It looks like American Airlines has recently obliterated the frequent flyer miles of many passengers who had no mileage activity in the last three and a half years. They also have a new policy, outlined on their website. The gist of it is this:
AAdvantage members now must have mileage earning or redemption activity once every eighteen (18) months in order to remain active and retain their miles. Effective December 15, 2007, mileage balances will expire from AAdvantage accounts that have not had miles either earned or redeemed within the previous eighteen (18) month period. If the last activity in your AAdvantage account was prior to June 15, 2006, all miles subject to expiration will expire on December 15, 2007.
I'm not fan of frequent flyer mile expiration. On one hand, you could argue that the miles are like coupons. Coupons expire, and 18 months is still pretty generous, and there are many options besides actually flying on that airline for earning miles.
On the other hand, I generally feel like consumers have to constantly watch their own backs to make sure they aren't being taken advantage of, and this just gives us one more thing to watch out for and hope we don't forget about. Once you have enough miles, they're pretty valuable. I wouldn't want to lose something worth $250 or more.
I fly American often enough that I don't even have to think about this policy. If you're worried about losing your miles, though, I think it would be a good idea to make a spreadsheet showing each airline you have a frequent flyer account with, your frequent flyer number, how many miles you have, and the date of your last mileage activity. Then, set an Outlook reminder for six months before your miles are due to expire. When you get the reminder, check to see if your mileage activity date has moved up. If not, make your next online purchase through that airline's shopping network.
I say six months because it can take a long time for those shopping miles to post to your account, and you're better off giving yourself plenty of cushion and getting the miles credited to your account long before your account expires. Technically, the date you make the purchase, not the date the miles are credited to your account, will be your last date of mileage activity, but I wouldn't rely on the airlines to watch out for my best interests. Also, since you have the spreadsheet as backup, the plan doesn't entirely hinge on you sticking with the same computer and never losing the data in your calendar.
If you don't need to buy anything online, you can donate as few as 250 miles to charity and keep your account active. Redeeming miles also counts as mileage activity, thankfully. So that also means that if you're using your frequent flyer miles for travel, your account will stay active.
There's no question that it takes work and attention to detail to stay on top of your financial game. With airlines shortening the amount of time they have to wait before they can steal back all the miles you've earned, those of us who want to take advantage of everything we've earned now have one more thing to keep track of.
Photo by caribb
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