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October 23, 2006

Frequent Flier Miles: Will Expire Sooner*

Filed under: Travel — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:22 am

Fasten your seat belts, and keep your air sickness bag handy. Travelers are about to be hit with a double whammy.

Not only is it often difficult to redeem your hard-earned frequent flier miles for the flight of your choice, but now the miles on some popular programs are going to expire much sooner if your account is inactive.

Both Delta and US Airways have quietly amended the terms and conditions of their frequent flier programs to cut the expiration of banked miles from three years to between 18 months (US Airways) and two years (Delta).

*MOUSE PRINT for US Airways:

Effective January 31, 2007, 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.

So not only will the miles expire in half the time, they are graciously allowing you to buy them back at a ridiculously high price. It is not clear if the new 18 month expiration period is retroactive.

*MOUSE PRINT for Delta:

Starting December 31, 2006, we’re modifying the above policy and miles will expire after two years of account inactivity. Mileage balances of members who have had no SkyMiles activity within the last two calendar years (2005 and 2006) will expire on Dec. 31, 2006.

Adding insult to injury, Delta is clearly making their policy retroactive to already earned miles.

The easiest practical way to keep your miles from expiring is to either spend some of them on cheap things like magazine subscriptions, or earn more miles by doing business with one of the airlines’ partners. Here is the US Airways partner list, and the one for Delta. Both allow you to make purchases from SkyMall, for example, and earn miles. You can also buy something at Officemax.com and earn US Airways miles, or join NetFlix and earn Delta Skymiles. Be sure to use the link provided at each airline’s website if you are going to shop at an online partner. Going directly to one of the participating online stores will not earn you miles.

The bottomline is that these changes are nasty, and exhibit a degree of chutzpah. The airlines make it hard to spend your acquired miles on flights because they don’t make enough free seats available, and then they take away your miles if you don’t use them.

For more details, here is a New York Times article on the subject.

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  1. While Northwest Airlines let you give your miles to anyone, Delta declares “not transferable

    When I gave my secretary and her “new” husband a honeymoon in Hawaii via Delta Miles, Delta slapped my wrist, and debited an additional 350,000 miles from my account for doing so.

    Will not EVER fly Delta again!! Too Bad for Them!!

    Comment by T. W. Kwant — October 23, 2006 @ 9:02 am
  2. I think I recently received something from Delta (or some other airline) reminding me to use my airmailes. And I vaguely remember something about expirations data as well. I remember thinking: Funny. They’re trying to get me to buy something by threatning to take my ‘saved enticement’ away. If people don’t see through that trick…..

    But here’s the real tip: people should not make purchases based on any savings program. Just buy the cheapest or best product, and if it gets you some points, that’s fine. And if you actually get something for those points, even better. But one NEVER should count on that, or pay more for a product to get somethig in the future.

    Comment by Jasper — October 23, 2006 @ 11:10 am
  3. US Airways is retroactive–I got a notice in the last week that my miles would be lost shortly (beginning of the year, I think it was). They are fairly old, I’ll admit. I had less than 200 left, which isn’t enough to redeem on anything. But, you can DONATE any number of miles to a number of charitable groups. No, it’s not much, but every little bit helps groups like The Make a Wish Foundation!

    Comment by AnnMarie — October 23, 2006 @ 11:34 am
  4. After having built up a tremendous amount of Delta Miles I have had great difficulty turning them in for flights. Delta wants double miles on every trip. Their planes are dirty and the employees rude. Maybe there will be a class action lawsuit on way these companies make changes to screw the consumer.

    Comment by Bob Roberts — October 23, 2006 @ 11:55 am
  5. My son received notice from Delta about the expiring mileage. I checked the status for the rest of the family memebers and found that my wife’s and my mileage had already expired without notice and no recourse. My daughter’s mileage was about to expire along with my son’s mileage except that she did not receive notice as he did. Nice company …

    I did find that the mileage expiration can be derailed by donating some miles to charity (see the Delta site for instructions.) 5,000 miles is the minimum, but there are no fees to do so.

