New to Travel Rewards? Newsflash: You Can Earn Miles & Points for Flights You’ve Already Taken

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INSIDER SECRET: You can earn miles for flights taken up to 12 months ago with some airlines.

If you’ve just recently started collecting miles and points, you may be feeling a little overwhelmed by how long it will take you to earn enough miles for your next free flight. While you can certainly rack up miles through future flights and by earning big welcome bonuses from the best credit cards for travel, you may be surprised to hear that you can actually earn miles for flights you’ve taken in the past. In fact, many airlines allow you to claim earned miles on flights taken up to 12 months ago.

I’ll show you how to determine if you qualify and how you can claim miles earned on past flights:

Most airlines will allow you to claim miles for flights you’ve already taken. (Photo by Philip Pilosian/Shutterstock)

Earning Airline Miles for Past Flights

If you are just starting out with miles and points, the first thing you’ll want to do is register for airline frequent flyer accounts. Since these accounts are typically free, you should register with any airlines that you plan to fly in the future and certainly with any airlines you have flown in the last year.

Once your account is set up, you’ll be able to see a history of flights you take with each airline. If you registered some time after completing your most recent flight with an airline, your account won’t show any flight history. In that case, you’ll need to request that your past flights be credited to your frequent flyer account. You will need both your ticket number and your frequent flyer membership number for the request, and some airlines will also ask for a copy of your boarding pass.

The actual request process is pretty straightforward:

  1. Go to the airline’s mileage request page
  2. Enter in your name, frequent flyer number, confirmation number and any other requested information
  3. That’s it. In some cases, the airline may request more information, but generally the miles will be credited to your account within 10 business days (varies by airline).

Each airline has a slightly different policy regarding when you can request credit, so take a look at the table below for a summary of major US airlines. Each airline’s policy is summarized for:

How long after travel you can request credit If you had to be a member at the time of the flight

Some airlines won’t give you credit unless you were a member of their program when you took the flight. If your airlines has this policy and you just signed up, you’re out of luck.

AirlineDuration of Time After Travel To Request CreditRequirement for Membership at Time of Flight
Alaska Airlines11 MonthsYes
American Airlines12 MonthsNo, but must have joined within 30 days of the flight
Delta Alrlines9 MonthsNo
Frontier Airlines180 DaysNo
Hawaiian Airlines120 DaysNo*
Jet Blue Airways12 MonthsNo*
Southwest Airlines12 MonthsNo
Spirit Airlines30 DaysNo*
United Airlines12 MonthsNo, but must have joined within 30 days of the flight, or pay a $50 fee to request flights taken up to 6 months before joining
*This policy was not explicitly stated on the airline website but was verified through airline representatives.

Most airlines will also allow you to earn credit for partner flights (if you booked your flight through one airline for travel on another). You can request credit for past partner airline flights using the same links.

Bottom Line

If you are new to collecting miles and points, you may be able to earn miles for flights taken up to a year ago. If you already have frequent flyer accounts, you can also go back and request your miles if you forgot to enter your membership number while booking. Each airline has a slightly different policy, so be sure to check out the links above to determine if you are eligible to receive credit for past flights.

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