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With travel at a near standstill due to the COVID-19 epidemic, many people may be wondering how they can keep their frequent flyer miles from expiring since they are not traveling. This may or may not be a concern depending on which airline loyalty program you belong to.
Some airline miles never expire, but many require some activity every year or two. If your miles are on the brink of expiring, we have some tips on how to keep them alive until you can book your award travel.
Which airline miles expire and when?
If you favor the budget airlines though, chances are you might have some miles near their expiration date. Spirit Airlines Free Spirit miles expire three months after you earn them, although all points as of March 1, 2020, are being extended to expire at the end of September 2020.
You lose Frontier Airlines Miles six months after they are earned if there is no activity.
Many other domestic airlines require some activity every 18 to 24 months to keep your mileage balance intact. American AAdvantage miles and HawaiianMiles expire after a year and a half, while you have two years to use Alaska miles before they delete your account.
Here is a list of expiration time frames and requirements for nine domestic and 39 international airlines. The easiest way to check on your expiration dates for particular programs is to log in to the frequent flyer programs you belong to and check on the last date of activity, which can be earnings or redemptions.
» Learn more: Travel loyalty program reviews
What can you do if miles are set to expire?
If you find you have some miles in jeopardy, there are various ways you can keep those miles active:
Many airlines have a co-branded credit card you can use for purchases to earn miles. If you have a card affiliated with the airline program you are worried about losing miles in, you just need to make a single purchase to reset the clock on the expiration date for all of your miles.
If you don’t carry the airline’s credit card, signing up for it will also keep your miles from expiring. And if you have a credit card with a flexible points program like Chase Ultimate Rewards® or American Express Membership Rewards that allows transfers to the airline, a transfer of points will also count as activity.
Many airlines have shopping portals that you can use at online retailers. If you use their portal to click through to your retailer of choice, you can earn miles for your purchase and reset the expiration date of your airline miles. Go to your airline’s homepage to find the link to its shopping portal or find it using a search engine.
Carriers also participate in dining programs that allow you to earn miles. Even though you may not be able to physically eat out, many restaurants are still offering take-out, and those purchases may qualify. Be sure to sign up for the dining program first, register your credit card and then use that card for your food purchase. Just signing up for the program if you haven’t already will often earn you bonus miles, so that will work to reset the clock as well.
Airline loyalty programs also have lots of partners that let you earn miles, and buying something with those partners via the airline’s website can extend the expiration date of your miles. While many are travel-related (like hotel and car rental partners that you may not be using right now), there are also energy providers and other essential services that may be a good fit. For example, American Airlines partners with NRG, among others.
There are a lot of charity programs that accept airline miles as a donation, and many could use the help right now. Consider donating some of your miles to reset the clock on the rest. Also, some carriers let you earn miles for making a cash donation; that too will count as activity and reset the expiration date for your miles.
Some airlines like American and Spirit have paused or extended their mileage expirations during the current crisis, so it’s best to check with the airline on their current policy. Also, some carriers like Alaska Airlines can extend your mileage expiration by depositing a single mile in your account. There is no formal policy, but I was able to do this to keep 60,000 miles alive that I got as a sign-up bonus. Also, you can consider using your miles to book future travel now and fly later when things are safer.
The bottom line
With a variety of ways to keep you points from expiring, you should always have a few options to keep your points alive. Check with each airline where you might have points in danger and make a plan about when, and how, to reset your expiration clock.
How to maximize your rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2022, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card