bookings too.

  9. I tried to use a $100.00 AA evoucher on line. It was expiring July 7, 2015, so I booked a RT flight on the 787 for May 7, 2015, for $117.00. My voucher had a number and pin. I thought it took it as I paid for the res, but when I got my cc bill it had not taken off the $100.00. Wrote AA customer service several times from April 19, 2015 to August 1, 2015. After going around in circles, with AA web services, AA refund department and AA customer service, I finally got a real live person to call me back! and she reissued the evoucher with an additional year on the expiration date. I’ll be real careful the next time I try to use it. Thanks for your learning experience. AA should have a record of giving you a voucher on a certain date connected with a certain flight and what the number was. They should also be able to see if it was used, otherwise, it could be copied and used multiple times. Did you explor that with them?

  10. I redeem a ton of vouchers that get issued due to schedule/flight changes, and I love in Chile, so many times the cost to FedEx them to the US is almost as much as the voucher itself. I cannot understand how they are still working with this paper system. I understand that many companies want to make redemption of things like this as difficult as possible and thus discourage their use, but it just doesn’t seem right.

  11. I used an AA paper voucher this way: made a reservation online and put it on hold. Then went to the nearest airport (YVR) AA check in / ticketing desk and applied the voucher to the reservation, paid the balance by credit card. Easy.

  12. You are not dumb – AA’s voucher system is hopelessly (willfully?) broken.

    The mitigating steps you describe would not be necessary if the process worked correctly.

    Due to flight cancelation, I requested vouchers in Jan. After multiple follow-ups, I received the paper vouchers 10wks later. I booked new flights and sent in the vouchers (I kept a copy) as you describe above. After 4 wks with no update, I had to call up, and luckily they were able to process over the phone based on my ticket numbers (48hrs before flight). Then I was to get the unused balance of $900 back. I asked for the voucher number which I noted. The voucher never arrived, but as I had the numbers I could follow up – several times. Finally in late July and after much complaining by me, I got an email saying they would refund the balance to my credit card sometime in the next 2 billing cycles.

  13. That’s why I don’t sell anything on ebay.

    If you don’t know the voucher # and did not take a photo of it with yourself, how do you even know it wasn’t already stolen and used.

  14. Sorry for your misfortune. Your advice to go to the nearest AA ticketing office is good to know. I’ve redeemed a few of these and another thing to keep in mind about redeeming these vouchers is that I believe they require a 21 day advance booking, otherwise will not hold the itinerary while waiting for the credit voucher. By heading to an AA ticketing office perhaps the advance purchase requirements are different.

  15. I think the whole AA paper voucher system is ridiculous. I had one for $400 that took 8 mos to use. Because the restrictions were crazy, you couldn’t use it toward seat fees, upgrade fees, taxes and so much more. When I received it I was excited thinking I would use it toward a trip overseas. . But of course it can’t be used toward the taxes (which are often a few hundred dollars), only the base fare. Other airlines use evouchers or have voucher numbers so you can enter it online booking. Why AA is in the dark ages on this. I personally think they hope people forget abt them and don’t used them. I live in NYC and fortunately there is an AA ticket counter near Grand Central Station so I could go in person to book my flight. However, when I was offered an $800 voucher from Delta recently, I had a choice of voucher on Delta or gift cards. I took $800 worth of Amex gift cards!

  16. AA still lives in the Stone Age. I had to reach out to them to solve an issue my parents had when flying with them in paid business class (flight delay due to mechanical problem, missed international connection, did not get a hotel or any food, had to buy clothes since they did not get their luggage, etc…) and the only way to do it was by sending a letter or an email to AA Customer Relations. Well, the problem is that there is no way to reach out to that team other than by letter or email and after more than 30 days I sent them all the information all I got was an automated email with a protocol number that they received my case. Thus, no phone number, twitter, etc… and now I have no idea if and when they will reply to me with their response to my inquire. That is why I never volunteer myself to take another flight and get a stupid voucher. Once I am at the gate I am in the mood to travel so no matter what they offer me I will take my original flight.

  17. Wow wow wow. Not to rub salt on wounds but at delta when i get a voucher i have it on my skymiles account/vouchers in the matter if seconds. Im a rebell and i actually tear up the voucher right there once i see it on account. I had countless vouchers for the past Ten!!! Years at delta never used the paper voucher. Obe trick Delta sneaked in during the past 5 years that you can onlybyse ONE voucher at a time. About seven-eight years ago i remember i just checkmarked multiple vouchers in screen to pay for about $2000 ticket with no problem. Not any more.

  18. I could not complaint! AA always has a wonderfull service for Executive Platinum members! As I am foreigner, living outside USA, I could not use electronic vouchers. They always change the evoucher for paper voucher, and I redeem them by mail or at the office. Sometimes takes a little longer to redeem them, ( until 3 months), because they issue the tickets in order to the closer dates of flights. They always were very clear to me,regarding the process: 1) made a copy ,2) attach the original to your itinerary and write all the numbers and codes at the enveloped! 3) Send it by confirmation mail!
    If you do not made a copy, and do not have any registration of your mail, if the voucher is lost, I think that is your fault! you could not blame the company!

