I can only be thankful that it wasn’t worse: last week, I realized that I let my Avianca LifeMiles expire. The good news is that I only had a small handful of miles in my account — just over 7,500 miles. I was lucky to have caught this when I did, otherwise we would have lost another 19,000+ in my wife’s account. I can’t help but kick myself for a stupid mistake here as I should have known better. I certainly won’t let this happen again and hopefully my misstep can prevent any readers from a more significant loss.
Mileage expiration no longer paused
During the pandemic, many airline and hotel loyalty programs paused mileage expiration. Some have continued to extend that pause throughout 2022 (see this post for more detail), but crucially important is that many programs have resumed their usual point expiration policies.
While it is relatively easy to keep Avianca LifeMiles active, they have one of the shortest mileage expiration periods: Avianca LifeMiles expire after 12 months of inactivity. In fact, if you read that post I linked in the previous sentence about keeping LifeMiles active, you’ll see that Greg specifically calls me out for the fact that I’d said I’d park points with LifeMiles if I had to choose a place to transfer before cancelling a card. Here’s a quote from Greg’s post:
Nick states that if he had to dump his Citi Prestige card and was looking for a place to park his points, he would transfer them to Avianca LifeMiles. I think that makes sense, but he will have to make sure to do something proactive to keep his miles alive every year…
Yup, I would need to make sure to do something proactive. And I didn’t, so I lost my miles. Thank goodness it was only a small amount and thank goodness I noticed right away.
How my Avianca LifeMiles expired
I had transferred some miles from Citi to Avianca LifeMiles in January 2021 (enough to have the 7500 miles I’d need for a one-way within a single zone based on the old award chart pricing). I didn’t have an immediate use in mind, but a transfer would keep my account active and give me enough miles to book a route that I’d be somewhat likely to book if and when I got back to traveling by air.
I didn’t end up needing those miles at all last year. I knew that I had miles in my LifeMiles account; I periodically log in to LifeMiles when I’m doing award searches for posts or my own speculative searching for future trips. In fact, that’s how I caught the expiration: I logged in to LifeMiles last week when Tim wrote about cheap United award availability to/from Hawaii and I was trying to cross-reference some availability with Turkish and LifeMiles. I noticed that my balance was suddenly 0 miles and I knew it had previously been north of 7,500. I immediately got that sinking feeling — I knew they must have expired.
Sure enough, when I went to my account history, I saw that they expired at the end of January.
Ugh. How did I not stay on top of that?
Adding insult to injury, Avianca sent me an account update that same day — on Friday, February 11th — showing my January 31st mileage balance. Yup, 10 days after they zeroed out my balance, they sent me an email alerting me to the fact that I still had those miles on January 31st.
Luckily, the number of miles here is pretty small, especially when you consider some of my recent hauls of Membership Rewards points (which also transfer to Avianca LifeMiles). Still, I was quite annoyed with myself because this would have been super simple to avoid.
How to avoid letting your airline miles expire
I have had an Award Wallet Plus subscription for years. When the subject of Award Wallet comes up, there are inevitably some readers who chime to to say how happy they have been with it and a few who wonder why anyone has to use a program to track mileage balances. Some have privacy / security concerns and I totally get that, but the bottom line is that if I had my Avianca account information saved to Award Wallet, this never would have happened.
One of the most valuable features of Award Wallet Plus (and one that I have praised before) is its ability to track point expiration in an unlimited number of programs (I believe that the free version only tracks up to 3 programs). Just a couple of weeks ago, I got a reminder about Amtrak points I have that will expire soon. It’s only a few points and I have no reasonable way to extend those, so I’ll let them expire, but I never in a million years would have either known that I still have some Amtrak points nor when they were set to expire if not for Award Wallet. While it is a shame that American recently stopped Award Wallet from functioning with AAdvantage and there are similar issues connecting with some other US-based programs, Award Wallet is an invaluable tool for me for tracking the many other programs I manage.
In my case, I manage frequent flyer programs for myself, my wife, and in some cases my kids. I have also managed some programs for family members. By my (updated) count, I manage more than three dozen loyalty accounts with points balances. Miles in some of those programs no longer expire, but others (like Avianca LifeMiles!) do. Some have a hard expiration with no way to extend points and others have simple ways to keep points alive. Keeping that all straight is a tall task. Trying to do it on my own is just not realistic.
The problem is that I had gotten lazy. When I set up my Award Wallet account years ago, I had started with just the programs in which I was earning and burning frequently so I could keep an eye out for when miles posted and have a system in place to alert me if someone hacked one of my accounts. Over time, I added accounts here or there when there was a specific reason to do so. One reason should have been to avoid expiration. Unfortunately, I just never made the time to make sure that all of our accounts were in Award Wallet.
Until now. Now, I am much better prepared to monitor this situation so it won’t happen again thanks to this small lesson.
But beyond just trusting Award Wallet to remind me, I’ve now set a phone reminder for January 1st every year to check expiration dates and transfer in the minimum to keep my points alive in each program (or at least those in which I have enough miles to make it worth keeping them active). That’s not ideal if you manage dozens of accounts since it means converting transferable points to a specific airline currency, but it beats losing my LifeMiles again.
Which programs are once again expiring points?
