7 Easy Ways To Keep Miles From Expiring

7 Easy Ways To Keep Miles From Expiring

16

Updated: 6 days ago

One of the saddest parts of my day (other than explaining to people why their million bank or cash-back style points won’t get them to Asia in first class), is when I read a message from someone who has just had all their miles expire.

I also get several notes a day from people in a panic to use their miles before they expire, and these are possibly even more depressing.

So I thought it would be helpful to go through some of the easiest ways to keep your miles from expiring, and hopefully put some rumors to rest along the way.

Know the expiration dates

Each frequent flyer program has slightly different rules for when their miles expire. While we are now seeing more airlines adopt a “miles never expire policy,” it’s far from the norm. For some international airlines, it’s a hard 3-year expiration. For some programs in the US, accounts expire after 18 months of dormancy.

This means that if you let your account sit for 18 months, and neither earn nor redeem a mile, you’ll lose them. And this seems to take people by surprise pretty frequently.

So the first step is to know the rules of your program, and then keep track of when the miles expire. I like to use AwardWallet to monitor accounts and expiration dates. Knowing is half the battle!

Here’s a quick note on the expiration policies of some of the major programs:

Loyalty Program
Reward Expiration Policy
Mileage Plan miles do not expire.
AAdvantage miles expire after 24 months of inactivity (unless if you’re under 21).
Mileage Club miles expire 36 months after earning and can’t be extended without holding Diamond Service elite status.
Asiana Club miles expire after 10 or 12 years, depending on your elite status in the program at earning.
Avios expire after 36 months of inactivity.
Delta SkyMiles never expire.
Skywards miles expire 36 months from the date of earning.
Frontier Miles expire after 6 months of inactivity. (Expiration currently suspended)
Avios expire after 36 months of inactivity.
SkyPass points expire 10 years after being earned, with no option for extending.
LATAM Pass Miles expire 24 months from the date which they were earned.
Miles & More points are valid for 36 months after being earned and expire at the end of the quarter.
Qantas Points expire after 18 months of inactivity.
Avios expire after 36 months of inactivity.
Kris Flyer miles expire 36 months after earning, but can be extended for a year for program elite members.
Royal Orchid Club miles expire after 3 years from earning. Miles accrued in each quarter of any given year expire at the end of the corresponding quarter 3 years there after.
Flying Club miles do not expire.
Velocity miles expire after 24 months of inactivity.
Expiration Policies of Airline Loyalty Programs

As you can see, there’s a lot of variation, and these things do change over time. But having at least a general sense of how/when your miles might expire is a crucial starting point.

Take flight

This might sound obvious, but based on my inbox I can assure you it isn’t.

In a program where any activity resets the clock, making sure to include your frequent flyer number when you do fly will extend the life of your account. My in-laws only make one trip per year, but their miles never expire because each flight extends the expiration date of their miles.

Keep in mind as well that airlines have alliances and partnerships, so even if you’re flying a new airline, you might be able to credit to the program where you have the bulk of your miles. It pays to check!

Have the right credit card

“Right” is very subjective here, but having a credit card linked to your mileage account can help with keeping your miles active.

Does just having a co-branded credit card extend the life of your miles? No, despite what some agents might tell you over the phone. Again, it’s activity within the mileage account that resets the clock, but a credit card does make that easier, given that making a single purchase a year, or paying your annual fee, will add a few miles to your account.

For some cards, you earn bonus miles upon your account anniversary. Once these post to your airline account — bam! You’ve earned another 18 months on the clock in addition to the miles. If your card doesn’t offer anniversary miles, just set a reminder to use that card at least once per year, and you’ll be golden.

Click before you shop

I don’t know what marketing intern first came up with the idea of shopping “portals,” but they are a brilliant way to earn extra miles, for only a little bit of extra hassle.

I not only earn a tremendous number of miles from shopping portals, but it helps me to keep accounts active that might otherwise get neglected (this is a particularly great tactic to keep accounts active for kiddos, or others who can’t get a program’s credit card), so it’s definitely worth it.

My favorite trick is to leverage the “Buy online pick up in store” functionality that many retailers have nowadays. You click through your shopping portal, and rather than selecting a shipping method can choose to pick the items up at your local store, generally in just a few hours. We actually did this for purchasing tires at Sears once, which was tremendously lucrative, along with most of a home renovation, but even little things like picking up lightbulbs at Lowes, or a drawer-organizer at the Container Store can add up.

