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June 4, 2007

American Airlines AAdvantage: Miles to Expire in 18 Months

Filed under: Travel — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:58 am

American AAdvantageThe nation’s oldest and largest frequent flier program quietly announced on June 1 that anyone who does not earn or redeem miles at least once every 18 months will lose all the banked miles in their accounts. Previously, the time limit was three years.

The American Airlines’ AAdvantage Program now comes in line those of US Airways and United Airlines that cut their inactivity period to 18 months at the beginning of 2007.


AA chart

Translation: While the change doesn’t go into effect until December 15, 2007, it is retroactive. So, miles that you earned as recently as June 15, 2006 could expire this December rather than in 2009, if you have had no account activity since then. Here is the new policy.

An easy way to earn miles (and keep your account alive) is to buy something online at a store that gives AA miles with every purchase, or donate a minimum of 250 miles to certain charities.

If you lose all your miles, American Airlines will generously allow you to buy them back for $50 per 5000 miles, plus a $30 processing fee.

No doubt, AA’s new policy will AAnger many travelers.

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  1. I just had 85,000 miles restored to my account by having a rental car posted. By the way the car rental took place a year ago.

    Comment by Max — May 31, 2008 @ 3:23 am
  2. I was just making an International flight reservation and had many options with different carriers, so I checked my airmiles and realized that American Airlines and United Airlines had both ripped off my air miles. Northwest Airlines still had my airmiles and so my choice has been made for me. I will fly NWA and under no condition will ever fly on AA or UA again! As far as I am concerned these corporations are criminal in their actions to quietly STEAL airmiles from their own customer accounts. How can anyone do business with corporations that clearly have no concern for their own customers’ interests and when they have the opportunity will openly rip off their customers because of a policy change which may or may not be legal, but definitely is without good ethics.

    I operate several travel photography websites and will add pages to inform travelers of the actions of these companies to spread the word of their bad karma actions. I suggest all of you do your best to spread the word via all means, especially the internet, as our highest leverage is through communication to the consuming public. It is no wonder these airlines are broke!

    I bet the upper management of UA and AA could care less about all the little customers they steal from as they make huge annual salaries and benefits and are out of touch of their own customers. It is time to send them a big message by choosing not to fly with them and to spread the word of their air miles expiration policies that quietly pick the pockets of their own clients.

    For all you mileage account holders, please review your accounts now to check on your own flight mileage status:

    Comment by Dave — June 6, 2008 @ 11:27 am
  3. I am still steaming. I just called to book a flight with my AAdvantage miles to go be with my mom in the hospital only to find out about this new policy.

    When I asked why I was not informed about the new policy the rep. said it was because they no longer send regular mail, only email and they had no email address for me. I asked him why they didn’t send regular letters to the people they didn’t have email addresses for, and he said “We’ve just found emails to be much more effective.”


    I’d say I’d join the class action if I thought I’d get more than a coupon for a bag of peanuts on my next flight, which I’d probably have to pay for myself…

    Comment by Jenny — June 12, 2008 @ 10:36 pm

    Comment by BILL GLEASON — July 30, 2008 @ 7:09 pm
  5. I lost 100k miles. Not sure how a class action can be certified by a judge. Anyone tries to sue American Airlines in Small Claims Court?

    Comment by Jason Jones — August 4, 2008 @ 11:16 pm
  6. I lost 67,000 miles. Just discovered today that my miles had expired.

    I was shocked! Previously, I had purchased miles to extend them.
    I even have a Ameriican Airlines account printout that showed that miles would not expired until February 2009.
    No mail notification was received that my miles would expire. I would have purchased more.
    I cannot afford the $670 to buy them back and then have them taken away again.

    I am mad as hell and may never fly American again unless my miles are restored.

    Comment by Michael Valine — August 25, 2008 @ 4:39 pm
  7. THIS IS PATHETIC! I just found out I lost over 199,000 miles!!!! American should be so ashamed of themselves. What a SHABBY WAY to treat customers. I am not about to fork over $50 per 5,000 miles to “take my chances” that I can actually use them given all the hassles w/booking award seats. So. This is the way the “New American” is turning out? Some improvement that is. Their managers decided “let’s screw the frequent flyers”. Yeah right. We all got those miles by being faithful to AA. Well, AA can go screw themselves and I hope to Hell they go bankrupt – soon.