  19. I’d say you’ve suffered enough. But think this through — what if the flight you didn’t get to take was hijacked? And your life partner was on board? And you were a career Special Forces soldier? I’m thinking screenplay, somebody like Bruce Willis only younger and somebody like Halle Berry. Millions. There’s a role there for Steve Buscemi, too. Lots of violin music. And when the credits roll at the end, some janitors move a desk and the voucher letter falls to the floor. Overseas receipts. Action figures. Lunch boxes. Congratulations, you lucky dog!

  20. We had a similar experience in January of this year. Having the good fortune (due to overbooking?) on our AA return flight to HKG, AA was offering $1000 vouchers for folks willing to give up their seats and fly the following day. I was hesitant, but my wife (having the much more financially sound mindset) quickly convinced me. We were travelling with our little one and that would amount to 3 vouchers for all of us (plus food vouchers and a free night’s stay nearby). Once I de-stressed a bit (and had the vouchers in hand) I relaxed and we had an awesome family night on AA’s dime.

    Jump to a few months later and it’s time to book our annual flights stateside for the winter holidays. So I went through the exact same process as Andrew, only being in Hong Kong, I had to mail them to an AA center in Florida. It was an odd experience to be sure, as Andrew points out, because we live in this day and age of digital info and yet here I am on the phone (well Skype actually) and dealing with airline bookings by mail.

    I was particularly concerned at some of the warning information on the vouchers, which stated ‘Void if total value exceeds USD 1000’. Since we had 3 vouchers I wasn’t sure I’d be able to use all three on a single booking. A bit of googling though and I learned that this statement is a limit on voucher value (to prevent fraud), thus no single voucher itself can be more than $1000.

    I mailed the vouchers as per instruction and used an expedited tracking mail service from the Hong Kong post office (mistake, as I will explain). Then I waited…one week, two weeks, a month. I kept checking the AA site, which had listed the reservation as unconfirmed. We want back to the post office to check on the tracking, and were told that the tracking by HK service does not work once it gets within the United States (facepalm).

    Now I did have the sense to make scans of the vouchers, but just as I was about to call AA (around 10 weeks after the initial booking), the confirmation came through and my CC was charged with the amount reflecting the vouchers. (After reading @Alberto’s post above, I guess this timeframe seems about par for the course).

    Now that flight is still four months off, but the value was certainly worth the backchannel and drawn out nature of getting things done.

  21. Andrew, I’m sorry for your loss and expensive lesson, but I love your sense of humor! Thanks for sharing your hard-earned wisdom and wit.

  22. Thanks for the comments/feedback, everyone. @Mike, your comment made my day. But please, no Steve Buscemi — he’s just too weird-looking.

  23. Also AA vouchers get mailed to a different address now, before it was Milton FL (near Miami) now it’s Pensacola FL (NW part of state).

  24. Got a $1000 paper voucher earlier this year for a VDB at DFW to HKG. Redeemed it earlier this month by mail. As others have noted, it’s simplest to prepare the reservation online, put it on hold, then phone Reservations with the record locator. I confirmed with the agent (after she called the rate desk) that my voucher type means most of the taxes would NOT be charged — this is a neat secret that makes these vouchers slightly more valuable than cash. Mailed in the voucher with USPS tracking and electronic return receipt, but the ticket wasn’t issued until three days before the flight. (Had to call in once, and was told to wait because they process the envelopes in order of departure date.) Still waiting on them to mail back the remaining value…

  25. Sorry for your loss. Live and learn!
    We got two $800 US Air vouchers once for being bumped from a USAir flight MUC to TPA. As it turned out, $800 would not buy us a return ticket on USAir from TPA to MUC in off-season (Feb.). The whole operation cost us an additional $600 p/p with no chance to upgrade to business class. We have since refrained from jumping for a bump/voucher, especially when we have the FF miles sitting in our accounts. For us this was also a Live and learn situation.

  26. We also just had a horrible time trying to redeem AA gift certificates that we got from our American Express Platinum cards. We decided to go the certificate route so we could use a status upgrade (also a hassle because at that point, we couldn’t use the upgrade on code shared flights). We spent hours upon hours figuring out which flight to take. We then spent hours on the phone booking and when they went to finalize it, couldn’t because we are departing out of Europe and in some small, fine print (that they didn’t even know about before their system wouldn’t allow us to go further) it says that to use the certificates, it needs to originate out of the US!!! Headaches galore.

  27. Find it hard to believe Corporate AA has not taken notice of this stupidity with their system. I hope they take better care of their plane engines.

