(For use by New York Times News Service Clients)

c.2013 Houston Chronicle

When the clock strikes and October arrives, the accumulated frequent-flier miles in the accounts of customers who haven't had activity in a year and a half will expire.

But any account activity using a MileagePlus number - flying, cashing in miles to fly, a donation of miles, a purchase through United's website - through Sept. 30 will keep MileagePlus accounts active for 18 more months.

Even if the activity doesn't post by the deadline, the activity will still count, said Karen May, spokeswoman for Chicago-based United. As United explains at, though, you'll have to wait for your activity to post until your miles are reinstated.

''They have time, and they have lots of options," May said.

As part of the merger of United and Continental Airlines, mileage accounts consolidated under United's MileagePlus program and adopted its expiration rules. Those rules say if there is no addition of miles or use of miles in an 18-month period, the accounts reset at zero balance.

Before the merger, customers of Houston-based Continental rarely encountered the expiration of their miles in their accounts.

Those who fly a lot, shop often through United's website or otherwise regularly earn miles have nothing to worry about.

But MileagePlus members wondering when their last account activity occurred can sign in at and check out the account summary on the right. The place to look is where it says, "Mileage Expiration."

Even if you have a piddling amount of miles that you don't want to rescue, it's worth considering donating them. Go to https:/ to see a long list of options. The donation needs to be at least 500 miles, and that counts as activity.

If you have a balance worth saving - 20,000 miles can get you a domestic Round Trip Saver Award for a trip of less than 700 miles each way, for example - then it's time to go to work at having some account activity.

If you still miss the deadline and your account balance falls to zero, you can recover your miles, which by many estimates are worth a penny or two each. But it comes at a price: United charges $50 to recover 25,000 miles or less, ranging up to $400 to resurrect more than 150,000 miles. XXX - End of Story