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Sometimes you need to cancel a flight or you just flat out miss a flight with Southwest. In those instances, all hope is not lost and all of value is not lost either. That is because you will likely be issued Southwest travel funds (depending on the type of ticket that you purchased).
In this comprehensive article, I will show you everything you need to know about Southwest travel funds. I’ll discuss how you get them, how to use them, and important details like when they expire. I will also touch on gift cards and LUV vouchers for added clarification.
What are Southwest travel funds?
Southwest travel funds are special funds that usually get issued when you are given a refunded credit for your Southwest flight. Southwest travel funds are different from gift card balances and Southwest LUV vouchers and I’ll discuss those below for added clarification.
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How to get Southwest travel funds
Typically, you will get Southwest travel funds whenever you cancel a flight or you fail to show up for a flight (a “no show”).
One of the most common ways to get Southwest travel funds is to receive a credit for your canceled flight. Southwest Airlines has one of the most generous cancellation policies out of any major airline in the US.
They allow you to change your flights with no additional fee (up to 1 hour prior to departure) and allow you to cancel your flight up to 10 minutes prior to the departure time.
Anytime fare or a Business Select fare
If you purchased an Anytime fare or a Business Select fare then you can cancel up to 10 minutes prior to the departure time and receive a full refund. However, if you fail to cancel your flight you will be issued Southwest travel funds in place of that refund.
If you purchased a Wanna-Get-Away fare you are not allowed to receive a full cash refund. Instead, you will receive Southwest travel funds whenever you cancel your ticket at least 10 minutes prior to departure. But keep in mind that if you fail to show up for your flight and don’t cancel your ticket at least 10 minutes prior to departure, you will not be issued any type of credit at anytime and you will lose all of your travel funds.
If you had an award reservation then your Rapid Rewards will be deposited back into your account. However, any taxes and fees associated with your reward travel reservation will be held for future use in the form of reusable travel funds under the name of the traveler(s).
Also keep in mind that if you purchase Southwest EarlyBird, that is a nonrefundable purchase and you will not receive travel funds for that. To find out more about Southwest EarlyBird click here.
Southwest gift cards
Southwest gift cards can be purchased from the Southwest website at anytime or you can purchase them via phone by calling Southwest Airlines at 1-800-IFLY-SWA (1-800-435-9792).
You can choose any amount between $10 dollars and $10,000 dollars so the range is quite extreme. (Orders exceeding $1,000 can be made by printing the Southwest gift card order form and following the directions provided.)
You can also choose to have these gift cards delivered via email, or you can have them sent via mail. But note that if you were getting them sent via the mail, you will have to pay the shipping fees. If you prefer, you can also expedite the shipping of these gift cards.
A Southwest gift card is NOT valid for the purchase of:
- Southwest Airlines Vacation Packages
- Rental cars
- Southwest Airlines Merchandise
- EarlyBird Check-In
- Additional Southwest gift cards
- In-flight purchases
Southwest LUV Vouchers
Southwest LUV Vouchers are the cousin of travel funds and you can even convert travel funds into LUV Vouchers (read more on that below).
LUV Vouchers are valid as a form of payment toward future airfare only on Southwest Airlines through Southwest.com, toll-free Reservations 1-800-I-FLY-SWA (1-800-435-9792), or at any Southwest Airlines Ticket Counter.
Southwest LUV Vouchers are not redeemable as:
- Payment toward Government-imposed segment fees
- Excise taxes
- Passenger Facility Charges
- September 11th Security Fees or
- Payment toward miscellaneous charges
- Southwest Airlines Group tickets
- Southwest Airlines Vacations packages
- or travel either wholly or in part on other air carriers.
When do Southwest travel funds expire?
Southwest travel funds will expire one year from the purchase date (booking date) of the original flight. This is a huge thing to know because some people assume that the expiration date is one year from the date of travel, which is not the case.
Southwest Airlines does not offer free extensions for the expiration date for travel funds. However, you still might be able to get them to extend the expiration date of your travel funds. This will likely come at a cost of though.
Travel funds expire date extension
Many people extend the expiration date for their travel funds after paying a $100 reinstatement fee. The travel funds are then converted into LUV vouchers when the reinstatement takes place.
