Easiest Way to Keep Airline Miles from Expiring

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The sad truth about most airline miles is that they can expire on you if you aren’t careful. If you are a member of multiple airline programs and don’t fly all of those airlines with relative frequency, then the likelihood of accidentally having airline miles expire only increases. Using tools like AwardWallet to keep track of your miles and their expiration dates absolutely helps, but that alone won’t keep your airline miles from expiring.

 

There are a few airline loyalty programs like JetBlue and Delta that don’t currently have expiring miles at all, and some other (largely international) programs such as Singapore and ANA where miles expire after a certain period of time no matter what you do. However, most US based airline frequent flyer programs make it pretty easy to keep your airline miles from expiring without actually having to get airborne.

Don't let your miles fly away without you putting them to use!

Don’t let your miles fly away without you putting them to use!

In my mind, by far the cheapest and easiest way to keep your airline miles from expiring is to periodically make at least one purchase via their online shopping portals. As I will outline below, there are many airlines where doing this resets the expiration clock for all of your miles and gives you a lot more time to use your miles.

There are hundreds of popular online retailers available via these airline shopping sites that range widely from Walmart, Walgreens, Old Navy, Carters, Target and PetSmart to Saks Fifth Avenue, Apple, Neiman Marcus, Blue Nile, and more. In other words, no matter where you like to shop, odds are at least one of those online stores is available via an airline shopping site.

The number of miles per dollar you earn at these stores after you first click from the airline shopping sites to the retailer’s website varies from about one mile per dollar to as high as 25 miles per dollar or more. However, for the purposes of simply keeping your airline miles from expiring, how many miles you earn for your purchase doesn’t really matter since earning just one mile is all it takes to keep the miles from expiring in all of the programs listed below.

Shop Online to Keep Airline Miles from Expiring

Here are the shopping sites you can periodically use to keep easily keep your airline miles from expiring!

Southwest Rapid Rewards

Earn at least once every 24 months to keep points from expiring.

United MileagePlus

Earn or redeem miles at least once every 18 months.

American AAdvantage

Earn or redeem miles at least once every 18 months.

Spirit Airlines

Earn miles every three months to keep them from expiring.

Alaska MileagePlan

If a Mileage Plan account remains inactive for 24 months, meaning no miles have been earned or spent, your account may be closed and the mileage balance deleted.

British Airways

Earn or redeem Avios every 36 months to keep them from expiring.

If you accidentally do have airline miles expire, some programs allow you to reinstate the miles for a fee, so be sure to call and inquire as soon as you notice they have expired. However, the easiest way to not have to mess with paying fees and losing miles is to simply periodically make a purchase via the airlines’ shopping sites. That way your miles will still be there for you to make good use of when you get the chance!

Editorial Note: The opinions expressed here are mine and not provided, reviewed, by any bank, card issuer, or other company unless otherwise stated.

Comments

  1. In my limited experience the online shopping portals are extremely unreliable and it would be foolish to rely on them to post purchases if you are strapped for time.
    The best, most effective and fastest way to preserve your points and miles is to buy a small quantity of miles. Without fail, these usually post quickly.

    • Agree if you are right up against a deadline. Donating a few hundred or thousand miles does the trick with many programs, too. I will say though that the online shopping sites have been very reliable for me, especially in the last couple years. I don’t know if 100% of my purchases post, but I would easily say at least 95% do…assuming they were eligible purchases in the first place (usually not gift cards, etc.)

      • I have also found that if you make a purchase right at the expiration date and the shopping trip takes a few weeks to come through, the miles come back retroactively (automatically) for some airlines. Another time I made a phone call for the delay in shopping miles and all miles were put back as well.

        • Since 90% of the time something will post from an online purchase, meaning maybe not the promised “bonus” points, but at least the basic miles from the purchase, just don’t wait until a week before the deadline. If the limit is 18 months, do it at 15 months. If it doesn’t post, you have plenty of time to repeat that or try something else. 😉

  2. using these portals, does it matter what cc you use? will any cc get you the tweak you need to keep your miles from expiring?

    thanks!

  3. I bought $2 restaurant .com certificates on each of my kids’ rapid rewards accounts to keep from expiring. Worked, posted within a week.

    Spend on cobranded cards count too, ya?

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