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How to Recover Airline Miles After They Expire

recovering air miles

Hopefully you’ll never find yourself in a situation where you’ve allowed some of your frequent flyer miles to expire. Whether it’s 100 or 100,000 they represent miles that could have been used for a free flight or other award redemption. Fortunately, many loyalty programs have rules that enable you to restore lost miles to your account.
The best programs have a flat fee or return the miles complimentary on request. Most, however, use a sliding scale that can make it very expensive to restore large balances. Think carefully about how much you value those miles and what you might use them for before spending several hundred dollars to get them back. Finally, a few programs don’t offer any opportunity to restore lost miles. This post at least describes a few ways that their life can be extended if you act before they expire in the first place.

When Do Airline Miles Expire?

AirlineProgram NameExpiration
Air CanadaAeroplan 12 months
Alaska Airlines
Mileage Plan
24 months
American Airlines
AAdvantage
18 months
British Airways
Executive Club
36 months
Cathay Pacific
Marco Polo Club
36 months
Delta Air Lines
SkyMiles
Never
Hawaiian Airlines
HawaiianMiles
18 months
JetBlue
TrueBlue
Never
KLM/Air France
Flying Blue
20 months*
Singapore Airlines

KrisFlyer
36 months
Southwest Airlines
Rapid Rewards
24 months
United Airlines
MileagePlus
18 months
*after last qualifying flight

American Airlines (AAdvantage)

Miles earned with American AAdvantage will expire after 18 months without any account activity in your AAdvantage account. If they expired on or after December 2002 (which applies to most people reading this post), then they are eligible for reactivation. American Airlines charges between $200 and $600 depending on how many miles you’d like to restore.
  • $200 to restore 1-50,000 miles
  • $400 to restore 50,001-75,000 miles
  • $600 to restore more than 75,000 miles

United Airlines (MileagePlus)

Unlike American Airlines, United places a time limit on how quickly you must act to recover any lost miles. They can only be restored within 18 months after they expire. Fees are also much higher than with American Airlines if you wish to reinstate a very small number or a very large number of miles. Most travelers will only find it worthwhile to restore 50,000 miles or more — otherwise, just pay for the ticket with cash.

  • $50 to restore 1-5,000 miles
  • $200 to restore 25,001-30,000 miles
  • $400 to restore 50,001-75,000 miles
  • $600 to restore 100,001-125,000 miles
  • $1,200 to restore 200,001-250,000 miles
  • $2,500 to restore more than 500,000 miles
There are other intermediate price points not listed above, but you can view all of them by reading the complete terms and conditions. If you decide to proceed, log into the United website through this dedicated page.

Alaska Airlines (Mileage Plan)

Alaska Airlines claims that miles do not expire, although it reserves the right to close and delete an account that is inactive for 24 months. (Is there a difference? Supposedly this means that there’s a chance no immediate action will be taken.) Miles can be re-instated up to one year after they are “deleted” for a flat fee of $75.

Southwest Airlines (Rapid Rewards)

Rapid Rewards points will expire after 24 months without account activity, and there is no policy for reinstating points after they have expired. Most people report no luck in their requests to have miles returned; they are likely lost for good.

Hawaiian Airlines (HawaiianMiles)

Any earning or redemption activity in your HawaiianMiles account in the past 18 months will prevent your miles from expiring. Once miles have expired, they can be re-instated for a fee. This is not disclosed online, but multiple reports suggest the cost is roughly $30 per 1,000 miles. This would place it among the most expensive fees of any program, and it is probably not worthwhile to most people. Just buy the ticket with cash.

Air Canada (Aeroplan)

Aeroplan has one of the most strict policies, letting miles expire after just 12 months of account inactivity. In addition, there is no cap to the fees you must pay to have them restored. Expect an administrative fee of CAD$30 plus CAD$0.01 per mile. For example, restoring 50,000 miles would cost CAD$530.