    Comment by Joe Wilson — August 30, 2008 @ 11:53 am
  8. Am I the only person on here who can see the obvious? These are FREQUENT FLYER miles. Airlines use them as a perk to reward FREQUENT FLYERS. If any of you have been unfortunate enough to have your miles expire, quite frankly, you aren’t the customer they are trying to retain or reward with perks anyway. You all probably should try reading the terms and conditions before you start bashing the airlines.

    Comment by Jimmy — August 31, 2008 @ 12:15 pm
  9. Hi Jimmy,

    You are only partial right. Nowadays AA offers more ways to get miles from non-flying activities (credit cards, purchase, rental car, flowers, etc.) than flights. The argument about “FREQUENT FLYERS” is no longer true.

    The only meaningful option is to sue AA via class action suit, small claims court, etc.

    Comment by Will Thompson — September 4, 2008 @ 5:29 am
  10. I have worked inside a very large travel industry rewards program, and the basic complaint is that reward points are a currency. If an associate takes points out of a guest account and puts them in there account that is considered theft, and they would be prosecuted. It doesn’t make sense that your currency would expire. I get the feeling that most programs will start moving towards a more generous expiration policy.

    Comment by yourmom — October 2, 2008 @ 11:35 pm
  11. It’s all a stupid idea by a not very smart executive. They trick customers into letting miles expire, and this translates into “earnings” for their shareholders. My story is probably typical. For the price of 75,000 miles (perhaps $750-1,000?) , AA lost a 20+ year customer for life. Pretty smart business move, huh?

    And “trick” is really the correct term. They send you emails every month that never says anything important. Except in the small print, there is information you could use to figure out that your miles were about to do something. This is what AA calls “giving you notice.” Now an honest company would send you a very direct email saying you better do something or your miles will expire. But that is not AA’s business plan. The point of the whole change of expiration time had no purpose other than to trick customers (especially older customers) into losing their miles.

    They are thieves. And anyone who works for a thief might as well be a thief themself!

    Comment by Chris — October 22, 2008 @ 8:59 pm
  12. just found out today that i was inrolled in the screwed-by-aa-club, lost 100k plus miles

    i had checked this out periodically, and even wrote the 2009 expiration date on a slip of paper in my wallet

    oops, i didnt consider retroactive policy changes

    i looked through my e-mails NO NOTICE!!!!!

    Class action? COUNT ME IN!!!

    Comment by Bob — November 14, 2008 @ 6:16 pm
  13. I have just finished a 5 year Outreach Pro doing charity work, helping
    the less fortunate tribes in the bush of Africa. Before going, I was a
    Platinum member of Aadvantage frequent flier programme and had
    accumulated over 500k miles. After finishing the programme, I recently
    scheduled my first trip back to the United States in years and as we did
    not really have much access to the internet I was astounded to find that
    all of my miles had been confiscated because of changes to the AA and United Airlines
    programme. Did anyone sue and actually get their miles reinstated?

    Comment by Anthony — November 17, 2008 @ 8:24 am
  14. I have also been ripped off 75000 miles. Is there any lawyer out there who has also been ripped off ? We need to be pro-active instead of me too. I have conveyed this issue to and so far they have turned a deaf ear. I will try some other legal firms that would be willing to listen to our case. I think we have a clear case here – we have all been stolen of our airmiles and they are worth millions !!

    Comment by JL — December 13, 2008 @ 9:19 pm
  15. I plan to file a suit with small claims court against AA.
    Is there any advice out there? Thanks! I will post my progress here.

    Comment by Micky — December 23, 2008 @ 5:03 pm
  16. i m in for a class action.. this is outrageous.

