How to Get Your Expired American Airlines AAdvantage Miles Back

Update 1-7-13: Good news – looks like American Airlines has extended this challenge until March 31, 2013.

As a points and miles fanatic, it sends chills down my spine when I hear stories about people who miss out on free travel opportunities by letting their unused miles expire. As a matter of fact, the truth is that close to 40% of earned frequent filer miles expire without ever being used (thank goodness for AwardWallet – can’t imagine my life without it!). It’s especially bothersome to me when I personally know someone who has suffered from a mileage-loss; and the seed of inspiration for writing this post comes from just that…

My dad recently told me that my aunt lost all of her hard-earned AAdvantage miles due to account inactivity. Though my aunt’s attitude was, “oh well”, I, on the other hand, started researching solutions for her. The good news is that there is hope for those who might be in the same boat. Getting your miles back could be as simple as spending $30 and completing a re-engagement challenge. Here’s how:

With American Airlines’ AAdvantage Program, there are two options to reinstate your expired miles at the moment. The first option (the more expensive one) is to reactivate the account, but that’s going to cost you between $200 and $600 depending on how many miles you’ve had.

The second option is to participate in a “re-engagement challenge” whereby you pay a $30 non-refundable registration fee, and you complete specific AA and/or partner mileage-earning activity within 6 months of registration. This challenge is valid on miles that expired on or after December 31, 2002, so you can go as far as 10 years back on this one. After looking over the requirements, it seems like a no-brainer if you’re planning on flying AA sometime soon. For example, you can restore up to 50,000 of your expired miles simply by taking a purchased round trip flight. Take a look at the specific details of the challenge found in the image below (click to enlarge):

As far as the round-trip, no minimum distance is necessary, so any short hop would suffice. Also, while credit card sign-up bonuses do not qualify for mileage activity in the challenge, earning extra miles hrough the online shopping mall and/or regular credit card spend would.

If you’re interested in enrolling in this challenge, you’ll need to call AAdvantage at  1-800-882-8880 (select “AAdvantage Account” on main menu), and ask the agent to register you for the re-engagement challenge.

Has anyone had any success with this in the past? If so, please share your experiences.

Of course, as a future note, you can skip this challenge all together simply by being more aware of your account balances and expiration dates. Like I mentioned earlier in the post, I use AwardWallet to keep track of my points and miles balances (though unfortunately American Airlines no longer allows you to track your AAdvantage miles with AwardWallet anymore… boo).

So what are some ways to keep your mileage balance active so you’re not a victim of the dreaded mileage-expiration? Without going into a lengthy post with ideas to keep your account active (hint: that post may be coming very soon), I’ll leave you with some simple suggestions:

You can keep your points and mileage account balances “active” simply by joining a dining program, spending with a co-branded credit card (such as the Citi® Platinum Select® / AAdvantage® Visa Signature® Card which I have and love), making a purchase through the shopping portal, or by participating in several of those free points and miles promotions that pop up here and there. Be on the lookout for a more detailed post with more ways to keep your accounts alive very soon!

For now, keep track of those miles, and don’t let them go to waste!

Related Post:

36 Easy Ways to Prevent Miles and Points From Expiring (And Earn Some Too!)

Let’s connect: Twitter | Facebook | Subscribe


  1. Scott says

    i know i had some expire several years ago, but don’t know how many, and if $30 is worth it to get them back, any way to find out expiration history?

  2. Danny says

    Great post!!
    I had 23K miles that had expired (flew as a kid and started flying again for work) but never wanted to pay to reinstate.

    I just called and AA allowed me to join the program, though I already travel weekly with them, and will be getting back 23K miles for $30.

  3. Judy says

    Thanks for the excellent tip.

    I lost about 63,000 miles after switching my email address from AOL to gmail, without telling AA.

    I registered and paid the $30, then flew business class LHR-LAX on BA, returning via LAS on AA and LAS-LHR on BA, again business
    class, a round trip of over 10,000 miles. About 10 days after my return, 50,000 of my 63,000 expired miles were restored (hurrah!) – but what about the other 13,000?

  4. Cindy says

    Hi Angelina- I’m new and it looks like it’s been 6 months or so since this post. Do you know if this challenge is still available? I was aghast to see that I let 39,000 American miles expire in 2009. It’d sure be great to get those back for $30 and a flight. Please say yes…

  5. Bruce says

    I have 104,000 AA miles that have expired. I don’t think I am going to make qualifying trips on AA or one of the specified partners within 12 months, so I am thinking that I will pay $600 to reactivate. Do you think that is worth it?

    • says

      @Bruce: Personally, I think you can take a cheap flight just for the miles (and you’ll earn some too). Say if you live in NYC, do NYC to Boston or DC for way under $600 to re activate your miles. If spending $600 is your only option – then yes, I think it’s worth it, but a short flight is a better choice IMHO :)

  6. Alex. says

    Great Post!
    BTW, I had this problem and lost 59k miles!
    Thankfully, I noticed it within 7 days after expiration and the fee to get them back again is 100USD up to 50k and 150USD for +50k.
    After 7 days, you will have to go through the 200-600USD or 30USD plus round trip.

  7. Dean says

    Thanks for posting this–I lost my miles in the depths of the recession when we did not go anywhere for almost 2 years.
    I just called the AA number you provided (had to speak directly to an agent)–and although you can’t find the offer on the web site, the agent on the phone still offered the $30 registration before taking a flight-and that would indeed restore my almost 40,000 miles.

  8. jon says

    I tried to pay the $30 fee with my debit card-there was some problem with the zip code.
    now I am in Hong Kong and the AA office here can’t receive my payment.
    is AA self-distructing?
    why should they hold my miles ransom anyway?

  9. nosrat says

    Hello everyone;
    American took away my 2,000,000 miles (that is NOT a typo, I had 2 million miles) saying I was selling my miles (I was not). I have been looking for a lawyer to try to get them back, but no luck finding one. Does anybody have a suggestion? Thanks

  10. AJ says

    It turns out miles that expired more than 5 years ago are not able to be brought back using the re-engagement challenge =( I was given the option to buy 5,000 miles for $200.

  11. Jula says

    Thank you Angelina. I have great news! I just got 32,000 miles back for $32.00 that had just expired this past January!! I am so excited!! I used the challenge since I had already bought tickets and I am flying south in a month. The challenge is still on people. Mention it when you call.

  12. Chilled says

    Wow. Great!

    I was confused amid the merger of AA and USair so I blewed all my mileage more than 100K last month. I am trying tonight! Thanks!

  13. Sharon Mann says

    So, I have an AAdvantage credit card with my husband as primary. I went to reinstate our miles since I’m planning a flight soon and was told that it had to be him taking the flight even though when I charge my flight on the card, he gets the miles. Seems like if he gets the miles, it doesn’t matter who’s taking the flight. Any thoughts?

  14. William says

    I just called in to activate my reengagement program. I was told that using the Citi AAdvantage card bonus earned miles would count towards the miles earned requirement. Has anyone else heard this or can confirm?

    • says

      Hmmm that’s interesting. I wonder if she was confusing the engagement challenge with miles earned with credit card spend as a way to not let your miles expire in the first place. I have not heard of this before.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *