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Having any airline loyalty program miles expire is a terrible thing. Yes, American Airlines does reach out to alert you that your AAdvantage® miles are about to expire, but life gets in the way and boom — your miles are gone. But are they?
You must earn or redeem your American AAdvantage® miles on American or with an AAdvantage partner — or use the airline’s credit cards — at least once every 18 months to keep them active.
However, AAdvantage understands that things happen, so it has contingencies in place that can help you get those miles back, outlined below.
Double-check your AAdvantage activity
The easiest way to recover miles is to go after those you may have forgotten about. If you neglected to add your AAdvantage® number for a flight or a non-airline partner, such as a rental car, you can apply to get those miles credited to your account up to 18 months after the event.
Pay to reinstate your miles
If everything is already accounted for and your miles expire, you have up to 18 months to reactivate them. You can only do one mile reactivation every 18 months and the maximum number of miles you can get back is 500,000. Moreover, you will have to pay to get those miles back, as outlined below.
*Rates are charged based on the total number of miles reactivated from one account at one time, regardless of when the miles expire.
This is the most expensive way to reactivate your miles, but if you have any paid flights coming up in the next six months, this can be a painful but not terrible alternative. It’s not a good deal if you’re reactivating less than 25,000 miles since that $250 reactivation fee probably means you’re probably better off paying cash for a ticket unless it’s a very expensive flight.
If you’re reactivating a large number of miles, it could save you on airfare. For example, paying $400 to get 50,000 miles back could get you two round-trip tickets within the U.S. if the dates you want are available, possibly saving you more than $700 on airfare.
Transactions are nonrefundable and irreversible, and can take up to 24 hours for the miles to be credited back to your account. Those reactivated miles won’t expire as long as your account has mileage earning or redeeming activity once every 18 months.
Tip: Your reactivated miles are considered a bonus, so they will not count toward elite status qualification or Million MilerSM status.
Get an American Airlines credit card
A simple swipe of an American Airlines-branded credit card will keep your AAdvantage miles active for 18 months.
- AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®: Earn 2X AAdvantage® miles on eligible American Airlines purchases and earn 1X AAdvantage® miles on all other purchases.
- AAdvantage® Aviator® Silver World Elite Mastercard®: Earn 3X AAdvantage® miles on eligible American Airlines purchases, 2X AAdvantage® miles on select hotel and car rentals, and 1X AAdvantage® miles on all other purchases.
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®: Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases & 1 AAdvantage® for every $1 spent on other purchases*.
- CitiBusiness®/ AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard®: Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles per $1 spent on purchases at telecommunications merchants, cable and satellite providers, car rental merchants and at gas stations*, Earn 1 AAdvantage® mile per $1 spent on other purchases*.
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®: Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent at gas stations, restaurants, and on eligible American Airlines purchases*.
- American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card: Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for each $1 spent at grocery stores, including grocery delivery services*. Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases*. Earn 1 AAdvantage® mile for every $1 spent on other purchases*.
The information related to the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® and the AAdvantage® Aviator® Silver World Elite Mastercard® has been collected by CompareCards and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.
Consider a re-engagement challenge
American Airlines has an unpublished program — the re-engagement challenge — that allows those whose miles have expired to take steps to get them back. An American Airlines spokeswoman declined to comment, noting via email, “We don’t share details on re-engagement challenges.”
However, the program appears to still be in place, at least anecdotally, according to the sub-Reddit channel for reward travel. On April 27, a user discussed on the channel his or her plan to do the re-engagement challenge to reclaim 76,000 expired miles. This July 2017 FlyerTalk forum post outlines what it takes to complete the challenge.
If your miles expired in the last five years, American will reinstate them for a fee and a commitment from you to ‘re-engage’ with the American AAdvantage program by completing a challenge.
You can request to enroll by calling AAdvantage on 800-882-8880 and asking for ‘AAdvantage Account Service’ when you hear the voice menu. Once enrolled, subscribe to receive your AAdvantage account summary and AAdvantage promotions via email, then do the following, based on how many miles you need, according to the FlyerTalk forum post:
For under 50,000 expired miles:
- Earn 5,000 partner base miles*
- Earn miles for one round-trip flight**
For 50,001-75,000 expired miles
- Earn 7,000 partner base miles*
- Earn miles for one round-trip flight**
For 75,001 or more expired miles
- Earn 10,000 partner base miles*
- Earn miles for two round-trip flights**
*Miles earned from any AAdvantage® partner that aren’t limited-time or special bonuses. For example, miles earned from spending on an AAdvantage® credit card count as partner base miles, but miles earned from the introductory welcome bonus for a card don’t count as base miles. Another example is bonus miles offered by partner only during a set time period won’t go toward base miles.
** Purchase a ticket and fly round trip on American Airlines, British Airways, Finnair, Iberia, Japan Airlines, or Qantas flight numbers
You have six months to complete the requirements, which depend on how many miles you want to be restored. You can choose to restore some or all of your miles depending on how much of the challenge you complete. The best way to get expired miles back is the re-engagement challenge as it doesn’t involve paying large fees to get your hard-earned miles back.
The bottom line
The good news is that if your AAdvantage miles have expired after 18 months, you have options to restore them. The bad news is that it’s going to cost you something to do it. Reinstating miles is only worth it if you need just enough to cover an award ticket that would cost more in cash.
For example, let’s say you decide to book a business class trip between New York and San Francisco for July 10-12, 2019. The fare for that trip would cost you $2,154 for business class and $2,320 for first. If you have 30,000 miles in your account, but need 20,000 more to get that AAdvantage MileSAAver business/first class seat for 50,000 round-trip, it would be worth paying the $175 for those miles.
Otherwise, the re-engagement challenge is a lower-cost way of getting those miles back. Whichever way you choose to get your miles reinstated, make sure to sign up for American Airlines AAdvantage emails that will warn you when you get close to the 18-month expiration date so you take action before they disappear.