You Can Still Avoid the United Close-in Booking Fee


Update 7/21/18: A friend confirmed that the phone number that worked for me (that happened to be the last number I tried) worked for him on the first try a week ago: 1-800-421-4655.

In Don’t Pay the $75 Close In Fee on United (Trick!), Scott wrote about an easy way anyone can avoid the fee United charges non-elites for booking an award within 21 days of departure. The trick has been helping last minute travel planners (or those wanting to scoop up award space that becomes available close to departure) save tons over time. While I wouldn’t call it healthy by any means, this trick still works, and I’ll tell you how I did it today.

The Trick


  • “Booking a MileagePlus award ticket through any channel, less than 21 days before departure” incurs a fee of $75 per ticket. This fee is reduced or waived depending on your status.
  • You can make free changes or cancellations of your United award within 24 hours of ticketing by phone or online as long as the original scheduled flight is purchased a week or more from departure. This is designed as a safety valve if you make a mistake in the initial ticketing, but you can use the free changes and cancellations however you’d like.
This screenshot is from the final payment page of my award booking.
This screenshot is from the final payment page of my award booking.

How it Works

If you want to book a United award within 21 days of departure, book the same flight for 21+ days in the future, then immediately (or at least within 24 hours) call in to change it to within 21 days of departure. No close in ticketing fee will be charged*.

*You may have to call more than once and try various numbers. More on that below.

Current State of United Close-in Booking Fee Trick

There has been talk around the internet lately that this $75 trick is dead. And while it certainly isn’t as easy as it used to be, it’s not dead. I just managed to avoid it myself.

My boyfriend Withers and I are flying United economy (oh, the perks of traveling with your dog) back to the United States from Buenos Aires to visit friends and family in a couple weeks. I was waiting on a few things to fall in line before booking the award, and realized that we were within the 21 day window of each of us incurring the $75 fee.

So instead of booking the flight we wanted…

…I booked the same flight numbers for 26 days out from now, which you will notice costs exactly $75 less out of pocket. That’s the pesky close-in booking fee.

Then I tried my luck with various agents until I found one that let me book for the same out of pocket cost on the original award, sans close-in fee.

The Phone Calls

First Attempt

I called the United MileagePlus Frequent Flyer Award Reservations/Premier Priority Desk line (1-800-864-8331), which is located in the United States. I told the rep I wanted to change an award I had just booked, gave her the new date, and told her it would be the same flight numbers. She told me that there would be no additional cost as the mileage amount was the same and I had booked within the last 24 hours.

Right before confirming everything (it sounded like she typed something in her computer during a brief silence), she told me that actually I would be charged $75 per passenger to move the flights back since the departure date was within 21 days of today.

Second Attempt

I called back the same United Customer Contact Center in the US, and nearly the exact situation played out as in my first attempt. The only difference was the way the rep phrased the final bit of communication. She said, “the system recognized the flights as being within 21 days of departure so has added a $75 fee per passenger”.

At this point I lost hope as it appeared that their software is now updated to catch any human error.

Third Attempt

I decided to try the Philippines United number (+63-2-884-8272) as others have reported higher success rates calling this office. I was put on hold and after a few minutes hung up on. I figured it wouldn’t work as I was calling outside office hours, but thought I’d give it a shot in case the operating hours had changed to 24 hours since the website was last updated. Doesn’t appear they have. They are open:

  • Monday – Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. (that’s 8:30 pm to 5:30 am ET)
  • Saturday, 8:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. (8:30 pm to 12:30 am ET)
  • Sunday and holidays, closed (note Manila is 12 hours ahead of ET)

If you have trouble finding an agent that doesn’t tack on the $75 fee, I’d give the Philippines office a shot during office hours.

Fourth Attempt

I called 1-800-421-4655, a different number also for United MileagePlus in the United States. At this point it felt futile to give the same number that had shot me down twice another call, and I thought just maybe that a different number would lead to a different office (with different software? who knows).

Just like the first and second attempts, I told the agent which flights I wanted to change mine to. This time I asked if it would cost anything on top, noting that I didn’t think it should since I had just booked the award an hour prior. He verbally confirmed I was right and then went about typing. A minute later he told me I was booked on the new flights and the confirmation for the changes would arrive to my email shortly. At this point I knew I was in the clear, because he would have had to ask permission to charge more to the card on the file. But just to by crystal clear, I asked for reconfirmation that there was no change in mileage or taxes/fees, which he reconfirmed for me.


I’m not sure if getting this trick to work is just HUCA (hang up call again) patience and persistence, or if it was the different phone number I used for United MileagePlus. One way or the other, it worked for me, and it looks like it can work for you too. I’d try calling the number that worked for me: 1-800-421-4655 (update 7/21: this phone number worked for my friend one week ago on the first try). Anyone else have success with a specific office?

