Turns out, you don't even need to have a frequent flyer account at the time of your flight.
Even the most seasoned travelers can forget to enter a frequent flyer number when making a flight reservation. But whether or not you can retroactively request miles depends on the airline — and the date you opened your account.
In response to a reader query, The Points Guy's Julian Mark Kheel examined the policies of the major domestic carriers, including American Airlines and JetBlue. What he found was that, depending on the airline, it’s possible to bank miles even if you haven’t established a frequent flyer account.
As it turns out, you don’t even need to be an active member of an airline’s loyalty program to request a credit for miles.
Take Alaska Airlines, for example. Travelers can credit flights if a Mileage Plan was opened within six months of the travel date. Miles for partner airline flights, however, can only be accrued for travelers who were members at the time of the flight.
American Airlines travelers can request mileage credit within an entire year from the transaction — but you must have been a member within 30 days of the flight. United, on the other hand, will provide credit to flights taken between 31 days and six months of enrollment in their MileagePlus program, but it will come at the cost of a $50 service fee.
Southwest has one of the most generous policies, offering credits for flights taken within the last 12 months, even if the flight was taken before enrolling in their valuable Rapid Rewards program.
As Kheel points out, it will always be easier to enter a frequent flyer number at the time of booking. But just because you forgot to apply your number (or forgot to sign up) doesn’t mean you have to lose out on all those miles.
For information on mileage credit policies for Virgin America, JetBlue, and Delta Air Lines, check out Kheel’s full report on The Points Guy.