    Comment by E Prentice — December 24, 2008 @ 12:30 am
  17. What a disgusting and grossly underhanded set of policies by American Airlines. I am Lifetime Platinum – multiple of millions of actual miles – no purchase credits, etc., however I just learned my wife’s reward miles were cancelled for lack of activity in the December 2007 Reward Miles housecleaning by AA (fell into the “fine printed” 18 months notice). However she had reward mile credits for two purchased flights in 2008! I had a very difficult time even getting that information as the last address AA Advantage had on file for her was 26 years old! As a corporate-rat-family, we have moved 10 times since 1983 and flown (no exaggeration) MILLIONS of full price miles on AA. My now-adult children’s AA reward miles seem to have escaped the December 2007 AA sneak attack but will need to confirm that. Part of my frustration is that AA encouraged us to go paperless – I never updated my mailing address after that but thankfully kept my email current. Incidently, I had so many reward miles, some of which were “going out of date” that I was purchasing family members’ trips with my miles – As recently as Christmas 2008! No reason to use their reward miles…or so I thought.

    I’ve vented now (after 3 hours on the phone with AA), but remain profoundly disappointed in American Airline’s Management who undoubtedly gained status (bonuses?) through such sham tactics back in 2007 and policies currently being implacably implemented by the “Customer Service Representatives”.

    Thanks for reading, and please feel free to contact me and/or include me in on any group or class action. Just for the principle of it all! Don’t you know CR Smith is NOT smiling down on his airline. Even bad news can be communicated with class.

    Comment by John E — January 5, 2009 @ 5:47 pm
  18. It’s sad to read about people losing so many miles and the total disregard on part of American Airlines and United Airlines. It sounds like the airlines are just getting more brazen with screwing their customers. Personally, I was not notified in any way of the shortened inactivity period, which should be at a very minimum their responsibility. As many have pointed out, this was likely intentional, so they could wipe out as many miles as possible.

    We consumers really need to stand up for this, a class action lawsuit sounds like it’d be ideal, I’d even contribute to a legal fund for this. Being that I have little knowledge of all that’s involved, I’d appreciate if anyone can enlighten the rest of us on the process. I read there was a successful class action against AA a while back by Michael B. Hyman, of Much Shelist Freed Denenberg Ament & Rubenstein, P.C. ( If someone knows this law firm, it’d be worth seeing if they’re doing anything or if we have a case to move forward.

    Comment by DC — March 19, 2009 @ 8:21 pm
  19. We just found out that we lost 240,000 miles in the same manner as everyone else. We have found and faxed 2 receipts for car rentals that we hoping will help us out, but were told since they were booked through and not direct, this may not qualify. We has also signed up for Netflix and made online purchases at Office Depot which we faxed over as well. These were not originally purchased via the AA portal link so they may deny these as well. Crossing our fingers, it stinks.

    Comment by Lisa — August 1, 2009 @ 12:08 pm
  20. I booked a flight so my miles wouldn’t expire, and then I just realized they had expired anyway. My flight was February 27 and they expired February 21st. I was told that booking (and paying!) a flight is not considered “activity”. Please let me know if you have been succesful.

    Comment by Andres — August 3, 2009 @ 8:36 pm
  21. I discovered 176,000 miles “expired” in April 09. I called AA and spoke to with John Geib, Supervsor. Basically, they refused to accept responsibility for contacting me to WARN me of thier new program because they did not have my e-mail address on file. I find this to be an unconscionable excuse, given that I receive offers from AA for credit cards and the like. But, when it comes down to something I really care about, they feign innocence. I hope a class action law suit is on the way…count me in.

    Comment by Dan — September 18, 2009 @ 5:27 pm
  22. I lost 451,000 miles and all these miles were earned with the three year rule. I was never informed of the rule change. There is no loyalty in AA.

    When I asked, I was incorrectly told by an AA employee in December 2006 AA employee it was two years when it was actually three years. Then they changed the rule in June 2007.

    AA also hurts you with how they measure the 18 months. The time begins when you make the reservation not when you fly.

    Please include me in any class action law suit. Management has permission to release my email address to the party creating the law suit.

    Comment by Bill Elwell — October 21, 2009 @ 1:32 am
  23. I was notified on August 11th that I MAY lose my miles WITHIN 3 MONTHS if I did not book a flight or purchase more miles “soon”. I lost all my miles on Oct. 23rd with no warning and only found out when I wanted to use them today, Nov. 6th. AA customer service agent did not care. Said it would cost me $1820.00 to repurchase my 91,000 miles. They are insane!! What horrendous business practices this airline has. I’d join a class action suit also! I’ve been flying American Airlines for years, just couldn’t book a flight for many personal reasons over the past 18 months. I don’t understand losing all miles in one fell swoop!!

