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:

AirlineExpiration policy
Alaska Airlines24 months of no earning or spending miles
American Airlines18 months of no earning or spending miles
British Airways36 months of no earning or spending miles
DeltaMiles never expire
Frontier Airlines18 months of no earning miles
Hawaiian Airlines18 months of no earning or spending miles
JetBlueMiles never expire
Southwest24 months of no earning or spending miles
Spirit3 months of no earning or spending miles
UnitedMiles never expire

But it is really, really easy to keep your miles active without flying.

(Photo by Alisia Luther/Shutterstock)

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

Expiration policy

  • 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

Keep your Alaska Airlines miles active by redeeming miles

American Airlines

Expiration policy

  • 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

The information for the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select card has been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

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.

British Airways

Expiration policy

Keep your Avios points active by earning points

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

Expiration policy

Frontier Airlines

Expiration policy

This means that redeeming Frontier miles doesn’t extend the life of the miles.

Keep your Frontier miles active by earning miles

Hawaiian Airlines

Expiration policy

Keep your Hawaiian Airlines miles active

JetBlue

Expiration policy
  • JetBlue miles don’t expire

Southwest Airlines

Expiration policy
  • Southwest points never expire

Spirit

Expiration policy

  • 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

United Airlines

Expiration policy

  • 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.

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! :)

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Nancy N
1 year ago

Southwest you have to earn every 24 months. The chart at the top is wrong. Spending does not keep the account active.