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Nothing lasts forever, and that includes the airline miles earned for flights. The question is: Can you get those miles back once they’ve expired?
The short answer is it depends on the carrier, since each has its own reinstatement policies. Below, we outline how top U.S. airlines handle requests to reinstate expired miles.
Technically, miles earned via the airline’s Mileage Plan loyalty program may stay in an active account indefinitely as long as the program exists. Account activity includes earning or redeeming Mileage Plan miles. However, if an account is inactive for two years, Alaska Airlines may close the account, delete the mileage balance and reassign the Mileage Plan number. If that happens, you have a year to get those miles back — but it will cost you $75. Contact Alaska Airlines customer care to restore your expired miles.
The myAllegiant™ loyalty program is unusual in that only travelers who have the Allegiant World Mastercard® can earn points for flying and partner activity. Those points don’t expire as long as you keep the card open. If you cancel the card, you’ll forfeit all of the points in your myAllegiant account, with no way to reinstate them.
To keep your American AAdvantage® miles active, earn or redeem them on American or with an AAdvantage partner, or use the airline’s credit cards, at least once every 18 months. If your miles expire, you can reactivate them — for a fee (see chart below) — online or by calling AAdvantage customer service at 800-882-8880.
Miles must be reactivated within 18 months after they expire. Only one mile reactivation transaction is allowed during that time. The maximum number of miles you can get back is 500,000.
Rates are charged based on the total number of miles reactivated from one account at one time, regardless of when the miles expire.
Transactions are nonrefundable and nonreversible, and take up to 24 hours for the miles to be credited back to your account. Also, these miles are credited as a mileage bonus, so they don’t count toward elite status qualification or Million MilerSM status. Again, those miles won’t expire as long as your account has mileage earning or redeeming activity once every 18 months.
Delta Air Lines
The rule here is pretty simple: the miles you earn in the SkyMiles loyalty program don’t expire. Check your account every year or so and subscribe to the SkyMiles email to keep up with any program changes.
Frontier Miles don’t expire as long as you post activity on the account at least once every 180 days or six months. That’s done by either flying on Frontier, using The Frontier Airlines World MasterCard® or using a Frontier Miles account number with a miles earning partner.
If your miles expire, you can get them back for a fee, outlined in the chart below.
As long as there’s earning or redemption activity on your account every 18 months, your HawaiianMiles won’t expire. That includes redeeming them for a flight, making a purchase on the Hawaiian Airlines® World Elite Mastercard®, shop with either HawaiianMiles partners or at Hawaiian Airlines MileFinder. You can also buy miles in increments of 500 either online or by phone.
If there’s no activity on the account after 18 months, the miles will expire. You can get them back, but there is a fee. Call the HawaiianMiles Service Center at 877-426-4537 to do it. The airline doesn’t post a price, but travel reports have it at $30 per 1,000 miles ($300 for 30,000 miles), which is quite expensive.
While the airline’s TrueBlue loyalty program points don’t expire, you will lose them if you close your account.
Points in the carrier’s Rapid Rewards® loyalty program remain active as long as there’s earning activity every 24 months. You can fly on Southwest; earn points from Rapid Rewards partners; use a Southwest Airlines credit card; transfer points from Diners Club® to a Rapid Rewards account; and buy points at Southwest.com. If there isn’t any activity within two years, your miles will expire, with no way to reinstate them.
The ultra-low-cost carrier has among the most restrictive rules when it comes to keeping Free Spirit miles from expiring. Miles stay active as long as you earn them in the previous three months. Ways to remain active within the three-month window include making a monthly purchase on the Spirit Airlines World Mastercard®; flying Spirit or earning miles on one of its partners; and buying more miles.
Keep your Free Spirit account active, since you can’t have miles reinstated once they expire.
Sun Country Airlines
As of Jan. 2, 2019, Sun Country Rewards loyalty program points now expire 36 months after they’re earned, unless those miles earned are from being a Sun Country Airlines® Visa Signature® Card cardmember. You can keep your account active by earning points on eligible Sun Country Airlines purchases, by using the Sun Country Airlines® Visa Signature® Card, or by including your reward account number on car rental partner purchases, by redeeming points for Sun Country flights or by donating points to Make-A-Wish® Minnesota.
Miles earned under the MileagePlus® loyalty program expire after 18 months. Keep the account active by flying on United or one of its airline partners, using a MileagePlus credit card, staying at a partner hotel, renting with a car partner and more. You can also book award travel, hotel stays, cruises and car rentals, donate them to a charity to keep them active. Also, buying or transferring miles will keep them from expiring.
United gives you two ways to reinstate expired miles: Complete a reinstate challenge or repurchase them. If you have more than 20,000 miles to restore, the challenge is a better option. After paying a $100 nonrefundable fee, you’ll have 90 days to either take a United flight or get approved for and make a purchase with your United Club℠ Card or United℠ Explorer Card.
You can buy miles — and have them in your account within 72 hours — starting at $50, plus applicable taxes.
Cost to reinstate miles
The bottom line
In a perfect world, we would track when the miles and points in our loyalty programs expire. However, unless you belong to Delta’s SkyMiles or JetBlue’s True Blue loyalty programs where points don’t ever expire, it pays to be vigilant, since you can lose those miles and miss out on free flights and other redemption options.
Keep a close eye on your Southwest, Spirit and Sun Country accounts since you won’t be able to reinstate your points and miles once they expire. With other airlines, you’ll have to pay to get your miles back.
The information related to the United Club℠ Card has been independently collected by CompareCards and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.