Bring Them Back to Life: Rules for Reinstating Expired Airline Miles & Points!

Signing up for credit cards through partner links earns us a commission. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. Here’s our full advertising policy: How we make money.

Update: One or more card offers in this post are no longer available. Check our Hot Deals for the latest offers.

Few things are as frustrating for miles & points enthusiasts as discovering your hard earned miles have expired.  Typically, airline miles or points expire after 18 to 24 months of inactivity.

So what options do you have if your airline miles are expired?  And what can you do to keep them from expiring?

Bring Them Back To Life Rules For Reinstating Expired Airline Miles Points
If You’re Planning a Dream Vacation to Hawaii, Make Sure Your Miles & Points Won’t Expire and Leave You Stuck at Home

Million Mile Secret Agent farnorthtrader commented:

I didn’t realize that Southwest points’ expiration does NOT reset when you redeem them for flights.  So the Southwest points I thought were good until the middle of 2018 expired about 5 months ago!  Any thoughts on being able to reclaim my expired points?

Unfortunately, Southwest does not have a policy to reinstate expired points. 🙁  I would still contact Southwest and at least ask what they can do, but most likely your Southwest points are gone for good.

For most airlines, redeeming miles or points will reset your expiration date.  But it is important to look into each airline’s individual policy.  Because they are NOT all the same.

So let’s review miles & points expiration and reinstatement policies for the major airlines.

Major US Airlines’ Miles & Points Expiration Rules

Link:   How To Keep your Airline Miles From Expiring Without Flying!

These are the expiration and reinstatement rules for the miles & points programs of the major US airlines.

1.   American Airlines Miles

American Airlines miles expire after 18 months of inactivity.  But redeeming or earning miles will reset your expiration date.

You can reinstate miles that expired on or after December 2002.  But the reinstatement fees are high.  You’ll pay $40 to $2,000 to get back up to 500,000 American Airlines miles.

2.   Delta Miles

Delta miles do not expire!

3.   United Airlines Miles

United Airlines miles expire if you have 18 months of inactivity.  You can extend your expiration date by redeeming or earning miles.

Bring Them Back To Life Rules For Reinstating Expired Airline Miles Points
You Can Reinstate Expired United Airlines Miles for Less by Completing a Reinstatement Challenge

You can reinstate up to 750,000 expired United Airlines miles.  But they must have expired in the past 18 months.  The reinstatement fee runs from $50 to $700, depending on how many miles you are recovering.

But if need to reinstate 20,000 United Airlines miles or more, it might make sense to complete a reinstatement challenge.  You’ll pay a flat $100 non-refundable fee and get all of your miles back if you:

  • Take a United Airlines flight
  • Or open a United Airlines credit card and make a purchase with it

4.   Southwest Points

After 24 months of inactivity, Southwest points expire.  Any activity that earns Southwest points will reset the expiration date, including Chase Ultimate Rewards point transfers.  But redeeming Southwest points will NOT extend your expiration date.  And expired Southwest points can NOT be reinstated.

5.   JetBlue Points

JetBlue points never expire!

6.   Alaska Airlines Miles

Alaska Airlines can close accounts that are inactive (no using or earning miles) for 24 months.  And if your account is closed, your Alaska Airlines miles are gone.  So basically, Alaska Airlines miles expire after 2 years of inactivity.

You can get your miles back (for a fee) for up to 1 year from when they expired.  To begin the process, contact customer care.

How to Keep Your Points From Expiring

In general, any activity that earns miles or points into your account will reset your expiration date.  And for most airlines other activities, like redeeming miles or points for flights, will also extend the life of your miles or points.

Bring Them Back To Life Rules For Reinstating Expired Airline Miles Points
You Can Earn Miles & Points With Dining Rewards Programs, Which Will Reset Your Expiration Date

You accrue miles or points into your airline loyalty account when you:

  • Make a purchase through your airline’s shopping portal
  • Dine with a dining rewards program
  • Make a purchase with the airline’s credit card
  • Take a flight with the airline
  • Earn miles or points with a partner flight

These are general guidelines for keeping most points from expiring.  You should look deeper into the rules for the specific airline miles or points you have.  For example, transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Southwest will keep your Southwest points from expiring.  But transfers like this may NOT work for all airlines.

Note:   Some of these methods may only take a few days for your miles to post, like flying with the airline.  But other miles & points, like those earned with dining rewards programs or shopping portals, could take weeks to post.  So make sure you plan ahead!

Bottom Line

Many US airlines have an expiration date for their miles & points.  Typically you need account activity every 18 to 24 months to keep your miles or points alive.

There are lots of quick and easy ways to keep your rewards from expiring.  You could make a purchase with your airline’s credit card.  Or earn miles or points by eating out with a dining rewards program.

Always make sure you know your airline’s specific rules.  Because all expiration and reinstatement policies are not the same.

Sorry about your expired Southwest points, farnorthtrader. 🙁  But thanks for sharing your experience!

Million Mile Secrets features a team of points and miles experts who have traveled to over 80 countries and have used 60+ credit cards responsibly to accumulate loyalty points and travel the world on the cheap! The Million Mile Secrets team has been featured on The Points Guy, TIME, Yahoo Finance and many other leading points & miles media outlets.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

Join the Discussion!

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments