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I have about 35k AAdvantage miles with American Airlines that are about to expire. I understand that if I fly with American this will reset the clock for another 18 months. (Alternately I could spend money to save the points)

But what I am not clear on is do I need to fly before the points expire, or simply book a paying flight with American?

I had intended on using the miles to purchase a trip in 2019, but the number of miles exceeded my balance, and the cost to buy miles to make up the difference was actually more that just buying the flights outright.

Update

In order to keep my miles I used the AAdvantage shopping site to make an online purchase at a partner company that would credit me with a minimal amount of mils (and boy was it hard to decide on a purchase just for the sake of a purchase)

I completed this transaction before the expiration date of my miles. However an email from AA advised me that it could take 3 to 5 days for the points to be credited. This would put the credit after the expiration date.

The day after the points were due to expire they were still there, so I thought I was good. But now they have disappeared, so I am about to have an nice discussion with AA about pending transactions getting the points back.

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    The easiest thing is to donate 1000 miles to a charity. It's immediate, and there's no worrying about missing or late credit from a third party partner. Spending on a magazine subscription has also been cheap and easy for me in the past. – choster Dec 7 '18 at 13:16
  • You are not going to get very far with AA for reinstatement, unless you pay for their reinstatement. The date of a transaction where you might get credit is irrelevant per the T&C; the date the credit actually appears in the count is what matters, which is why I recommended spending a token amount. Deductions tend to be immediate, whereas credits from third party partners can take months. – choster Dec 10 '18 at 16:58
  • @choster It may not work, but not complaining guarantees that I won't get he points back. But I am not holding my breath over this. – Peter M Dec 10 '18 at 17:07
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How can I keep my miles from expiring?

Just earn or redeem miles on American or with an AAdvantage partner at least once every 18 months. We’ll automatically extend your mileage expiration date 18 months from the date of your most recent activity.

Your wallet shows the number of miles you have and the earliest date they could expire.

You need to earn or redeem the miles before the expiration date. Since you earn miles for flights on the day you take them, not the date you buy the tickets, you'd need to fly before the miles expire, not just make a booking.

However, anything that earns or redeems miles is sufficient to keep them from expiring. There are a whole bunch of ways to earn a few miles, including shopping and restaurants, other purchases, credit cards, hotel and rental cars, etc... There are a few programs that provide miles for taking opinion surveys; those might be a free option, though you'd have to check the fine print to see when the miles are credited and how much you have to do to earn them.

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I believe you have to actually earn miles to reset the expiration clock, and this only happens when you actually take the flight. Just booking it doesn't count.

You have some other options, though, besides paying to keep them active:

  • You may be able to earn miles if you stay at a hotel, rent a car, or various other travel services. See if the provider has an option to accept your frequent flyer number.

  • You can earn miles through the "AAdvantage Eshopping Mall", which is basically a set of affiliate links for a lot of online retailers. You may be able to buy something you needed anyway, and even if you only earn a handful of miles, it still resets the expiration clock.

  • You can donate some miles to a charity.

  • Looks I might be shopping then as I am not traveling before they expire – Peter M Dec 7 '18 at 0:02

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