    Comment by Mike Radtke — October 23, 2006 @ 1:48 pm
  6. T.W. Kwant:
    Delta DOES allow you to tranfer miles to friends or family. Here is the link: http://www.delta.com/skymiles/use_miles/mileage_transfers/index.jsp
    but they charge you 1 cent per mile for doing that, about half of their value, so rarely is it worth it. On the other hand, it costs 3 cents per mile to buy them which is even more of a ripoff.

    Delta miles never expire as long as you keep an American Express SkyMiles credit card, even if it is longer than 3 years, or now, 2 years.

    I also don’t like shortening the expiration time but I guess when you’re in bankruptcy you can do things like that and the courts will even let you get away with it.

    Comment by Mark H. — October 23, 2006 @ 2:12 pm
  7. Air Canada has also recently made their miles expirable, although they take seven years to expire. It is retroactive to include existing miles, and the account will itself expire if it has no activity for one year. The expired account can be reinstated following a payment of ($50, I believe), plus one cent per mile.

    Comment by Mike Cattle — October 23, 2006 @ 6:59 pm
  8. well, at least they allow you to BUY back your DISCOUNT…..

    “”people should not make purchases based on any savings program. Just buy the cheapest or best product””


    Comment by Alcari — October 24, 2006 @ 9:52 am
  9. Too bad about USAir. I just took a flight on some 17-year-old non-expiring miles.

    I tried for their discount miles (12500 each way) but could only get that on the return flight. The trip out there only had the 25K cost available so I took that. The one nice thing is the cost for 1st class was also 25K so I finally got a first class cross-country flight…at least I got a nice benefit in one direction.

    Now I won’t be able to save miles for 18 months? I guess it’s time to just take the cheapest airline that will give me a decent flight since I usually only fly about once every 2-3 years.

    Comment by RS — October 28, 2006 @ 1:29 am
  10. Do contributions to your miles account from your credit card count?


    Comment by daniel presburger — November 27, 2006 @ 5:21 pm
  11. I went to the USAir site and clicked thru to iTunes, bought one song ($1). A hassle, but not the end of the world to keep my miles alive for another 18 months.

    Comment by jk — February 18, 2007 @ 12:38 am
  12. I could not redeem my miles with U.S. upon several tries over the last couple of years as no seats were available on either of the flights that I needed for my annual vacations. This is even though I was inquiring 6 or more months in advance. Note that even though I could not redeem them at the states level of miles, 25,000 miles, if I wanted to redeem 50,000 miles for the same seat on the same flight, then a seat would be available. In other words, seats were available, but they wanted to take more of my miles than their program had promised for years as I was accumulating them

    Now US Air tells me that my miles have expired because I did not redeem them in time. What a fraud. I hope an interested attorney looks at this and contacts me for a class action suit. I am sure that someone as passportvillage@yahoo.com would love to speak to him or her.

    Comment by Darryl N. — April 10, 2007 @ 1:08 am
  13. My husband and I flew Delta every single flight we took for years. Sometimes even paying more to do that in order to increase our frequent flier miles. Between my son and my husband and I we had approximately 120,000 frequent flier miles. We got NO notice about them changing the program that the miles would expire. We went to book a ticket last month and found that ALL of our miles had been stolen back by them. We had counted on these for a family vacation.
    When I contacted them their response was basically “TOO BAD”. I am shocked that they could just take them back. It will one heck of a long time before I will EVER fly Delta again.

    Comment by Michele — May 13, 2007 @ 10:52 pm
  14. Class-Action SUIT? You Bet!

    I’ve been robbed of 96,000 by US Airways without any notification of policy change or that my milage was to expire. Additionally, I have a printout from 5/2006 indicating that I still had my miles and there was no notification at that time either. I’m pissed!

    Comment by Terry — July 13, 2007 @ 3:37 pm
  15. I too have lost just over 100,000 miles on US Air. Does anybody know
    if anything can be done?

    Comment by Don — September 1, 2007 @ 12:29 am
  16. American Airlines is no better. They just took over 51,000 of my frequent flyer miles
    miles because I had not logged into my account. Christ! I was in Law School and was too busy to get back in touch with their
    in touch with their important world. Now that I am out and practicing in my own firm, do you now suppose I will be flying AA ever again? Talk about short sighted, draconian insanity. I have two new associates joining my boutique firm and guess what; they will not be flying AA on my dime either!

