A Trick To Get The Most Out Of The Food Voucher Airlines Give You During A Delay

Most U.S. airlines commit to covering the cost of hotel and meals during long delays that they are responsible for, like mechanicals and lack of crew to operate the flight.

Generally meal costs of some kind will be covered on delays of 3 hours or more, with $12 being a common amount.

$12 doesn’t go very far in the airport. And maybe you don’t even need the voucher anyway – you’re going to stay in the airline’s lounge, or eat in a Capital One, Chase or Centurion lounge, or even leave the airport.

You can still get value out of the voucher – just load the funds to your Starbucks card with their mobile app! This definitely works with American Airlines. I believe this works with United and Delta, too.

These are essentially prepaid cards with $12 on them. However I don’t think you’ll have success unloading them with payment services like Paypal or Venmo, since they should be restricted to food and beverage outlets. That’s why Starbucks works, but paying your utilities online wouldn’t.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Thank you for this perfectly timed post and greetings from DFW where I just loaded $10 to my Starbucks card. The app allows only $5 increments but will check the site to see if I can snag the last $2. And if not, $10 future Starbucks is better than nothing!

    PS: I tried to load the $12 first in person at a Starbucks here at DWF and was denied.

  2. Why would I want $12 for the worst coffee in the USA. Burt Beans and a Load of Sugar. Hard No ‍♂️

  3. Another trick we discovered is specific to Chicago and if you wind up at a hotel. Order pizza. There are delivery places near the airport that take the vouchers. Goes further than at the airport for better food. Better than the hotel restaurant…if they have one.

  4. You can use at the gift shop at the airport to get a couple of bags of nuts and trail mix or chips/cookies or candy for your eventual flight. They also have healthy snacks too.

  5. This does NOT work with Delta. Got a $15 voucher at DCA a few weeks ago, went straight to Starbucks- no way no how. You can’t buy mugs or things like that with them either. Bought 5 very overpriced Kind bars instead.

  6. Sparky, Starbucks serves more than coffee. Many of their food items are quite good, much better than typical fast food choices.

  7. My wife and I were delayed at Minneapolis–Saint Paul International Airport one time when the crew didn’t make it there. After a huge delay, we were given hotel room vouchers and food vouchers. The hotel vouchers worked but the food vouchers did not because all of the places taking them had shut down for the night, so food costs came out of pocket. That irritated me so I checked if I could uses them at the BUF destination. I found out I could, so I used almost every penny on them and took the food to my parents place where we had a meal with it. Another time I got a food voucher in Narita International Airport near Tokyo for a delayed flight. Again, all food locations were already shut but a bar was open for a few more minutes so I got four Scotch on the rocks lined up to use the funds. That helped with the annoyance of the situation.

  8. Had this happen exact situation happen to me. I used my delta $15 meal voucher to add $15 to my Chick -Fil-A App Cash balance. This was the best option for my needs. The app accepted the virtual mastercard number that was provided.

  9. Got sent to Delta counter at Departures, outside security, for rescheduling flight, hotel, and got food vouchers. When we looked at the vouchers, they were for restaurants inside security…worthless. But did get reasonable hotel that picked us up and delivered us the next morning. But got no meals at hotel; we were supposed to use the vouchers….

  10. I can verify it also works with Alaska. Got emailed vouchers, loaded to my app flawlessly!

  11. I loaded multiple United vouchers into the Starbucks app in May after a Starbucks at ORD would not let me purchase gift cards with them. Some people I was traveling with purchased clothing and other souvenir-type stuff in the airport with vouchers. If you need to enter an address and phone number with the card number, the address for the United vouchers is:
    830 East Higgins Road
    Suite 111N
    Schaumburg IL 60173-4792
    United States
    (877) 236-1238

  12. I feel bad for airline employees like the one in that video. Basically an angry mob surrounding him, taking cell phone videos the whole time, while he’s just trying to calmly take care of them as best as he can.

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