We’ve all been there. You show up to the airport, take your flight, and realize you forgot to add your frequent flyer number to the reservation upon landing. Maybe it’s your first time flying a new airline, or perhaps someone booked the flight for you. Regardless of the reason: you earned zero miles on your flight.
Thankfully, you’re not totally out of luck. Many of the major U.S. airline loyalty programs let you retroactively claim miles for flights. Even better, some let you do this if you weren’t a loyalty member when you flew.
That said, it can be difficult to claim these miles. Many airlines hide retroactive crediting deep within their websites. So in this article, we’ll run through how to retroactively credit flights to all of the U.S. carriers.
But first, we want to walk through a couple of best practices to follow as a points and miles traveler. These will ensure that you’ll always earn miles for your paid flights and give you leverage for requesting credit after the fact.
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Sign-up for frequent flyer accounts before you travel
We highly recommend that points and miles newcomers sign up for accounts with all the major U.S. airlines and hotels before traveling. Even if you don’t have immediate plans to travel, this will make it easier to earn miles when you head out of town.
Additionally, you can credit flights on alliance partners to these accounts. So if — for example — you find yourself booked on a Lufthansa flight, you can add your United MileagePlus number to the reservation. You’ll earn points per United’s Lufthansa earn rate.
On the airline side, you’ll want to sign up for accounts with the Big 3 (American, Delta and United) and some of the major budget carriers. Here’s a list:
- American Airlines AAdvantage
- Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan
- Delta SkyMiles
- JetBlue TrueBlue
- Southwest Rapid Rewards
- United MileagePlus
On the hotel side, we recommend signing up for accounts with Hilton Honors, World of Hyatt and Marriott Bonvoy. There are other major hotel groups too, but these are the hotels you’re most likely to encounter when traveling in the U.S.
Add these account numbers to the Notes app on your smartphone and refer to it whenever you book a flight or hotel room. This way, you’ll never miss out on valuable points and miles when you travel for work or fun.
Regularly conduct frequent flyer account audits
We recommend performing an audit on all of your frequent flyer accounts with a balance – even if you didn’t earn points in a given month. Doing this keeps you safe from fraud, as you can see if miles mysteriously disappeared from your account.
Performing a mileage audit is simple. Just log in to each of your accounts and make sure that all of the flights you’ve taken have posted to your account. Additionally, check that all credit card spend, shopping portal purchases, dining rewards and other points you should have earned appear correctly.
If you see that you never earned miles for a flight, follow instructions for retroactively claiming miles later in this article. On the other hand, if miles from credit card spending never appears, you may need to call your bank to ensure it has the correct frequent flyer number.
Don’t see miles in your account right away? Don’t worry – most airlines take at least 24 hours to post miles earned from flights to your account, though some are getting much faster.
Additionally, it can take even longer if you’re crediting a partner flight from one airline to another (say, crediting an Air France-operated flight to Delta). However, if you don’t see a flight post to your account after a week or so, it’s time to request retroactive credit from an airline.
Save your receipts and boarding passes
One last thing before we start: save all of your boarding passes and flight ticket receipts until the flight posts to your frequent flyer account. You’ll need information from these if you need to request retroactive flight credit later down the line.
Digital boarding passes are great for this — just save them to your phone’s wallet app, so they don’t disappear after the flight. You’ll also want to save email confirmations with ticket numbers, as you’ll often need this information for crediting miles after a flight.
Retroactive credit policies for each airline
Now let’s move on to actually requesting retroactive credit for your past flights. Each airline has a different policy around this. For example, some airlines require you to claim credit within a set amount of time after taking a flight. Others require that your account is open for a specific amount of time before you fly, making our earlier point about creating accounts ahead of time even more critical.
Here are the specifics for the major US airline loyalty programs. We’ve included the link to the corresponding policy, how to request credit, and important dates and other restrictions to bear in mind.