    Good luck AA, you reallt should rename yourself ZZ….asleep at the yolk!

    Comment by Norm P — March 21, 2008 @ 5:19 am
  17. I got screwed out of over 60,000 miles from Delta. The sad irony is that I had spent years flying with them for business, putting up with canceled flights, long delays and terrible service with my only light at the end of the tunnel being my frequent flyer miles. After I stopped traveling for business so much, I saw those frequent flyer points as a little nest egg since they would supposedly “never expire.” (Surely, I’m not the only one who remembers them marketing that.) Well, that little nest egg apparently was squashed.

    I’ve called, emailed, written… They’ve been nothing but horribly rude to me on the phone, robotic through email and unresponsive via mail. Please tell me that there’s a class action lawsuit out there somewhere about this. I’ve never seen companies be rudest to the customers who they should be courting the most (big-time customers who are inactive). I mean: talk about burning bridges with customers!

    Comment by Jen — July 17, 2008 @ 5:00 pm
  18. 49,000 miles with United, gone, without notice. I’ve spent hours on the phone, but complaints fall on deaf ears.
    While, on hold, an offer to start a credit card and receive 20,000 miles. Certainly, I will not take that offer, to only build up miles again, for them to wipe them out, without care.
    I was sick for 2 years. Now that I feel better, I and a friend will go to Hawaii, but not on United Airlines.
    Wonder how their policies are encouraging business?

    Comment by yvette amsallen — September 15, 2008 @ 12:11 am
  19. DO NOT fly USAirways anymmore. let them go bankrupt.
    These big airlines do not learn from their mistakes. This is a horrible customer service issue. I lost my 25K miles i was saving for a trip and they have nothing to say but “sorry, these are the rules”

    They now want me to “buy them back” and pay 4200 to reinstate them. CROOKS

    They have lost a customer. I’m buying based on price and not airline preference anymore. Learn from Virgin Atlantic, JetBlue and Southwest… these airlines are all about their customers, and it shows!

    Us Airways: go to hell! you have been very mean to your customers

    Comment by Lara — March 5, 2009 @ 9:01 am
  20. I earned 65k miles in AA under the 36-month policy. The original expiration date was 09/2009. After AA changed the retention period to 18 months, my miles disappeared. My email preference is Unsubscribe, so no eSummary was sent to me with the alert on policy change. AAvantage Terms and Conditions have such a provision – AAvantage is an individual-oriented program. Your mileage summaries, special promotional materials, and tickets will be sent to the address or email address, as applicable, you provide. AA acknowledges that it no longer sends out paper mileage summary. So I went to Small Claim court with the argument that AA did not comply with the Terms and Conditions, and failure to send paper statement had denied me with the opportunity to react accordingly. However, the judgment said that I had not shown that AA was required to send notice by postal delivery. So I lost. I also had another argument that I had acted according to the original expiration date. I was hoping that AA would not have the option to change the date by law after someone had acted reasonably according to that date. But it was not mentioned at all in the judgment by the pro tem judge. As a plaintiff in small claim court, I am not allowed to appeal the judgment. Is there any legal mistake by the judge in this case?

    Comment by ken — March 17, 2009 @ 1:57 pm
  21. Has anyone had any luck with Delta reversing there expiring of there so called life time miles?

    Comment by adder — April 15, 2009 @ 1:32 am
  22. I just found out that Delta took my mileage saying “it expired after 24 months of being inactive”. I kept my last paper statement and it indicated it will expire Dec. 2009. They said they have changed that sometime and I should have read the e-mail. (we are responsible for reading the fine lines) I tried to call, e-mail and fax them info including the paper statement, and no answer. They send you the usual crap in the e-mail saying the same thing (it expire after 24 months inactive).

    It there something we can do or is there an ongoing class action lawsuit about this? I am really mad because I was counting on using it for summer.

    Comment by Lynette — June 8, 2009 @ 2:34 pm

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