Are You Losing Frequent Flier Awards without Knowing?

I spent 3 weeks in a Starwood property in Nashville a few years ago.  It was a long but fun consulting engagement of life in a hotel.  I was very careful to make sure I was collecting the Starwood preferred points and tracking them with a number that I wasn’t going to let go of… I was imagining free week on an Caribbean island.  A couple weeks ago I was booking a hotel room in Puerto Rico and looking to use points.  Little did I know that when I was ready to use them… from over 120,000 points to 5000… GONE! What happened?!!

Baby Monkey in Bali
Baby Monkey in Bali


(Pictured: Monkey in Bali – photo by Joel Oleson rights reserved)

Sure enough many programs have expiration dates on frequent flier programs for flights and hotel guest point programs.  In the case of Starwood’s preferred program the points expire after 1 year.  Doesn’t matter how many times you stay in their rooms… What does this say?  Use your points as you get them.  It also says… KEEP TRACK!

Wake up call… Your Airline miles may be expiring!  Have you booked your travel?  Do you ever misplace your free companion ticket or voucher… all of those are bound to expire many last only a year or 18 months and some need the paper it was printed on… if you can believe it.

With United and American both, your points will carry over as long as you continue to fly at least once before they expire.  On United you may get an expiration notice with a cost you can pay push off expiration for another year.

Delta and Alaska don’t expire… That definitely solicits loyalty for me.  I love the rollover miles toward awards on Delta as well.  If they could only get me upgraded on international flights.

I have been looking at my Alaska miles.  I was wondering if I could get to Alaska for a domestic set of points where it would be a lot more elsewhere.  Sure enough for 15,000 miles I can go not only to Anchorage (a $900 round trip flight, but all the way to Nome or Borrow a $1400 ticket!  Note it does take me planning the dates, but for miles I’m finding that program is very attractive despite the fact I’ll have to fly out.

So how do you track your miles?

I go pro with I have a single web page and I’ve got the iPhone app where I have my numbers with me at all times.  I also get the expiration details for the various programs.  Unfortunately some of the older hotel programs get out of sync and I assume I’m good.  That’s not always the case.  I should have had nearly a week on Starwood, but instead I had 50% of one night.  They let me pay half miles half on my hard.  I decided to use it anyway.  Why not?

So I guess the moral of the story is track it, make sure you aren’t just collecting points so you can see how high they go… I’m guilty of this.  I was trying to see if I could get up to a million miles across the programs.  Now that I’m looking at expiration dates and a less travel on airlines outside of my hub city, I’m finding round robin of airlines just to keep my miles active is a waste.  Much better to use my miles on expiring programs and then start using loyalty on airlines that serve me best and will pay on multiple levels of service.

Good luck… Hope that reminder helps… I may put together a chart at some point if I don’t find one out there.

Look for messages like this… (Note this list may be out of date… check with your airline program)

American AAdvantage

AAdvantage miles will expire if there is no qualifying activity in your account at least once every 18 months. Qualifying activity is defined as any AAdvantage mileage accrual or AAdvantage award redemption.

Continental OnePass

Miles currently have no expiration date; however, Continental Airlines reserves the right to impose expiration limits or terminate the OnePass program, plus terminating your ability to claim rewards. If you do not have activity in your OnePass account for a period of 18 months, Continental Airlines may close your account.

Delta SkyMiles

Currently, miles will not expire.

(Joel: But when does the program expire due to inactivity?)

United Mileage Plus

Any member who fails at any time to engage in account activity for a period of eighteen (18) consecutive months is subject to termination of his or her membership and forfeiture of all accrued mileage as of the last day of the 18th month. Activity includes (without limitation) flying on United or earning or redeeming miles with a Mileage Plus partner (as defined in Rule 12), redeeming miles for award travel, buying miles or transferring miles. In cases where mileage is for any reason removed from an account, as for the redemption of awards, and later returned, the return of the mileage to the account shall not count as account activity.

US Airways Dividend Miles

Active membership status is based on having earned or redeemed miles within a consecutive 18 month period. With our new Mileage Reactivation Policy, Dividend Miles members have an opportunity to reinstate their Dividend Miles accounts to active status for an additional 18 months for a $50 processing fee and reactivation fee of $.01 per mile. If members do not extend with this reactivation option, the Dividend Miles account will be closed and all miles forfeited.

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