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One of the worst things that can happen to your American Airlines AAdvantage loyalty account is having your miles expire. After 18 months of account inactivity, your American Airlines miles expire. But it’s easier than you may think to keep your miles from expiring.

American Airlines miles expire
Do American Airlines miles expire? Photo by Quintin Gellar from Pexels

When Do American Airlines Miles Expire?

Your American Airlines miles expire after 18 months of account inactivity. Once every 18 months, you must earn or redeem AAdvantage miles for qualifying purchases. Each time you complete an activity, the countdown clock resets for your entire balance.

Maybe, American Airlines will follow suit as both United Airlines and Southwest Airlines miles no longer expire. Delta SkyMiles also never expire.

Reinstating American Airline Miles

If you miles expire, American Airlines lets you reinstate up to 500,000 miles. But, you will pay a one-time fee. This fee is as little as $40 if you’re reinstating up to 2,000 miles. However, you might pay as much as $2,000 to reinstate between 250,001 and 500,000 miles.

Is it worth it? Yes, if the fee is less than the cash value for the award ticket you have in mind.

You will need to log into your AAdvantage account or call American Airlines customer service to request reinstatement. Your reactivated miles are active for another 18 months before they are at risk of expiring again.

Earning Miles

Acquiring more American Airlines miles might be easier than redeeming miles to prevent your miles from expiring. After all, most miles expire because flyers don’t have enough to redeem for an award flight.

Fly American Airlines

You can earn miles by flying American, American Express, or a Oneworld alliance partner. These partners include British Airways, Qantas, Alaska Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, and others.

Get an American Airlines Credit Card

Another way to make sure your American Airlines miles never expire is to own an American Airlines credit card. American partners with Citi to issue co-brand airline credit cards for personal and business travel.

The good news is that one card has no annual fee. By making small purchases regularly, your miles may never expire. If you’re a casual American Airlines flyer, these credit cards can be your best option.

If you’re interested in no annual fee cards with more flexibility, check out our review of the best travel credit cards with no annual fees

American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp

The American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp has no annual fee. It earns 2x miles on American Airlines and grocery store purchases plus 1x mile on everything else. When you fly American Airlines, you get a 25% in-flight savings for food and beverage purchases.

Learn more about the American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card: Airline Credit Cards

Citi/AAdvantage Platinum Select

This card is a better option if you check a bag. The Citi/AAdvantage Platinum Select earns 2x miles for American Airlines, restaurants, and gas stations spending. All remaining purchases earn 1 mile per $1.

Because this card has a $99 annual fee, you get the most mileage from this card by flying on American at least once a year and check a bag. You and up to 4 companions get one free checked bag. This benefit alone can be worth more than the card’s annual fee for a round-trip.

You also get a 25% savings for in-flight food and beverage purchases and preferred boarding. If you make at least $20,000 in annual card purchases, you also get a $125 American Airlines flight discount.

Buy Miles

Another way to keep your miles from expiring is buying American Airlines miles. Periodically, American Airlines may offer special promotions. You can buy up or gift to another up to 150,000 combined miles each calendar year.

AAdvantage Dining Program

Like other airline and hotel loyalty programs, you can earn American Airlines miles by dining at select restaurants, bars, and clubs. To earn the miles pay with your linked credit or debit card.

You can link up to 6 credit cards and earn up to 5 miles per $1 if you dine regularly. These bonus miles are in addition to anything you earn with a co-brand American Airlines credit card.

Check out the best credit cards for restaurants and dining if this is something of interest.

Shop AAdvantage Retail Partners

You can earn bonus miles by making online purchases at the various AAdvantage eShopping mall partners. Link one of the best credit cards for online shopping to your purchases to boost your point earning opportunity.

Over 950 brands offer bonus American Airlines miles. It’s easy to maximize your daily purchases. Here some of the best ways to earn the most miles with your purchases:

  • Book hotel nights at IHG (3 miles per $1)
  • Shop at high-end retailers like Macy’s or Saks Fifth Avenue Off 5th (Up to 10 miles per $1)
  • Switch home internet or cable TV providers (Up to 5,000 miles)
  • Order flower delivery from FTD (20 miles per $1)
  • Buy broadway tickets at Audience Rewards (Up to 2,200 miles per ticket)

It’s also possible to earn bonus miles by applying for new loans, taking online surveys, or selling your home.

Redeeming American Airlines Miles

Using your miles for award flights on American Airlines and partner flights or for other rewards also prevents your points from expiring. In general, your points are most valuable when redeeming for award flights.

Award Flights

Flights shorter than 500 miles within the continental U.S. and Canada only cost 7,500 miles (plus fees and taxes). Longer flights cost 12,500 miles each way for the main cabin flight.

A one-way flight in the main cabin can cost the following amount:

  • Carribean, Mexico, Central America, and Alaska: 15,000 miles
  • Hawaii: 22,500 miles
  • Europe: 30,000 miles
  • Asia: 35,000 miles
  • South Pacific: 40,000 miles

You can also use your miles to upgrade your travel reservation.

Admirals Club

If you have always wondered what it’s like to step inside an Admirals Club airport lounge, now you can. You can buy a pass with cash or points. A new individual annual pass costs 65,000 miles for AAdvantage members. A new household pass costs 125,000 miles.

Cars, Hotels, and Vacations

Another travel redemption option is exchanging your American Airlines miles for hotels, rental cars, and vacation packages. Your points are likely to be worth less than 1 cent each.

For example, you might pay 46,700 miles to spend one night at a Hotel Indigo in Asheville, NC. Or, you pay $280.33 cash for the same room. At this rate, using your miles can be better than letting them expire. But, you should try booking an award flight first.

Magazines and Newspaper

A low-cost option is redeeming miles for magazine or newspaper subscriptions. You can buy plenty of annual magazine subscriptions for 800 miles or less. This might be your best option to not let American Airlines expire when you’re not ready to buy more with cash.

Identity Monitoring

If you are considering using LifeLock, you can use American Airlines miles to pay for a subscription. You get 6 months of LifeLock Standard for 2,500 miles. Then you’ll also get 10% off the annual subscription price.

Charity Donations

You can also donate balances larges than 1,000 to select charities. If your balance is less than 1,000, you will need to donate your entire balance.

Summary

American Airlines miles expire every 18 months when you don’t add or redeem miles. Doing one of the above activities preserves your remaining account balance. If you want peace of mind, you may consider getting a co-brand American Airlines credit card that earns AAdvantage miles on every purchase.

Josh Patoka

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Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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