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A Cautionary Tale: Using E-Credits/Vouchers Purchased by a Former Employer

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Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


A Delta flyer who lost their job decided to use some e-credits their former employer bought while still employing the person in question.

And now it’s come back to bite both parties.

So who was in the right? And what would you have done?

(I know we have some attorneys who read the blog. I’d love to hear their perspectives on this!)

Some Background

FlyerTalk member rpkussman posted this to the Delta Air Lines/SkyMiles forum.

HI all!

I had a few Delta flights booked by my former employer in March of 2020. (employer paid, nothing out of pocket for me)

I was laid off because of Covid and the flights were canceled.

I realized a few months ago that the canceled flights showed up as unused e-credits.

I recently booked a flight and used some of the credits.

Lo and behold, I get an email today from the CFO of my former employer asking me to reimburse the firm for using the e-credits.

My understanding is that the credits are non-transferable to anyone else. As a result, they cannot be used by anyone else….ever?

So my questions are:

1- How did they know I used the credits?! haha

2- Is it unreasonable for me to push back and try to use them as I desire? If I don’t use them, they will expire at the end of 2022. I can understand that they originally paid for the flights and an argument can be made that they are rightfully owned by my ex-employer, but if they can’t be transferred and I have no intention of returning to work for them, why would they NOT want me to use them?

3- I presume my delta # is still sync’d with their systems, so would it be possible to get a new skymiles number so as to avoid future “tracking” of my personal flying itineraries??

Thanks all!

-Ry

The whole situation seems like kind of a cluster you-know-what. So let’s break it down a bit.

Homesick, depressed man sitting on bed
(©iStock.com/Shutter2U)

Losing a Job Stinks

Many of us — myself included — lost jobs because of COVID-19. I certainly sympathize with Ry.

But…

The Old Company “Owned” The Tickets

I think we can reasonably conclude that Ry’s former employer purchased the tickets for business travel. Or, at least, travel they’d approve. (Just in case it was some sort of employee bonus or something like that).

So while the credits are linked to his SkyMiles number and don’t expire until 2022, I don’t think that gives Ry carte blanche to use them for personal purposes.

Ry wrote, “but if they can’t be transferred and I have no intention of returning to work for them, why would they NOT want me to use them?”

Maybe the company wants to rehire Ry if their situation improves. (I have a similar experience — more on that in a minute.) But Ry apparently has “no intention of returning to work for them.” So if I were the former employer, I’d be plenty upset about footing the bill for someone’s presumed vacation I didn’t approve.

(I also wonder if there are tax implications here when it comes to write-offs. Accountants in the group, can you shed any light on this?)

Maybe Ry is upset at the old company. Perhaps not. We don’t have the entire story of Ry’s relationship with them. Maybe it was all roses. Perhaps it was thorny. We don’t know. I can see someone wanting to use credits out of spite or revenge. Or even just compensation they felt due.

I don’t know that’s the situation here, though. I’m leaning toward Ry thinking something along the lines of, Hey, I’m the only one who can use the tickets, so why let them go to waste? Perhaps no ill-will or harm was intended. And some naivety came into play.

Unused credits are tempting to use, sure. But unless Ry received written permission from the company to use the credits after being laid off, I don’t think it was wise.

I hope the credits are affordable for Ry’s budget — in case the company continues to insist on reimbursement. And using that firm as a reference is probably in jeopardy, too.

But the Employer: C’mon, Man!

I think the employer could’ve proactively taken steps to make sure this didn’t happen.

Ry said the “flights were canceled.”

I had several flights canceled last year because of COVID. Know what I did? Called up Delta. They refunded my purchase. Done.

So if it’s true the flights were indeed canceled, I don’t why the company didn’t try to get its money back.

On its website, Delta says:

  • You experienced a downgrade of service, or
  • Your flight was significantly delayed or canceled by Delta and:
    • You have an eCredit from that flight, or
    • You are requesting a refund for purchased seat product, Priority Boarding, or Mileage Booster

(Bold mine)

It’s entirely possible they tried to get refunds and the tickets were still being processed. Or Delta, for some reason, wouldn’t play ball. We don’t have the entire story. But going off what Ry told us, this seems like an avoidable situation.

Passenger with luggage. Young man walking through airport terminal to airplane.
(©iStock.com/Chalabala)

Or maybe the company uses a corporate travel agency. My experience dealing with corporate travel agencies (companies whose job is booking travel for employees or contractors) has never been all that great. The ones I’ve dealt with excel at charging fees. But working on behalf of their client’s best interests? Meh.

I Have a Similar Situation

I was booked to work in Las Vegas during spring 2020. My client arranged my flights a few months ahead of time — before coronavirus was even a concern.

Like almost everything else last year, the event was postponed. So the client canceled my trip reservation.

But when I recently checked my loyalty program account with the airline in question, there was an e-credit for about $205 and associated with that trip’s PNR. The credit expires in September 2022.

I alerted my client — just so they know (or remember) the funds are there in case they want to pursue a refund, have me hold on to the credit for the next trip (if work trips resume), etc.

Never, though, would I consider using the credit for personal use. Unless, of course, my client says, “Enjoy, God bless, have a good time, send us a postcard.”

But I’m not holding my breath.

However the client decides to use the credit is up to them. If it expires without ever being spent, that’s completely their money and decision.

