The American Airlines points program, called AAdvantage, is how American Airlines thanks its customers for continued loyalty and how frequent flyers can earn miles that stretch their money farther. If you qualify for the AAdvantage program and want to know how to keep your account active, find out how to prevent your miles from expiring.
In a nut shell, you need to earn more miles or redeem what you already have to keep your points active. Flying is just one way to earn and keep miles from expiring, but it might not be the most convenient choice. There are countless other ways to earn miles through American Airlines that don’t involve boarding a plane at all, and plenty of ways to redeem miles too. Keep reading for 14 simple tips that will keep your points active.
In this post you'll learn:
Do American Airlines Miles Expire?
Yes, American Airlines miles do expire, but it takes 18 months of inactivity for this to happen. This is a relatively short expiration period, but it can easily be reset (an option that not all airlines offer).
Qualifying activity includes earning or redeeming miles, so all you have to do to keep the miles in your account from lapsing is to use miles or get more. And as soon as activity is registered on your account, the expiration date is automatically reset to 18 months from the time of most recent activity.
At this time, American Airlines is extending the expiration period for miles set to expire between April 2nd and June 30 of 2020 to July 1st due to travel restrictions and stay-at-home orders that make it harder to get and use points. So you might not have to worry about keeping your miles just yet, but you’ll want to know how to when that time comes.
You don’t have to fly to earn miles, and you don’t even have to fly American if you are going somewhere. A trip through any of American Airlines’ one world or other partner airlines counts and will help you get points. Your miles can then be put toward American or partner flights, once you have enough.
So if you’re already planning to go somewhere, make sure you maximize your spending—and reset your account—by flying American or an American partner.
Use Your Miles to Shop
The AAdvantage e-shopping mall provides an opportunity for members to earn points per dollar spent at over 950 online stores. There are many participating stores to choose from, and the portal lets you sort these by name or earn rate, top stores, featured deals, store type (including at home comforts, food and drink, entertainment and education, and more), and trending stores.
But don’t think that shopping through a portal means your options are limited. This is far from the case, as you’ll have access to popular brands and companies like Apple, Nike, and Target. Some places will only give you a point per dollar spent, but some will give you seven. Keep in mind that earning even just a few miles is enough to prevent your balance from expiring.
Your first thought when you need new clothes, tech, or other household essentials might not be to make your purchases through American Airlines, but as long as this thought occurs to you at least once every 18 months, you could keep your American points active through online shopping alone.
Enroll in the AAdvantage Dining Program
Just like everyone has to shop, everyone has to eat, and American Airlines is prepared to reward you with more than just a full stomach when you dine at any of their 10,000 restaurant partners. AAdvantage Dining lets you earn miles per dollar when you eat out at thousands of local and nationwide establishments that you probably already eat at anyway. You won’t earn a whole lot unless you do this often, but at least your points won’t expire.
Just input your location into the search tool to see your options and find out how many miles you can expect to earn.
More miles than you know what to do with? Share them with someone else. Transferring miles to another person’s AAdvantage account will incur fees of $20 or more per 1,000 miles (login here for current rates) and processing fees on top of that, but it’ll also keep your points active, so it may or may not be worth it. You may transfer no more than 200,000 per year and transfers are not reversible or refundable. Keep this option in mind for when other methods, for whatever reason, aren’t going to work.
Use the BGT Portal to buy, gift, or transfer miles.
Full disclosure: this is not the most practical or economical way to keep your points active, but it’s a choice nonetheless. Buying more miles will cost upwards of $30 per 1,000 miles and at least as much in processing, but you can do this quickly and easily in a pinch and it’s better than coughing up the cash to have miles reactivated if they expire. Plus, there are often promotions that’ll essentially match the miles you buy, making the fees more worthwhile.
Get (And USE) an AAdvantage Credit Card
Using an American Airlines branded travel credit card is one of the easiest ways to earn miles without having to remember to do anything special. With one of the following four CitiBank / AAdvantage credit cards, you can earn miles for everyday spending on groceries, American Airlines purchases, food and drink, gas, and nearly anything else.
American Airlines credit cards include the:
- AAdvantage MileUp card
- Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select card
- Citi / AAdvantage Executive card
- CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select card
Each card has its own unique perks, but all of them have mileage benefits (as well as travel discounts and perks). The MileUp card, for example, earns 2X miles at grocery stores, the Platinum Select earns 2X miles at restaurants and gas stations, the Executive card earns 2X miles on American Airlines purchases, and the Platinum Select business card earns 2X miles on cable and satellite purchases. No matter how you do most of your spending, one of these is likely to fit your lifestyle.
You probably don’t need to be told to not get credit cards you don’t need or for the miles alone, but one of these travel cards may just be right up your alley. And because there is no limit to the number of miles you can earn, spending with one of these cards might also be the perfect way to not only keep your points active but earn rewards effortlessly. Just be aware that some of these cards have annual fees.
Book a Hotel Stay
If using your credit card isn’t simple enough, the AAdvantage program makes it possible to earn miles in your sleep—as long as you’re sleeping in an American Airlines partner hotel. With big-name partners like Hyatt, Marriott, and Best Western, you can find a participating hotel just about anywhere in the world.
