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Prevent Your Frequent Flyer Miles From Expiring

Published 10/10/07 (Modified 2/28/13)
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. Robert Laughlin says:

    When a company like United changes its expiration policy from 36 months to 18 months without notifying a customer, holds its breath, then swiftly confiscates hard earned miles from an 18 year Club member, again without notice, then offers the miles back for several hundred dollars, that is extortion and theft.

    United is in the business of theft and fraud. When times get tough, screw your customers.

  2. Francesco Isgro says:

    I totally agree with Robert's comments. I have been a members since 1990 and I was not notified of the change ad lost more than 40,000 miles I agree this is theft and fraud and I am hoping that someone will file a class action against United for the miles that they have stolen from us frequnet flyers since the changed their expiration policy from 36 to 18 months.

  3. Andrew says:

    Try Jet Blue taking your hard earned money as a part of their corporate policy. You buy a refundable ticket with cash, but they won't give you your monies back. They only give you "credit" that you have to use within the year (plus a year extension possibly). If you haven't booked another flight before that time expires - they just keep the cash.

    That's what happened to me. In my opinion that's just the equivalent of theft. Monies taken for absolutely nothing in return.

  4. Rich Kennedy says:

    Delta confiscated all of my frequent flyer miles... almost enough for a round-trip. I've avoided them ever since -- in fact -- haven't flown them in over five years because of that.

  5. Melissa says:

    United expired 144,000 of our miles. We tried to use them for air travel rewards. but had no success. Maybe they should count those attempts to use them as "activity" on your account. I will not fly United again, and if there is a class action suit, I'm in!

  6. Dawn says:

    Does any know how to reinstate expired frequent flyer miles? I know that the miles last for a few years generally but once you've exceed that allotted period of time, what then? Has anyone had success calling the airline company and having the expired frequent flier miles reinstated or restored back to the way it was?

  7. Eric says:

    We were trying to book a flight with my wife and 8 mo old daughter to see her grandparents for the first time, and had planned to use the 38,000 miles that we had accumulated on united. when we went to make the reservations, we were told that the account had 0 (ZERO) miles in it, as they had expired. Same thing as everyone else here has experienced - no notification that these miles were going to expire, or that the policy had changed. Any news on the class action? Will it happen? how would one get involved?

  8. Marcus says:

    While I generally agree with everyone elses sentiment (expiring miles are lousy!) I will chime in to say that I have received multiple mailings and email from United regarding my expiring miles. They have even sent me info about different ways to keep my miles from expiring or using my miles up before expiration. I certainly don't like that the miles are expiring in the first place, but at least my expiration date will not be a surprise. It is important to make sure any frequent flyer program you enroll with has your up to date email and address if you want any chance of receiving notifications. This especially goes for anyone moving or changing emails. If anyone here did have update to date contact info and still didn't receive any notifiaction, then I would recommend trying to file a formal complaint with the airline and/or possibly some third-party like the BBB. Good luck! (I too would welcome some sort of class action - expiring miles seems sneaky and unfair)

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