Do Alaska Airlines Miles Really Expire?

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?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. There are numerous anecdotes on the AS forum on FlyerTalk that confirm that accounts do close after two years (although I don’t know if it’s two years to the day–those who let their accounts expire rarely pay attention that closely ;)) and members had to pay the $75 fee to reopen the account.

    I did see one anecdote of someone opening an AS Visa, which caused an old account with a decent mileage balance in it to reopen free of charge. Loophole? 😉

  2. In Brazil this is common… TAM Fidelidade miles expire after two years and Gol Smiles miles expire after three to five years depending on the person’s tier. Also, most credit cards also have expiring dates for miles, ranging usually from one to three years. No wonder mileage programs are so profitable, given that most people are unable to accrue enough miles to issue a ticket.

  3. Do SQ points expire after 3 years, even with additional account activity? I transferred 60k points from Amex last year to SQ, but had to cancel the trip later on and have them redeposited, so i am sitting on 60k SQ points.

  4. Maybe they don’t care about the unredeemable 715 miles (AFIK there are no ways to redeem so few miles) and hope you fly them again if they keep the account open. I had 70k miles on my account and my close-to-expiration date Hertz transaction did not post–they DID close down my account (and later reinstated it).

  5. @Denis – the problem with the Brazil programs like Tam and Gol is that they are two of the few airline programs that have a set expiration date for your miles, regardless of activity. It becomes a race against the clock for the average leisure traveler to accumulate enough miles to get an award, before the oldest of those miles expires from the account.
    For me, that’s the biggest reason why Tam and Gol programs are to be avoided, among many others.

  6. My perspective is a bit different. I have been out of the game for about 10 years- and just reinstated all my accounts. Only miles or hotel points still there are from Delta. Their award chart may not be the best- but at least I can still use the chart, even after a decade- and when that is figured into valuation Delta points are worth a whole lot more than most people calculate them at.

  7. I had miles expire out of my AS account, but I had never credited an AS flight—all the miles were from Amtrak back when AS used to give credit for mailing in Amtrak tickets.

  8. I have an AS account with 40K+ miles in it. I received an email from Alaska informing me that my account will go inactive in ~120 days, and urging me to generate activity. I found it classy of them to warn me.
    I signed up for MP Dining and will generate a few miles that way.

  9. I just scheduled a flight after several years of not flying, only to find my account was gone. I called and they reinstated my account without the fee. However I told them that this policy has made me rethink my loyalty to Alaska Airlines. They don’t seem to realize that though I haven’t flown in a few years, I will still fly at some point, and maybe much more. To alienate members like this seems to me to be bad for repeat business, even if the business isn’t in the immediate future. I think I may start using SouthWest Airlines more often now that I’m flying again.

  10. The account was deactivated for me. I had no additional activity for 2 years, and the account was deactivated in Feb 2013. Now I’m trying to get it reactivated by applying for one of the Alaska Airlines credit cards.

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