You can either stay at a partner hotel to earn miles—either flat rate or per dollar miles—or convert hotel points to American miles, and both of these actions count as qualifying activity on an account. You’ll maximize your return by staying at a partner hotel, so if you know ahead of time that you’ll be traveling, do this rather than converting points afterward (hotel points are not redeemable for an equal amount of airline points, so converting should be a last resort).
Book a Cruise
You might not associate cruises and flying with each other, but maybe you should. Similar to the partner hotel program, the American Airlines cruise program grants members miles when they take to the seas. Earn bonus miles well into the thousands per cruise when you book through American Airlines Cruises, with fares backed by a 110% best price guarantee (if you find a better price somewhere else within two days of booking through American, you’ll be refunded 110% of the difference).
Cruise lines like Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and even Disney participate in this program, so don’t worry about not finding the trip you’re looking for. Tickets are sold at exclusive American Airlines discounted rates and, of course, earn major miles. Through June 30, 2022, earn one AAdvantage mile per $1 spent on cruises up to 10,000 miles.
Rent a Car
AAdvantage members can also earn when renting cars—at least 500 miles per rental day, in fact. When you book a car with American Airlines, you can rent through car rental programs including but not limited to Budget, National, Avis, and Hertz. Today’s featured deals, valid through May 31, 2020, include:
- Save up to 35% and earn 1,000 bonus miles through Avis
- Save up to 30% and earn 1,000 bonus miles through Budget
Save With Bask Bank
Want a way to earn miles while saving money? Bask Bank—an online, FDIC-insured bank that offers the only savings account that earns miles instead of interest—can make that happen. Right now, they are offering 5,000 miles when you deposit $5,000 into a savings account and maintain this balance for at least 30 days. Rather than an interest rate, you’ll earn a mile on the dollar with this account.
A single AAdvantage mile is estimated to be worth 1.4 cents, so you’re looking at sizable returns if you go this route. However, unless you fly a lot, you probably don’t want all of your interest in the form of miles; but if you do, this is an easy way to keep the deposits coming and your points active.
Sign up for e-Rewards or Miles for Options
American Airlines and other companies want your feedback, and they want it so badly that they’re willing to give you miles for it. Get 250 AAdvantage miles just for signing up with e-Rewards, an online market research community, then keep answering surveys of your choice (they don’t all have to be about flying) to earn e-Rewards currency that can be converted into miles. You’ll need a balance of $12 or more in e-Rewards to redeem, and these can be redeemed as miles.
You can also (or instead) sign up for Miles for Opinions, an American Airlines partner with a similar program. Participate in any surveys, panels, or focus groups you’d like to and receive miles deposited directly into your AAdvantage account.
Enroll in LifeLock
Protect yourself from identity theft and get 12,000 miles by enrolling in a LifeLock membership. You’ll need to be an active member for 31 days before the miles are yours, but then you’ll get even more (dependent on membership plan) in the second and third years of your membership if you choose to continue your LifeLock protection.
LifeLock will monitor your SSN and credit activity and scan for potential threats for $8.99/month (standard) and bank and investment activity on top of that for $22.49/month (ultimate plus). Obviously, signing up for a new identity theft protection service isn’t exactly going to save you money, but it’s something to consider if you want this type of insurance anyway.
Donate to Charity
If you’re feeling charitable, consider donating to an organization in collaboration with American: Stand Up to Cancer. This charity is committed to researching cancer treatments and cures, and American Airlines is committed to helping them do that by presenting members with the option of donating to earn miles. You’ll get 10 miles for every dollar you give over $25, and this action can be performed at any time. Just make sure to donate through American Airlines to get your miles.
Donate Some Miles
If you don’t want to donate cash for miles, you can go a slightly different route and donate your miles. This is an especially good option if you don’t have enough points to help with flight costs and/or want to support a worthy cause for no additional cost.
Donate miles to any of the following programs:
- Miles for Our Well-Being, which supports the health and wellness of patients in partnership with Stand Up to Cancer, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, and Make-A-Wish
- Miles for Our Heroes, which honors American military service members in partnership with Medal of Honor, the George W. Bush Institute, and the Gary Sinise Foundation
- Miles for Our Social Good, which performs humanitarian work in partnership with the Red Cross, Feeding America, and UNICEF.
There is no minimum donation required and donations made in this fashion are not tax-deductible.
How to Reactivate your AA Miles
You can reactivate your AA miles if they’ve expired, however American Airlines will charge a fee to do so.
If you decide to go this route, you have one of two options:
- Online by logging in to your account.
- By calling customer service at 800-882-8880 or your elite reservation number. Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 7 p.m. (CT).
You can reactivate up to 500,000 miles within 18 months of their expiration.
Since there are so many ways to earn and redeem miles, there’s no reason that your AAdvantage points need to expire before you can use them—to let this happen is not only wasteful but entirely avoidable. If you follow these tips and tricks, it’s easy to keep your account active and maximize your earnings.
But if you regularly come close to letting your points expire, keep in mind that adding more points to your account is only going to drive your total miles up and you’ll still have to use them at some point. There are certainly worse problems to have than too many miles, but the AAdvantage loyalty program isn’t going to do you much good if you’re not using your points.