How to keep your airline miles from expiring without flying
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Readers often ask how to keep their airline miles active if they don’t fly on a particular airline. Here’s a look at each airlines’ reward expiration timeline:
|Alaska Airlines||24 months of no earning or spending miles|
|American Airlines||18 months of no earning or spending miles|
|British Airways||36 months of no earning or spending miles|
|Delta||Miles never expire|
|Frontier Airlines||18 months of no earning miles|
|Hawaiian Airlines||18 months of no earning or spending miles|
|JetBlue||Miles never expire|
|Southwest||24 months of no earning or spending miles|
|Spirit||3 months of no earning or spending miles|
|United||Miles never expire|
But it is really, really easy to keep your miles active without flying.
How do you keep airline miles from expiring
Sometimes, all you need to do is earn or redeem one mile to reset the mile expiration clock. You can easily do this by purchasing any item through an airline’s shopping portal, making a $1 donation from the airline’s online shopping mall, downloading the airlines’ shopping toolbar and making a few searches, or using a credit card to keep your miles active!
An online tool like Award Wallet is also a good way to track your miles and points balances and expiration dates.
Here are the rules from each individual airline:
- Alaska Airlines says: “Mileage Plan miles do not expire, and may be left in your account as long as the Mileage Plan program exists. However, if there is no activity (earning miles or using miles) on your account for 2 years, the account will expire and your miles will be deleted.”
Keep your Alaska Airlines miles active by earning miles
- Fly on a paid Alaska Airlines flight, or an Alaska partner, such as American, Cathay Pacific, or Emirates and credit the miles to Alaska Air
- Use an Alaska Airlines credit card, like the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card or the Alaska Airlines Visa® Business credit card
- Enroll in the Alaska Air dining program and dine at a partner restaurant
- Rent a car through one of Alaska Air’s car rental partners
- Buy, gift, or transfer Alaska Air miles
- Transfer hotel points to your Alaska Air account
- Exchange other airline miles into Alaska Air miles through Points.com
- Book a hotel with RocketMiles and choose to earn Alaska Airlines miles
Keep your Alaska Airlines miles active by redeeming miles
- Book an Alaska Air award ticket
- Book and cancel an Alaska Air award ticket for free with no cancellation fees if you are an MVP Gold elite member
- Redeem miles for a magazine subscription
- Donate your miles
- American Airlines says “AAdvantage members must have mileage earning or redeeming activity once every 18 months in order to retain their miles.“
Keep your American Airlines miles active by earning miles
- Fly on a paid American Airlines flight or a partner airline such as Cathay Pacific or British Airways and credit the miles to American Airlines
- Use an American Airlines credit card, like the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®
- Enroll in the American Airlines dining program and dine at a participating restaurant
- Purchase an item through the American Airlines shopping portal
- Staying with an American Airlines hotel partner, or renting a car and crediting the miles to American Airlines
- Transfer hotel points to your American Airlines account
- Purchase, gift or share American Airlines miles
- Exchange other airline miles into American Airlines miles through Points.com
- Book a hotel with RocketMiles and choose to earn American Airlines miles
Keep your American Airlines miles active by redeeming miles
- Book an award ticket or redeem American Airlines miles
- Book and cancel an American Airlines award ticket for free with no cancellation fees if you are an Executive Platinum elite member
- Donate miles
- Redeem miles for a magazine subscription.
- Avios points will not expire as long as “you collect, spend, purchase or share at least one Avios every 36 months“
Keep your Avios points active by earning points
- Fly on a paid British Airways flight or an Oneworld carrier or one of their airline partners such as American Airlines and credit the flight to British Airways
- Use the British Airways Visa Signature® Card
- Purchase or share Avios points
- Earn points by staying with a British Airways partner hotel and crediting the stay to British Airways
- Convert hotel points from programs like Hilton, Hyatt, and Marriott
- Rent a car with Avis and credit the points to British Airways
- Purchase an item through the online British Airways eStore ($1 iTunes song will do)
- Transfer points from Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards to British Airways
- Book a hotel with RocketMiles and choose to earn British Airlines miles
Keep your Avios points active by redeeming points
- Book an award ticket or redeem for car rentals or hotel stays
- Book and cancel an Avios award ticket for free if you are a gold elite member
- Delta miles do not expire
- Frontier Airlines says “All earned miles are subject to expiration if the account does not have accrual activity at least once every 180 days or 6 months.”
This means that redeeming Frontier miles doesn’t extend the life of the miles.
Keep your Frontier miles active by earning miles
- Fly on a paid Frontier Airlines flight
- Rent a car and credit the miles to Frontier Airlines
- Use the Frontier Airlines World Mastercard®
- Purchase flowers through Teleflora
- Stay at or exchange points with hotels like Hilton, Marriott, or Wyndham hotels
- Transfer points from American Express Membership Rewards
- Purchase, gift, or transfer Frontier Airlines miles
- Exchange other airline miles into Frontier miles through Points.com
- Hawaiian Airlines miles expire when you do not use or earn miles for 18 months.
Keep your Hawaiian Airlines miles active
- Purchase a Hawaiian airlines flight to earn miles that are credited when you complete your travel
- Use Hawaiian Airlines miles to fly
- Use the Hawaiian Airlines® World Elite Mastercard®
- Shop with HawaiianMiles partners through their portal
- Buy miles online or by phone
- Transfer American Express Membership Rewards points to Hawaiian Airlines
- Book a hotel with RocketMiles and choose to earn Hawaiian Airlines miles
- JetBlue miles don’t expire
Southwest AirlinesExpiration policy
- Southwest points never expire
- Spirit says “As long as you earn any miles within the previous three months, your miles won’t expire. If you don’t meet that requirement though, any miles older than three months will expire.”
Keep your Spirit miles active by earning miles
- Fly on a paid flight on Spirit to extend the life of your points
- Purchase Spirit miles
- Get the Spirit World Mastercard® and make at least one purchase per month
- Shop through the Free Spirit Online Mall
- Use Spirit’s Dining program
- Buy Vinesse Wine
- Rent a car from Avis, Budget, Thrifty, or Hertz
- United miles don’t expire
What if my points or miles have expired?
If your travel rewards expire, there are a few options you may have, depending on the loyalty program you’re dealing with.
Some airlines and hotels provide the opportunity to reinstate your miles and points for a fee. This might make sense is you’re just a few miles or points shy of a particular award. But it comes down to doing the math to determine whether paying the fee to reinstate your rewards is worth it.
It’s also worth calling the airline or hotel and chatting with a representative to see if they can make an exception — and reinstate your expired rewards for free. I’ve had luck with Hilton in this way. I ended up with two separate Hilton accounts because my Hilton credit card wasn’t linked to my original Hilton Honors account. Without realizing it, I let nearly 20,000 Hilton points expire. Thankfully, after explaining the circumstances to the Hilton customer service agent, they reinstated the points for free, as a one-time courtesy.
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Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)