Ever feel like a deer in the headlights when you're booking air travel, wondering which choice to make? Should you book well in advance to get a better rate? Or should you risk trying to nab a last-minute deal?  All this indecision and anxiety can be avoided by knowing that you can get a refund voucher if you paid a higher fare for a flight that later dropped in price.

Never heard of these vouchers? Not surprising. According to a MasterCard survey, more than 70 percent of American travelers didn't know they could claim refund vouchers for higher airfares. Here's how these vouchers work: Say you booked a flight in advance for July 1 to July 14 to Paris, France. Leading up to the flight departure, you notice the fare has dropped by $400. Well, you don't have to just suck it up and kiss your money good-bye. Instead, you can put in a request for a refund for the price difference, which you'll get in the form of a voucher that you can use towards the price of a future ticket. The real shocker: these refunds have been available to travelers for quite a while and are mentioned in that finicky fine print few of us read.

The Downside
Sadly, there are a few hitches. First, you can claim refund vouchers only for flights booked directly with airlines, not those booked through a travel agent or travel website. Also, making a claim is considered a change of flight, which comes with an unavoidable fee. Change fees may be as much as $150 for domestic flights and up to $250 for international ones, so in some cases the fees might exceed the potential refund and will not be worth making a claim. But frankly, I feel that if you're getting back at least $10, it's worth it. Just do the legwork. Finally, no foreign airlines are on board so if you book directly with them and the fare drops, c'est la vie.

How to Get Your Travel Voucher
Keep a close watch on prices for your flight all the way up to the day of take-off. It's really important because you want to make sure you make a claim before the price goes back up again, which it can. Once you see the reduced price, contact the airline with your name, ticket information, the price you paid, the current price and ask for your refund. Some airline employees are unaware of the policy themselves so keep your ticket with the fine print handy to emphasize your point. Or, ask to speak to a supervisor.

If you can't be bothered to track flight prices yourself, sign up with Yapta.com, an online service that will take care of it for you. Enter your flight details and contact information to receive an alert if the fare drops.

A Final Word on Getting Refunds for Higher Airfares
If you do book your flight on a travel website, all may not be lost. For instance, Orbitz has a Price Assurance program that provides a bit of a safety net, giving you cash refunds if the fare for your flight goes down before the flight date. So check the fine print of any travel website you use, or speak to a customer service agent to find out if the site has a refund policy for higher airfares.

This has been a guest post by Andrea from Ontario, Canada
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