Final Approach

Using e-credits purchased by clients or employers should be utilized only for travel on their behalf — even if the business relationship is terminated. We don’t decide how to spend our employer’s or client’s money (unless we own the company, of course). Doing so without their permission is only asking for trouble. If they want vouchers to expire, that’s on them.

What Do You Think?

Was this an innocent mistake? A good learning experience for everyone involved? Were there bad intentions at play here?

Please share your thoughts in the below Comments section.

Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


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13 Comments

  1. FNT Delta Diamond Reply

    I don’t necessarily agree. I think some similar situations apply here. Let’s say ABC Inc. flies me to Tulsa for a meeting. A flight is delayed or cancelled. I make the meeting, but Delta gives me compensation. Say a $500 voucher or gift card. ABC Inc. paid for the ticket. Does that compensation belong to me or ABC Inc? I’d argue it belongs to me. In this case, the ticket was paid for by someone but the ticket is in the individual’s name, not the company’s name. I don’t think this is any different than a company that doesn’t ask for office supplies back after terminating or laying off an employee. I know employees who have been told to just keep the laptop computer because it’s 2-years-old and the company has no use for it.

    • Barry Graham Reply

      That’s a different situation. The compensation was given to you the traveler for your inconvenience. If you volunteered your seat and ended up missing work or a meeting, that would be dishonest. Otherwise it’s fine. Keeping eCredits is different. The company paid for the ticket did the company gets the refund. There are ways for corporations to get the credits back so someone other than the named traveler can use them. I know as this happened to me.

  2. I am an employer who books travel for employees and others. I always found it puzzling how I can have award tickets refunded and reused in anyone’s name but once I buy a ticket using cash or PWM in someone else’s name only that person can use the ticket if the flight isn’t canceled. I learned the hard way over the years to only use award tickets for other people traveling. I still write them off for tax purposes at a penny per mile with no problems. This way I can always redeposit the miles for free as a PM if the person quits or is fired.

  3. Barry Graham Reply

    To me it’s not even a question. Of course the credits belonged to the company. This isn’t the same as miles belonging to the traveler. Miles belong to the traveler. Money belongs to the payer. This is money.

  4. Barry Graham Reply

    Correction: “and the company gets the refund” – replace “did” with “and” – can you edit the post and delete this please?

  5. I am in the same situation with credits from both DL and AA for unused travel with a company I no longer work for. Months after I cancelled the tickets, I got an email from my employer (while I was still there) asking me to confirm that the tickets were still unused, and the implication I got was that they had reached some sort of agreement with the airlines that the credits would be pooled and usable by the employer as they saw fit. I don’t remember the wording and can’t confirm that this is the case, but it certainly seemed they were aware of the large pool of outstanding credits and wanted to ensure that they would be utilized. My employer was one of the large tech firms and I have to imagine that large employers with big contracts have been able to reach agreements to claw back the large amount of funds they have tied up with employees who are no longer with the company. The only time I would even consider using these is if it gets a lot closer to expiration, business travel has restarted, and they have had ample opportunity to use them under revised regulations.

    • Barry Graham Reply

      That’s how it worked with my firm (pooling). Maybe the same firm!

  6. Hi, former corporate travel manager here. If the company that purchased the tickets has a corporate contract with DL, a few things are possible. We would get monthly reports of tickets purchased with our corporate designator. Used and unused. If I saw a ticket issued in the name of a former employee that was used, it would raise a flag. Also, we would get so many $$’s per year in waivers. a lot of the time we would be able to change the name on unused tickets. This is the way things used to run, not sure they still do. Also, for Covid, perhaps DL is allowing corporate accounts to do name changes. Depends on the terms of their contract and how much their DL rep is empowered to help. Unlikely any of this if just a small business with not a lot of DL spend. If none of this is applicable, how was OP booking their travel? If through a corporate portal, then likewise a report of used tickets is possible.

  7. I had a more tricky situation. I was scheduled to go to a conference held by a company that contracts with the company that I work for. They booked a flight for me to attend the conference. After they booked the flight I went check my seats and got an offer to upgrade to 1st class and I took it, using my credit card to pay for the upgrade. The conference was canceled and so were the flights. One e-credit showed up in my account that included the original cost of the flight and the fee that I payed for the upgrade. Not sure how that is going to work out.

    • Barry Graham Reply

      I suggest calling the airline and asking them to split it into two credits.

  8. Rachael Olson Reply

    I’m neither a lawyer nor an accountant, but I book a fair amount of business travel through a corporate portal. I can say with certainty that many companies are indeed able to take your unused tickets and apply the funds to other employees’ travel in the future. Corporate travel rules are just different than individuals, and they vary by size of company, travel booking service, etc etc.

    But bottom line, yes, your former employer would expect to be able to use your credits in some way. As to whether you should reimburse them, that’s a totally different story.

  9. A similar thing happened to me when I was separated from my employer last year. We discussed it and I purchased the ecredits as part of my severance. That kept the separation amicable and ensured I still got a severance.

  10. When confronted with a similar situation I reimbursed my employer for the value of the credit and used the credit on a personal trip. I was no worse off and my employer was made whole. Clearly, the credit belongs the person who paid for it and is not a windfall to the employee, unless the employer knowingly consents.

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