Alaska Airlines has one of the most restrictive retroactive flight credit policies. For example, you must be a member at the time of travel to request mileage credit without exception.
To request flight credit, go to this page on Alaska’s website, fill out your info and upload a copy of your boarding pass and ticket receipt. You can request credit for both Alaska Airlines-operated and partner flights.
Here’s what you need to know:
- When to submit: At least seven days after Alaska flight date or 14 days after partner flight
- Deadline for submission: Within 11 months of travel
- Need to be a member at the time of travel: Yes
American AAdvantage members have a little more lenience when requesting retroactive flight credit. For American and most partner flights, you need to enter your ticket number and AAdvantage number on its flight credit request site.
If you’re missing miles from a partner flight, be sure to review the individual carrier’s page as some that can’t be requested online. For example, you can claim miles for Iberia-operated flights using the link above. However, if you flew on Iberia Express, you must fax in the mileage credit request (817-963-7882).
Here are the details:
- When to submit: At least three days after the flight date for American-operated flights, or 30 days for partner flights
- Deadline for submission: Within 12 months of travel
- Need to be a member at the time of travel: No, but flights more than 30 days before your enrollment date are not eligible for mileage credit.
Delta Air Lines
Like American, Delta makes it easy to request mileage credit for past flights using an online form. Better yet, it has one of the more lenient policies regarding flights taken before enrolling.
To request flight credit, just log into your Delta SkyMiles account, go to your account page (My Delta), click View My SkyMiles, and then click Request Mileage Credit.
From here, you can enter your ticket number and submit your request for mileage credit so long as you follow these guidelines:
- When to submit: At least seven days after the flight date
- Deadline for submission: Within nine months of travel
- Need to be a member at the time of travel: No, but the same nine-month submission window applies
If you don’t have your ticket number, fill out this comment form on Delta’s website to request it. You’ll need to provide additional details regarding your flight, but the trouble is worth it, so you can later request mileage credit.
JetBlue is another airline with a relaxed policy for retroactively requesting mileage credit. To claim mileage credit, log in to your JetBlue account and fill out the Request Points form. This form covers flights operated by both JetBlue and partner airlines like Icelandair and Emirates.
Here are the criteria for these requests:
- When to submit: At least 14 days after the flight
- Deadline for submission: Within 12 months of travel
- Need to be a member at the time of travel: Not specified in the terms and conditions, so you should be able to request credit for all flights within the last year even if you weren’t a member at the time of travel.
Southwest also has a great retroactive flight credit policy. To request credit, log into your Southwest Rapid Rewards account and go to the My Account screen. Choose the Manage Account tab at the left and click on the Request past points icon.
You’ll receive credit so long as your request meets these requirements:
- When to submit: At least 48 hours after the flight
- Deadline for submission: 12 months
- Need to be a member at the time of travel: No
Finally, we have United. To request flight credit, find your ticket number and sign into your United account. Then head to this page and enter your ticket number at the bottom of the screen. If all is accepted, the miles will be credited to your account after United confirms eligibility.
That said, the eligibility requirements are a little convoluted. Here’s a look:
- When to submit: 5 days after the flight for United or United Express flights, seven days after the flight for partner airlines
- Deadline for submission: 12 months
- Need to be a member at the time of travel: New members can request credit for United-operated flights taken up to 30 days before enrolling at no charge. You can also pay a $50 fee to claim credit for flights taken more than 30 days but less than six months before enrollment, though you have to submit a separate request to do so.
There are many reasons why you may need to request retroactive flight credit at some point. If you were new to points and miles, you probably didn’t even belong to a given frequent flyer program at the time of travel.
Fortunately, most U.S. airlines make it simple to request missing miles, with some letting you request mileage for flights taken up to a year before enrollment. Just make sure to keep a copy of all boarding passes and receipts so you can request miles when they don’t post.
Featured photo by Ryan Patterson/The Points Guy
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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.
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