Should I buy back my expired frequent flyer miles?

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One of the deadly sins of frequent flyer miles is letting them expire . That word alone makes me shiver. However, we are all busy these days and if you stop flying an airline, its easy to forget about expiration dates and keeping the account active.

In reality, most airlines have shopping malls, so buying a single ITunes song can extend the expiration date of your miles for years. However, let’s analyze each program’s fees for getting back your hard earned miles once they expire.

American – in my opinion, they are only worth re-instating if you want to use them to redeem for premium international awards. Otherwise, the cost to re-instate is similar to the price of buying domestic coach tickets outright (and you don’t earn miles on award tickets). Link

$50 for every 5,000 miles (subject to 7.5% Federal excise tax), plus a $30 processing charge per transaction, per account.  However, American also offers “Re-engagement Challenges” where you have to have a certain amount of activity within a certain amount of time such as signing up for e-mails, opening credit cards and earning miles from partner activity.

Continental-
Miles don’t expire, so no need to worry about buying them back.

Delta- Even though Delta inflates the cost of their awards (90,000 miles for coach to Europe, 200,000 for business), I still think they have a reasonable buy-back ratio- especially for large account balances. Link

Expired Miles Price to Reactivate
0-10,000 $25
10,001-25,000 $50
25,001-50,000 $100
50,001-100,000 $200
100,001 and greater $250

Jetblue- Does not allow a buy-back option for expired points.

Southwest- No brainer- absolutely worth buying these back. Link

$50 to reinstate an earned award.

United – my opinion is the same as AA- they are only worth re-instating if you want to use them to redeem for premium international awards. Otherwise, the cost to re-instate is similar to the price of buying tickets outright (and you don’t earn miles on award tickets). Link

$0.0125 per mile plus a $25 processing fee ($ 125 for every 10,000 miles plus $ 25).

US Airways- I’d probably pass on less than 5,000 miles, but go for each other level, especially large account balances. Link

$50 for 1 – 4,999 miles
$100 for 5,000 – 19,999 miles
$200 for 20,000 – 49,999 miles
$300 for 50,000 – 99,999 miles
$400 for 100,000 or more miles
US has also offered certain customers free reinstatement of expired miles if they opened up a US Airways branded credit card.

If you need any advice on your frequent flyer miles, please feel free to email me at [email protected]

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