For some people, their travels are directly based on how many points and miles they have. I mean, I know that we definitely wouldn’t have stayed in some of the hotels, or flown some of the flights we have, if not for the points and miles Joe has creatively earned. So the last thing you want is to lose them.
There are some ways to lose your frequent flyer miles that you have no control over. But there are others that happen specifically because of what you do…or don’t do. Here’s how to avoid that.
Your miles in some frequent flyer programs never expire. In others, they expire after a certain amount of time of non-usage; that amount varies from program to program. Some airlines say their points never expire; here’s what they really mean when they say that.
Here’s a list of how long you have with a bunch of U.S.-based airlines. It was accurate before coronavirus hit; policies for a handful of airlines have since changed:
- Spirit Airlines points won’t expire as long as you continue to earn or redeem with Spirit or with Free Spirit partners within 12 months (previously 3 months).
- American Airlines automatically extends your mileage expiration date 24 months from the date of your most recent qualifying activity (previously 18 months).
- Hawaiian Airlines miles no longer expire (previously 18 months).
- Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles no longer expire (previously 2 years).
And here and here are a couple of good ways to stop your miles from expiring.
If you’re a pain
The airlines giveth and the airlines taketh away. They make the rules and if you’re a pain, you could pay for it. This case made it all the way to the Supreme Court – a frequent flyer filed 24 complaints about small issues over the course of 6 months, so the airline kicked him out of their program. He fought it and it went to the Supreme Court. He lost. Don’t be a pain.
You sold your miles
Although you earn your miles, they’re not really yours; they belong to the airline. So they’re not yours to sell. Every program’s rules and conditions include a clause about not being allowed to sell your miles. So if you do and you’re caught, chances are good your miles won’t be yours anymore. How can you avoid this? Don’t sell your frequent miles; they don’t belong to you.
You CAN, however, gift, transfer and donate miles legally.
Trying to cheat the system
Frequent flyer miles are intended for people, and only people. Professional cellist Lynn Harrell found that out the hard way. For years he had bought seats for both him and his $5 million, nearly 300-year-old cello. “Cello Harrell” would get its own boarding pass and even collect frequent-flier miles in its own account. Delta warned him about this in 2001 but Harrell persisted and kept doing it. So Delta took back all of his cello’s miles, and his, and permanently kicked them out of the SkyMiles program.
Bottom line: if something is against the airline’s terms and conditions, don’t do it.
If they’re hacked
This is the one instance where you have very little control over losing your miles, but if you’re aware it’s happening, at least you can try to recoup them in a timely manner. Scammers have been obtaining passengers’ frequent flyer miles for several years now. And unfortunately, between data breaches and hacking, they’re good at it. Worse yet, if you don’t check your accounts, you might not even know it’s happened for weeks, months or even years.
You can reduce your risk of being targeted with frequent flyer fraud by using strong passwords that you change often, and using two-factor identification. And never do this with your boarding pass. AND make sure to keep track of your frequent flyer miles – here’s a super easy way to do that.
The airlines feel like kicking you out
This one isn’t so easy, because it’s such a rare occurrence.
Years ago, a small handful of airlines had lifetime airline passes. American Airlines’ AAirpasses were the most well-known. But when they realized how much money they had lost on the passes, especially by those who “overused” them, and figured out ways to make them stop. Read the story in the Los Angeles Times about American Airlines’ investigations into some of the people who bought and “overused” these lifetime passes, if you get a chance – it’s fascinating. The link is in this post.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary
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