Kitchen-Island
Supplies for a kitchen island earned us a few hundred miles, and kept an account from expiring

As a bonus, the person doing the shopping doesn’t have to be the person doing the pickup. If you have a partner, you’ll probably appreciate the value in this. 😉

Dine out

Now, I’m not actually going to recommend you actively seek out a restaurant just to earn miles. But it makes sense to link your cards to a dining program just in case. It’s always a nice surprise to get an email that you’ve earned miles after stopping at a random sandwich shop in a town you’ve never been to before, and this option costs you nothing.

And besides, that pastrami might have just bought you another 18 months in your mileage account!

Watch out for freebies

These aren’t as common anymore, but occasionally airlines will have promos where you can get free miles for completing some action — maybe a survey, or a social media contest, etc. You shouldn’t rely on little freebies like these, but it still makes sense to keep an eye out, and take advantage for your family’s accounts when they do come up.

Move points around

For the most part, you can’t transfer points between airlines. But you can transfer points from other places to airlines.

If you have credit card points through American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, or some Citi ThankYou and Capital One cards, you can transfer those points to selected airline partners. Members of the Marriott Bonvoy program can transfer points to dozens of airlines. That’s the entire point of a flexible and transferable points currency!

In most cases you’ll need to transfer a minimum number of points, and may be restricted to only moving points to your account, or that of an authorized user.

Some airlines also allow you to donate a handful of miles to charity, or redeem miles for a magazine subscription, both of which can be a good option in a pinch. You can move miles between one person and another, but as the airlines charge a transfer fee this is rarely a good option.

Beyond that, even buying the occasional batch of miles can make sense under the right circumstances.

Bottom line

If you’re paying attention, there’s no reason to have miles expire. Many programs allow you to reset the expiration date just by having activity in the account, and there are several ways to generate miles without even getting on a plane.

For programs that don’t have an automatic way to extend the life of your miles, even just tracking the expiration dates can help make sure you use your miles before you lose them.

Has anyone had miles expire? How do you keep your accounts active?

Conversations (16)
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  1. CoolHandLuke Diamond

    @TC is quite correct~ Take care with LM, who have one of the worst miles expiry regimes in the business.
    I suspect the manufactured ease with which miles can expire is quite calculated and deliberate.
    Given the massive %ge bonuses available at each sale, there must be many millions (billions?) of miles outstanding on their books. I don't know Latin American accounting goes, but I would imagine that that massive liability would not...

    @TC is quite correct~ Take care with LM, who have one of the worst miles expiry regimes in the business.
    I suspect the manufactured ease with which miles can expire is quite calculated and deliberate.
    Given the massive %ge bonuses available at each sale, there must be many millions (billions?) of miles outstanding on their books. I don't know Latin American accounting goes, but I would imagine that that massive liability would not be a good look on the annual accounts.
    So what better solution than to hit the unwary and inattentive with some almost magical expiry chicanery?
    Am I being a tad cynical? Nah...….

  2. TC New Member

    With Lifemiles, PLEASE TAKE CARE!

    Lifemiles' expiration policy is that miles will expire in 12 months unless you transfer, earn or buy more miles. The policy prior to 15 April 2018 also included redeeming miles as an option to extend the validity period by 24 months.

    The old *expiration* policy would continue to apply to the miles earned before the policy change on 15 April 2018 (see https://onemileatatime.com/lifemiles-expiration-policy). I emphasise *expiration* policy because although the...

    With Lifemiles, PLEASE TAKE CARE!

    Lifemiles' expiration policy is that miles will expire in 12 months unless you transfer, earn or buy more miles. The policy prior to 15 April 2018 also included redeeming miles as an option to extend the validity period by 24 months.

    The old *expiration* policy would continue to apply to the miles earned before the policy change on 15 April 2018 (see https://onemileatatime.com/lifemiles-expiration-policy). I emphasise *expiration* policy because although the old miles would continue to have 24 months of validity, their renewal is subject to the NEW policy (i.e. redemptions cannot extend those old miles).

    I learned this the hard way when I lost a little more than 390,000 Lifemiles which expired 1 March 2020. I thought that a redemption that I made on 29 February 2020 would be sufficient to extend the validity. It wasn't.

    *cries*

  3. TravelinWilly Diamond

    Any good ways to keep AAdvantage miles from expiring?

  4. CoolHandLuke Diamond

    @Echino Buy 1000 LM pronto to get another 12 months!

  5. CoolHandLuke Diamond

    I am surprised you have omitted JAL, who have quirky expiration points for miles. Also surprising not to see Avianca LifeMiles (one of your redemption favorites) on the list.
    Lastly, 'activity' can mean different things to different programs. If you don't fully understand this little thing you could still end up seeing your miles expire!

