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How to retroactively credit flights to your frequent flyer account

Oct. 15, 2022
11 min read
A plane flies into Lihue airport
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Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information.


We’ve all been there: You arrive at the airport, take your flight and realize you forgot to add your frequent flyer number to the reservation upon landing. Maybe it’s your first time flying a new airline, or perhaps someone booked the flight for you. Regardless of the reason, you earned zero miles on your flight.

Thankfully, you’re not totally out of luck. Many major U.S. airline loyalty programs let you retroactively claim miles for flights. Even better, some let you do this even if you weren’t a loyalty member when you flew.

That said, it can be difficult to claim these miles. Many airlines hide retroactive crediting deep within their websites. So in this article, we’ll run through how to retroactively credit flights to the major U.S. carriers.

But first, we want to walk through some best practices to follow as a points and miles traveler. These will ensure that you’ll always earn miles for your paid flights and give you leverage for requesting credit after the fact.

Sign up for frequent flyer accounts before you travel

D3SIGN/MOMENT COLLECTION/GETTY IMAGES

We recommend that points and miles newcomers sign up for accounts with all the major U.S. airlines and hotels before traveling. Even if you don’t have immediate plans to travel, this will make it easier to earn rewards when you head out of town.

Additionally, you can credit flights on alliance partners to these accounts. So if — for example — you find yourself booked on a Lufthansa flight, you can add your United MileagePlus number to the reservation and earn United miles on the flight.

On the airline side, you’ll want to sign up for accounts with the Big 3 (American, Delta and United) and some of the major budget carriers. Here’s a short list:

On the hotel side, we recommend signing up for accounts with Hilton Honors, World of Hyatt and Marriott Bonvoy. There are other major hotel groups, but these are the hotels you’re most likely to encounter when traveling in the U.S.

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Add these account numbers to the Notes app on your smartphone and refer to them whenever you book a flight or hotel room. This way, you’ll never miss out on valuable points and miles when you travel for work or fun.

Related: Loyalty programs are offering free points for new members

Regularly conduct frequent flyer account audits

We recommend performing a monthly audit on all of your frequent flyer accounts with a balance — even if you didn’t earn points in a given month. Doing this protects you from fraud, as you can see if miles mysteriously disappear from your account.

DELTA.COM

Performing a mileage audit is simple. Just log in to each of your accounts and ensure the airline has posted the flights you’ve taken to your account. Additionally, check that all credit card spending, shopping portal purchases, dining rewards and other rewards you should have earned appear correctly.

If you see that you never earned miles for a flight, follow the instructions for retroactively claiming miles later in this article. On the other hand, if miles from credit card spending never appear, you may need to call your bank to ensure it has the correct frequent flyer number.

Don’t see miles in your account right away? Don’t worry — most airlines take at least 24 hours to post miles earned from flights to your account, though some are getting much faster.

Additionally, it can take even longer if you’re crediting a partner flight from one airline to another (say, crediting an Air France-operated flight to Delta). However, if you don’t see a flight post to your account after a week or so, it’s time to request retroactive credit from the airline.

Related: What to do if you don't get miles for a flight

Save your receipts and boarding passes

TANG MING TUNG/GETTY IMAGES

One last thing before we start: Save all of your boarding passes and flight ticket receipts until the flight posts to your frequent flyer account. You’ll need information from these if you request retroactive flight credit later down the line.

Digital boarding passes are great for this — just save them to your phone’s wallet app, so they don’t disappear after the flight. You’ll also want to save email confirmations with ticket numbers, as you’ll often need this information for crediting miles after a flight.

Related: How to credit miles to a partner airline program

Retroactive credit policies for each airline

Now let’s move on to actually requesting retroactive credit for your past flights. Each airline has a different policy around this. For example, some airlines require you to claim credit within a set period after taking a flight. Others require that your account is open for a specific amount of time before you fly, making our earlier point about creating accounts ahead of time even more important.

Here are the specifics for the major U.S. airline loyalty programs. We’ve included the link to the corresponding policy, how to request credit and important details to bear in mind.

Alaska Airlines

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

Alaska Airlines has one of the most restrictive retroactive flight credit policies. For example, you must be a member at the time of travel to request mileage credit.

