What Are The Best Ways To Maximize Expiring United Miles?

by on June 15, 2014 · 11 comments

in American, Chase, Citi, Sunday Reader Questions, United, Video Blog Post

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I was recently tweeted a great “newbie question of the week” by TPG reader @Mommalogues:

“@thepointsguy My 18,000+ United MileagePlus miles will expire on July 31st. Can I trade them for American AAdvantage miles?”

The answer to your question is yes, you can trade your expiring MileagePlus miles for American AAdvantage miles through points/miles exchange and clearing house but at a terrible ratio. will let you transfer your hard-earned miles and points between programs, but the commissions they charge are so high that they effectively eviscerate the value of those points and miles. You’d probably get more from your MileagePlus miles by exchanging them for magazines.

I’d suggest that you use your miles with United, rather than allowing them to expire. Even though the airline just had a big devaluation in February, and announced changes to how miles are earned just this past week, you can still find some decent awards for United flights. Unlike many airline loyalty programs, United MileagePlus allows one-way awards, so I’d recommend trying for a one-way, 12,500-mile Economy Saver award.


Another option would be to reset the clock on when your miles expire. United gives its MileagePlus members 18 months to keep their miles active, meaning that any account activity (including earning or redemption) will reset that 18 months. This includes signing up for the MileagePlus Dining Program and buying as little as a soda, or doing some online shopping at the United MileagePlus mall. Keep in mind, though, that these partner activities can take between a few days to a couple of weeks to post, so don’t wait until the last minute. Since United and Chase Ultimate Rewards are transfer partners, a more immediate way to reset your expiration date is to make a 1:1 transfer of as few as 1,000 Ultimate Rewards points to your MileagePlus account. Finally, any activity on United branded credit card will also keep your miles from expiring.

If you want to build up a stash of American AAdvantage miles, I’d suggest making that a separate part of your points and miles strategy. To help you along, check out our Hot Deals page for a great 100,000-mile Citi Executive AAdvantage World Elite Mastercard offer going on right now.

I hope this answered your question, Mommalougues. Please let me know if any of you have others by messaging me on Facebook, tweeting me @thepointsguy, or emailing me at [email protected]

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • shopkimchee

    you can also use gift cards and apply them towards ual miles and its counted as activity.

  • mjdth

    Another way to keep your miles from expiring is sign up for or complete a survey on It’s relatively easy and doesn’t require making any purchases.

  • Mark

    One note about – You don’t have to trade ALL your miles, moving out (or in) the minimum number they let you move should be enough to cause some activity on your account, thus keeping your account active.

  • Ryan M.

    I was about to suggest the same thing. Another upside to completing these surveys is that the miles post instantly in most cases. So if your miles are going to expire in less than 2 weeks, this could be your best option.

  • MYRflyer

    Join the Dining Program, I believe they are offering new members 3,000 bonus miles right now. But like Brian suggested, just purchase a drink at a participating restaurant.

  • bobbie

    If you sign up for the United Mileage Plus Explorer or Club cards, then your points will never expire.

  • Braxton

    I’ve found buying a magazine subscription works quite well to salvage expiring miles. The transactions post rapidly. I’ve found some expensive subscriptions to be quite reasonably “priced” in miles, but I have also bought a throwaway subscription for a few hundred miles just to ensure my miles are safe.

    (Heads up with Frontier – I did this recently only to discover their rules require “accrual” of points to extend their life. So now I like them less and less. Plan B – transfer some miles from Amex Rewards and hope that satisfies them.)

  • Leo

    Just received my Citi Executive AAdvantage card, and yes, the 100,000-mile reward program is still active.

  • Jeff

    Cute story at

  • nitzguy

    My miles were set to expire a few months ago, so I went through the shopping portal, bought a Groupon for a restaurant near my office, and was able to get lunch and keep my miles for just a few dollars. Probably cheaper than what I’d normally spend on lunch anyway.

    Of course, I’d waited too long and my miles expired at the end of the month, then the new miles posted, then United reversed the expiry. I was lucky, but in future I’d try to get on it sooner than later.

  • Angry United customer

    My son’s miles just expired a week ago, only 15K but what the heck. Shame on us for not finding out how to keep them active without flying. I called United and was told no way they could be reinstated although it has only been a week. I am so angry I would never apply for one of their credit cards. Will look for any other option to fly than United from now on.

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