Leukemia Is About To Cost This Reader A Huge Mileage Balance

If you’re an American AAdvantage member and you’re Under 21, your miles don’t expire. If you’re a United, Southwest, Delta, Hawaiian or JetBlue member your miles don’t expire.

But if you’re a lifetime elite member of American AAdvantage, having accumulated over 2 million miles, you have to stay on the treadmill of either earning or burning points every 18 months to avoid losing all your accumulated points.

That’s something a reader discovered when she received an email from American Airlines letting her know points would be expiring in a few months. She hasn’t had any activity with American during the pandemic, and while they did pause expiration of points temporarily that has been lifted.

And during the past year she’s been helping her husband battle leukemia. Travel hasn’t been possible for them between the virus and medical appointments. And though she focused her travel on American for years, she’s had to take a break from thinking about that.

She reached out to me because she thought, as a lifetime Platinum member, she wouldn’t have to worry about points expiration. That’s how some loyalty programs handle things but it’s not the American Airlines rule.

Her question to me was whether a new co-brand credit card initial bonus would help here, and of course it would. Fortunately right now it is even easier to extend American AAdvantage miles. I sent her to the AAdvantage 40th anniversary sweetstakes which has a spin-to-win game. Over and over people are reporting back 40 free miles as a common prize.

There are lots of other easy ways to keep miles from expiring, such as:

  • Funding a no fee Bask Savings Account from Bask Bank stick $12 in there and you’ll earn roughly one mile every month and not have to worry about this anymore.

  • Mileage shopping portal make a purchase for something you’d buy online anyway through the AAdvantage shopping portal to earn points.

  • Donate miles activity can be earning or redemption so gifting the minimum miles keeps an account active and can be over and done with after just a few clicks.

    There are other easy ways to earn miles, and less easy ways, and they don’t have to involve travel. For instance taking an opinion survey. Unfortunately American no longer lets you redeem miles for magazines, an easy way I’ve kept Alaska Airlines accounts I manage from losing points.

    There’s no question I personally prefer the bundle of positives and negatives of American AAdvantage. They’ve just eliminated cancellation and redeposit fees on awards for all members, not just Executive Platinum members. Their miles are the ones I’ve redeemed the most, because they have had more partners with more international first class seats available to the places I’ve wanted to go (Qantas, Cathay Pacific, Etihad, Japan Airlines, British Airways).

    However they stand only with Alaska, JetBlue, Spirit and Frontier in the U.S. in expiring miles. That’s something they should consider dropping for lifetime elites.

  • About Gary Leff

    Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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    1. This raises a rather sensitive point but a very relative one regardless. Which points can be transfered or left to someone via a bequest in a will or codicil?

    2. I have the Citi AAdvantage card that has no fee, and gives double miles for grocery purchases. I only use it for the grocery store, but I shop for groceries every week. The monthly AAdvantage miles pretty well guarantee that my miles will never expire, even though I may only get 100 miles per month.

    3. Thanks for the reminder, Gary. I hadn’t played since the game started and I won 4,000 miles then. Today I won 40 miles three times, a free upgrade and also another 4,000 miles!!

    4. @GetToThePoints: Probably not, because the points are personal to you. It depends on the program rules for each program.

      My off-the-cuff suggestion (not legal advice) is to give your personal representative under your financial durable power of attorney (you do have one, along with a health care power of attorney or living will, don’t you??) your passwords for your mileage accounts, and have him/her transfer the points to your beneficiaries’ accounts (paying the transfer fees and following program procedures) just before your death. Or, transfer them yourself when you find yourself unable to fly for the foreseeable future.

      But, do check with your estate planner.

    5. Points/mile expirations are so outdated that all programs should do away with them. She could just visit the AwardWallet blogs and make a comment to earn 5 AA miles. I believe that would be enough.

    6. MilesforOpinions.com lets you earn AA miles with random online surveys. A 5 min survey could net you 20 AA miles. While these small point increments are often not worth the time value, they usually post to your AA account within 48hrs resetting your expiration clock.

    7. The AAdvantage 40th anniversary rewards don’t deposit in your account immediately. I’ve racked up a few thousand miles in daily spins, of which I’ve yet to see any actually hit my balance.

      However, my AAdvantage account has been open for 24-something years, so just on Friday they sent me an email that they’d be gifting me 10,000 miles for tenure as part of the event. That amount already deposited.

      Honestly, based on the event T&Cs, she’s more likely to get miles hitting her account sooner by opening a credit card. At least then she’ll be guaranteed at least 1 mile depositing in around four weeks’ time.

    8. I recently received an email from AA that my miles were going to expire. At least they send out a warning email.

      Solution: Book a ticket with miles. Wait about 10 minutes for the Aadvantage webpage to show your new expiration date. Cancel ticket.

    9. I simply have a small recurring charge made to my Citi AAdvantage credit card each month. I also use the MileUp no fee Citi card at WalMart for some purchases – it’s one of the few cards I’ve seen that gives credit (miles) for purchases at WalMart.

    10. Useful article. Maybe for a future article you can do a summary of the loyalty programs where points expire? I’m sure given the pandemic and lack of business travel many of your readers would find a quick reference chart like that incredibly useful to avoid miles from expiring.

    11. @GetToThePoints I imagine no program will allow you to do this, because you technically do not “own” the points or miles. The airline does, and they allow you to redeem a certain number of the miles they own that you have “earned.”

    12. Monthly charge $8 Netflix extends it every time the dinning program earns miles too for places we happen to go to anyways. As for the opinions we have earned about 15,000 miles… Answer the questions while watching a tv show, takes longer but does not cut into my tim

    13. I have found linking one of my existing credit cards to the Dining Program helps to generate regular activity (at least quarterly). I would dine out anyway so there’s no incremental cost.

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