American Airlines Calling! Pay Us So Your Miles Don’t Expire

If you’re not as studious (obsessed) about miles and points as I am, there are lots of little details along the way that can trip you up.  Expiration dates is one of them.  You see, the airlines book those miles as liabilities on their balance sheets.  So, some airlines figure things would be better if they made you use them or lose them.  Different airlines have different opinions about such things.

For example, I can remember Maya Liebman, who used to run American Airlines’ AAdvantage program saying about their 18 month expiration policy at the Randy Petersen Travel Executive Summit (paraphrasing because I’m too old to remember the full quote), “If a customer can’t find one of the many ways to interact with us over a period of 18 months, then they probably don’t value the relationship.”  I see that point.

Jeff Robertson, who runs Delta’s SkyMiles program, said at the same conference that the decision they made to eliminate expiration of miles was based in part on the fact of how upset customers became when they found out Delta “took” their miles back.  They decided for the small price (his rough words) it was worth it not to have some pissed off customers.  I see that point as well.

I use programs like Award Wallet to track my expiration dates, though the airlines have made that tough as well.  So, what do you do, as Joe Public, to keep track of those miles?

That question came up today.  One of my very best friends on the planet called me as I landed on a flight to Denver today.  We were just on vacation together, and we were discussing how difficult it is to keep track of all the various ways to earn and burn miles if you’re not studious obsessed about miles and points.

His call was in reference to the fact that AAdvantage called him to let him know that he had a hefty balance of miles in his account that were due to expire in a few days.  Now, I’m sure other people have gotten phone calls from AAdvantage about expired accounts but I’ve never heard of it.  I’ll take at least part of the blame that we didn’t know his miles were expiring since I help him keep track of such things, but in fairness he never told me there were miles left in that account.

Now, what about the rest of that phone call?  Well, apparently his AAdvantage account had an invalid e-mail address so when they tried to contact him to let him know his miles were expiring, the message bounced.  So, they called.  I still shake my head about that, and not in a bad way.  It’s good customer service, but an even better money making opportunity.  You see, they offered him an 18-month extension on those miles (just over 50,000) for $100.  He said he’d think about it, then called me.  So, let’s do the math.

First, if $100 was the only option, that’s a great deal to keep 50,000+ miles active.  That’s enough for a saver award (off-peak) to Europe and just about enough for a peak saver award ticket to Europe.  I think we’d all agree those tickets are hard to come by for $100.  But, is that really the best option?


You see, any activity would extend the expiration of those miles for another 18 months.  So, you could buy 1,000 miles from American for $66.71.  $33 cheaper than what American offered him and you pick up 1,000 miles.

Pay Us


What if you wanted to do it cheaper?  Well, you could share your miles with someone else.  Sharing 1,000 miles only costs $55 all-in.  I consider that a pretty bad value, though, since you already earned the 1,000 miles and AAdvantage is charging you $55 just to give them to someone else.

Pay Us


And, if you had more than a few days (which is all he has) you could just buy a song from iTunes for a dollar or two through the AAdvantage shopping portal.

Pay Us


I wanted to make sure his miles didn’t go away, so we chose the option to buy 1,000 miles.  It’s likely that the iTunes purchase would have qualified.  But, in the meantime, the miles might have expired and needed to be reinstated.  He’s trying to plan a trip so his wife can go overseas to see their daughter who is in the army and deployed in Germany.  The planning for that trip is imminent, so the “less red tape” option seemed best here.

Bottom line?  I’m impressed AAdvantage called him about expiring miles, for the couple reasons I stated above.  And, it’s just another good reminder that there are lots of ways to keep those miles active.  It’s always important to think of miles and points just like currency.  You wouldn’t throw a $100 bill away, so why let those miles expire?

Have you had any experiences with expiring miles?  Let me know if you have any interesting stories!


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  1. One way to look at it is if $55 (sharing) is the lowest cost to preserve your friend’s miles, and $66.67 (buying) is the higher cost and includes 1,000 extra miles, then your friend would be buying 1,000 miles for $11.67 (~1.2 cpm). It’s a good price to buy miles, but either way you pay the same annoying $55 to keep the account active.

    1. Scottrick, that’s exactly the way I looked at it. I’d pay 1.2 cents for AA miles all day. Just wish I realized sooner he had miles so we could have gone the $1.99 iTunes route. 😉

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