Expiring miles are an interesting thing, programs like them to expire because they hold the miles as a liability on their books and if they expire unused they both save themselves from the expense of redemption and also can recognize any remaining revenue associated with those miles.
At the same time, programs like active, engaged members even more. Because those members are profitable, they make the programs profitable.
Dormant members, though, not so profitable.
Delta was one of the leaders in reducing the length of time it takes for miles to expire down from 3 years to 18 months. having done that, expired tons of miles, cleaned up their balance sheet they now say their miles won’t ever expire.
Eighteen months is the ‘U.S. standard’ though with United and American maintaining that rule.
And when I say that miles expire, what happens in fact is that an account expires. The miles themselves don’t. Expiring miles mean that if those miles go unused then they disappear even if you continue to earn more. That’s what Air Canada’s Aeroplan does after 7 years, and what Singapore Airlines Krisflyer does after three.
Continental used to say that accounts would go inactive without earning or redemption, but in practice they didn’t actually expire dormant accounts. The new United, however, does.
Hotel programs don’t often follow their expiration rules to the letter, though the leter in most cases is even more strict (with a year being standard) than it is for the airlines.
Alaska Airlines publishes a rule that’s a middle ground for US-based airlines — no activity in your account for 2 years and the account is supposed to go dormant.
Account and Mileage Expiration
Mileage Plan Miles do not have an expiration date and may remain in an active account indefinitely, provided that the Mileage Plan Program has not been terminated pursuant to these Conditions of Membership. Activity in an account includes redeeming a Mileage Plan award or accruing mileage in the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Program. However, not withstanding any term to the contrary, if a Mileage Plan account is inactive for 2 years, Alaska Airlines may close the account, delete any mileage balance and reassign the Mileage Plan number. Deleted mileage can be reinstated for a $75 fee for up to 1 year. To reinstate a mileage plan account please contact Customer Care at 1-800-654-5669
But do they actually follow this rule? It’s only one data point and not something I’ve investigated before. But I just noticed an almost-empty account that I manage that hasn’t had any activity in thirty three months. The miles are still there.
Award Wallet warns that the miles may be gone:
And yet – the miles are still there:
What’s been your experience with expiring miles?