Other Data Points

A commenter on View from the Wing just today (July 20) got his fees waived by being nice to the agent. The comment above his, also a Silver Elite member, also had success getting the the fee waived for being nice. Perhaps kindness won it for those guys, or maybe it was just agents that didn’t understand why the system was triggering the $75 fee, and since those guys were elites, they were prone to waive it.

Two other commenters on that same View from the Wing post, who commented before the elites, reported success (and did not mention being elites) in mid June. My success today seems more in line with them. I didn’t chat anyone up, am not a United elite member. My rep did not mention waiving anything.

Four commenters in May from my last post about this subject reported success, although I’m not sure I’d count these as valid data points as it appears that it became harder to get away with starting in early June at some point.

Don’t Want to Bother?

If you have the option and it won’t cost you even more miles or out-of-pocket (i.e. on United flights), you could use Singapore or Aeroplan miles to book the same award space. Neither programs charge a close-in booking fee.

Singapore miles are a 1:1 transfer partner of all the transferrable point types, and Aeroplan transfers 1:1 from Amex Membership Rewards and SPG (soon to be Marriott) points.

Bottom Line

If you want to book an award with United miles within 21 days of departure, you can instead book the same award flights 21+ days out, and call within 24 hours–during the free cancellation window–to move your award to your desired travel date within 21 days. You may need to call more than once to find the right agent, but if it’s worth it to you, it’s possible to avoid the $75 close-in booking fee.

Whether or not you’ll want to bother with this trick will probably depend on how many people are on the reservation. I spent about 20 minutes today making a few calls that saved Withers and I $150. Fine by me. Doesn’t end up working and can’t handle any more automated recordings or hold music? Either cancel and rebook with another Star Alliance mile that won’t charge a close-in fee if it makes sense mileage/fees wise, or just re-book on United and eat the fee you would’ve paid anyways.

Has anyone else had success or failure with this trick lately?

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  1. The number of times you have to HUCA is getting stupid. I would consider this dead since it is not easily reproducible. I tried 5 times in April all different numbers and call centers and couldn’t get anyone to waive it, but I got close when someone needed to check with their supervisor.

    • I would be interested to see if using the 1-800-421-4655 number works for others on the first try. It happened to be the last number I tried, but I was told a friend of mine got it on the first try through that number. Do you remember which line you called?

      • Just tried this number, first agent told me there’s a “change fee” of $75. Ugh. Now on hold trying to schmooze my way out of this fee.

    • The tick isn’t the news. The news is that it still works, as others have reported that it has stopped working. I reported my experience to contribute a data point as that is what this community does.

      I get that this doesn’t matter so much to the solo traveler, but think about how much it can save families.

  2. Not sure how many tickets you had booked, but making all those phone calls to save $75 for a single ticket doesn’t make much sense unless your time is worthless or close to it.

    • Perhaps you didn’t read through the post, but I addressed this in the bottom line… “Whether or not you’ll want to bother with this trick will probably depend on how many people are on the reservation. I spent about 20 minutes today making a few calls that saved Withers and I $150.”

      20 minutes to save $150 is ok with me, and I imagine it would take many even less time. Scott just told me a friend of ours got it on the first try a week ago.

    • Here comes the guy that makes $200/hour to belittle us peons. Does that mean you lost $10 reading this and $5 posting a comment?

  3. called the special number you’ve shared twice today. I need to avoid the $75 for 3 passengers on an upcoming flight. both times agents seemed confused by the fact that the system was trying to apply the close in ticketing fee … they didn’t seem to recognize it… however, it seems to be in the system and it doesn’t let them go past it. they’re able to make the change, but in order for the flights to be confirmed the $75 needs to be collected, as the system requires it.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience. I wonder why the system let the rep I talked to get away without paying, as well as my friend. It seems that the 1-800-421-4655 number is a better shot but not fool-proof.

  4. First try of your recommended # and they enforced the $75 on me, No amount of pleading or being nice made it change. Will try Phillippines # later.

      • Ended up calling the original 800 number around midnight and a nice lady somehow made the “change fee” disappear after I feigned dismay and surprise. But definitely becoming more of a time pit. I’d still use this for trips where I have no idea when I want to come back until last minute. WOrth even the $75 for the flexbility.

  5. That rotary phone in the picture is wrong. As far as I remember, it started from 1 and the last number was 0, not 0 first and 9 last as in the image on this phone

  6. The trick worked for me on the first try to 1-800-421-4655. No fee when changing a reservation from four weeks in the future to two days in the future. Date: August 9, 2018.

