Some airlines let you put award tickets on hold for a day or more that allows you to cancel without penalty. Know your airline’s rules.
So why would you want to put an award ticket on hold?
There are a couple of reasons. Most important is this: If you see an award ticket you want but don’t have enough miles to buy it, you might need time to transfer, say, some American Express points to top off your airline account. Putting that ticket on hold means you won’t lose it. The solution is to lock it in so no one else gets it while your extra miles or points drop into the right account. You might also want to check with someone else’s schedule or simply consider the idea for a few hours before committing.
But not all airlines are created equally in this regard, points out Scott Grimmer of MileValue.com.
American, for example, gives you five days before you have to commit. US Airways gives you three days. But Delta and United are a bit trickier. It’s too complicated to explain on the radio, but here are links to Scott’s columns on Delta and United.