Don't Let Your Frequent Flier Miles Expire

At the low end of the price spectrum, Alaska Airlines charges a flat fee of $75 to restore lost miles, if they expired within the past year.

Delta charges $25 to restore up to 10,000 miles and $250 for 100,001 or more miles.

And so on (see below for reactivation fees for most North American carriers).

The Great Mandala of Miles

If you do lose your miles, there may be some consolation in viewing mileage expiration as a natural and necessary part of loyalty programs' grand design.

Keeping a lid on the number of outstanding miles keeps the demand side of the frequent flier ecosystem in check. If you think award seats are hard to come by now, just imagine how much harder it would be if more frequent fliers had more miles to cash in.

As infuriating as it is to lose your miles, then, at least your loss is someone else's gain.

The Rules

Following are the current mileage-expiration rules for 18 North American carriers, including fees for mileage reactivation, where available:

  • AeroMexico Club Premier - Miles expire after 24 months with no paid AeroMexico flights.
  • Air Canada Aeroplan (1) - Miles expire either seven years after they're earned, or after one year of no account activity. Reactivation fee: 1 CA cent per mile plus CA$30 processing fee
  • AirTran A+ Rewards - For Base members, credits expire after 12 months; for A+ Visa cardholders and Elite members, credits expire after 24 months.
  • Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan - No published expiration for miles, but accounts "may" be closed after two years of inactivity. Reactivation fee: $75
  • American AAdvantage - Miles expire after 18 months if no account activity. Reactivation fee: $50 for every 5,000 miles, plus tax and $30 fee, through 12/31/2010
  • Continental OnePass - No published expiration for miles, but accounts "may" be closed after 18 months of inactivity.
  • Delta SkyMiles - Miles expire after 24 months of inactivity. Reactivation fee: $25 up to 10,000 miles - $250 for 100,001 or more miles
  • Frontier EarlyReturns - Miles expire after 24 months of inactivity. Reactivation fee: $50 up to 4,999 miles - $400 for 100,000 or more miles
  • Hawaiian HawaiianMiles - Miles expire after 18 months of inactivity. Reactivation fee: $50 for every 5,000 miles
  • JetBlue TrueBlue - Miles expire after 12 months if no flights or JetBlue credit card charges.
  • Mexicana MexicanaGO - Points expire after 18 months of inactivity.
  • Midwest Miles - Miles expire after 36 months of inactivity until January 2011, 24 months thereafter. Reactivation fee: $50 up to 4,999 miles - $400 for 100,000 or more miles
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards - Miles expire after 24 months.
  • Spirit Free Spirit - Miles expire if member doesn't earn at least 2,000 miles within 6 months, or make one monthly charge on the Spirit MasterCard.
  • United Mileage Plus - Miles expire after 18 months of inactivity. Reactivation fee: 1.25 cents per mile, plus $25 processing fee
  • US Airways Dividend Miles - Miles expire after 18 months of inactivity. Reactivation fee: $50 for up to 4,999 miles - $400 for 100,000 or more miles
  • Virgin America Elevate - Miles expire after 18 months of inactivity.
  • WestJet Frequent Guest Program - Points expire five years from the end of the year in which they were earned.

Note: While Air Canada remains the featured airline in Aeroplan, it no longer hosts the program, having spun it off as a free-standing company in 2008.

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