  7. Also worked for me on the first try to 1-800-421-4655! No fee when changing a reservation from four weeks in the future to two days in the future. Date: August 9, 2018. Thank you!

  8. Called twice, this is hard coded in the system. The CS said, I am not sure why you have a $75 PP fee when you booked today within the 24 hours, put me on a hold both times and returned after checking that the $75 is close in fee.
    This is very dead IMO.

  9. Still works. Called 1-800-421-4655. Connected with a Premier rep. Explained that I didn’t listen to my wife and I booked the wrong date. She was mad and I need help. Ha. She asked for my new date and I give it to her. She changed it and didn’t even mention the fee. I’m a United Silver. YMWV.

  10. I think the fee is pretty dead, but not entirely dead.
    Background: My wife and I are adopting and needed to fly in order to go meet the kids on two separate occasions (a requirement for us adopting out of foster care). First visit is less than 21 days away. I got the ticket for the second visit (more than 21 days away) and then called to change it for the weekend of the first visit.

    I first called 1-800-864-8331. She mentioned the close-in booking fee. I asked if it could be waived. She said no. I told her not to change the flights.

    Waited a few minutes, called 1-800-421-4655. This rep also mentioned the close-in fee. I asked her if it could be waived and laid it on a little thick about the adoption. She put me on hold, came back on 5 mins later, put my change through with no added fee. I thanked her profusely.

  11. Just worked for me 8/28/2018. Thanks for sharing. I called 1-800-421-4655 first rep I spoke with at first said that will need to charge the $75 fee. I said that I am within my 24 hour cancellation period… After putting me on hold, she came back saying that she could waive the $75 fee.

  12. It’s dead…I called 800-421-4655 twice (on hold for 15 minutes each time) and couldn’t waive the fee. I relented and paid because I didn’t have time to call again.

  13. Thank you for this tip! I called the 1-800-421-4655. First try I got this nice lady, American. She didn’t mention the fee and neither did I. I just checked the ticket and no extra fee. (Sep 2018)

  14. Not dead. Called 1-800-421-4655 twice. First, I received the “system… cannot waive” message from the first lady. Called a second time and the lady said the same thing but she was able to grant my waive request as a “one-time” exception. Thanks for the recommendation!

  15. Worked for me today as well. Called 1-800-421-4655 twice. First agent said there would be a $75 fee and declined my waive request. Second time, the agent took longer (10+ minutes) to do her work but straight up changed the ticket and emailed me a confirmation without mentioning any fees. Thank you for the article.

  16. WOW.. Just called the 1-800-421-4655 no and the lady informed me right after I told the date about the $75 fee for 5 passengers. Then I nicely said no and tried again and another gentleman took some time and eventually changed the itinerary(took about 20 mins) to what I want from 3rd Nov to Oct 19th. He never spoke about the fee but he did put me on hold for a while and eventually changed the ticket. Awesome. Glad I read this through..

  17. I just called the 800-421-4655 number and got the change on the first attempt. At first she said there will be a $75 dollar fee and I just replied that I thought there was no fee to change within 24 hours. She asked what time I booked and after a brief (holding my breath) pause she said that there wouldn’t be any fees. She sent me the conformation while I was still on the phone. Thank you!

  18. I booked a flight more than 21 days out on the same route as one I wanted. It was 20k points vs. the 10k on the date I really wanted. I called 800-421-4655 late in the evening after booking, around 11:00pm EST, which I think routed me to a foreign call center, and they were going to charge me the close in fee. I called again the following day and got a domestic call center (I think), and they did not charge (or even mention) the close in fee, and they refunded the 10k point difference.

  19. Wow! So happy I read this. I’ve been fiddling around with holiday vacation plans and wasn’t aware of the close in fee at all. I was just under my PQD to earn gold status but was waiting for my earnings from a recent flight to clear before I decided whether I should pay up-front for economy plus in order to get any extra PQD needed to qualify (instead of waiting for the complimentary upgrade at check-in). I gave it a day for the recent flight to post to my account to confirm that I did NOT need to purchase economy plus up front to qualify by the end of this year, but much to my disappointment, this brought our desired travel date to just within the 21-day window. It seems the close-in fee was only $50 pp for us.

    I called the 421-4655 and got the most pleasant agent. She didn’t say anything about a change fee or close-in booking fee and changed the flight immediately. Was on the phone for less than 5 min, which includes the automated greeting.

  20. Tried 3 times and they added on $75 fee each time and said it can not be waved. So I just canceled my ticket since using my miles wasn’t really worth it once the fee is added. I hope other people have better luck than me.


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