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Prevent Your Frequent Flyer Miles From Expiring

Published 10/10/07 (Modified 8/24/20)
By MoneyBlueBook

I used to fly a lot and racked up a lot of frequent flyer miles over the years, but now I have to be extra careful. Airline travelers who don't use their frequent flyer miles...well, frequently, may soon discover that their miles have expired. It is a growing trend, but airlines have shortened the time period that an account can remain inactive before miles expire. In most cases that time period ranges between 1 to 2 years.

Here Are the Expiration Policies For Some of the Biggest Airlines:

  1. AirTran: Points in A+ Rewards expire after 12 months.
  2. American Airlines: AAdvantage miles expire after 36 months of inactivity.
  3. Delta Airlines: Delta SkyMiles expire after 2 years of inactivity.
  4. JetBlue: TrueBlue points expire one full year from the date that they are earned.
  5. Northwest Airlines: Northwest WorldPerks miles expire if none are earned for 3 calendar years.
  6. Southwest Airlines: Rapid Rewards points expire after 2 years.
  7. United Airlines: Mileage Plus miles expire after 36 months of inactivity. Starting December 31, 2007, miles will expire after 18 months of inactivity.
  8. U.S. Airways: Dividend Miles expire after 18 months of inactivity.

How You Can Easily Prevent Mileage Expiration

The way to prevent your miles from lapsing due to inactivity is to simply generate miles-earning activity for each airline that you have an account with. Other using than using a specialized miles-generating credit card rewards like the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express, another relatively easy way is by making a purchase at the airline's own shopping portal, where you earn miles for each purchase. This will allow you to earn a few miles, enough to reset the inactivity clock. Most of the popular stores such as iTunes, Best Buy, and Circuit City can be found at each airline's shopping website.

Links to the Major Airlines' Shopping Websites:

Make Sure Your Purchases Count To Reset the Account Activity Clock

  1. To ensure that you receive mileage credit for the purchase made through the airline's shopping portal, make sure your shopping cart is empty before doing the click through. For example, don't visit Best Buy, add something to your cart and then revisit Best Buy by clicking through the airline's shopping portal website. You may not receive mileage credit for the items already in your cart. Visit the store through the airline's website first before making purchases to receive proper mileage credit.
  2. There is no minimum mileage you need to earn to reset the inactivity clock. If you can make a quick purchase for a $1 item that allows you to accrue a few miles towards your frequent flyer plan, that is sufficient to reset and prevent expiration.
  3. One way to track your miles and monitor your most recent activity in each of your frequent flyer accounts is by using USA Today's downloadable MileTracker application.

Credit Card Offers With Great Miles and Rewards Benefits:

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28 Responses to “Prevent Your Frequent Flyer Miles From Expiring” 

  1. Valerie says:

    I have 117,600 frequent flyer miles through Citibank with American Airlines. They will expire August 2010 unless I use their credit card on purchases to extend the date of expiration. I had cancelled that Advantage card after at least 15 years use and always paying the bills on time because I wanted the monetary rebate instead of the miles. I can't get a card with Citibank to extend the miles because I had the original Advantage one and can only get one for a business which I don't have.

    This is so frustrating - does anyone know how I can do something to extend the miles? I hate to lose them and am not able to travel until November 2010 and wanted to use the miles at that time.


  2. Brian Egloff says:

    United confiscated 100,000 of my frequent flyer miles. I was told that there was sufficient warnings given in the press and over the web. I live in Australia, do not get the USA press and did not get any clear information. The one piece of information that I received led me to believe that only those points acquired after the announcement would expire in 18 months and that those acquired before the announcement would expire as per the purchase contact at 36 months.

    That is how QUANTAS has brought in its 'new' frequent flyer miles policy.

    There is a basic legal and ethical principle that obtains here and that is bringing into force retrospective provisions that disadvantage a purchaser of goods and services.

  3. Mary Jane says:

    Yes, let's do a class action lawsuit. I lost over 50,000 miles, even though every month cards I was paying on said "activity" and showed my payment. I don't have a TV and did not receive a notice until AFTER they expired. I, too, was under the 36 month provision, I thought. I have written and called twice and they will not reinstate my miles, except for nearly $700.00.

    Boo United! I will never fly United again, nor use Chase United Mileage Plus credit cards.

  4. JW says:

    Thanks for the forum.

    UA just expired my hard-earned 28K miles, but AFTER I had entered into a qualifying transaction with them!

    On Feb 28, 2010 --5 days before scheduled expiration, 4 of which were business days -- I clicked through from the Mileage Plus Web site to Mileage Plus Wireless, UA's designated wireless vendor.

    I placed my order over_the_phone with a guy in India who assured me that my $14.95 Palm car charger would reinstate my miles. Let me must say that the phone call took about 15 minutes. Usually this is done in <5. So I assume all is good they are getting everything squared away, and then he tells me everything is great and to expect an email confirmation of the order.

