When are you awarded your frequent flier miles and the corresponding benefits? For example, if I have 5 miles left before I get to "gold" status and I'm about to depart on a round trip, will I get that status on the outgoing flight, or on the return flight, or not until the next trip I book?

Does this differ between the major airlines? I'm particularly interested in United, American, and Delta.

  • 4
    In my experience, it’s always a few days after each leg.
    – jcaron
    Apr 16, 2019 at 22:37
  • When they say "flyer" they mean the specific person who is flying, and they mean that the person is actually flying. Apr 17, 2019 at 2:09
  • Why not just buy the miles. Most airlines sell them and you aren't buying enough to matter cost wise
    – boatcoder
    Jun 9, 2023 at 18:51

2 Answers 2


In general, you are awarded frequent flyer miles or points for a flight after all stages of the flight have completed, and if you have been aboard for all stages of the flight. For our purposes here I am defining "flight" as a scheduled trip that has been assigned a single flight number.

You can expect this regardless of how many total flights are in your itinerary, so if you are flying COS-DEN-MUC-JNB, you might already have credit for your COS-DEN flight by the time you land in JNB. At the same time, in the unlikely event you deplane at an intermediate stop on a direct flight, you might not get any credit for even the part that you have flown.

The time it takes between completing the flight, having the miles deposited, and having status or other benefits triggered by those miles recognized varies by carrier, especially when you are dealing with credit from partner airlines. "When will my miles post?" is an extremely frequently asked question on FlyerTalk. It's important to remember that loyalty programs are a function of the airline's marketing department, not its operations. Miles don't get added in real time to your account; rather, there are processes that sweep the list of completed flights and corresponding accounts to be credited, and sometimes records can be delayed and miss a sweep.

According to American's FAQ, AAdvantage miles are credited

  • For airline travel: Travel on American is credited to your account 1–3 days from your date of travel. Allow 15 days for credit from other AAdvantage partner airlines.
  • For other partner transactions: Miles earned from other AAdvantage partners are generally credited within 30 days. Occasionally, miles will take longer to post.

For air travel and United Mileage Plus,

Mileage and Premier qualifying credit (where applicable) should be reflected in your account within 48 hours after travel is completed.…

For flights on Star Alliance member airlines and other partner airlines, it may take up to 7 days for mileage and Premier qualifying credit (where applicable) to display in your account…

As for Delta, they do not provide it in a FAQ, but the Request Mileage Credit form states

Most flights will be posted to your account within 24 hours of the flight. However, some partner airline flights may take up to 7 days to post.


In general, miles are only credited to your account after you have actually flown on the flight. This is the case for all the airlines I know of, and I have personally experienced this on United, American and Delta.

If it were otherwise, there would be an obvious loophole: you book a massive itinerary of (refundable) flights for six months from now, collect 100,000 miles or whatever, use those miles to book a simple flight next week, fly it, and then cancel your massive itinerary and get your money back, thus having gotten your simple flight for free.

This is why you hear of people doing "mileage runs": taking a cheap flight near the end of a year that just goes to some destination and straight back, in order to get the miles and pass some threshold for elite status. But they actually have to be on board the flight for this to work.

In the case of a round trip, I think that you usually get the miles for each segment within a few days of flying that segment, without having to wait for the end of the whole itinerary, but this is something that would be wise to double-check with the particular airline.

  • Any tips on how or where to check with a given airline? You're right that this policy makes sense, but I didn't find it by searching their documentation.
    – keflavich
    Apr 16, 2019 at 22:59

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