a bed in a plane
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Getting a successful booking made with points can feel like a triumph. It’s rarely easy to get the dates you want, and it’s even rarer to get multiple seats. Sometimes though, you win. Like the clever points enthusiast you are, you keep an eye on your booking, and sometimes, an even better promotion or special discounted rate using points pops up, after the fact.

Cancel and rebook, right? Maybe.

a row of seats in an airplaneWhen a better opportunity pops up, you naturally want to cancel your current booking made with points and make a new booking at the better points rates, or for the better flights on the cool new plane. That all sounds perfect, but it rarely is. The simple reason: when you cancel a booking with points, it doesn’t automatically mean the seat will return into inventory for you to rebook.

Let’s run an example: Singapore Airlines offers monthly “promo awards” where they discount the number of miles you need by 30%, to select destinations. If you had a booking from Los Angeles to Singapore in business class for 110,000 miles, and then an opportunity came up to book the same flights for 85,000 miles per person, you’d of course want to.

But if your move is to simply cancel your existing booking, assuming that the same availability would pop right back up, you’d be wrong. You’d want to see if you can find suitable flights at the lower rates, book those, and then simply cancel that first 110,000 point booking. Not the other way around.

Don’t cancel a booking made with points until you’ve successfully made a new one first, or you can see seats available on the same flight.

a table in a chair in a planeOnce you have the new one at the better rates confirmed, you can cancel the old one, but not before. It’s a two step dance.

If you were to simply cancel your existing booking, hoping to immediately rebook at better rates a few seconds later, there’s a more than likely chance that you’d be completely out of luck, since availability you currently hold with points wouldn’t likely be offered again. Instead, they’d just become seats for purchase with cash only.

The only workaround is if you’re doing a fresh search, and find enough seats still available using points on the same flights, not including the ones you currently hold. At that point, you could cancel your reservation and rebook the seats you see at the better rates.

Do note though: sometimes airlines take days to return your points, so don’t just expect them to zip back into your account immediately. If you face this issue, you can ask an airline to expedite for you.

“Gardening” a reservation, otherwise known as keeping on top of it, monitoring for changes or better opportunities is a great practice, but if you don’t get this key dance move right, you can sabotage your trip without a clue what you’ve done. Availability is the key to successful points happiness, and you can’t ever assume it’ll still be there, even if you cancel and immediately try to rebook.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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