To request flight credit, go to this page on Alaska’s website, fill out your information and upload a copy of your boarding pass and ticket receipt. You can request credit for both Alaska Airlines-operated and partner flights.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • When to submit: At least seven days after the Alaska flight date or 14 days after the partner flight.
  • Deadline for submission: Within 12 months of travel.
  • Need to be a member at the time of travel?: Yes.

American Airlines

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

American AAdvantage members have a little more lenience when requesting retroactive flight credit. For American and most partner flights, you must enter your ticket number and AAdvantage number on American's flight credit request site.

Review the individual carrier's page if you’re missing miles from a partner flight, as you may not be able to request some information online.

Here are the details:

  • When to submit: At least three days after the flight date for American-operated flights or 15 days for partner flights.
  • Deadline for submission: Within 12 months of travel.
  • Need to be a member at the time of travel?: No, but flights more than 30 days before your enrollment date are not eligible for mileage credit.

Related: How to claim missing American Airlines AAdvantage miles

Delta Air Lines

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

Like American Airlines, Delta makes it easy to request mileage credit for past flights using an online form. And Delta has one of the more lenient policies regarding flights taken before enrolling.

To request flight credit, log into your Delta SkyMiles account, go to your account page (My Delta), click "View My SkyMiles," and then click "Request Mileage Credit."

DELTA.COM

From here, you can enter your ticket number and submit your request for mileage credit so long as you follow these guidelines:

  • When to submit: At least seven days after the flight date.
  • Deadline for submission: Within nine months of the flight date.
  • Need to be a member at the time of travel?: No, but the same nine-month submission window applies.

If you don’t have your ticket number, fill out the "All Other Miles Requests" form on the same page where you'd otherwise request mileage credit. You’ll need to provide additional details regarding your flight, but the trouble is worth it, so you can later request mileage credit.

Related: How to claim your missing Delta SkyMiles

JetBlue

DAVID SLOTNICK/THE POINTS GUY

JetBlue is another airline with a relaxed policy for retroactively requesting mileage credit. To claim mileage credit, log in to your JetBlue account and fill out the "Request Points" form. This form covers flights operated by JetBlue and partner airlines.

Here are the criteria for these requests:

  • When to submit: At least 14 days after the flight.
  • Deadline for submission: Within 12 months of travel.
  • Need to be a member at the time of travel?: Not specified in the terms and conditions, so you should be able to request credit for all flights within the last year even if you weren’t a member at the time of travel.

Southwest Airlines

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

Southwest also has a great retroactive flight credit policy. To request credit, log in to your Southwest Rapid Rewards account and go to the "My Account" screen. Click on "Rapid Rewards" in the blue top bar and then find the "Request past flight points" box.

SOUTHWEST.COM

You’ll receive credit so long as your request meets these requirements:

  • When to submit: At least 48 hours after the flight.
  • Deadline for submission: Within 12 months of travel.
  • Need to be a member at the time of travel?: No.

United Airlines

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

Finally, we have United. To request flight credit, find your ticket number and sign in to your United account. Then head to this page and enter your ticket number at the bottom of the screen. If all is accepted, the miles will be credited to your account after United confirms eligibility.

That said, the eligibility requirements are a little convoluted. Here’s a look:

  • When to submit: At least five days after the flight for United or United Express flights, seven days after the flight for most partner airlines and 14 days after the flight for Virgin Australia.
  • Deadline for submission: Within 12 months of your flight date.
  • Need to be a member at the time of travel?: New members can request credit for United-operated flights taken up to 30 days before enrolling at no charge. You can also pay a $50 fee to claim credit for flights taken more than 30 days but less than six months before enrollment, though you'll need to submit a separate request.

Bottom line

There are many reasons why you may need to request retroactive flight credit at some point. If you were new to points and miles, you probably didn’t even belong to a given frequent flyer program at the time of travel.

Fortunately, most U.S. airlines make it simple to request missing miles, with some letting you request mileage for flights taken up to a year before enrollment. Keep a copy of all boarding passes and receipts so you can request miles when they don’t post.

Additional reporting by Ehsan Haque.

Featured image by MATTHEW MICAH WRIGHT/GETTY IMAGES
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
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Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
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Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023