The Basics

Reminder: Don’t Let This Happen to You!

Miles Expire
Written by Charlie

Believe it or not, it is possible to earn and collect so many miles and points that you forget what miles you have in each program! One of the worst things you can allow to happen is for those miles and points to expire. Here is a story of one man who did just that: [blockquote]Philip Gindi of Melrose says all of his loyalty didn’t mean much to American Airlines. “I went to redeem a ticket for my brother in October only to find out the miles had expired,” he said. This was not just a few miles; Gindi earned more than 777,000 miles after years of weekly business trips to the west coast. That’s potentially dozens of free trips. “I was miffed,” he said. [/blockquote] – from CBS Boston

That’s right – this traveler allowed 700,000 American Airline miles expire! He claimed the airline never notified him of their pending expiration. Unfortunately, that is not something that is in the best interest of the airlines to do. That many miles could be redeemed for almost 6 round trips on Cathay Pacific first class! If American does not have to cover that, they would love that! In the end, Philip was able to get the miles back, thanks to American Airlines buy back program for expired miles (it cost him $600), but now is fighting to get his money back. I do not expect him to get the money back and, instead, he should count it as a lesson learned and just be thankful that he was able to get the miles back at all!

Miles Expire

You can check your account for the expiration date of your miles

So, how do you keep your own miles from expiring? Fortunately, frequent flyer programs really are not only about flying. If you credit any miles to your accounts, it will keep the account active and reset the expiration clock. These miles can be earned by spending with the airline’s co-branded credit card, crediting bonus miles from travel partners (hotels, car rentals, partner airlines), or shopping through the airline shopping portal. This is in addition to flying the good old fashioned way. An incredible tool to use to remind you of your account expirations is AwardWallet. They will notify you of upcoming expiration dates on miles that you have in the various programs. But do not rely on that 100% – make sure you are aware yourself of expiration dates.

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%.
  • AA info here


  • Points do NOT expire


  • Points do not expire as long as there is some flight or partner (like a purchase) activity within 24 months.
  • Southwest info here


  • 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 18 months 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

So, don’t let those miles expire! However, should you find that they did expire, at least there are different programs in place to help you to buy them back. If that is the case, don’t feel bad about trying to negotiate with them. I have a few friends that have been offered the chance to earn their miles back by spending a certain amount of money on their co-branded credit cards within a specified time instead of paying the fee. But if that doesn’t work and you can only buy them back, remember that the buy back price is probably still going to be less than what the award ticket would cost if you had to buy it. For our poor fellow at the start of this, he is getting at least $7,700 worth of miles (actually, quite a bit more) for $600. The easiest thing? Don’t let this happen to you!

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About the author


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.