    The email confirmation arrives immediately and says the order is processing and to expect another email with status update. OK, great. I relax.

    5 days later I realize it is the 28th and I have no car charger! I go online at UA Wireless' Web site to check the status of my order. It's been canceled.

    Punch line: All miles expired.

    I spend 2 weeks trying to get through to MP Wireless to sort this out. Email support is broken, no phone attendant, only the option to leave a message. I leave several. No one calls back.

    I call UAMP corporate, and they tell me only Wireless can manage the reinstatement.

    After 3 weeks (yesterday) I get through to someone at Wireless Customer Service, who tell me the order was canceled b/c my shipping address is not the same as my billing address...true story!

    Show of hands: How many online transactions have you ever had refused b/c of this? I have had zero, and I have had thousands of online purchase transactions. My shipping address (work) is not the same as my business address (home).

    As a business, wouldn't you contact the customer to sort out the info and get their money for your product? Isn't that smart business? Well, in this case, there is even smarter business. Of course, rarely does smarter mean good for the customer.

    You see, it is smarter business for the UA bottom line to expire my valuable miles and piss me off rather than fulfill my $14.95 order. This is obviously a conscious, strategic decision. I am one tiny customer and what am I going to do? Complain? Who cares?

    BTW, Wireless of course said there is no way they can reinstate my miles b/c only corporate has that power...naturally.

    So I email corporate and they reply today telling me that my miles will not be reinstated but they are happy to sell them back to me for $350.

    This smells like absolutely unethical and fraudulent business practice to me, and I will fully support, endorse and participate in a Class Action suit in T-minus N-O-W.

  5. James McClure says:

    I too lost 68k UA Mileage Plus miles when, without any notice, they "expired". I received no email of the impending expiration; my first notice was the email showing my account balance as -0- the month following the "expiration". Mileage Plus obviously had my email and could have (should have?) been sending me monthly emails showing the status of my account and when the miles would expire. But nooooo. Easy and more profitable to eliminate the liability of the 68,000 miles.

    Any class action on this issue out there? Won't some firm take this on?

  6. Emillie says:

    I have to say, I am saddened but now not shocked to discover this site and have the same outrage of so many of United Mileage Plus program members. Our miles were STOLEN in a most disgusting way! I also lost all mine, as the expiration of 18 months was sneaked into the program without letting members know intentionally, a reputable company would have clearly tried to warn us. United probably hoped many of us would just continue to pay the large member fee of $60, yes sixty dollars they stole and at the same time they took my miles away without notification this year. I suspect so many people also are in this boat and finding out.

    I also hope as the other member posted above that a class action suit will take this program down. Any legal action, I will definitely give my signature. Please let us know!!! Signing up and staying in this United program was a huge regret and I will not fly United and will also spread the word to warn others. When they treat members like this, their will be consequences to mistreating loyal members.

  7. VR says:

    I lost over 73,000 mile while in Iraq and Afghanistan. My wife tried to book a trip for the family when she heard I was coming home sooner than expected. The miles expired at the end of June of 2010. When my wife booked the trip just before the deadline, it stated she has no redeemable miles. She was heartbroken and called to plea her case with out success. When I got home, I called UA. They told me that I was sent several notifications via email and that I should have booked a flight, rent a car, or used my credit card at a hotel��yes��in Iraq and Afghanistan. They did not want to hear my 'excuses'. I just wanted to say thank you UNITED!

  8. Kenneth Lill says:

    I just received a card in the mail from United stating miles were about to expire. When I read it I went into shock when my miles went from 80,189 down to 50 that they were warning me were about to expire. I called them to find out what happened and they told me they had expired. The last time in 07 that they warned me they were about to expire I bought 2,000 miles to keep the miles. The next time they were about to expire they did not have the decency to send me an e-mail or notice in the mail. The person I spoke to on the phone who I quickly realized had no power to do anything, and he was the supervisor, told me they sent me an e-mail and a notice by regular mail. I asked him the e-mail that it was sent to and he would not tell me. When I read him my e-mail for the last 15 years he said that that was not what they had. I just checked my profile and they had an e-mail that never existed. Clearly United will stop at nothing to take your miles away. They even wiped out the 2,000 miles which I bought. If I ever did that to somebody it would be considered theft. What is this world coming to when major airlines such as United can steal and lie and get away with it!!! The sad part is that I tried to use my miles several times and there was never any seats available. I guess loosing my miles really doesn't matter since you can never use them on flights anyway.

  9. Brian Egloff says:

    I have lodged a complaint with the Fair Trading Commission, New South Wales about United's snatch and grab of my milage points.

    Suggest that individuals that feel that they have been unfairly treated should seek out similar ombudsman agencies and lodge formal complaints.

    There is a pro bono legal organization that takes up cases in the public interest. That is my next option.

    Also, if that is not successful I will be seeking advice and proceeding to the Small Claims Court.

    Seek advice from a para legal and go for it.

    Or perhaps raise it at the political level with your local representative.

