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Should I buy back my expired frequent flyer miles?

by on July 28, 2010 · 5 comments

in American, Continental, Delta, How To Guides, Points Guy Pointers, United, US Airways

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 accountHowever, 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]

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author.s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program.

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  • The Points Guy

    Glad you enjoyed it! Let me know if there are any topics you’d like me to cover.

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    Thanks!

  • Jim

    I just got an email from Delta saying their miles no longer expire:

    Hello Dr. XXX,

    You now can earn miles without worrying if and when they will expire as we have eliminated our mileage expiration policy – no asterisk, no fine print, no ifs, ands or buts.

    So regardless of your future SkyMiles activity, redeem your miles whenever you want for Award Travel to 350+ worldwide destinations, car rentals, hotel stays, newspapers, magazines and one-of-a-kind auction packages.

    We are proud to be the only major U.S. carrier without mileage expiration.

    Visit delta.com to learn more about your SkyMiles benefits and explore the many ways you can earn and use your miles.

    You’re the reason we fly,

    J. W. Robertson
    Vice President – SkyMiles

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