You may only have 6 months to request the reinstatement and you must make your request after your travel funds expire. Also, the LUV voucher may only be valid for 6 months from issue so inquire about its expiration date.
Sometimes Southwest has reduced the value of the travel funds when they are reinstated so be on the lookout for that.
The good thing about getting a LUV voucher is that you should be able to use that for anybody. So in some instances, it could be very well worth it to pay $100 so that you can apply those funds to a different traveler.
If your funds have already expired, then I highly suggest that you call and inquire about all of the above possibilities. If the phone representative is not willing to budge, then I suggest that you try calling back later and speaking with another representative.
Note that it is possible that the policies regarding reinstated travel funds are subject to change at anytime so always be prepared for alternative measures!
What about gift cards and vouchers?
Unlike Southwest travel funds, the gift cards do not expire.
However, Southwest LUV Vouchers must be redeemed and all travel completed by the expiration date indicated. If applied in conjunction with any other accepted form(s) of payment, the earliest expiration date of all payments applies.
Southwest will often grant extensions for LUV vouchers but will usually refuse an extension if that LUV voucher was received as a result of getting an extension from your travel funds expiration date. However, if you were given a LUV voucher because of some sort of customer service issue, then you will likely be granted at least one extension for the expiration date.
How to check/view your Southwest travel funds
If you would like to check the status of your Southwest travel funds then simply log-in to your Southwest account and then click on “My Account.” You will then see “My travel funds” at the top and you’ll just need to click on “View Travel Funds.”
You can also do so by clicking here. You will need to have your confirmation number and the passengers first and last name. On that website, you can also check the balance of your Southwest gift card and vouchers.
Customers calling Southwest to request a refund or to research travel funds for a specific ticket must provide their confirmation number, ticket number or flight information (date, origin and destination).
How to use and apply Southwest travel funds
It is very simple to use your Southwest travel funds.
When you are getting ready to complete the booking of your flight, you should see a button on the checkout screen under the Payment method window for Travel Funds. You will want to click that and then enter in the confirmation number and passenger name from the reservation of the canceled or unused flight.
Keep in mind that the passenger name must match the name of the traveler on the new flight perfectly. You cannot use Southwest travel funds for someone else. You also cannot transfer your travel funds to someone else.
As Southwest states:
Travel Funds from an unused or cancelled reservation may only be applied toward the purchase of future travel for the individual named on the ticket.
But keep in mind the possible exception were you convert your travel funds into LUV vouchers. That route comes with a cost and some risk, but if it works out it can be a way to get around the transferability rule.
What if I can’t locate my confirmation number?
If you do not know your confirmation number, then try to search your inbox for Southwest emails. You should have been given an email at the time of booking containing your confirmation number. The subject will line will usually state “Your reservation is confirmed.”
You might also be able to locate the confirmation number by logging into your Southwest account and clicking on your past activity which you find under “My Trips.”
If all else fails then consider calling the following phone number: 1-800-435-9792 (1-800 I FLY SWA).
Can I use travel funds for other purchases?
You should note that you can only use these funds for airfare. They cannot be applied for other purchases like in-flight purchases, Southwest Earlybird, and other random airline incidentals. They also cannot be used for related Southwest travel purchases like Southwest vacation packages, hotels, and rental cars.
Can you convert travel funds into cash?
A lot of people don’t have use for their travel funds and they want to know if they can convert the travel funds into cash money. The answer to this question is no. If Southwest allowed customers to do that, it would honestly defeat the entire purpose of issuing travel credits in the first place so it is understandable that they do not allow this.
What to do if the funds are not working?
It is possible that when you go to apply your Southwest travel funds that they will not work. If that is the case, then I suggest calling up Southwest right away and explaining to them that you believe that you have travel funds that should be applied and that they are not working during the checkout process.
Southwest is one of the most generous airlines when it comes to changing flights and canceling your flights. Receiving Southwest travel funds for your cancellations and no show instances can be a great way to not miss out on a lot value. Just make sure that you stay on top of tracking the expiration date for your funds so that you properly use them in time.
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Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time credit card rewards/travel expert and has earned and redeemed millions of miles to travel the globe. His content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.