    I am certain that United has violated all manner of laws depending on what jurisdiction you are in such as sending misleading information through the US mail, retrospective changes to contracts, misleading representation of goods and services, violation of human rights, etc.


  10. Frequentflier2010 says:

    Well...the airlines will change rules like anything else, never expect any decent behavior from any of the companies, not just airlines but all consumer companies such as AT&T who promises bonus minutes then take it away without notice etc...The only way to keep on top of things is to go to their website every week and check it. Yes, it takes time but well worth it. That is how I keep my miles afloat with all airlines and use them just for the sake of using them! You need 21 days advance booking to avoid extra fees, unless you are platinum member on them. Moral of the story, use the miles at every available opportunity, never save them for family vacations. I have over 100k miles each on continental and united still, so am trying to use as much as before they merge. Do NOT want to take a chance!

  11. g70s says:

    Use their dining clubs and eat out a lot ! I have redeemed 3 round trip tickets this year. I will have to save for another 3 years. I manage my family 18 accounts and have not loose one mile, but it is a lot of work. Do an Excel page and keep track of your last activity. I try to do one every 12 months to be in the safe side.
    Go to their websites and go to "earn miles" and then click "other partners" and there you have the Dining Rewards Network. Lots of choices in the US East Coast and large cities. Also earn miles through hotel stays and car rentals.
    Good luck

  12. lawrence read says:

    I have utterly failed to get a ticket using United miles based on when and where I want to go. United wants you to aquire miles but doesn't want you to use them.
    Any legal action going on that I can contact?

  13. Caro says:

    I live in the UK and have only just discovered that I have lost 183,000 airmiles!! I can't believe it. Ihave had no recent paper mailings from United, nor any e mails - I am not sure how I was meant to know about this change of policy ?
    I have e mailed their customer suppport and will keep this website posted of any positive response.

  14. Corbin says:

    Yes, United stole my 88,000 miles last year. No notification, no apologies, no exceptions. After repeated attempts for a case review no cooperation was provided. United stands firm that sufficient notice was issued, however United was not able to produce my specific notification evidence when requested. I would certainly be interested in an organized lawsuit on the grounds that the original mileage contract was falsely altered.

  15. Will Behnke says:

    This thread has been running for 2 1/2 years. Obviously, a subject that is not going away, as the frequent flyer miles have done. ;-(

    I note that my Miles and More frequent flyer miles with Lufthansa do expire after 3 years. They cannot be extended. Period. They are up front about it. However, my Dividend Miles with US Airways can be extended with any small purchase from any of their on line shopping partners. They did notify us via email and snail mail well before the expiration time. Lufthansa also notified, but it was simply "Use 'em or loose 'em".

    I would echo the poster who recommended using the miles as soon as you can. Am now also in United's club, due to them offering the best pricing recently.

    You folks may find a hungry lawyer to take this case - but, I doubt it.

  16. Aeroplan stores says:

    Offering reward points is a great way for companies to get loyal customers, and it's good for customers as they'll be collecting points to redeem for whatever they like, the thing is you have to choose the program you think is best for you, this can be hard sometimes specially between collecting aeroplan or air miles points!

  17. arjmund says:

    I flew american airlines in 2008 and 2009 each trip was worth 18,000 miles.I found they were expired in summer of 2010.What happened how they expired I have no idea.

  18. Mark says:

    I also will now forever avoid United Airlines. They also expired my 48,000 miles after their mileage plan changed from 36 months of inactivity to 18 months. In fact I was probably one of those lucky ones that was first to lose their miles at that first 18 month deadline. Yes I did find an email sent to a secondary address I use 'but just a couple days before the expiration occurred' and unfortunately didn't get to it in time. I kind of expected a little more warning and lead time before they wiped my miles out. I called literally within days of UA expiring my miles and they wouldn't budge regarding my request that they restore the miles. For me one round trip flight for them someone that will forever avoid UA and also pass along this very unpleasant experience to others and strongly suggest they fly anyone else but UA. Word of mouth does make its way around.

  19. Rich G says:

    I don't even try to book flights with the UA miles. I use them up on hotels or rental cars, which have no blackout dates. Still money in my pocket.

  20. O.o says:

    So I had 16000->Frequent FlyerSky Miles<- at which point they said these FF miles would NEVER expire, that anything i earned after that are SM and would, ok not happy, but fine. 10 years later, with no notice whatsoever, they rolled the FF miles into my SM account and expired them. Of course i could have bought them back but thats pretty much pointless - paying for miles that are already mine. Furthermore, when i called and asked about this (several times) noone on their telephone staff had even heard there was asuch a thing as non-expiring miles offered by delta. How bad is it when i know more about their company than the freakin employees! Then, just recently Delta sent an email that said they no longer expire miles, they are ours forever!! I call shenanigans, they already lied to me once, whats to stop them from doing it again (they will). In my case it was relatively few miles, but my parents... wow, ya they lost well over 500,000 between the two of em.

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