How to cancel or reschedule a rewards trip

By Benjamin Salisbury


The end of the year is when many rewards-card holders take advantage of the points they've earned by booking a trip to look forward to in the new year.

But what happens if suddenly you can't go - perhaps for a medical reason, an emergency or simply because you want to reschedule? Can you cancel or reschedule a trip booked on your credit card's points?

Here's how different rewards programs work - and how to cancel a trip you've booked on points.

How to book a flight with points
The main credit card airline rewards schemes are from American Express and Lloyds Bank's Avios Rewards American Express Card, though many other major airlines have their own schemes.

Using your American Express rewards card, you choose your flight through the American Express Travel site. At the checkout, select the option to "Use all or some Membership Rewards points" for your booking, choose the amount of points you would like to redeem, and select "apply".

You'll be charged the full amount on your card account when booking. Points are then deducted from your Membership Rewards balance and a credit for the same amount is applied to your card account.

For Lloyds Avios bookings, you earn Avios points for all eligible purchases. You must earn 8,000 points to purchase a return flight. For around 9,000 Avios points (plus airline taxes, fees, and carrier charges), you can get a return flight to destinations such as Nice, Amsterdam or Berlin. You also can use Avios to partially pay for flights.

If you spend a minimum of £7,000 on your Lloyds Bank Avios Rewards card, you qualify for an upgrade voucher. You are limited to one voucher per year, amd the voucher can be used to upgrade two one-way flights for two people travelling at the same time or one round-trip journey.

Each rewards scheme has its own specific terms and conditions, and restrictions can apply. However, the points you have collected continue to be valid even if you close your rewards card.

What are the rules for cancelling or changing a rewards trip?
Essentially, there are no restrictions on cancelling a trip booked using points earned from a rewards card, regardless of whether you are ill, have an unexpected appointment or just don't fancy going - as long as you adhere to the rewards program's terms and conditions.

For instance, Avios confirmed that you "don't have to give a reason," as long as you give 24 hours' notice. You will have to pay a £35 fee, but the points used will be re-credited to your account. You also will have to pay any supplier fees, which vary.

"If members change their mind about a flight or need to change or cancel it for some reason, they won't lose their Avios, as changes or cancellations can be made up to 24 hours before a flight for a fee of £35," Hannah Fletcher, head of customer marketing at Avios, said in an emailed response to questions. "Re-booked flights will, of course, be determined by availability at the time of the change taking place."

Members can amend routes if, on the date the change is requested, no extra points or money is needed than for the original trip.

If less than 24 hours' notice is given to cancel or reschedule a trip, points are not re-credited to the Avios member and if you miss your flight or don't turn up, you'll lose your points and any return flight will also be cancelled.

For events defined as "beyond your control", Avios will refund points, provided you have an unused reward, have informed Avios promptly and have provided evidence of the event and paid the £35 per person fee.

British Airways charges £15 for date/time changes, cancellation, and the Avios re-deposit charge, and it has the same rules on events beyond your control.

For American Express Rewards cardholders, if you cancel your booking, points are returned to your statement as a credit.

Who do you call to reschedule - your issuer or the rewards partner?
When you book a trip with points, you deal with the partner - such as the airline or Avios - to cancel or reschedule a trip or to get a refund, rather than your card issuer.

"When an American Express card member transfers their Membership Rewards points to a partner, e.g. Avios, they are converting the Membership Rewards points to the partner reward currency to book the trip," Marilyn Alexander, public affairs spokesperson for American Express Europe, said in an emailed response to questions. "This means the partner would then control the policy around changes and refunds." 

See related: Guide to travel rewards schemesEnjoy the perks of your card without paying the annual fee

Published: 26 December 2017