Thankfully, we have a post that outlines the expiration policies of all of the major transferable currency transfer partners. See: How to keep points and miles alive. I updated that post yesterday with any relevant information about temporary extensions (if none is listed, it means that program is enforcing its normal expiration policy). Many programs have returned to their usual expiration policy, so be sure to keep an eye on your points and keep your accounts active.
I lost 7,500 miles that I never should have lost. My own laziness in not updating Award Wallet with all of my award programs has cost me. At a base level, as Citi ThankYou points, those 7,500 Avianca LifeMiles were worth $75 in gift cards or statement credit. While $75 is a relatively small price to pay (I know many people who have lost much larger mileage balances to expiration), it is more than enough to have covered the cost of Award Wallet Plus for a couple of years. In my case, I already have Award Wallet Plus, so it is borderline inexcusable that I let 7,500 miles expire. I have since added our LifeMiles information to Award Wallet and will now keep a close eye on those miles and others set to expire this year to avoid a repeat silly mistake.
Hi, I just bought 1K LifeMiles for $33 to extend my 126K miles that expire 30 August 2022. It did not change the expiration date for another yr. Should it have updated immediately or does it take a few days? Also, do I have to fly by 30 August 2022 or just book something for the future ? thank you
For Amtrak you can sign up with survey points club (www.surveypointsclub dot com) to keep your points active. I think you get points just for signing up, and if you complete a survey every 2 years they’ll stay active.
Definitely a cheap solution.
My co-worker was told by Brex they were shutting him down due to lack of activity. He had 30 days to transfer his points out. He picked Avianca. Then he logged into Avianca and it showed that his points expire in 2 months. Does Avianca have very short shelf lives on point transfer?
No. I think it sometimes takes a few days / week for the expiration date to update.
Yeah…I spent up my lifemiles at Amazon using their extension months ago.
Does anyone know what programs DO NOT work on AwardWallet without a browser extension?
I hate installing those.
BritishAir and Hyatt need it in my limited testing.
Alaska Air and Marriott – works without.
Damn, I just found out I had 70k lifemiles expired Jan 31st. What to do now?
Ugh. I think they offer reinstatement for $10 per 1,000 miles – that would be $700 in your case.
Thanks. But that basically renders the miles worthless. I’m so bummed.
I don’t know whether I’d pay $700, that definitely hurts, but on the other hand 70K would cover two one-way business class tickets from New York to Lisbon on TAP Air Portugal or one-way business class to anywhere in the rest of Europe on Star Alliance airlines (with just about or maybe more than enough miles left over for a separate shorter one-way flight within the US), so it is certainly possible to get far more than $700 in value out of the miles. On the other hand, if you already had cost involved in getting them and/or can generate 70K miles more cheaply (perhaps through MS) then paying $700 might not make sense. I don’t know how long you have to reinstate, but if you find the window is open for a while it’s at least worth keeping in mind in case you find yourself in position to need the miles.
One (positive) caveat to be aware of: https://www.lifemiles.com/help-center
“Every time you earn LifeMiles with your Avianca LifeMiles credit card the validity of your miles will extend for 24 months. For Avianca Elite Members, the validity of all miles in your account extends for 24 months with every accrual of LifeMiles you make.”
On a (negative) related note though: https://www.doctorofcredit.com/banco-popular-avianca-lifemiles-partnership-ends-cards-to-be-closed/
Coincidentally, today I got my renewal notice for AwardWallet plus.
I’m fairly sure that although the free version of AwardWallet only displays expiration for three programs that it still sends the warning emails for all of them.
I don’t stay with Marriot but P2 and I both have Bonvoy accounts in part to transfer small quantities to keep accounts alive. Bonvoy transfers to (almost) anyone. In addition I recently used Bonvoy to top off a LifeMiles account (from 61K to 70K points) to (successfully) book two TAP one-ways JFK->LIS.
I’m fairly certain this is correct. Award Wallet will send you (several) emails and/or app notifications regarding upcoming points/miles expiration on all your programs even if you have the free account. You just can’t see the expiration date for all of them in the app. I was slow to sign up because I didn’t want to take the time to add all of my accounts but really it’s a quick process and clearly totally worth it. It’s saved me from these situations plenty of times. For me it’s the less frequently used programs that are most useful.
Good to know! I haven’t used the free version in years so I didn’t know this.
My wife and I have 60,000 + in separate Life Miles accounts that were to expire August 31, 2022 after a redeposit from a previously cancelled trip. I am planning a trip in September 2022 so needed to extend the expiration date. I transferred 1,000 CITI points to each of our accounts on Feb. 4. The additional points transferred right away, but the expiration date did not change. After 6 days of waiting I called Life Miles and after a difficult conversation, and after the agent consulted with a supervisor twice I was assured the expiration date would be updated in 24 hours. It is now 5 days later, and no change. I will attempt to call again – wish me luck.
In the past when I transfered MRP to Lifemiles I remember it took a while for the expiration date to change. I think it was over a week. Hopefully others with more recent experience will weigh in.
Call yesterday (I think with same rep and supervisor) now say it should change at the end of the week. Will keep you posted.
Finally got our expiration date extended. Miles posted right away, but expiration date took 2 weeks to update.