British Airways (Avios)

Avios expire after 36 months of inactivity. There is no policy for reinstating Avios after they have expired, so they may be lost for good, but some people report success if the miles were lost recently. Miles that are returned may come with an additional requirement, such as new activity within the next three months, or else they’ll expire again — and for good.

Singapore Airlines (KrisFlyer)

KrisFlyer miles don’t expire all at once. Instead, individual miles expire three years after the month in which they were earned. This means that more recently earned miles will remain available for use. Keep this in mind when looking at your account balance and saving up for a large redemption.
Singapore Airlines Airplane
You can extend the expiration date of Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles.
Although expired miles will not be returned, the expiration date can be extended an additional six months (for general members) or 12 months (for elite members) at a rate of $12 for every 10,000 miles. Alternatively, you can redeem 1,200 miles instead of paying $12. These fees are levied online and increase to $20 or 2,000 miles when requesting an extension in person or by phone.

Cathay Pacific (Asia Miles)

Like with Singapore Airlines’ KrisFlyer program, individual Asia Miles are valid for 36 months after they were earned. Miles earned more recently will not expire. However, you can extend the validity of miles that are about to expire.
All members pay the same fee of $40 per 2,000 miles to extend their validity by an additional 36 months. This fee only applies online; in-person or telephone requests will cost $100 per 2,000 miles. Although both fees are high, the extension is particularly long and might make this transaction worthwhile.

KLM/Air France (Flying Blue)

Miles will not expire in Flying Blue as long as you take a qualifying flight every 20 months. Be aware that this policy excludes other forms of account activity from delaying expiration. In addition, Flying Blue does not have a policy on restoring miles after they have expired, so they may be lost permanently.

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Best Introductory Travel Credit Cards From Amex, Chase and Citi

travel credit cards

Choosing which travel rewards credit card to apply for can be overwhelming, particularly if you’re just getting into the miles game. Even veterans get confused by all the options sometimes. Let’s take a look at some of the best cards to get into the big travel rewards programs.

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A Guide to Getting Twice the Rewards: How to Double Dip

twice miles

If you think you’ve mastered the world of maximizing points and miles, think again. Get ready for these great ways to double dip your earnings when you travel.

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Best Co-Branded Airline Credit Cards

co-branded cards

Whether you’re getting your first travel rewards credit card or adding a new card to your wallet, there are many things you need to consider before applying.

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Eight Simple Ways to Prevent Your Miles from Expiring

miles expiration

Many airline loyalty programs today have one of two approaches toward keeping miles valid for redemption. Some say that miles have a fixed expiration date, no matter what you do. Others say the miles will remain active indefinitely as long as you have an “active” account.

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Sun Country Airlines® Visa Signature® Credit Card Review

Who Is the Sun Country Airlines® Visa Signature® Credit Card Good For?

Sun Country is a small, low-cost airline with less than 30 aircraft in its fleet. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth getting the Sun Country Airlines® Visa Signature® Credit Card, particularly if live near the carrier’s Minneapolis­­–Saint Paul hub or Dallas/Fort Worth focus city.

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American AAdvantage Changes Coming Down the Pike

aadvantage changes

American Airlines recently announced more changes to the way flyers will earn miles and elite status, and it’s getting more complicated than ever to figure out what a trip will yield when it comes to mileage rewards.

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Singapore KrisFlyer Miles Get You the Best Premium Class Values

People are traveling in record numbers so airlines have few reasons to feel generous. With a load factor of 84%, the carriers are constantly tweaking the cost of award flights by either raising redemption levels or reducing the saver award inventory, especially in first and business classes. Airlines are increasingly unwilling to give away seats they are hoping to sell for cash.

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Best Travel Credit Cards With Transferable Points

transfer points

Are you looking for a card that has great earning potential and lets you transfer your points to airline frequent flyer programs? In this post I’ll take a look at how many points various rewards cards give you for different types of purchases. It’s important to know what you’ll be able to earn with a card before you apply.

