Update: Now less than 1 week remaining to find old Continental accounts and get them active.
When Do My Miles Or Points Expire?
Miles Expiring? Pick Up A Magazine Or Newspaper Subscription!
Continental’s defunct OnePass mileage program did not have an expiration policy. United’s MileagePlus program required activity every 18 months. Of course when the programs merged in March 2012 they sunk to the lowest common denominator and the United policy stuck.
Now those converted OnePass accounts will expire on 09/30/13 for the first time ever.
I was enrolled in the OnePass program at the age of 4 in 1989. Expiring miles aren’t one of my problems, but it’s entirely possible that you have an account that is also decades old that you forgot about.
You can call United to have them lookup your account number. You may even want to call to find out if you have multiple account numbers as you may have had an old Continental account that was not properly merged with your United account. They can look up accounts with your name and zip code though if it’s an old account you’ll have to remember the zip code that you originally supplied.
When I called for my grandparents they found multiple old accounts which I had United merge into a single account for each of them. They probably signed up on several flights for the miles but never followed up. It is definitely worth calling to see if they can find multiple accounts before those miles are all erased.
Once you have your account info you’ll have several options to get some quick activity which will keep all of your miles alive:
1. United Explorer and Club cardholder’s miles never expire. The card comes with 30,000 miles for spending $1,000 and 5,000 more miles for adding a free additional user.
2. You can transfer points to United at a 1:1 ratio from Chase Ultimate Rewards. These cards include Sapphire Preferred, Sapphire (Non-Preferred), Chase Freedom and business cards like Chase Ink Plus, Chase Ink Bold, or Chase Ink Cash. You or your spouse needs the Sapphire Preferred, Ink Plus, or Ink Bold to actually make the transfer to United.
3. You can get a free magazine subscription starting at just 300 miles. This will extend the life of your entire account balance for 18 months.
4, You can get a free newspaper subscription. In Baltimore you can get the Sun for 800 miles. In Chicago you can get the Tribune starting at 515 miles. In Los Angeles you can get the LA Times starting at 1,560 miles or the LA Daily News starting at 800 miles. In Atlanta you can get the Journal-Constitution for 1,542 miles. In NJ you can get the Star-Ledger from 1,196 miles. Etc.
6. You can buy a $25 Restaurant.com certificate for 500 miles.
7. You can donate 500 miles to a charity.
It’s always better to spend miles then to collect miles as the airlines are always good about collecting your miles which makes it a safer bet. But here are some other options if you’re brave and trust the miles to post on time…
8. It’s generally a terrible idea to transfer Starpoints to United. While transfers to airlines like American, British Airways, Delta, and USAirways are at favorable 20K:25K ratios, transfers to United are at a painful 2:1 or 20K:12.5K ratio. But if you have SPG Platinum status you can transfer 2 Starpoints into 1 United mile. SPG Golds must transfer at least 1,500 points at a time and non-elites have to transfer at least 2,500 points at a time.
9. You can buy items from the United mall though these likely won’t post until after 09/30 and they don’t always wind up getting posted..
10. You can credit miles from a past car rental or hotel stay to United. Just contact the car rental agency or hotel and give them your mileage number. Even when miles have already expired they can be retroactively unexpired by crediting a past rental or stay. I once credited a past Avis stay to my mother’s American account from before it expired in order to retroactively get back every mile that had expired.
11. And finally, you can always redeem miles for a ticket. Award tickets start at 5,000 miles (E.G. one-way HNL-OGG), so you’ll need at least that many for this option. Once the miles are deducted (this can take anywhere from 5 minutes to 5 hours) your account will reflect a new mileage expiration in 18 months from now (currently 03/31/15). You have to logout and log back into your account to see your new expiration.
United does give you 24 hours to cancel award tickets and you can click to cancel the ticket and then click thorugh a few screens to immediately redeposit the miles and receive a refund of the miles and taxes paid. Even once you cancel an award ticket you maintain the extended expiration for your entire account.
Before and after…