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In October, I booked what might have been my favorite award ever: a Three One Way award that would allow me to see Pohnpei, Palau, and the Philippines while flying the Island Hopper. Read about it here.

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Alas, something came up, so I can’t fly it. I decided to just fly directly to Japan instead, but that still left the thorny issue of how to turn my old award into an award to Japan.

United charges $200 to cancel an award and re-credit the miles. (You do get the taxes back, so you end up paying less than $200 at the time of cancellation.)

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But there’s two ways to save big on that fee.

  1. If there is a schedule change, you can call up and tell the agent the new flight schedule doesn’t work for you. They will cancel and fully refund the ticket. How big of a schedule change? I don’t know United’s rule. American Airlines requires a 60+ minute change.
  2. Instead of canceling, you can change your award and pay the much lower change fee.

Unfortunately there had been no schedule change since I booked my ticket, so I went with the second plan.

You can make any change to the ticket and pay the lower $75 fee ($50 in practice).

To change an award, sign in to your United account, click “My trips,” and click “Change flight.”

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Check all segments of the award, and then continue.
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As I mentioned, I just wanted to book a simple one way award from Honolulu to Tokyo to see Japan for the first time and start a month in Asia.Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 9.14.32 PM There was economy award space on the day I want to fly, which costs 25,000 United miles + $5.60. My old award cost 47,500 miles + $18.20. I get refunded the difference but have to pay a $50 change fee. (Why that is not a $75 change fee as United’s website says it should be is beyond me but for at least 2.5 years, United has been under-collecting this fee online.)Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 9.17.19 PM

I made the change, paying with my Citi ThankYou® Premier Card to earn 3x points, and got instant confirmation that I am booked on my new flight. I signed out of my United account and back in and saw that my 22,500 mile refund had already posted.

Bottom Line

I’m missing Pohnpei and Palau for now. I hope to see them later in 2016 or in the more distant future.

You should never pay a $200 cancellation fee on a United award. Hope for a schedule change for a free cancellation. Failing that, just change the award for a $50 fee.

The new award does NOT need to have anything in common with the old one. I could have changed the award to any award flight. As far as I know, the cheapest United award is 6,000 miles for a one way award within Hawaii. In a pinch, it is better to pay a $50 change fee and eat 6,000 miles by changing to an intra-Hawaii flight that you never plan to fly than to pay $200 to cancel an award and get all your miles back.

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