  28. Sitting at an aa ticket counter after having mailed in my voucher with a copy of the voucher. I have told them what the reservations phone # said…that they can’t locate the reservation or the original voucher, so I booked again via phone number and brought a copy of the voucher. The ticket counter states they can’t help because they need the original. What a friggin bait and switch from aa. Insane

  29. I am running into a similar problem with AA. Received three travel vouchers for my family on a return flight from England. Mailed in the vouchers to apply toward future travel. AA called to say that those weren’t valid vouchers but “copies of vouchers”, so they would not honor them. (They said an actual voucher would look like an airline ticket. Umm, I haven’t seen a paper airline ticket in 15 years. I’m not ever sure what that means.) I followed their instructions to the letter and have not received my original voucher back.

    I suspect very strongly that they are intentionally keeping this an antiquated process to discourage redemption. (Why not just do gift cards like every other major corporation?) I am also considering legal options to leverage AA to make good on these vouchers.

  30. I am going through the same thing now!
    It has been an absolute nightmare and now I have been on hold for 45 minutes.
    American Airlines is the absolute worst!

  31. Tara Maey Petrie: What ended up happening in your case? Please share with us how you were able to redeem the voucher(s) you got for getting bumped from a flight, whether you had to pay taxes, etc. Thanks!

  32. This happened to me with $2200 in credit 🙁 Was about to drive to Boston overnight to get on my flight to Hawaii with my girlfriend, until I found out THE NIGHT BEFORE that our tickets weren’t booked at all – no record – nothing.

  33. I just got my vouchers (3500 US$) by mail, an unregistered mail to Hungary.
    What if it’s lost?
    Our Hungarian post is not so reliable.
    I am very interesting how I can redeem them.
    It’s still not clear if I can pay also the taxes with them, most YQ.
    Any experience anyone?
    Thanks!

  34. I only redeemed a voucher once by mail. Fedex’d it to AA, 6570 Caroline St – Suite B, Dept 109, Milton, FL 32570-4778. Took awhile to get the mailing address from reservations but with Fedex there was a record of them receiving it and who signed for it. My cover letter cover the voucher amount/date of issue and the locator for the flight(s) I wanted it to apply to. No problem at all. When I made the res, I put on hold and then called AA and they put a longer hold, pending receipt of voucher.

  35. Honestly, the policy seems designed to facilitate the loss of vouchers, so that there will be a certain percentage of funds American Airlines doesn’t have to honor. There is no earthly reason that paper vouchers need to be mailed anywhere. It’s technologically bizarre. This is the same airline that already charges $150+ to change a reservation. Then if you repurchase a flight that’s less than your original flight, your “refund” is issued as a voucher with the most inconvenient terms that anyone could conceive. How is it possible that booking a plane ticket can be a weeks long process? I am fully committed to boycotting American Airlines when my voucher funds are used.

  36. A bit late in posting (it’s been over a year!) but I have also gone through this tortuous process, took over 9 months for AA to even answer my emails in which I asked, where is my ticket or the voucher I sent to you? I had names of reps who promised action, case numbers, everything. No results whatsoever UNTIL I TWEETED about all the bullcrap I was being given. Within 48 hours AA had resolved everything, mailed a replacement voucher out (to replace the voucher that went missing AND the ticket they said they had mailed me, but I had never received).

    Advice: Tweet your problems. You will get answers.

  37. If it makes you feel better, American Airlines sent my paper voucher to someone else. That someone was nice enough to take a trip on me.

  38. Best advice I was given on redeeming them (from an AA agent) was to book and pay for the flight, then take the voucher to an agent. Did mine in an Admiral’s Lounge, but don’t see any reason why a ticketing agent anywhere else wouldn’t be able to do the same. Refunded the full cost of the initial ticket purchase. Charged me the difference between the voucher value and the fare. Was a relatively simple process.

  39. exact same thing happened to me last September when I booked flight for November. told to send to Pensacola office. I complained relentlessly and they sent me a new voucher but only after I had to pay full pop for the November flight. Now about to use my new voucher… Live in Canada so not easy access to AA office. suggestions?

  40. I have not been able to use my voucher. I sent it in once, they sent it back. I tried redeeming online, they never responded. I just sent it in again, and was told I can’t use it because it was reported as lost/stolen and that voucher number is no longer valid. UNBELIEVABLE!! I am beyond frustrated.

  41. I’ve filed a complaint for my Feb trip – flight cancelled, next flight delayed & rude crews.. etc.
    Thus, I got a Travel Voucher of $100 as compensation. My original purchase was in USD, so I believe the compensation should be in USD too.
    When I book for my next trip now in March and called to apply the voucher over the phone. They insist I have to pay according Canadian site in CAD as they can’t charge the remaining balance of US$25-ish with my Canadian Credit Card.
    More ridiculous is – the Travel Voucher will be treated as CAD100.00 !!!!
    I have to pay CAD80-ish. They said it is how it works ….. Unbelievable !!!!
    After my brother called & provided with his American Credit card for USD25-ish, AA requests the paper Voucher to be mailed back WITHIN 12 DAYS and TICKET WILL THEN BE ISSUED. Again, it is how it works !!!!!! NO GOOD REASON can be provided !!!!!
    Poor Company Policy – Poor Customer Service – NO MORE AMERICAN AIRLINE !!!!

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