The Basics

What Happens When My Miles Expire?

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I had a friend recently setup an Award Wallet account. As he was adding his loyalty programs, AwardWallet told him he had a large number of American Airlines miles that had expired. Ouch! That is a very difficult thing to encounter as you begin setting up for the most points/miles you can get! I thought it would be a good idea to have a post that would detail some info about frequent flyer programs and their expiration information and hopefully answers the question of “what happens my miles expire?”

AirTran

  • Points expire after 1 year of posting
  • Points can be extended for $29 per point as long as it is within a year of expiration
  • AirTran info here

American Airlines

  • Miles expire after 18 months of inactivity
  • Miles that expired on or after December 31, 2002 are eligible for reactivation. The cost is $200 – 1 – 50,000 expired miles, $400 – 50,001 – 75,000 expired miles, $600 – 75,001 – unlimited expired miles. In addition, there is a 7.5%. This offer is available until December 31, 2012.
  • AA info here

Continental

  • See United as they adopted that policy as a result of the merger
Delta
  • Miles do NOT expire (after January 2011)
  • If you have miles that expired within the last 24 months, you can reactivate them at a cost of $25 – 1 – 10,000; $50 – 10,001-25,000; $100 – 25,001 – 50,000; $200 – 50,001 – 100,000; $250 – 100,001 – unlimited.
  • Delta info here

Jetblue

  • Points expire 12 months after the last activity on the account
  • Points cannot be reactivated
  • Flight activity is the only way to renew the expiration date unless you use the American Express Jetblue card on eligible purchases
  • Jetblue info here

Southwest

  • Points do not expire as long as there is some flight or partner (like a purchase) activity within 24 months.
  • Points cannot be bought back, but awards prior that expired prior to the new program can be bought back at a rate of $50 per award, maximum two awards in a year
  • Southwest info here

United

  • Miles expire 18 months after the last activity on the account (activity can be with their credit card, not just travel)
  • Miles can be reactivated at a rate of $0.0125 per mile plus $25 processing fee (only miles expired within the last year can be reactivated)
  • United info here

US Airways

  • Miles expire 18 months after the last activity on the account (activity can be with their credit card, not just travel)
  • Miles can be reactivated at a cost of $10 – 1 – 4,999; $50 – 5,000 – 19,999; $150 – 20,000 -49,999; $250 – 50,000 – 99,999; $400 – 100,000 – unlimited
  • At 15-17 months of inactivity (before they expire), you can pay a $9 preservation fee to remain active for another 18 months
  • Customers have been offered the chance to have the miles be reinstated if they apply for the US Airways credit card and make one purchase
  • US Airways info here

Obviously, it would be best to NOT let your miles expire! However, if you find yourself in the situation where they have expired, only you can answer whether it is the best deal or not. You need to find the ticket that you would use the expired miles for and see what the actual cost of the ticket would be and how it parallels to the reactivation fees. If it is even close, I would not pay the reactivation (for that trip) as you don’t earn miles (elite or redeemable) when flying on an award ticket.

The best thing to do if you find yourself with a large amount of expired miles is to read through the information on the carrier’s website and then give them a call. Ask them if there is any other way to reactivate them besides paying the fee. American Airlines and US Airways have been known to offer challenges to reinstate the miles (get their branded credit card, for example) which might be something you were already planning on doing.

You might be wondering how to keep those miles from expiring. Read the different terms of the program carefully. For most of them, simply having the airline’s credit card is enough to keep the miles from expiring. With most of them as well, just crediting a hotel or car rental to the airline is enough to reset the expiration clock. The best thing to do as you start earning a lot of miles is to call the airline to ask them about their current terms and conditions. Even better – start using them!

Editorial Note - Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.

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About the author

Charlie

Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.

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