  6. Kenn Gerdes Guest

    In regards to Emirates there is a catch worth knowing. From the faq at emirates.com:

    Your Skywards Miles are valid for three years from the date of travel. Within the calendar year that Skywards Miles are due to expire, they will be removed from your account at the end of the month in which you were born.

    For example, if you earned Miles in June 2016 and your birthday is in August, these Miles will expire on 31st August 2019.

  7. Rob New Member

    Thanks for the article.

    Anyone know if moving Avios between BA and Iberia would keep the miles alive?

  8. Andrew W Guest

    My Avianca Lifemiles expire at the end of the month marking one year since my last activity. Being based in Colombia, I've not yet had the problem of having to "save" my expiring miles, so I can't speak to that.

  9. Dennis New Member

    We transferred 165k Amex Membership Rewards points to Aeroplan for 3 tickets in Swiss biz LAX-ZRH a couple of summers ago but had to cancel due to a family illness. Paid to have the miles redeposited in Aeroplan and made a point of using some of them for an intra-Europe flight on LH this past summer to keep them alive. So I was gobsmacked when shortly before we left I saw my 135,000 remaining Aeroplan...

    We transferred 165k Amex Membership Rewards points to Aeroplan for 3 tickets in Swiss biz LAX-ZRH a couple of summers ago but had to cancel due to a family illness. Paid to have the miles redeposited in Aeroplan and made a point of using some of them for an intra-Europe flight on LH this past summer to keep them alive. So I was gobsmacked when shortly before we left I saw my 135,000 remaining Aeroplan miles expired! I though I they stayed good for a year after the flight but it was a year after the booking. Ouch! I could pay to have them reinstated but would only do it for an extraordinary redemption like LH F.

  10. echino Gold

    Avianca LifeMiles?

    I bought LifeMiles via OMAAT special a while ago, now expiration date is coming up soon. To avoid expiration I booked a hotel via their special booking.com link, I have receipt showing my LifeMiles number etc. No miles posted two months after check out. I wrote to LifeMiles support, they told me to write to booking.com. I wrote to booking.com and they told me to write to LifeMiles.

    So it looks my LifeMiles will expire.

  11. Deborah New Member

    I have basically the same question as @beachfan --- if I book an award flight with BA avios with a family account and then cancel it, will it reset all of the accounts mileage expiration?

  12. beachfan Diamond

    This is a timely post as I might be canceling some Air France award trips.

    Does booking a flight with miles count as activity with Air France (or must it actually be flown)?
    If that counts, does cancelling it and returning the miles count?

  13. Maverik Guest

    Any good ways to extend the life of Flying Blue for someone living outside Europe other than flying? I tried to claim the VN flight that was marketed by CX, but it was instantly rejected.

  14. Stuart Diamond

    I know this all too well. I forgot I had around 70K miles sitting for some time in Emirates. I lost most of them in January. :(

  15. David New Member

    Thank you for this valuable information. Do you know the expiration policy for Avianca LifeMiles?

  16. Marco Guest

    Etihad Guest is 18 months.....while Emirates is 36. That is twice the amount of time. Wish it was easier to move points around between airlines. Even "points.com" are so restrictive.

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

CoolHandLuke Diamond

@TC is quite correct~ Take care with LM, who have one of the worst miles expiry regimes in the business. I suspect the manufactured ease with which miles can expire is quite calculated and deliberate. Given the massive %ge bonuses available at each sale, there must be many millions (billions?) of miles outstanding on their books. I don't know Latin American accounting goes, but I would imagine that that massive liability would not be a good look on the annual accounts. So what better solution than to hit the unwary and inattentive with some almost magical expiry chicanery? Am I being a tad cynical? Nah...….

0
TC New Member

With Lifemiles, PLEASE TAKE CARE! Lifemiles' expiration policy is that miles will expire in 12 months unless you transfer, earn or buy more miles. The policy prior to 15 April 2018 also included redeeming miles as an option to extend the validity period by 24 months. The old *expiration* policy would continue to apply to the miles earned before the policy change on 15 April 2018 (see https://onemileatatime.com/lifemiles-expiration-policy). I emphasise *expiration* policy because although the old miles would continue to have 24 months of validity, their renewal is subject to the NEW policy (i.e. redemptions cannot extend those old miles). I learned this the hard way when I lost a little more than 390,000 Lifemiles which expired 1 March 2020. I thought that a redemption that I made on 29 February 2020 would be sufficient to extend the validity. It wasn't. *cries*

0
TravelinWilly Diamond

Any good ways to keep AAdvantage miles from expiring?

0
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