American AAdvantage has just updated its mileage expiration policy for the better… I think.
American Airlines’ new mileage expiration policy
Historically American Airlines AAdvantage miles have expired after 18 months of account inactivity. This means that any activity at all — whether earning or redeeming miles — would reset the expiration counter.
For the past few months, American paused the expiration of AAdvantage miles, in light of the current pandemic (as many frequent flyer programs have). As of today AAdvantage miles once again expire, though with a new policy.
As of July 1, 2020, AAdvantage AAdvantage miles once again expire after 18 months of inactivity, unless you’re under the age of 21:
- Once members turn 21, the program’s 18 month policy will take effect, meaning miles will at the earliest expire when you’re 22.5 years old
- If a member who is younger than 21 had miles expire since January 1, 2020, they can request to have those miles reactivated at no cost by calling AAdvantage customer service
As this decision is described, this policy is intended to make it easier for members who may have fewer opportunities to earn miles. Understandably younger people (especially those under 18) may not be able to get credit cards, do online shopping, etc.
AAdvantage miles no longer expire for those under 21
How does this compare to other mileage expiration policies?
Of the “big three” US airlines, American has by far the strictest policy when it comes to miles expiring:
- Delta SkyMiles haven’t expired for members for many years now
- United MileagePlus miles no longer expire for members as of August 2019
Personally I’m not sure I’m in favor of airline miles not expiring. Sure, it seems wholly positive for miles to simply not expire, though it’s also important to keep in mind that there’s significant liability associated with outstanding miles.
There’s a reason airlines expired them in the past — there were billions of dollars worth of unredeemed miles, and realistically a good number of those would have never been redeemed, as there’s always breakage with loyalty programs.
Asking adults to have some sort of activity in a loyalty program at least once every 18 months isn’t exactly a big ask. This could be as simple as making an online purchase through a shopping portal.
Furthermore, as Delta SkyMiles and United MileagePlus miles have moved towards no longer expiring, we’ve also seen the miles issued by the programs become more of a fixed value currency, where you’re getting about one cent of value per mile. I wouldn’t say that’s exactly a great trend.
MileagePlus miles don’t expire for any members as of 2019
AAdvantage miles once again expire after 18 months of inactivity, unless you’re under 21, in which case they don’t.
American’s policy here isn’t as generous as the policies of Delta and United, but personally I don’t mind. Sure, if having miles that don’t expire doesn’t come at any cost to the overall value of the program then it’s a positive. However, given the liability associated with miles, I would assume that it does come at some cost.
Adults needing to have some sort of program activity once every 18 months isn’t much of an ask.
What do you make of American’s new mileage expiration policy? Do you care about program miles not expiring?