If you love to travel, you want to save money wherever you can. That’s why we’re sharing a flight hack not everyone has heard of. So, just in case this one is news to you, we’re going to tell you how to take advantage of the “24 hour rule” to potentially save big on your next trip.
The 24-hour rule
First things first, what is the 24-hour rule? It’s a federal regulation that entitles you to a 24-hour grace period from the time you purchase a flight to cancel without penalty and receive a full cash refund.
The policy covers even those low-cost basic economy tickets. You heard that right. You can actually cancel those no-frills tickets that come with all kinds of restrictions, including “no refunds/changes.” The catch? You must cancel within the 24-hour window.
All flights to or from a United States airport, even on a foreign airline, are covered, as long as:
- You book the flight at least seven days in advance
- The flight was booked directly with the airline, not through an online travel agency
(Note: The rule technically allows airlines to choose between offering a 24-hour hold on the ticket price with no payment required or offering a 24-hour refund window. Most U.S. airlines have chosen to offer the refund.)
So, how does the 24-hour rule help you save money? Let’s take a look:
Save money with “mistake fares”
A mistake fare is a term used when an airline sells a ticket for significantly less than they intended.
These error fares or glitch fares, as they’re also known, can be caused by human error or technology issues.
If you’re lucky enough to spot one, of course, tickets will sell fast. You won’t have time to see if your spouse can take vacation time, check on hotels, etc., etc. If you don’t act immediately, you’ll miss the deal.
Here’s where the 24-hour rule comes in handy. Rather than losing out on the deal, grab the tickets while you can, making your best guess as to the dates that will work for taking your vacation.
Now, you’ve got 24 hours to see if you can find a hotel deal and get the days off from work. If not, no harm done–just cancel your ticket for a full refund.
On the other hand, if everything else falls into place, you’ve scored an amazing (and cheap) vacation!
Save money during fare wars
Occasionally, airlines get into price wars, or fare wars. They’ll battle back and forth to undercut each other’s fares as they compete for customers.
Fare wars may give you the chance to score some super affordable tickets using the 24-hour rule.
Here’s how the flight hack works in this case: Let’s say you grab a great deal on a ticket to New York on United. That same evening, Delta cuts their ticket prices. Their flight to New York is now $100 cheaper than United’s.
You can cancel your first ticket with United, get a full refund, and save yourself $100.
Just be sure to book your new flight before cancelling the old one!
Where do I find the lowest airfares, including mistake fares?
If you’re planning a trip or have a destination you’d love to visit if the price was right, you have some options when it comes to finding a cheap flight.
First, set price alerts for specific routes. Set alerts for your city’s airport and surrounding airports if you want to increase your odds of finding a great deal.
Google Flights allows you to set alerts that will notify you when the price for your selected route drops. Of course, if there’s an mistake fare or another low fare on a route you haven’t set an alert for, you won’t see it.
If you don’t want to spend all day hunting for cheap airfares, you can use sites like Going (formerly Scott’s Cheap Flights), Jack’s Flight Club, or Airfare Watchdog.
These are sites that look for flight deals. You give them your departing airport(s) location, and they’ll send you an alert when they find bargain tickets from your airport.
If you decide to book one of their deals, you do it through the airline. These sites are not travel agents and don’t sell tickets. They just look for and pass along any great fares they find.
There are typically both free and paid options available with these kinds of sites. Check out the details on each site you’re considering signing up with to see what you can get for free–or if it’s worth it to you to upgrade.
However, if you’re planning to travel anytime soon, any fees you pay to one of these sites will likely be recouped (and then some) with the amount you save on airfare.
A note about online travel agencies
Remember that the federal 24-hour rule is only applicable when booking directly with the airline.
That said, some online travel sites, like Priceline and Orbitz offer their own 24-hour cancellation policies. If you decide to book through one of these sites, be sure to read their terms carefully as they are not included in the federal 24-hour cancellation rule.
There you have it, a handy flight hack to keep in mind as you plan your next vacation.
Where are you looking forward to traveling this year? Leave us a comment!
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