How to keep your miles from expiring

Since frequent flier programs debuted in the early 1980s, airlines have alternated between miles that expire and miles that don’t.  These frequent policy changes have led to consumer confusion and lost miles.  In the last few years the industry seems to have settled on a mostly uniform standard: miles expire after a fixed number of months if there has not been any account activity.  That might seem like a harsh policy until you consider that most types of account activity will extend the life of your entire mileage balance for another 12-24 months months (varies by airline).  With so many opportunities to earn or spend miles, there’s no excuse to let them expire.

What you need to know – Expiration policies

Alaska Airlines – 24 months

American Airlines

American Airlines
– 18 months

Delta Air Lines – No expiration

JetBlue Airlines

JetBlue Airlines
– 12 months (must earn by flying or credit card use)

Southwest Airlines – 24 months (must have flight or partner earning activity)

United Airlines – 18 months

US Airways – 18 months

Virgin America – 18 months













Ideas to keep your mileage balances alive

If you find a balance that is approaching expiration, there are many things you can do to keep it alive.  For most airlines, earning or spending miles in any amount is enough to extend the life of your entire account balance.  For jetBlue and Southwest (see above) you will need to earn miles, either by flying or partner earning activity.  Other than taking a flight, here are some ideas to help you extend the life of your mileage assets:

* Credit a hotel stay to your account
* Credit a car rental to your account
* Register for a mileage dining program and have a meal out
* Shop through an airline mileage mall
* Open an airline co-branded mileage credit card
* Transfer points from American Express or Starwood Preferred Guest
* Buy a small amount of miles

Keeping your mileage balances alive is easy.  If you don’t fly much with some airlines, keep track of expiration dates with a spreadsheet and check periodically to make sure you don’t allow valuable miles to expire.

Have you ever had miles expire?  What are your strategies to keep your balances alive?

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