Expiring Airline Miles Could Cost Consumers $28 Billion

If 14% of the existing unredeemed airline miles are allowed to expire as United Airlines predict they will, the cost to consumers would be about $28 billion, according to the Chicago Tribune.

So how do you keep your miles from expiring?

There are lots of ways, the Trib lists a few:

Some ways to keep from losing those hard earned miles:

– Take a paid flight on the airline or an alliance partner (for example, a United frequent flier who takes a Lufthansa flight would qualify).

– Redeem miles for a flight, upgrade or even a magazine subscription.

– Use a credit card that awards frequent-flier miles. You can “buy a pack of gum for $1” and keep your account active, says United’s Urbanski.

– Stay at a hotel that offers miles in the carrier’s program. If you usually receive frequent-guest points in the hotel’s program, you will have to forfeit them at least for one stay.

– Rent a car and ask to have miles credited to your program (though some car rental agencies will charge an added fee).

Wonder how long you’ve got to keep those miles? Here’s a list from Five Cent Nickel:

AirTran: 12 months
Continental: 18 months (though the airline claims not to enforce the policy)
Delta: 2 years
JetBlue: 12 months
Southwest: 2 years
United: 18 months
USAir: 18 months

How to save the faster-expiring miles [Chicago Tribune]
Use ‘Em or Lose ‘Em: Frequent Flyer Programs Accelarate Expirations [Five Cent Nickel]


Edit Your Comment

  1. ab3i says:

    Airline Miles can also be ‘saved’ from expiration based on *any* account activity, which includes giving miles to charity. I did this recently for my parents, and I know it sounds silly, but it counts as account activity and they really didn’t want another crappy magazine subscription.
    On a separate note, NWA possibly has the worst redemption policies for miles, my UAL and AA miles can be redeemed for a lot more than just airline tickets (which for NWA seem to be never available) and magazine subscriptions.

  2. Xerloq says:

    I’ve never seen the reward of frequent flier miles, and therefore see them as a scam to artificially create loyalty. I prefer cash-back rewards.

    Still, out of all the tips, the $1 pack of gum seems the one with the least effort. But what do you do if your miles are directly with the carrier? I hate spending money to keep “money.” It’s like the non-usage fee on gift cards. Give cash.

  3. pinkbunnyslippers says:

    What happens when you don’t fly enough to accumulate massive amounts of points, but still have some that you might want to build upon later? I’ve got about 6500 on United, but have no intentions of flying in the next 6-10 months, and I don’t have a desire to open a credit card just to get the points or to “keep my account active”. Anyone have any ideas what I can do with those 6500 points? They’ve got to be worth a magazine subscription or SOMETHING.

  4. trecool95 says:

    Most airlines have deals with a lot of online merchants. I know American and Northwest do. Everything from Best Buy to Barnes and Noble. If you’re already shopping online it’s definitely worth a look and a good way to get a few more miles and keep your account active.

  5. ab3i says:

    UAL has a lot of mile redemption offers, you can see them at http://www.united.com/page/article/0,6722,3831,00.html?navSource=mileageplus&linkTitle=5learnmoreaboutredeeming
    it helps if you are an Elite member as you have more redemption choices then.
    @XERLOQ: if you have a job that requires you to fly almost every week, then you dont mind the frequent flier miles adding up. =)

  6. TedSez says:

    One of the reasons there are all those unused miles out there is that the airlines make it so hard to use them. Which also means that the miles aren’t really worth their face value.
    Is a dollar really a dollar if four out of five times when you try to buy a can of soup, the store won’t accept it as currency — or tells you that you you can’t have the soup till a Wednesday eight months from now?

  7. RandomHookup says:

    There also have to be a lot of ‘5 time in a lifetime flyers’ who earn some miles, but really aren’t frequent flyers…and certainly aren’t brand loyal.

  8. TWinter says:

    I don’t have a huge problem with these policies. These programs are frequent traveler reward programs not real money, and I’m sure that there are tons of people with accounts who don’t qualify as frequent travelers by any definition, so it’s not a huge deal if some of them lose out so that the airlines can better reward the people who are frequent travelers.

  9. Helvetian says:

    I would recommend signing up for the Dining Program and earning miles that way to retain your account. I actually find great rewards from my Delta SkyMiles account. In the last three years, I have managed to fly to Dubai, Rio and Singapore in Business Class using miles. I use all of my miles for transoceanic business class tickets, usually worth at least $5,000, or more.

  10. timmus says:

    I lost 55,000 AA miles in 2003. I had been checking every year to see if they would expire, and nope, they were indefinite. Then in 2004 I checked on them and they were expired. Assholes!

  11. Matthew says:

    Most people don’t fly enough to have much use for reward miles — and when they do, they spread their business around to whichever airlines have the cheapest fares for the trip they’re taking. For travelers like that, expiring miles don’t “cost” anything, any more than it costs me a free sub if I decide, halfway through my Sub Club card, that Subway is kind of gross and I don’t want to eat there anymore.