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Best Way to Redeem Miles on United and Star Alliance for Premium Class Seats to New Zealand, India and Africa

star alliance redeem miles

Between United Airlines and its partners, there is an unmatched number of destinations around the world you can see with a United MileagePlus award ticket.

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Best Way to Redeem Miles on United Partners for Premium Class Seats to Asia

redeem united miles

While an award ticket to Asia on a United partner airline can be expensive, there are three main reasons that make it worthwhile. First there is the sheer number of partner airlines you have to choose from.

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Best Way to Redeem Miles on United Partners for Premium Class Seats to South America

redeem miles to south america

There is no downside to booking South America flights on partners since United charges the same amount of miles whether it’s a United flight or a flight on one of the partner airlines.

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Best Way to Redeem Miles on United Partners for Premium Class Seats to Europe

redeem ubited miles

There might be compelling reasons to book a partner’s flight rather than one on United, even if United metal is cheaper to fly. First, United might be unavailable. Second, it can take more connections and/or time to reach your destination. Third, you might want to splurge to have a better seat, service and food.

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How to Book a United International Premium Class Award

united premium class

United Airlines has a huge number of partner airlines: 28 Star partners and 12 non-alliance partners, all of which you can book with United MileagePlus miles. However, booking award flights (especially in business or first) on United rather than partners, has a major advantage. Since United charges more for premium class awards on partners, you will pay considerably less if you fly on United metal.

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How to Get 100,000 United MileagePlus Miles or More Without Flying

mileage plus miles

The United Airlines MileagePlus frequent flyer program has dozens of business partners that can help you earn miles on the ground. You can earn miles when you rent a car, stay at a hotel, ride a train or get away from it all on a cruise. You can also earn miles when you buy a cellphone or cable service, eat at a restaurant or choose a car. Wherever there is a consumer product or service, the chances are you can earn miles for giving it a try.

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ANA Miles Can Get You Better Business Class Values on United and Partners

ana miles

United drastically devalued its business and first class award levels a few years back, then Delta followed suit and recently American. As of now, all U.S. and many foreign frequent flyer programs charge a lot of miles for the privilege of flying in the front of the plane, and the trend is likely to continue. But there are still bargains out there. You just need to know where to look.

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How to Book Qantas Frequent Flyer Awards

Qantas, Australia’s flag carrier, is a great airline for flights between the U.S. and Australia. It has excellent service, a fantastic first class cabin and direct flights to Australia from Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York and Dallas.

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How to Book a Flight with Citi ThankYou Points

thankyou points

Booking flights through the Citi ThankYou portal can be a better value than other redemption options. For example, booking flights with points earned on the Citi Premier card can yield a 60% bonus over a gift card if you book a flight with American Airlines/US Airways through the Citi ThankYou travel portal, where 30,000 points is equal to $480 toward a ticket on American or US Airways, or $399 on any other airline compared to a $300 value in gift cards if you went that redemption route.

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How to Book Korean Air SKYPASS Awards

korean air

Joining Korean Air’s frequent flyer program, SKYPASS, may not be on your list of priorities, but maybe it should be. As one of the founding members of the SkyTeam, you can book flights on 20 different alliance members, including Delta, Air France, KLM and Aeromexico. It’s also partners with Alaska Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, American, Emirates and Etihad Airways, among others.

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How to Get Free WiFi in the Air

wi-fi

Hurdling through the air at 500 miles per hour at an altitude of 35,000 feet is a marvel in itself, but today’s on-the-go society wants more. Airlines are responding by adding new-fangled entertainment systems and wireless internet access. But, that isn’t enough. Passengers don’t want to pay an arm and a leg for it. Luckily, there are some airlines that connectivity is a modern-day necessity, not a luxury, and they provide free Internet to help pass the time. Hop aboard one of these airlines to take advantage of it and remain productive inflight.

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