Mileage Expiration (UA)

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United Mileage Plus Expiration Policy

According to the United Mileage Plus TOS, a member's miles "will expire if there is no current activity for 18 months consecutive."

Again, according to the program's TOS, "Account activity, for purposes of these Rules, shall be deemed to occur when a member accrues mileage in his or her account in any manner set forth in these Rules, or as otherwise approved by United, or when the member redeems any Mileage Plus or partner award by the use of mileage in the member's account."

So What Does This Really Mean?

The long and the short of it is this; if you perform any activity that either adds miles to your account or subtracts miles from your account, the life of your miles are extended another 18 months from the date that activity took place. So, for example, if you make a purchase using your United Mileage Plus Visa card and earn miles, the lifespan of ALL of the miles in your account will be extended for 18 months from the date on which your MP Visa miles post to your account.

Alternatively, if you redeem miles for a ticket, the lifespan of ALL of your remaining miles will be extended for 18 months from the date on which the miles were removed from your account.

The key is to ensure that the addition to or subtraction of miles from your account occurs before 18 months have elapsed since the last addition/subtraction, or you could lose all of your miles!

Some Good Ways to Prevent Mileage Expiration

If your miles are due to expire very soon...

  • Purchase something from FTD or Apple iTunes via the Mileage Plus Mall - though many of the stores in the mall take weeks or even months to post to your account, some claim these two usually post quickly. However, in November 2009, when an iTunes purchase hit a credit card and after a week still had not hit Mileage Plus, United stated that it can take up to 10 weeks for an iTunes / Mileage Plus Mall purchase to post to Mileage Plus.
  • Redeem an award ticket and then cancel it within 24 hours. Your expiration date will be extended 18 months as soon as you redeem miles for an award. The miles will be returned to your account with no charge, as long as you cancel within 24 hours. One can also just place an award ticket on hold, either through the IVR phone system or through an agent; since UA deducts miles when an award is held, that is sufficient activity (you can either cancel the held reservation or just let it autocancel--miles will be returned).

If you want to prevent expiration without spending very much money...

  • Sign up for a United Mileage Plus Visa credit card.
  • Register a credit card you already have with the Mileage Plus Dining program - registration to the program is free, so the only cost is the cost of the meal.
  • Buy a single song from Apple iTunes through the Mileage Plus Mall - you'll only earn two miles, but it will cost you only 99 cents.
  • Transfer miles from another program into United Mileage Plus - Starwood Preferred Guest is probably your best option.
  • Search around for a cheap weekend car rental.
  • Transfer miles from Continental Airlines OnePass into United Mileage Plus. You will need to first link the accounts at United Link Accounts You can transfer as few as one mile, and it will count as account activity.

What You Can Do If Your Miles Have Already Expired

The first thing you should do if your United Mileage Plus miles have expired is review your past hotel, car rental, and misc. other activities to see if you completed any activity that could have/should have accrued miles but didn't. If you find you did, contact the hotel, car rental agency, restaurant, etc and ask them to retroactively credit your miles. The credit will effectively undo the expiration.

If you aren't able to find a viable activity, United offers a Reinstatement option, which allows members to purchase up to the total amount of miles that expired at a cost of $0.0125 per mile (includes 7.5% Federal Excise Tax) plus a $25 processing fee. Depending on the number of miles that expired, this might be a worthwhile option to pursue.

Finally, some members have indicated that when their miles expired they called United and were offered a chance to get their miles back. All they had to do was pay $199 AND take a roundtrip within 90 days. There is no way of knowing whether you might be given the same chance, as this is not a documented policy, but if all else fails it might be worth a shot.