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Indeed, when miles expire, it is very annoying. In fact, this is very common, a lot of United customers complain about losing their United MileagePlus miles. United also has a nasty habit of not notifying their customers about their miles expiring. Although check your junk mail - the email from them might have ended up there.

However unpleasant it may be, it's not the end of the world. There's some chance of getting your miles back, if you act fast. Since you had more than 20,000 miles to expire, you can reinstate them by making a purchase with United and then paying a $100 fee. In this particular case, there are only two qualifying actions. Specifically, you can:

  • take a flight with United

  • successfully apply, get approved and make a purchase with a United MileagePlus credit card that was opened after payment of the registration fee.

It takes some extra payment to get your miles back, and it's disappointing, as is losing your miles without any warning from United whatsoever.

In days to come, there's a way for you to avoid such situations. If you want to earn miles for and on United flights, you can do it without any risk of expiration. Just get a general travel credit card and earn miles with it. Most travel credit cards now offer significant bonuses, so the miles will add up fast. There are several types of such cards, some offer increased rewards on selected categories, some offer a decent number of miles on all purchases. In our opinion it's the second type of cards that is more profitable.

As an example, let's take the Discover it® Miles. It offers you 1.5 miles on all purchases. While you may think it's not outstanding, there are other features that actually make this card excel other ones. The card has a bonus offer for new cardmembers: all the miles that you've earned are matched at the end of the first year. So if you earned 35,000 miles, you'll get 70,000 miles. Good already. This bonus offer is given for the first year only.

Premium cards and co-branded cards entice you with rewards and bonuses, but the most of what you've earned is taken back when you pay the annual fee, or worse, the APR. With Discover, you don't have to worry about that.

The Discover it® Miles card has no annual fee, ever, and there's a 15 months 0% Intro APR period on purchases (18.24% - 28.24% Variable APR after that). You may purchase an expensive roundtrip ticket and pay it off even during a year.

But what's most important, the miles that you earn with Discover never expire, so you can rack up miles for a really long time and them redeem them for travel expenses. By comparison, United miles only last 18 months if there's no activity on your account.

If you apply for Discover it® Miles, you can bargain pretty well in the long run.