    Comment by Roberta — November 6, 2009 @ 2:56 pm
  24. Anyone in this blog, might want to contact Senator Schumer’s office – what’s he’s investigating sounds exactly like what happened here

    Senator Wants Investigation Of Frequent Flyer Programs

    By Chris Walters on November 23, 2009 2:23 PM 1344 views Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) is calling for a probe of frequent flyer programs to determine whether they deliver the value that they promise. In particular, he wants the Department of Transportation to look into the issue of evaporating miles, a relatively new phenomenon brought introduced via expiration dates in recent years.

    “”As the holiday travel season approaches, we cannot let airlines and credit card companies continue to fly off with hard-earned frequent flier miles,” Schumer said in an announcement scheduled for Sunday. “When a consumer accumulates valuable frequent flier miles, they should not have to constantly worry that they are going to expire with little or no notification from the airline.”


    Frequent flier model programs began 20 years ago, most with no expiration dates for the benefits. In the last decade, airlines have created three-year windows for consumers to use the miles, Schumer said.

    ”The Air Transport Group, a industry trade group, defended its member companies by pointing out that “the system hasn’t been targeted by regulators.” Well, yeah. That’s probably why Senator Schumer is raising the issue.

    “It’s time to probe frequent-flier accounts, senator says” [USA Today]
    (Photo: Kossy@FINEDAYS)

    More About: airlines,frequent flyer programs,frequent flyers,frequent fliers,airplanes,loyalty programs,complaints,expiration dates,fine print

    Comment by Bob — December 11, 2009 @ 4:02 pm
  25. Today I went online to book some mileage travel, and I discovered that I lost all my miles (74k), and my wife lost hers (35k). Talked to AA — they could care less. Just three months ago I purchased $4,200 worth of international travel. But because I haven’t actually traveled yet, it doesn’t count as activity! So, I agreed to sign up for their stupid VISA deal ($50 yearly fee) in order to have my miles reinstated at some point next year. What a ripoff! Someone should sue.

    Comment by Fer — December 14, 2009 @ 3:11 pm
  26. I just lost 145K miles with no notice. I realized the fact just 2 weeks after the dead line as I was willing to use some of them. This is a shame and I feel very angry at AA airline which I called and they would not listen at not receiving a notification. They just presented the buy back program which I found expensive and the Challenge which looked to be a “project” by itself which I declined. How would like to take a commitment with a business which just just ripped you off ! I wish I can avoid using their service for as long as possible for me and my family.

    Comment by Bernard — January 15, 2010 @ 6:31 pm
  27. I lost about 100,000 miles, I did read through the one email I received, I thought I understood the terms and
    conditions, however when I lost them I realized I apparently had not, but when I called them I quickly realized
    I was out-of-luck, it will be a cold day in hell when I fly AA again.

    Comment by David — January 25, 2010 @ 5:48 pm
  28. Same story as everyone, American Airlines stripped me of my miles 2 months ago without notice. They said they haven’t sent out paper notices since 2002 and they had an old email address for me so no warning – miles? GONE! VANISHED! $500/5,000 miles? This is an outrage.

    Please join this group on Facebook –> American Airlines Sucks <– I have vowed to NEVER fly with them again and I fly a lot…but never on American. With so many carriers today, it will be easy to avoid American and their robbery policy.

    Comment by Raphael — April 7, 2010 @ 6:00 pm
  29. I have both a sad heart (I lost 161,500 miles), and renewed anger at losing my dreams. I was a frequent traveler for over 10 years, and had to abruptly retire on disability. (MS finally forced me to slow down.) I know misery loves company, but I believe I speak for most of us in saying, “We only want what’s fair.”

    What a legal case this would/will? be.
    Any lawyers out there want to get famous???

