A Complete Guide to Airline Award Hold Policies [Who Allows Them & How They Work]

Cathay Pacific Booking Agent

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When the exact award availability that you’ve been waiting to open up for months finally does, you likely are going to want to book it right away. But unless you have a large stash of points with that airline or one of their partners, you are going to need to transfer some points to make that booking possible.

Fortunately, if you’re already collecting points in transferable currencies like Amex Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Capital One Miles, and Citi ThankYou Points, transferring points to make that booking should be no problem… except that, depending on the program, it can sometimes take hours or even days for those transfers to clear.

This is when airlines that offer the option to place an award ticket on hold can really come in handy. There aren’t many airlines that allow award holds, and the policies for those that do can vary quite a bit. This post discusses each airline that allows you to place an award on hold and their policies.

What Is an Award Hold?

An award hold is a temporary, courtesy hold placed on an award ticket for a set amount of time so that no one else can book it.

Why Should You Put a Ticket on Hold?

You may be wondering, why is it necessary to put an award ticket on hold in the first place? If the ticket is available, then you can just go ahead and book it, right? Not necessarily.

As you may already know, bank-issued credit card points, like Amex Membership Rewards or Chase Ultimate Rewards, are extremely valuable because of their availability to be transferred to a number of different airline and hotel partners. This allows you to search for award space across multiple programs and then transfer those points to the program best suited for your needs.

The only problem is that these transfers don’t always happen instantaneously. At times, a transfer may take just a few hours; other times it may take a few days. If a point transfer takes a few hours, or a few days, to clear, and you haven’t put your award ticket on hold, then someone else could snag it out from under you.

No big deal, right? You can just move those points back to the transferable currency you moved them from… except that all point transfers are final. That’s right, once you move your transferable points to another program, they cannot be moved back, locking them into that airline or hotel program.

So, put simply, putting an award ticket on hold allows you to guarantee that your award ticket will still be available when the points post to your account.

Greg Stone - Singapore Airlines Boeing 777 First Class - Side On
You can transfer your points to fly Singapore First Class on the 777! Image Credit: Greg Stone

Airlines That Allow Award Holds

AirlineHold TimePhone Booking FeeTransfer Partners/Transfer TimeU.S. Contact
Air FranceUp to 3 days$25
  • American Express (almost instant)
  • Capital One (almost instant)
  • Chase (1 hour)
  • Citi (2 days)
  • Marriott (1 day)
AlitaliaUp to 7 days$0
  • American Express (almost instant)
  • Capital One (almost instant)
  • Marriott (varies)
American AirlinesUp to 5 days (for travel beyond 14 days, otherwise 1 day)$35
  • Marriott (2 days)
Austrian AirlinesUp to 5 days$20
  • Marriott via Lufthansa (4 days)
Brussels AirlinesUp to 5 days$24 (economy) $48 (business)
  • Marriott via Lufthansa (4 days)
Cathay PacificUp to 3 days, plus an award waitlist$39 (for partner tickets)
  • American Express (1-7 days)
  • Capital One (up to 36 hours)
  • Citi (24 hours)
  • Marriott (2 days)
Lufthansa AirlinesUp to 5 days$20
  • Marriott (4 days)
Singapore AirlinesAt phone agent’s discretion (usually a few days)$25 or 2,500 KrisFlyer miles
  • American Express (1-2 days)
  • Capital One (up to 36 hours)
  • Chase (1-2 days)
  • Citi (2 days)
  • Marriott (up to 7 days)
SWISS Air LinesUp to 5 days$20
  • Marriott via Lufthansa (4 days)
Turkish AirlinesUp to 2 daysVaries
  • Citi (1-2 days)
  • Marriott (varies)
Virgin AtlanticUp to 2 days$0
  • American Express (1-2 days)
  • Chase (almost instant)
  • Citi (2 days)
  • Marriott (1 day)

What If An Airline Doesn’t Allow Award Holds?

That may or may not be a problem! If you already have the required points in your account to make the booking, then you can go ahead and do so without needing to place the ticket on hold.

If you need to transfer points to make the booking, depending on the airline and points you’re using, you might be able to make the transfer almost instantaneously — allowing you to perform the transfer while you’re on the phone with the agent after they confirm the space is available!

Just because a certain airline isn’t on this list does not mean it’s impossible for a phone agent to place an award ticket on hold for you. Like many things in life, it never hurts to ask!

Hot Tip: If you’re not sure of which airlines you can transfer your points to, the transfer rate, or how long it takes for a transfer to go through, check out our transfer partner calculator tool!

Final Thoughts

As you can see, there are just a handful of airlines that allow award holds, although many others will allow you to cancel or change your award ticket for a small fee.

If you’re booking an award ticket with one of these airlines, the ability to put these awards on hold can prevent the headache of losing out on the ticket or trapping your miles in a program you may no longer have use for.

Frequently asked questions

Why should you put an award ticket on hold?

Putting an award ticket on hold can be tremendously helpful in 2 ways.

First, placing the ticket on hold gives you the assurance that the ticket will not be booked by anyone else.

Second, if you’re planning to move points from a transferable currency like Amex Membership Rewards or Chase Ultimate Rewards, placing the ticket on hold allows you time to move those points from program to another and ensures that the ticket will still be bookable when the transfer clears.

What airlines allow you to put an award ticket on hold?

The airlines that will allow you to place an award ticket on hold are:

  • Air France
  • Alitalia
  • American Airlines
  • Austrian Airlines
  • Brussels Airlines
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Lufthansa
  • Singapore Airlines
  • SWISS Air Lines
  • Turkish Airlines
  • Virgin Atlantic

How long can you place an award ticket on hold?

The amount of time you can place an award ticket on hold varies depending on the airline. Some airlines do not allow it at all, while others will place a courtesy hold anywhere from 24 hours to 7 days.

Jarrod West

About Jarrod West

Jarrod first became fascinated with the world of points and miles as the perfect way to visit dream destinations without breaking the bank. On his first major award trip, he spent 3 months traveling through Europe, financed nearly entirely with points; while flying in premium cabins and staying in 5-star hotels along the way. Now, he is on a mission to help others realize their travel goals and upgrade their travel experiences. Jarrod has been writing about credit cards and travel loyalty programs for 4 years, and his work has been featured by Travel and Leisure, Matador Network, Yahoo Finance, and U.S. News.

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