7 Easy Ways To Keep Miles From Expiring

Filed Under: Advice

Updated: 1 day 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 expiration policies of some of the major programs:

Loyalty ProgramReward Expiration PolicyCOVID-19 Policy Update
Air Canada AeroplanAeroplan miles expire after 12 months of inactivity.As of July 20, 2020, Aeroplan miles expire after 18 months of inactivity.
Air France/KLM Flying BlueAs of March 15, 2017, FlyingBlue miles expire after 24 months of inactivity. Previously, miles expired after 20 months of inactivity.Flying Blue mileage expiration has been paused, and no qualifying activity is needed to prevent miles from expiring between March and December 2020.
Alaska Airlines Mileage PlanMileage Plan miles expire after 24 months of inactivity.As of August 2020, there are no changes to the Mileage Plan expiration policy.
Alitalia MillemigliaMillemiglia miles expire after 24 months of inactivity.As of August 2020, there are no changes to the Millemiglia expiration policy.
American Airlines AAdvantageAAdvantage miles expire after 18 months of inactivity (unless if you're under 21). AAdvantage mileage expiration was initially paused due to COVID-19, but as of July 1, 2020, the normal expiration policy again applies.
ANA Mileage Club Mileage Club miles expire 36 months after earning, and can't be extended without holding Diamond Service elite status. As of August 2020, there are no changes to the Mileage Club expiration policy.
Asiana ClubAsiana Club miles expire after 10 or 12 years, depending on your elite status in the program at the time of earning.As of August 2020, there are no changes to the Asiana Club expiration policy.
British Airways Executive ClubAvios expire after 36 months of inactivity.As of August 2020, there are no changes to the Avios expiration policy.
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles As of January 1, 2020, Asia Miles expire after 18 months of inactivity. They used to expire 36 months after being earned, with no way to extend.As of August 2020, there are no changes to the Asia Miles expiration policy.
Delta SkyMiles Delta SkyMiles never expire.As of August 2020, there are no changes to the SkyMiles expiration policy.
Emirates Skywards Skywards miles expire 36 months from the date of earning.As of August 2020, there are no changes to the Skywards expiration policy, however if your miles are expiring within the next three months, Emirates has an option to pay to extend their validity.
Etihad GuestAs of 2019, Etihad Guest miles expire after 18 months of inactivity. They used to expire 24 months after being earned, though that’s no longer the case. As of August 2020, there are no changes to the Etihad Guest expiration policy.
Frontier MilesFrontier Miles expire after 6 months of inactivity.As of August 2020, Frontier Miles expiration is paused. Frontier has committed to a 90-day warning before expiration resumes.
Iberia PlusAvios expire after 36 months of inactivity.As of August 2020, there are no changes to the Avios expiration policy.
JetBlue TrueBlueSince 2013, TrueBlue points never expire.As of August 2020, there are no changes to the TrueBlue expiration policy.
Korean Air SkyPass SkyPass points expire 10 years after being earned, with no option for extending.As of August 2020, there are no changes to the SkyPass expiration policy.
LATAM Pass MilesLATAM Pass Miles expire 24 months from the date which they were earned.Any LATAM Pass Miles that expired in June or July, 2020, will be refunded to your account on the 5th day after the original expiration date and will be valid for 90 more days.
Lufthansa Miles & MoreMiles & More points are valid for 36 months after being earned and expire at the end of the quarter.As of August 2020, there are no changes to the Miles & More expiration policy. However, Lufthansa has several paid options to extend the validity of your miles if you can't use them due to COVID-19.
Qantas PointsQantas Points expire after 18 months of inactivity.As of August 2020, there are no changes to the Qantas Points expiration policy.
Qatar Privilege ClubQmiles expire after 36 months, based on the half-year period in which they were earned. For example, miles earned between January and June 2019 will expire on June 30, 2022. As of August 2020, there are no changes to the Qatar Privilege Club expiration policy. However, Qatar has a paid option to reinstate expired miles.
Singapore Kris Flyer Kris Flyer miles expire 36 months after earning, but can be extended for a year for program elite members.As of August 2020, KrisFlyer miles set to expire between April and December 2020 have been extended by six months.
Southwest Rapid Rewards As of October 17, 2019, Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards points no longer expire. They used to expire after 24 months of inactivity, though that’s no longer the case.As of August 2020, there are no changes to the Rapid Rewards expiration policy.
Thai Airways Royal Orchid ClubRoyal 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.As of August 2020, Royal Orchid Miles set to expire at the end of either March, June or September 2020 have been extended until December 31, 2021.
United Mileage Plus As of August 28, 2019, United Mileage Plus miles no longer expire. Previously MileagePlus miles expired after 18 months of inactivity. As of August 2020, there are no changes to the Mileage Plus expiration policy.
Virgin AtlanticFlying Club miles expire after 36 months of inactivity.As of August 2020, there are no official changes to the Flying Club expiration policy. However, there are anecdotal reports that miles expiring between April and September 2020 have been extended by six months.
Virgin Australia Velocity As of June 1, 2016, Velocity miles expire after 24 months of inactivity. Previously, Velocity miles expired after 36 months of inactivity.As of August 2020, there are no changes to the Velocity expiration policy.

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?

Comments
  1. 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.

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

  3. 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. 🙁

  4. 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.

  5. 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?

  6. 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?

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. Thanks for the article.

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

  11. 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.

  12. 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!

  13. 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*

  14. @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…….

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