    Comment by Patti — July 18, 2010 @ 10:18 pm
  30. I lost 145,000 miles! I was planning a nice vacation to Hawaii with my family and when I check online, I was shocked to see zero mileage balance! So much of marketing material but no notice for mile expiry! I had flown on one of their partner airline during the 18 month period and so requested for the mileage thinking that would reinstate my miles. But AA came back saying that the class flown is not eligible for mileage. I don’t trust them!!! We are never flying AA again.

    Comment by Sandy — October 18, 2010 @ 2:31 pm
  31. I have no sympathy for you people. Back in May of 2007, American Airlines published this info of the program change. Not only on but in the NY, Chicago, Miama, Dallas, LA, SFO and many other major newspapers. It was mentioned repeatedly by news outlets world wide. Much discussion was done in many, many arenas about the changes. Even so, they gave everyone three mailings at the info they had for them. Three direct mailings and monthly email notices. The partners also sent out notices. All it takes to keep your miles active is some change in your account at least once every year and a half. You don’t even have to fly there are hundreds of vendors that will give you miles.
    This program, and ones like it, always count on you to stay active. If you are just putting it out of your mind forever and not staying frequent – in a frequency program – you only have yourself to blame. It’s always the business’ fault when you ignore them, isn’t it. Even if you ignored AA, Citibank must have been sending you those cc notices which should have, if you are intelligent, prompted you to go check your miles, thinking “Hmm, I haven’t done anything in a long long time”. Miles are currency, they are a reward for being loyal. What is loyal about abandoning the partnership? Cause that is what it is. You do business, they reward you. Not hard to understand.
    Even so, AA will give your miles back to you if you go back and participate again. By flying once, getting a credit card and updating your email, you’ll get back up to 200 thousand miles. If you have more, you only have to fly twice and get the credit card. We had ignored our program and lost 560k. We got it back in a very easy, sensible way and the AA customer service people were very understanding and sympathetic. If you scream and yell and blame them, for a well published and sensible policy, you’ll get nowhere. How would you like to be yelled at for something that the caller had total control over?
    And you can’t sue AA. They did everything they were supposed to, notified so many ways, like us, you chose to ignore the warning signs. I’ll always know now, what is expected of me and simply change my mileage balance every year and half by adding or using miles.
    Stop complaining and threatening and do what we did.

    Comment by Serena — October 24, 2010 @ 11:49 am
  32. I didn’t lose as many miles as everyone else but lost 25k last week I just found out and my next AA flight was booked for november. Basically, as consumers, I guess we all have a choice on who we go with. And customer service is more and more important. We all have a choice to no longer fly American Airlines, and their fleet is outdated and the unsafest anyways from everything thats been reported. Customer Loyalty is about making exceptions and also having a BETTER program than your competitors. I think I will go cancel my American Airlines flight now and rebook on Southwest or JetBlue or even Delta who doesn’t nickel and dime you.

    Thanks for the posts. Saved me some time in trying to get my miles back.

    to anyone working at American Airlines, hopefully your reading all of this and can drive change. Otherwise, you will lose more and more customers through word of mouth.

    Comment by Ted — November 8, 2010 @ 8:50 pm
  33. GIve me back my miles. Broad daylight thievery!

    Comment by Susan — November 26, 2010 @ 1:17 pm
  34. You can sue the airline. They disclosed everything and continue to do so on the webpage. Silly people.

    Comment by Laughable — November 29, 2010 @ 2:20 pm
  35. I just got an email from AA on on May 20,2012 saying that my miles were about to expire on May 18, 2012. ie: they already expired. I had open heart surgery last year and have not flown since, so I was expecting a notice from AA about this. But in fact, I got no notice what so ever. I know they are facing bankruptcy, but this is really no way to treat a loyal AA flier (since 1959 in the Air Force, for my 32 years with NCR, and recently in retirement). I called customer service and got NO satisfaction what so ever, and I spoke to two levels of supervisors! They said it was all my fault for not making a purchase for 18 months. Loyalty seems to be only one way at AA, you be loyal to them and they kick you to the curb when times get rough! I have one thing to say to Suzanne L. Rubin, the president of AAdvantage Loyalty program who sent me late message, “AA does not know the meaning of LOYALTY”

    Comment by Dennis Hull — May 21, 2012 @ 3:09 am

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