web Musings of The Global Traveller

Monday, February 01, 2010

Frequent Flyer Mileage Expiry

Edited to add - this post is no longer being maintained. However, my new site at Boarding Area has a mileage expiry post which is being regularly updated.

Prompted by US Senator Charles Schumer's attempt to regulate frequent flyer program mileage expiry, the latest Inside Flyer includes a piece on mileage expiry of frequent flyer and frequent stay programs.

They not only look at the expiry policy, which varies widely between programs, but also at how well it is communicated. I agree with Randy's wish that programs simply state the facts as they apply to each member.

Your miles will expire on {date} unless you {do this}.

Far too many programs either do not make the expiry explicit (forcing their members to hunt for the policy) or just state the policy and leave it to their members to work out what the expiry date actually is.

Here is a quick summary of frequent flyer program mileage expiry policies, in a subjective ranking from least to most restrictive. I've included rather more frequent flyer programs than are included in the Inside Flyer article, but I have not included any of the frequent stay programs expiry policies.

No expiry
Shanghai Airlines
TAP (with fee every 3 years)

No expiry for grandfathered miles
Asiana (miles earned before 30 September 2008)
Korean (miles earned before 30 June 2008)

No expiry with program issued credit card
Lufthansa et al

No expiry with elite status (any elite status unless otherwise mentioned)
Air France/KLM
Air New Zealand (gold and gold elite only)
ANA (diamond only)
Lufthansa et al
Malaysian (platinum only)

3 years after last activity
British Airways
Czech Airlines (redemptions do not count as activity)
Qantas (until 30 June 2010)
Virgin Atlantic

2 complete calendar years after last activity

2 years after last activity
Alaska (account cancellation is not necessarily enforced)
Delta (12 months for brand new members)

18 months after last activity
Continental (account cancellation is not necessarily enforced)
Qantas (from 1 July 2010)
US Airways (can pay fee to extend 18 further months)

10 years after earning
Gulf Air

7 years after earning
Asiana elite members (miles earned before 1 October 2008 are grandfathered)

1 year after last activity or 7 years after earning, whichever comes first
Air Canada (at 7 years after earning can be extended for a fee)

5 years after earning
Asiana non-elite members (miles earned before 1 October 2008 are grandfathered)
Korean (miles earned before 1 July 2008 are grandfathered)

4-5 years after earning
Air New Zealand

3-4 years after earning
Malaysian (can be extended 12 months for a fee)
South African

3 years after earning
Cathay Pacific
El Al
Lufthansa et al
Singapore Airlines (can be extended up to 12 months for a fee)
TAP (can be extended indefinitely, by 3 years at a time, for a fee)
Turkish Airlines

2 years after last flight activity

2 years after last status earning flight (on own metal)

20 months after last status earning
Air France/KLM

1 year after last earning
JetBlue (only earning from JetBlue flights or JetBlue Amex counts)

2-3 years after earning

2 years after earning
Air China

2 years after earning with elite status or airline issued credit card

18 months after earning
Virgin America

1 year after earning

6 months after last time earnt 2000+ miles

I'm not sure why Aeromexico got an Inside Flyer thumbs up when Air France/KLM got a thumbs down. Sure Aeromexico has 24 months expiry versus 20 months, but neither are particularly long and Aeromexico requires earning on an Aeromexico flight in that period whereas Air France/KLM's requirement is for any Sky Team flight.

I don't think the Inside Flyer explanation of how Singapore Airlines miles expire is clear or correct. Expiry is based on the date each mile was earned, regardless of how much or little other account activity there has been since then.


Some of these expiry policies are downright mean. Anything tied to date of earning, or requiring activity more often than once every 2 years has the effect that the frequent flyer program provides very little value for infrequent flyers. It is natural and right for the programs to concentrate on members who are high value to the airline and try to save costs by eliminating low value memberships. However, it is worth them remembering that travellers' circumstances change and an unduly harsh expiry rule can jeopardise a potentially valuable future relationship. Or, if Sen Schumer has his way, result in government interference. No one wants that!

Updated for Aeroflot and Mexicana.


apoivre said...

Hmmm, there's a couple of mistakes

bmi - no expiry (although they reserve the right to close all new accounts that haven't had any activity within 1 year of their creation)

Aeroflot - 2 years after last flight activity

The Global Traveller said...

Thanks, I'll correct Aeroflot.

The 2 years for bmi refers to rule 11.3
"Members who have not recorded any activity with bmi, its Diamond Club partners, or made a redemption with the same parties and other promotional third parties, for a 12 month period, from the date of their last recorded activity on the Diamond Club database, shall be deemed dormant. If no claim is made on any residual Destinations Miles on that member’s account, membership may be terminated after a further 12 months and all remaining miles forfeited."

12 months until dormancy plus 12 months until miles are forfeit.

Gary said...

Thanks for this post. Read the article on a flight the other day and intended to do something similar, glad you beat me to the punch. Singapore also jumped off the page at me as incorrect in the article's treatment.

I haven't figured out Mexicana Frecuenta's expiry, though. You?

The Global Traveller said...

Thanks Gary

I didn't look at Mexicana. They have 18 months after last activity, and this is now added to the post.

Gary said...

Thanks... time to transfer 1 Starpoint, as I've been doing roughly annually for years. hah!

Have about 26k miles sitting there that at some point it'll be easier to use than keep track of...

Troy said...

Just let know that Shanghai Airline miles expire at the end of 3rd calender year after earning

Lynda said...

Good to see that everyone is reading InsideFlyer. I wanted to point out something regarding the article. The thumbs up/thumbs down symbols related to how well the program communicates to their members when their miles/points will expire - not what the policy is. So, if a program's miles expire after one year but they communicate that well to members, they would get a thumbs up over a program with miles that expire in three years but that does not communicate well when those miles will expire.

Regarding Singapore, the mileage expiration policies for all the programs were cut and pasted directly from their program information. The policy published was found in their terms and conditions (warts and all, as they say, since it seems to be misleading, as you pointed out).

The Global Traveller said...

Thanks Lynda. I always read Inside Flyer.

I can see where the confusion arose. Kris Flyer T&C A11 refers to account closure if no activity after 36 months (or 18 if new account). But B17 covers mileage expiry, which is 3 years after earning.